By BASHIR ADEFAKA
Otunba Fatai Olajide Olukoga, Chairman, Council of Otunbas Ayangburen of Ikorodu, is a member of Democratic Party in Chicago State, United States (US). He speaks on the recent visit of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to the US. The retired Permanent Secretary from Lagos State Civil Service also speaks on the forthcoming elections in Lagos State, President Donald Trump of America, President Muhammadu Buhari and the former President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Third Force. Excerpts:
Since your retirement as Permanent Secretary, you haven’t sought elective office. Why?
First and foremost, while I could not seek legislative elective office where you are the only one studying all cross-country bills, doing oversight functions by yourself and which can be so tedious for an ageing person now close to 70 like me, if it is governorship or presidency, yeah, because what is needed in that office is only experience and it is only in age that you find experience. All the governor needs is sensitivity and the thinking cap that works well.
But the governorship of Lagos State was open, why did you not seek?
On that, we have our candidate and he is Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who, like Babatunde Fashola, Mr. Performer, has also been in the system. All the achievements reversal that Governor Ambode did to Fashola’s legacy will be corrected by him. He will return Lagos to its great and beautiful past. Lagos should not worry. So, there is no need for me to put head in it so long as we have another person who can do the job. I was called upon in other parties to seek governorship office but l said no. My lineage is progressives from the Action Group to the UPN, SDP, AD, AC, ACN and APC. This is the political ideology I belong to and that is where I want to be.
You said you won’t seek legislative office due to age. How do you place it with governorship or presidency?
Like I said, the governor or president does not have to do all the jobs alone like a legislator, even though his job is far wider than that of legislator. Take President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo as an example, you can see what work for them are their ages, knowledge capacity, experience and both have their respective military and professorial backgrounds, which is vital, and the President has close monitoring of all jobs he delegates and the thinking cap making the job so good for the country. Yes in his 70s but he is trying, I’m going to give it to him, he is energetic and agile on the job.
The two leading candidates in the 2019 polls are Buhari and Atiku who are in their 70s. But in terms of performance, Atiku and Obasanjo, after their eight years and their party’s 16 years, blamed Buhari in his three years for Nigeria’s problem. What is your take to that?
I will say that one, Atiku is not a match to Buhari. His antecedent is not good enough for him to be. If you go back to what happened when he was in charge of the economy, you would find out he did not do well. Together they plunged the country into chaos. Most of the things they were supposed to do in eight years were scandalous. The economy was mismanaged and that continued in the other eight years of their successors to make 16 years of scandalous administration. So, Atiku cannot exonerate himself. Most of the assets and parastatals were sold to his friends and cronies and he has promised that is what he wants to come and do again.
Buhari has only been there for three years, although he is old but you can see a lot of things he has done in three years. Most of the abandoned projects of Atiku’s PDP regimes are now completed. Things are working. It is just that you cannot build Rome in one day, because there had always been serious problem before his coming and he is employing systematic approach to ensure that Nigeria gets better.
Right now our GDP is getting better, our commonwealth reserve is getting better and most of the infrastructural development coming on, agriculture is good now as we can produce the food we eat and our road transportation is going to be improved, boosted with the rail coming in; from the Apapa Port of Lagos to Ibadan to Kano, all states of Nigeria linked together by rail system, which we can testify to is already working well between Abuja and Kaduna and so on and so forth. With all these in place, the economy is getting better.
But how do you think this has been possible in three years?
It is possible in three years because Buhari is sincere and also has passion for the job of helping to fix Nigeria.
But if you put someone who is a mediocre and doesn’t have passion for the country and who wants to come back and corner the economy again, Nigeria will be doomed. So we need to be very careful. Good enough, now, I am sure the eyes of a lot of Nigerians are wide open, they have charged their brains, they know who is good, and I can assure you that, by the preparedness of those Nigerians now, no matter how much Atiku spends, he is going nowhere.
Would you say President Trump is actually aware of the Atiku visit to the US?
He is very much aware! You know how Trump is running America. He is a racist and he doesn’t like black people and so does not care if what he does hurts any black country or not. See what happened to America in recent times, the government shut down for two months.
But in Nigeria, do we have the law or the effrontery to deal with people who allegedly embezzled money? Nevertheless they are still running around the country and talking! Obasanjo, who is yet to explain the $16 billion he spent on power without result, is not only talking but also leading the gang-up to unseat Buhari, who has done far more than all of them ganging-up put together.
Do you entertain any fear that Trump, being aware of Atiku’s visit to America, will have any effect in how Nigeria runs its internal affairs particularly at the elections?
No. Trump himself will not have the time to even think about countries outside America talk less of Nigeria. You can see his rating is down and you know there is problem in America now. There are a lot of things going on including Russia intervention in elections. He himself will not have time to think about who is doing anything in Nigeria because 2020 is already around the corner.
The only thing I want to say is that, if as a good President, yes, you say you are a business man, but you allow Atiku to stay in your hotel? It is a big image problem that you know that somebody who is alleged to have committed fraud in your country is not only in your country but stays in your hotel and you allowed him to go scot free.
But upon return, PDP claimed Atiku is now loved globally and that Buhari has no friends all over the world. How do you react to that?
That is just a gimmick. They are attention grabbers by saying that.
Are you saying Buhari and your party the APC are capable of handling that?
We are very much capable and we will deal with him at the appropriate time. It is just a gimmick. Atiku is going nowhere. You will see what will happen. Atiku will be shocked. In three hours, you will know the results. Buhari will have taken the majority of the votes. Even if they (PDP and Atiku) hire a strategist, they need to realize that their strategy may work in America but cannot work in Nigeria.
How do you mean?
Ha! That is why the Electoral Bill they sent was not signed by Buhari, because he knew what was going on. We don’t have experience of electronic voting as a nation but you want that to come into our electoral system within a short time to the 2019 general elections. They, the PDP strategists, know what they want to use electronic voting for; so that they can hack into the electronic system and award victory for themselves. But the man is much cleverer than they are and that is why he insisted that he was not going to sign it within that short time to elections. And that strategy failure on their part which Buhari’s refusal to sign the bill has caused them is already giving them sleepless nights.