‘Zoning should not be as much of a problem as it is’
Adeyemi Ikuforiji is a former three-term Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with PATRICK OKOHUE, he speaks on the state of the nation, his fears in the face of security challenges and the way forward
What do you make of the crisis that trailed the recently held national convention of your party against the backdrop of the belief in some quarters that the APC may not survive beyond President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration?
Let us look at it this way; even in a monogamous family where there are many children and they are all educated, enlightened and strong in their in their various ways, its normal that when issues come up, you will have heated arguments most times.
But I think the most important thing is what their vision is like, what they think of their tomorrow and how they are working towards that tomorrow. In the case of the APC, I think the President gave us a direction and things naturally fell in place. All I can plead is that Nigerians should have patience with APC.
The party is so big now and when you get very big, the problem of bigness also comes in.
Some people believe that because the convention was close to the 2023 elections, the party may not be able to resolve all differences before the polls. Are you not worried that APC may be going into the elections with a divided house?
In politics, disagreement, rancour here and noise of different kinds are all part of it. So, you cannot rule that out in any political setting, particularly when you are talking about the biggest party you have around.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not even get this big when they were boasting of being the biggest party in Africa. With the size of APC, we cannot expect not to have this rancor. It is not the Communist Party of China don’t forget.
Besides the APC, the PDP is also having its own share of crisis. There is so much uncertainty in the political space that even the coming election seems threatened. What is your view on that?
That is an indication that what is happening in APC is normal. If the PDP that is in the opposition can be opposing itself, why do you think that the APC that is so big and that is in power should not have this kind of rancor?
At the time the President signed the electoral Act, he made it clear that he wants certain aspects of the act amended, but the National Assembly turned down the request. Is the National Assembly and the presidency still on the same page?
Don’t forget that they started somehow poles apart, but at a point, there was some level of convergence.
Some things that the presidency felt not very suitable with were taken out and then the President assented to the amended bill. If the President says I am appending my signature now but I will send an amendment, whether he sends the amendment same day, a week after, a month after or the amendment is taking three months or six months to get through in the House, there is nothing extraordinary about it. It is all about the presidential system of democratic governance, all about the way things are.
Don’t forget that the National Assembly itself should not be seen to be an appendage of the President. If the President says ‘Oh I don’t want this’ and the National is on its toes to change it and the President again says ‘oh, even this one I don’t want,’ and they run back again to change it, those of you in the media and many members of the public will say this National Assembly is a mere rubber stamp. So, why don’t we allow the National Assembly to exercise its own constitutional given powers to some extent?
It is left for the President to still call them and say gentlemen, I have discussed this with you, I still want you to get this done and if in the wisdom of the National Assembly and they think it shouldn’t be so, they will also give their reasons to the President and they can come back and do what they feel is best.
They should take a cue from Lagos State. Sometimes in year 2000 or 2001, the state House of Assembly passed the Self Account Law and then Governor Ahmed Tinubu assented to it. He knew very well that the Assembly should not be coming to him as governor with cap in hands begging for its own survival, so he assented to it but that was at a very critical time for the state financially.
He sat down with the head of the legislature, then Speaker Olurunimbe Mamora and said ‘look Mr. Speaker, I am assenting to this, but you know we don’t even have the funds for us to say that on a monthly basis, you go to the treasury to collect what is due to the House. So, let us manage it, with the House getting as much as it is possible from the treasury based on what is available.
Let’s do this on regular basis until things gets better.’ When things got better under Raji Fashola as governor, the House insisted on implementation of the law. There was a little disagreement because Fashola was in his first term.
We went through Tinubu himself and even through our traditional rulers, the Eleko of Eko, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, they all intervened. At the end of the day, we settled the matter. Of course, it wasn’t without the usual rancour, with some saying the House if fighting the governor but at the end, we settled it and today everything is moving on smoothly.
Recently, the court sacked the Ebonyi State governor and many of the state’s lawmakers for defecting from the PDP to the APC, and some people, including the governor have come out to say the court has no such power. What is your view of these developments?
If you were the governor, will you say the court has done well? Will you say the court has the power? You will not; it’s human. It is even shocking that the governor in his position can say anything, he couldn’t have imagined it, so the reaction is expected, it may be out of shock. But, let us put that aside. The constitution is clear about some of these things.
The laws of the land remain very clear about it. If you are elected on the platform of a party, if you defect, you lose that seat but there is a provison. If there is rancour, if there is division in the party, then you can defect. Then ask yourself the question: Is there division in the PDP today or not?
That is the question that the court needs to look into and if the sitting judge feels there is no division then he can give his judgement as has been given, but the beautiful thing about it is that there is a higher court with a higher number of judges and there is even a superior one with even a higher number of judges, so we haven’t seen the last of that case and I trust our judiciary and I still believe is the last hope, so I am sure justice will be done.
Don’t you think that the judgement has the capacity to curtail the excesses of political office holders jumping from one political party to the other?
Of course, it sends signal to all and sundry that if a state governor can get a shocker from the judiciary like this, whether it stays or it doesn’t stay, it has sent signal that you have to sit tight, you have to be careful and you have to weigh your options because the messing around that we have done is enough.
The general election of 2023 is here and many people are already throwing their hats to the ring, especially the presidential contest. With the calibre of people already showing interest in the race, what hope do you think the nation has with the next election?
Of course, as a Nigerian I am very concerned. I hope and I pray that God guides us right. Sometimes, when you look at the situation and you look at everything surrounding us, you get worried, you get scared, but I also rely on facts borne out of our previous experiences. When you think Nigeria is about to lose it all, somehow divine intervention comes in and everything is straightened out peacefully.
So, I have not lost hope, I am still very hopeful that we will get it right and we really need to get it right this time. We were lucky seven years ago, we had a man despite all that you may call his short comings and weaknesses, he was patriotic enough, he was godly enough to hand over power, which was something very rare.
Perhaps, that was the first time that we will have such an experience, he didn’t even go to court, he called his opponent to congratulate him, we were expecting the heavens to fall, we thought the sky would be brought down upon us, but God did it. Goodluck Jonathan made history, so also I am hopeful that God will do it again and all these fears that we have will eventually be seen to have no basis.
Are you comfortable with the calibre of people coming to vie for the presidential seat?
The whole thing about election is interest. Virtually everyone who will come out to say he or she wants to contest, there must be something behind him or her, something that has told him or her that he or she is capable. So, we see those that the world can see as really capable and have all it takes, but we also see greenhorns who just feel within themselves that if this person can do it, they can do it too.
There is nothing wrong in the rainbow that we are seeing from different corners, from the so called technocrats, who are supposed to manage particular offices, who just think that they can jump from their professional side to politics at the presidential level, not even thinking of chairmanship of a local government, member of a state parliament, but want to be president from nowhere. It happens, it is allowed, let everyone exercise his civic right, there is nothing bad about it.
Some people are worried that the older generation seems to be having the upper hand at this level and that the younger generation doesn’t seem to have the confidence to aspire to that level. Even the ones who are coming out are doing so through political parties that are not grounded for that level of politicking. What is your view on all these?
Asiwaju Tinubu, he use to tell us that power is not served ala carte, you don’t seat on a chair and say come and give me power, I need power, after looking at the menu. It doesn’t happen like that with political power. Maybe when you talk about monarchy, you can sit down and they will come and pick you, it rarely happens in politics. If the younger ones are not into it and the older ones are into it, maybe that is how it is designed to be. Nobody is stopping any young person from throwing his or hat to the ring.
What do you think could be their challenge for not wanting to throw their hats into the ring, could it be due to lack of financial muscle?
How can that be, there are so many young Nigerians between the ages of 35 and 65 who are multi billionaires. However, politics is not just about how much cash you have, there is so much more, the knowledge, the experience, the guts, all come to play.
You may have the money but you don’t have the knowledge, you don’t have the experience, you don’t have the know-how, then forget about it. You may not have as much money, but because you have gone through the mill, because you already know the tricks, because you already know the way, you may be able to get things done.
Whoever emergences president in 2023 already has his job cut out for him or her given the security challenge. How do you think this can be tackled?
That is a tough one, and don’t forget that I am part of the government being a top member of the ruling party. Look, we have problem with insecurity, there is no doubt about it and generally it has been agreed that our government has not done enough in that area.
So, it is my prayer that whoever takes over will devote more time and necessary resources to tackle this issue of insecurity because the economy cannot grow until we take care of these issue of insecurity.
Do you think the issue of insecurity can be the albatross for the APC in the 2023 elections?
It is going to be a major issue, not only for the APC but also for the PDP. Remember that the APC inherited this trouble from the PDP.
But, eight years on, we are still on the same spot…
Maybe so, but it simply means that as a people we are not devoting enough energy towards solving the problem or we are not taking it the way we should take it. Look, some smaller countries with far less resources, they are able to take care of their security issues.
Rwanda a few years ago had this issue of genocide when almost 10 per cent of the population was gotten rid of within a space of three months, but today you can go to Rwanda, enter a bank with your millions and even carry it in your bags along the roads even at midnight.
This is because they decided to take care of their problems and were honest about it. When you talk to them, the issue of who killed this, who did this and did that is not hidden, nobody is running away from the facts and the truth and they say they even have the Genocide Museum that you go to and the story is narrated as it was. You see the places where they buried hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens.
They faced the truth, they faced the facts and they decided that no more, we won’t have this again. So, we really need to be honest about these things here. I don’t think we are being honest with ourselves sufficiently to tackle this problem. The trouble with us in Nigeria is we love shifting blames. We love to blame somebody else for our problems; we love to help remove the speck in somebody else’s eyes while leaving the log or even forest in our eyes.
That is how we are, we are not honest, friends are not honest with themselves, even family members are not honest with themselves, husbands and wives are not honest with themselves, so how do you get the problem solved. Everybody thinks the whole trouble is Buhari but Buhari is just one man.
Yes, he is the president, yes he is supposed to lead, but when you are leading godless people, when you are leading people who are completely dishonest, it’s not going to be that easy. I think the next president needs to address the issue of our orientation, make it a major point in his leadership effort and until we get to that point where honesty, where truthfulness, where the old value that we have turned upside down and brought back and we all accept it and we all imbibe, we probably will not be able to solve the problems, no matter who we put there.
Talking about honesty and fairness, some people are saying the presidency should go to the South-East. It is argued that allowing them to have the presidency will be a way of fully accepting the people of the South-East into the country. What is your view on that?
That is one of the problems we have. It is also all about dishonesty; we are not honest with ourselves.
Look, if we are honest with ourselves, if we want development, this issue of zoning will not be as much of a problem as it is, because the constitution that we operate is more or less borrowed from the United States. Over there, do you hear of any section saying the presidency should go to this state or that section? What is the South-East, the Igbos right?
When we started who was the president of the country, when the military took over who was the head of state of the country? Even if it is for one month, when you come back and tell me that this person has not been. I don’t really want to go into this, because my view about this is one that a lot of Nigerians will not agree with because of our shallow mindedness.