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2019 too short to change Nigeria—Doyin Okupe

It’s senseless to ask Buhari to resign
Nobody should ambush the north because Buhari is sick
Why I left PDP for Accord Party

You left PDP and joined Accord Party during the PDP crisis because you didn’t know they were going to resolve the crisis..

It is not true. I knew the resolution of the crisis was going to come. If you speak to people who were close to me when I was in PDP, I had expressed intention to leave the party long ago, about two years ago. I had gone to the house of Chief Ben Obi and others and told them that I was leaving the party. They all prevailed on me that I should please not do so. That was two years ago and then, the crisis had not even started.

Now for me, I didn’t come into politics by accident or by chance, it was a deliberate move and it was a choice. I had a chance to go and study surgery in Dublin or to do something else but I decided to go into politics because I wanted to operate in a theatre that is bigger than a theatre in a hospital so that I could attend to more patients on a larger scale. And God has been faithful to me. I have been able to come very close to the citadel of power in Nigeria. I have come very close twice, at the time of Obasanjo and then Jonathan but I haven’t really gotten what I wanted in politics.

Doyin Okupe

I came into politics at the age of 28 and I’m now 65. So, a lot of time has gone and I’m not done with politics yet. I still want to see the possibility of achieving that same thing that drove me from my profession, medicine. I have always wanted to be among those who will assist to change the country. If you look at how politics was played over the years, there was a lot of motion but very little progress was made.

You left PDP out of disappointment because your party did not build, it destroyed.

That is not true. PDP did not destroy. Really, I don’t want to join issues with anybody but to say 16 years of PDP was a waste is not true. If you travel through the length and breath of this country, you will see evidence of physical development in the nation. There is no doubt about that but people always make mistakes. You know the PDP Federal Government was different from government in the states. The Federal Government is concerned with broad principles and politics, development issues, international matters, security and other matters. The state governments and local governments always shared 50-50 the nation’s resources. So, its not just the Federal Government. The states have a lot to do at their levels and you apportion blames to states where they failed. You don’t blame the Federal Government for failings at state levels. All the major parties we have today also controlled government at state and local government levels. It’s not correct to blame the Federal Government for all failings. Perhaps, you have not gone as far as I have but you don’t blame the Federal Government for things that ought to have been done at the state levels.

But you believe that if not for the misrule of the 16 years of PDP, Nigeria would not be in the mess it is today…

What is happening in the country today is not due to misrule of previous governments. This country and most black nations in the world are run on half-hazard basis. It’s not peculiar to Nigeria. Tell me where in black Africa that you have seen any major upliftment in terms of policy development. We are a young nation and our democracies are young. We cannot by any leaps and bounds equate ourselves with democracies that are over 200 years. All these corruption, nepotism and ineptitude we have today, various governments in developed countries also went through them. Go and check the history books. We are developing but developing slowly. When you compare us with forty years, fifty years ago with the ancient tigers, we are below in terms of speed of development but not that there is no development. If a state government cannot pay salaries, that is not the fault of the Federal Government. All monies that are due to the states are paid. If they are looted, they are looted at the state levels. It’s not the federal government problem or that of political parties.

All the major political parties operate at state levels. So, its not a PDP problem. EFCC is very active at the federal level but most of the states are not transparent. The EFCC should be very active in the states to tackle corruption at the state levels. The federal government, states and local government areas are different levels and you cannot blame failures at the state levels on the federal government.

But the looting attributed to key people at the federal level are monumental…

Some of the allegations of certain monies found at strange places have been debunked. The reported money found in a septic tank has been debunked. It’s something that happened at a state level, the South East and the pictures on social media were false. The money found at the Ikoyi happened in this regime, not in the PDP government.

This administration is over two years. So, the things that happening now cannot be blamed on the past administration, and accusations do not necessarily imply guilt. We have seen situations where allegations of corruption were made but never proven. But in Nigeria, we tend to enjoy the hype when an official in government is accused of stealing billions of dollars. But you now begin to wonder, how much do we earn in oil and if Nigeria makes $90 billion dollars in oil, how can one person have access to all the money? Some of these allegations are not proven. So let us talk about things that will bring goodness to our country.


The country is in shambles; because of the weakness of PDP, we created room for a man who should be in retirement to come back and today the consequences are great.

Haba, how can you blame PDP for the weakness and shortcomings of an APC government? There was an election and people preferred the APC. Would you blame the PDP for losing election? In an election, you either win or lose. There is nothing that guarantees that you will always win. You are extremely very biased because what is happening in Nigeria today is not the fault of the PDP but the peoples choice. So, put the blame where it should be.

If the PDP had performed well in government…

Listen, human organisations when they stay too long often falter. That is normal. When you rule for a time, you begin to get big-headed, you begin to pay less attention to important things. This happens in democracy and then the people will say it looks like this party doesn’t satisfy our interest any more, let us try the other party. That was what happened, that was what Nigerians did and that was not PDP’s fault.

It is believed by many that towards the end of the Jonathan’s regime, many people who were working with him worked against him…

If anybody did that, that must be for a purpose. That’s politics. Treachery and betrayal are all politics, you find them in politics.

I read somewhere that because of your dishonesty, former president Obasanjo had you beaten up…

It’s not true. In what was I dishonest? Somebody said I was given money for journalists and I didn’t give them and Obasanjo slapped me. It was pure fiction, it didn’t happen. Obasanjo is alive. Number one, whenever we travelled out of the country, I never held any money. All expenses were paid by the chief of protocol to the president. Even the president was not keeping money. His estacode was always paid to him by the chief of protocol. Anybody, be it security, journalist on a trip with the president were paid by the chief of protocol. This particular episode happened 16 years ago and we are here discussing it. It is not true. I’m the one involved, Obasanjo is still alive. The event never happened. How can Obasanjo beat me up, for what?

Lets come home to the current time, Nigeria is at cross-roads and people are asking for restructuring, some for self-determination, devolution of power and others for referendum; the national assembly said no to devolution of power and the APC government and the North seem opposed to it too. Where do you stand?

The problem with Nigeria is that those who are political elites are dishonest and not truthful to themselves. We know the truth but we shy away from it and don’t discuss it. And when it comes to the parties, you would see that APC, PDP, APGA all have interests and if you come from a region, you vote for that regional interest. If an objective is against your interest, you vote against it. That is how we are running the country.

The people in the South feel that a restructured Nigeria will allow them better fulfilment of life and would give them a reasonable space to develop at their own pace and there would be a redistribution of the national wealth which would allow people who work to spend their money. Now, majority of the people from the North are against restructuring and if majority of the people in the senate are from the North, it is understandable that the senate will not approve anything that is against the interest of the North.

But you see, we do not need to ambush one another. We need to sit down together and talk across the table in an open-minded manner. The north will tell those from the south their fears about a restructured Nigeria and the south will try to make an arrangement to avoid these things that make the north afraid of what we are intending to do. We need to make a joint decision.

Those who want restructuring cannot impose their will on those who don’t. Those who do not want restructuring also cannot impose their will on those who want, otherwise, there will not be a country.

We are getting to a position where we ought to have started from, in our getting together and discussing honestly and peacefully about the country and what we want out of it.

We keep saying the same thing all the time. In Jonathan’s regime, there was a confab and a report that emanated from it, just like we had in Abacha’s era, the OBJ era and we just jettisoned the reports as if nothing happened and then suddenly, we start talking about another conference…

It is still the insincerity and deception of elites that we are talking about. If people go to national conference with genuine and sincere minds to find a solution to the country’s problem and be willing to accept the outcome of the conference that reflects equity, fairness and justice, we will get Nigeria going.

But we hardly find people with that mindset going for the conference. No nation can be built and developed on the basis of deception, on the basis of injustice and inequitably. It’s not going to work and the earlier we recognise this, the better for us. It is one of the reasons I decided that I am done with the party, the PDP, because there are incongruities in it.

See, I was a member of the NPN, I was a member of the NRC and I was in the PDP. People should not misconstrue northern interest to be equal to national interest. In our country, if someone is a member of the PDP and is from the north and you ask for his opinion on restructuring, on Biafra, on devolution of power, you will see that his opinion is clearly, very different and distinct from mine. And yet he is representing me as my party leader. It cannot work. I want to belong to a party where our opinions are the same.

At the age of 65, I cannot be led by the nose by anybody. I don’t know any politician in Nigeria today that is senior or superior to me. I don’t.

There was a convention of PDP which we all witnessed but was there a discussion by anybody on the current situation in the country? Did anybody come close to anything that the Nigerian people are talking about? So, there is so much disconnection between the political parties and the people. Everything is still a grand deception. All these people are coming together to form a large party just to get power. It is not to serve and if people help these people to get power for themselves, why then are they complaining? They never said they will benefit you anyway.

Look at APC, what are the ideological positions of APC on these issues, what are the ideological position of PDP on these issues that you have raised? These parties have no ideological positions on the issues that bother Nigerians. Then, what is their relevance to the Nigerian political system? Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

Political parties are supposed to project the political interests of people they represent. If within political parties, there are no consensus on national issues, what is the relevance of that party? So, whosoever seizes power in that party forces the party to do his own will or their own will against the interest of the remaining people.

Now, those from the Niger Delta who are in a party where its leader does not believe in restructuring, doesn’t believe in devolution of power or resource control, what are they doing in that party? Why should one remain in a party that is oppressing him and oppressing his interests?

Political parties should express and protect the interests, desires, decisions and ideologies of various interest groups. That is why I am not in PDP any more, because PDP as a party, cannot genuinely and sincerely protect my interest and the interest of the region that I come from. The South-West wants restructuring, the South-West wants devolution of powers, everything the South-West wants, the PDP leadership doesn’t seem to want it. So, where do I stand?

But Accord Party is a small party, has no national outlook and of no political consequence…

It’s a small party, yes, but I disagree with you. What will I gain from a party with national outlook that is oppressing my desires? I am in Accord Party because I want to develop a political ideology in my state. I don’t need to belong to a national party, there are parties abroad that do not have national interests.


You want to be a governor?

I have gone beyond that. I want to create a situation in my state, where we can present the people with a political party that will defend exactly what they want. It is alien to the concept of politics in Nigeria.  The concept of politics in Nigeria is to go to Abuja, belong to a political party, win election and bring money home.  I have been in a national political party, I have been in the highest level, that is the seat of power in the presidency. There is nothing new to me.

I remember the time you came to Vanguard after the APC picked Buhari as presidential candidate, I perceived so much much fear in PDP with Buhari as APC candidate from the way you spoke. Was it that fear that created disharmony in PDP that it could not get its act together towards the end of Jonathan’s tenure?

My focus is no longer in PDP. I’ve moved on. I don’t want to talk about PDP any more.

Have you seen the crop of young people behind all agitations, especially the north versus the south. Do you think these youths from the north in future will be able to work with those from the South especially the south-east and south-south?

The emerging trend is frightening and I think every leader should be concerned.  We should be worried about the future of today’s youths.  The basic reason these things are coming up is perceived injustice, inequality, lack of fairness in national affairs. These are the things fuelling the requests and the desire for these separatist ideologies. It can be salvaged and I think the earlier we become sincere, open, honest to each other, the better it becomes for us. If we don’t, then, we are leading the nation towards jeopardy and people should not assume that what is happening elsewhere cannot happen here. We are in a human society, governed by human laws and organisations and if we don’t do right, whenever injustice prevails, unity is impossible.


The president was on medical vacation for over 100 days and people said he made history while some requested for his resignation. Many are still saying he is not strong enough to continue in governance…

Let me tell you, we are a nation of hypocrites, including you and I. So, because Buhari is sick, people want him to resign so that a Yoruba man that was not elected as president will become the president? It cannot happen. This is what they don’t want to hear. Nobody voted for Osinbajo for president. Osinbajo was voted as vice president. We run this country on turn-by-turn and until we agree to change that, it will continue.  Nobody should use a soft approach to ambush the north. The northerners will not agree for Buhari to resign because it is their turn.  If I were a northerner, I would not agree for Buhari to resign. When it was Yar Adua’s turn, he died and Jonathan became president, then we said Jonathan can contest by law, he contested and won.

We admitted the issue of turn-by-turn and they want to start again, it is not going to work. Anybody quoting any morality is a hypocrite. The constitution didn’t say the president cannot be sick. The man admitted he is sick, so we should let him be. He is not dead. Nobody should force him to resign and he is recovering fast. People said he has not disclosed his ailment and I tell you it is not in the constitution that the president should disclose it. If they want it included during constitution review, they should include it. Unless we have such a provision in the constitution, you cannot hold anybody to ransom.


The money gulped during his medical vacation on the presidential jet and his aides attracted knocks also, especially at a time things were rather very difficult for the average Nigerian…

I have said that people are very hypocritical. $4,000 (four thousand) dollars per day for the presidential jet in the UK for over a hundred days is not his making. The presidential system that was adopted by Nigeria is expensive. The president is almost a king. We should use this Buhari experience to fashion out in our constitution what we want and what we do not want. I cannot blame any human being for acting in his own interest. People are just picking on him for nothing. The president has not violated any law.


During the  Mumu  Don Do  protests in Abuja, some youths came and started throwing stones at protesters. That appeared like terrorism because terrorists start with throwing stones even in Israel and Palestine…

We are not a very civilised nation. You are assuming that you are in America where you can do what you like and the law will protect you. It’s not true. A lot of things have happened in Nigeria and I don’t want to put fire on anything. I’ve read all sorts of comments but its what we are as nation. We have developed a country called Nigeria but we have not developed a nation. And as long as we have not develop a nation, such a thing will continue to happen, either in Wuse, Mushin or anywhere, in Kano or Abia. We are very distinct and separate nationalities. We have not been fully integrated either vertically or horizontally but we pretend in Abuja or elsewhere that we are one united nation. It is not true. The leaders lie to you, deceive you and nothing could be done.

Finally, 2019 is very close and politicians are on the march again, what do you see, do you foresee Buhari coming back?

Come back as what? Even the president himself will not want this type of trouble for himself. We are all praying and hoping that by the grace of God, he will complete his term. That will just be fair. But if he wants to come back, there is nothing wrong, the people will decide whether they want him or not. It’s a democracy.

So what kind of Nigeria do you hope to see by 2019?

2019 is too short to change anything in Nigeria, but we can begin to lay the building block of a new nation and this new nation will only be built by a majority of workmen who will be young people, with a lot of zeal and honesty. I’ve told those of us who have grown up through the ranks, who have developed through a deceptive polity, a polity where people lied to each other, a polity of mistrust and distrust and fallacy that any house built with rubble is not going to stand.

From 1960 till date, we have used rubble to construct our house called Nigeria. It doesn’t even require rain to come and break it. Any strong wind threatens it. But we must now begin to construct a new nation that is solidly put and grounded by honesty, godliness, fear of God, equity and justice. We must strive to achieve that.

That’s is the remaining part of what I have to contribute to Nigeria.



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