Sunday Magazine

Why Buhari can’t gamble with handing over to opposition –Senator Ogunlewe

A former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, is a staunch member of the All Progressives Congress(APC). He was on the delegation of the party’s candidate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s visit to London for the Chatham House outing. In this interview with GEOFFREY EKENNA, he speaks on the outing, 2023 election and why the G-5 governors can’t win the war against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

 

You were on the delegation of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to the Chatham House in London. You saw how things went there. How impressed were you with the outing of your party at the Chatham House?

 

Fortunately, the election is not going to hold in London. It is holding here. So, our concentration is here and we are not bothered at all by any form of opinion polls or research done because they are never accurate or objective because firstly, constituencies are not equal in terms of strength, population, and the number of registered voters.

 

So, when they say 45 per cent, is it an average and there are particular constituents where these researches were conducted. So, if we take an average, constituencies are not the same. One constituency may have more population than five constituencies put together. Where does the average come from now?

 

We are concentrating on heavily-populated wards because those are where the votes are and that is what anybody running an election should do. First of all, identify concentrated wards where there are a large number of polling units that when all these researches can be identified with. The number of polling units is not the same in every ward. A ward can have as small as 12 polling units while another one can have big as 250 polling units. How does one justify any research done based on the smaller polling unit?

 

Those are things researchers must, first of all, identify and work on seriously. So, they shouldn’t admit that all polling units, wards, and constituencies are the same. It is different ball game.

In essence, you are saying you don’t believe in the opinion polls and projections done by a national newspaper recently…

 

For me, it is inaccurate and too subjective because for them to say 45 per cent, where is the 45 per cent coming from? Is it from a total number of registered voters where each polling unit is the same, and each ward in terms of the number of polling units are not the same.

 

Each ward in terms of population of registered voters are not the same. So, one needs to break it down to each unit for it to be more accurate. For instance, in Lagos State, people can be interviewed in a community where there are only five polling units.

There is no way the same result can be achieved from another ward with about 250 polling units. Researchers have to be a lot more accurate and scientific. They should conduct their research in concentrated polling units, zones, wards. Let us know the number of registered voters that are in that particular ward and the response of the interview conducted there.

 

Going back to the London trip, the candidate of your party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, drew some levels of criticism  because he had to share questions for people around him to answer. He couldn’t answer the question himself…

APC has gone beyond that. That is for social media and press. People who are going to vote are 133million poor people who do not have access to telephone, social media, not to talk of television. So, those are the ones we are targeting to vote. We are leaving the one per cent to social media.

 

They can talk the way they want to talk. We are concentrating on the voters and that is our main priority. What voters will say and do. So, we are not concerned about what happened in London and what is happening on television. We are going to need voters to persuade them to vote and they are responding. People will be surprised at the number of votes we are going to get but we need to work harder. The harder we work, the better for us.

 

That is why I am asking you that question.  You have nailed it by saying you need to work harder…

Yes.

…because your candidate seems to be facing a lot of challenges in terms of his credentials, persons, public speeches, and some identity crisis, and these are things the opponents are using to campaign against him and lash at him as an unworthy candidate.

 

Those are for the television and elites. The real voters don’t watch television; they don’t read newspapers, and they don’t care about all these sayings…

 

What do they really care for?

 

They care for Bola Tinubu as president.

 

Whatever anybody is saying is of little concern to them. It is even promoting him. The question on their lips is what has Tinubu done to be so hated?

 

Let us try him and that is what we are preaching that they should try him and he will not disappoint them. We are positive, we are not going to be negative when campaigning.

What are you going to campaign with?

 

Bola Tinubu as president, that’s all.

 

Are you campaigning for Bola Tinubu as the former governor of Lagos State or the candidate of the APC because out of the 133million poor people you are targeting, most of them became poor under the administration of the APC?

 

We will persuade them that there is a renewed hope, and the meaning of renewed hope is not losing hope and keeping hope alive. Bola Tinubu is the hope. He is going to surprise so many people because he is going to win and he will make a difference. I have no doubt he is going to make a difference. His team will be solid and once that is in place, we are going to do very little to succeed. It is teamwork, and he must assemble the best brains available in the country, including those that are competing with him as presidential candidates.

 

They should all come on board to participate in the formation of that government. They have something to offer too.

Why would Nigerians vote for APC again after eight years of Buhari’s presidency?

Because they want a renewed hope. They want a hope that is real. .

 

..a hope they can’t get into Labour Party  or PDP?

 

Those ones are handicapped. From my own assessment, Labour Party is a party for the future. They are starting late. They don’t have a volume of membership that will lead them to the presidency, and they need to work harder to get membership, and a lot of people don’t respect membership to the volume of your party.

 

It is very important because those are the canvassers; those are the people who get the other people to come and vote for your party. Where they are lean on the ground, it will be very difficult for them to win an election. He can be a popular candidate but if the membership of the party is not strong enough, they may not be able to support that candidate to victory. They can build this up for the future, and they can start building the membership.

 

He needs membership to win an election. Who is going to canvas for you at the polling unit level if there is no membership and that is the deficiency in Labour Party. Labour party has the Nigerian Labour Congress, TUC, and all trade unions under its wing. But they are working for APC government. So, they may not be able to go allout for Labour Party.

Who is working for APC government?

Members of the labour union are working under APC government.

 

So, they may not take that chance to neglect their employer because it can lead to a lot of problems for them. Labour Party is not independent of the government of the day. They work for them. They are its members of staff, and for them to vote against their employer may be counterproductive to them because if they lose out, they might lose their jobs.

 

So, they would need to be more careful.

What is the handicap to the PDP?

It is their infighting. They don’t need to fight. If they fight to the finish, they finish themselves. They cannot go into the election with a divided house and expect to win the election. They will injure themselves more because the party will retaliate and once that happens, it would be like throwing the baby with the bathwater. They will destroy the G-5 easily. There is no way one can fight the National Executive Committee of a party.

They should have gone to NEC and taken a decision. Once decisions have been taken, it should be conveyed to INEC because INEC doesn’t recognize governors. It is the decision of that body that INEC will implement. If that committee dissolves the executives from ward to state and set up caretaker committees, that’s what INEC will listen to.

The worst thing that could happen is to go to court. It can never be redeemed until it gets to Supreme Court and by the time, the election would have been over and they would have lost woefully. Let me be clear on something. I used to have a governor friend, who was going for a second term, and his godfather said he would not return for a second term. I went to interview him and I told him what the godfather had said and he  told me ‘the structure of the party my godfather said he was controlling is the finances of the state, thugs, membership of the party’. That he is also controlling same as a governor.

That how would the godfather going to stop him…

Is the godfather the chairman of the party?

No The godfather is an external body…

How powerful is a governor of a state considering the G-5, and what threats do they pose to the PDP?

 

The threat is to the NEC from the party which is the supreme organ under the headship of the chairman of the party. From the constitution, the party is only recognised as an institution for any form of election, not the governor. The governor has no role at all as the candidate of the party. It is the NEC and chairman of the party, who will determine what is going to happen to the party in that state.

 

The entire executives can be dissolved and put a caretaker committee and make the governor handicapped. They can place his enemy as the acting chairman of the party, make sure he has no contact with him, thereby truncating communication with INEC. He cannot write any letter to INEC without his chairman’s approval. The letter will not be attended to, whereas INEC will listen to the exco of the party.

How would the party fund the election in the state? Everything would have been destroyed. It would now be left to the candidates that are in the National and State Assembly to queue behind the caretaker committee because the governor has lost power and he remains irrelevant but if they want to go down with him, they are free to do so and they will lose the election because INEC will never communicate with them in whatever form.

 

The dilemma is that Wike until the primary was a major financier of the party, and they know his strength in terms of finances. If PDP now decides to suspend Wike and the G-5, that means PDP has conceded victory already. That means PDP will lose undoubtedly, and Wike will also lose but the party remains whether they lose or not.

What is the implication as the G-5 governors are in London if they endorse another candidate outside the party?

 

The party will expel them and dissolve the exco of the party in their state and install a caretaker committee and that is their end politically.

That is like what is known in International Relations as Mutually Assured Destruction?

Yes …because PDP and the governors are destroyed in those states Totally. It is the governors that would be destroyed. The national and state assembly candidates will queue behind the caretaker committee because they wouldn’t want to lose out.

There are about three governors that running for senate; Abia, Enugu, and Benue…

They will lose out because they would have been expelled from the party, and they won’t have a party after they have been expelled.

In essence, they have no other option than to stick with PDP…

 

 

They have none unless they want to go on a journey of self-destruction and fighting with people that have nothing at stake.

What do you Atiku Abubakar or Iyorchia Ayu has at stake?

…the presidential ambition Do you think Atiku will die if he doesn’t win?

 

What are your expectations this year in terms of this election?

Hard work. One needs to do a SWOT analysis of his/her chances in every state, don’t generalise in a state.

For instance, in Lagos, we can identify constituencies with large numbers of polling units and registered voters. As far as I am concerned, those are the areas we must concentrate on.

 

There are so many other polling units and wards with very few registered voters and polling units. They matter but much concentration shouldn’t be given to them. Let us see where we need the votes and try to work out in those constituencies and increase our voting population and be able to calculate the number of votes we are going to enjoy.

 

For instance in Kosofe Local Government, there are two wards in there that can equal to the some electoral constituencies in some states. The Ward D in Kosofe LG has about 15 polling units and there is Alapere Ward E and F over 600 polling units and in Kosofe alone, there are 911 polling units multiplied by 500, the total number of registered in Kosofe is over 750,000, Alimosho, Mushin, Ajeromi Ifelodun and Ikorodu have something similar.

 

Those are the areas that we need to sit down and work on. Other constituencies with smaller polling units, they are also of concern to us and we should not expend so much energy on those ones. If we can gather votes from places where there is large number of pooling units, we are good to go but it requires firstly, identification of those constituencies, wards, total number of polling units, total number of registered voters and move in to campaign from them.

 

We don’t need all these street campaigns. It doesn’t work. It is waste of money. It is jamboree. People that are present are members of your party. It is just campaigning and canvassing members of your party to vote for you. For me, it is a waste of time and money. Do houseto- house campaign and convince people to vote for you.

Is that what your party is doing?

I think that is what we should concentrate on. That should be our strategy from January to February. We don’t need street campaigns…

 

No need for TV appearances?

 

People can be doing that but that doesn’t bring votes. The votes that we can gather from Ward M1 and M2 in Alimosho Local Government can be half of what we can get in Ogun State. Those are the things we should focus on.

To you, who is the biggest obstacle to Tinubu’s emergence as president?

As far as I am concerned, nobody. I am sure we will scale through.

 

We just need to move away from distractions, and strategies and work on where we can get heavy votes. Those are basic issues. It is not about having town hall meetings. Let us do door-to-door campaigns. I have experienced it and could see the outcome that efforts.

Can he do that all over Nigeria?’

It is for some selected areas.

because we are talking about presidential elections. That is what he should do. He just needs to know areas where there are going to be heavy votes. He should go to the community to the campaign. Once, they see you and ask questions, they will vote for you and you do that for some other states like that too. It is a lot of work but it is going to bear unbelievable fruits, because that is where votes are, and that is where we don’t visit and don’t campaign. We campaign at the centre.

 

How many people live in the centre?

Most people that will be there are members of your party, and some of them will have no PVC. The number of people we are talking about is in the community. We must go and visit them.

That’s why you are confident he will beat both Atiku and Obi…

If they follow my strategy because I have experienced it, done it and I know the result.

 

Once you go to the people, they will see you and love you more, and they will come and vote. They might have been seen on the TV but it is better they see you face-to-face. Let them touch your body, let them your cloth, let them shake your hand, then they will vote for you. The more you are closer to the people, the more confidence they have in you. As far as they are concerned now, they don’t even know who is contesting.

 

What you are saying now appears to be what Labour Party candidate is doing…

He doesn’t have the volume of membership to bring him to many communities. He cannot visit a community where he doesn’t have a membership. It is the members that will tell him where to go. He cannot just go there and be campaigning. There must be contact people on the ground that would have invited you to come and see them. That is the disadvantage Labour Party has. They don’t have volume.

Like I said earlier, it is a party for the future and they have to work a lot harder.

How much confidence do you have in the presidency and other powers backing your candidate?

He doesn’t seem to be backed by certain powers..

 

Buhari doesn’t deceive and he has repeatedly said that he is going to hand over to the member of his party and he is going to campaign for members of his party. So, let’s believe him. …but he isn’t campaigning. He said he would but there is still a lot of time, and it is to his advantage if he allows APC to continue. It is not going to be easy if he allows the opposition to enter.

Does he care?

He should care.

A few days ago, Buhari said he is going to be far from Abuja…

That is his wish. What if he is called to be accountable for something, he will definitely come. He shouldn’t take that kind of chance. It is dangerous to allow the opposition to take over power from you because the office of the president is too powerful.

But he took over from an opposition… Do you know what PDP went through?

Do you know what they are still going through today? Because all your weaknesses will be exposed. He might not be able to cope. So, it is not to his advantage at all.

He said he will hand over it to whoever wins…

 

That is APC now…whoever he is thinking about is APC and that is the person he should zero in on. Giving power to the opposition is a more dangerous thing to do. It is not even an option. It is destructive and that is what these G-5 governors should know. If they allow APC to take over their states, they would languish in jail. They will be surprised.

How can one say he is giving power to the opposition in your state and you think everything will be fine.

Does President Buhari strike you as someone who can lend a hand to anybody?

We will pray to God for him to do so because it is not him alone that would suffer in the hands of the opposition. It is the entire APC. He cannot afford it and he should not contemplate it at all.

 

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