By Adedayo Aminu, Chief Sub-Editor
Abubakar Yesufu, former President Student Union, University of Benin, current Chairman, League of Patriotic Lawyer, has not hidden his intent that the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is best suited for the president next year.
He was one of the 22 lawyers Chief Gani Fawehinmi led to defend the late M.K.O. Abiola in the famous case of Supreme Court judges vs Concord Press. He once led Nigerians in Diaspora to demonstrate at the White House Lawn, Washington DC, USA to validate and recognise the June 12 mandate won by M.K.O. Abiola in 1993. He opens up on a number of issues.
Why this strong support from the League of Patriotic Lawyers for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to become the President in 2011, even when he has shown interest?
Our reasons are multi-faceted. If our goal is realised, it stands to reason that anybody, particularly those from the minority, can also aspire to be the president of this country. You would discover that Jonathan from inception has been an underdog.
It is also means, any former teacher, former lawyer, even journalist can aspire to become the president of the nation. It would no longer be the exclusive preserve of some people based on the so-called zoning system of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, or people from the North. You see, this tripartite struggle amongst Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo would be eliminated. This is because Jonathan is representing a new breed. The League is determined to see the emergence of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan next year.
What about other reasons?
He is also the strong factor driving the rehabilitation of ex-militants in Niger Delta. If he is able to realise the ambition, to a very reasonable extent, the restiveness in the region would be solved. Also, even the American government wants Jonathan. In terms of age, he has it to his advantage as opposed to Ibrahim Babangida, who is fast getting oldÂ and claims that the youths have not done anything.
How do you view the position of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida on the ability of youths to govern this nation?
We stand to correct this and the League will reply him very soon. IBB is old and is not a contemporary of US President Barack Obama.. He wonâ€™t be able to mix with them easily. Jonathan and Obama would interact better than IBB. And sincerely speaking, the League has not forgotten or forgiven totally the annulment of 12 June1993 general elections in this country. For that kind of man to want to come back, he is insulting our intelligence.
What do you see in Jonathan that puts him in good stead for the job?
He is not an ambitious man. When Musa Yarâ€™Adua took ill, if he were to be another individual, he would have manipulated his way to become the president immediately. But he took his time for that purpose. He allowed himself to be better-led.
As legitimate as some the issues the League has pushed forward as they are, will they not be working against the zoning arrangement of PDP?
You see, where there is a conflict between the constitution and any convention, be it PDPâ€™s constitution or convention, the constitution of the country takes precedence or it prevails to the extent of its inconsistency. You have in the constitution the freedom of association and you also have the right to aspire to any position based on certain qualifications. If he has the right to aspire to any position and it is in conflict with the PDPâ€™s constitution, then the constitution should prevail to the extent of its inconsistency. That zoning should not hold our country towards our march to greater heights.
Donâ€™t you think it is going to be a problem?
No, I donâ€™t think it is going to be at all.
In your calculation, can you see the hand of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in all this?
In fairness to him, and with due respect, people have failed to realise that Chief Obasanjo is one great man that has lived in this side of the world. Though unpopular amongst some groups but people should realise that Obasanjo was the first to put on trial the Inspector General of Police in the person of Tafa Balogun, despite the fact that he appointed him.
He ensured that his assets were confiscated and he was eventually jailed. He was the first to declare that more than 80 per cent of governors were corrupt, and most of them were from the same political party with him. It takes a courageous heart to do that. He was the first to ask his Vce in the person of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to face the music for alleged corruption. I am not saying he does not have his own short-comings, I think history hasnâ€™t been too fair, especially in the court of public opinion, to the man.Look at the way 2004 former legislative quarters was transformed when Obasanjo came back in 1999. The place was almost becoming an Oshodi. So yo
u canâ€™t really deny Obasanjo his place in history.
But Obasanjo appears to be unpopular with a lot of people?
Yes, because he has refused to give free ride to a lot of corrupt individuals in the country.
But he said of recent that this country didnâ€™t belong to anybody?
To hit the nail on the head, Obasanjo was right that the country belongs to all. The presidency is no longer the birth right of any particular group or zone in the country. Anybody from anywhere should aspire to become anything. This position should be embraced by everybody.
Without electoral reforms, any hope for 2011 polls?
It is good that Professor Iwu has been removed, as a first step to electoral reforms; and on which Jonathan should be commended immediately. This is because we must have a successful transition. Anything to the contrary will spell doom for us. It is also crucial to shop for a credible person, acceptable to the generality of Nigerians.
How comfortable are you without the invocation of section 144 of the Constitution on the ailing President?
The League is not interested in trivialising or politicising the struggle. Indeed, the North has not been fair to themselves with Jonathan there and without invoking Section 144. It is making Jonathan not only the president but the Vice President. If the necessary provision has been invoked, Jonathan would have been the President and the Vice President would have been from the North. Now they donâ€™t have a say in the Presidency nor in the Vice-Presidency. It is clear, regrettably that Yarâ€™Adua is incapacitated. I think the necessary clause should be invoked. Those who are holding him to ransom should have a rethink and help the man.
On Oyo, it is alleged that Gov Adebayo Alao-Akala has not performed?
No, the man is trying. Go to the state and feel his achievements. Ibadan should not be regarded as the totality of the state. The agriculture programme of the state is working and the farmers are happy for this.
What is your take on the banking reforms in which the Central Bank Governor, CBN, governor, MallamÂ Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has been accused of being selective?
That is not true, Sanusi should be praised to high heavens. If he had been the boss when Ribadu was EFCC chairman, I think reforms would have been harder on the banking chiefs. The league has made available more than 4,000 lawyers to do maters free of charge for him. He should be encouraged.
How do you assess the Governorâ€™s Forum?
This group is increasingly becoming an idle lot. Whilst conceding the constitutional right to associate, the governors should stay back in their states and attend to state matters. Their present gallivanting across the country makes them and their deliberations unwanted. They should face governance in the states.
They are just a group of busy-body who would always want to reap where they have not sown. The political system which midwifed them was not credible and Yarâ€™Adua said this much at the inception of his administration. The executives should be seen as executives, they should not interfere in legislative matters.
What attraction do you have for Dan Ossi Orbih, Edo PDP chairman?
The current chairman of PDP Edo State is a politician that cuts across board. I was pleasantly surprised when I read his name a one of those that signed the birthday wish of Chief Tony Ikimi. That is what politics should be, a friendly contest not a do or die battle. Dan Ossi Orbih has been a democrat right from his University of Benin days. He fought gallantly on the side of students, when school fees were introduced by the Shagari-led government. I have no doubt in my mind that he would turn the fortunes of PDP in Edo if he is allowed to work.
You want to justify E.K. Clarkâ€™s war against ex-Governor James Ibori in Delta?
No harm should come the way of this elder statesman. Indeed, each state of the federation needs an E.K. Clark. The League is not impressed by the rented crowd (including our revered mothers forced to go nude for a pot of porridge). If a warrant of arrest by a court is in force, it remains good until it is set aside. Ibori should honour the Crimes Commissionâ€™s invitation.