April 22, 2019

Why power ‘ll not shift to South in 2023 – Senator Ogunlewe


Senator Ogunlewe

By Olayinka Ajayi

…APC crumble without Buhari, must lobby to produce NASS leaders

Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, former minister of Works, and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was one of the three senators that represented Lagos on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, AD in 1999. In this interview, he warns the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, against imposing leaders on the Ninth National Assembly. He also spoke on agitation for power shift to the South in 2023, and why APC will face challenges at the polls without President Muhammadu Buhari.

Senator Ogunlewe

On the tussle between the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly

The tussle is needless. An election has to be conducted and the person who is able to lobby for a position will be voted for. People that are outside don’t seem to know the workings. The workings are simple, you have to negotiate with people to vote for you. If you are contesting an election, you have to promise A, Y, Z some committees, you have to promise a group before they can vote for you. So it is not rocket science at all, it is about lobbying, consultation, and give and take. You cannot just say this is the endorsed candidate that is going to lead the Senate then you go and sit-down, not negotiating, such person would surely fail. My take is, let the person that have the best leadership qualities for the 9th Assembly win the Speakership and the Senate President. And the best leader is somebody who can consult and knows the opposition is also important in decision making on the floor.

What do you make of the allegation by the APC that the PDP is scheming to repeat the Saraki scenario of 2015 and produce Ninth National Assembly leaders?

The PDP should do so because they have the number. They are 46 to APC’s 62. The difference is not much and as far as I am concerned, it is a simple majority. So if you want to be Senate President, and you want to give the opposition Deputy Senate President, so be it. It means you just need nine of your people to merge with the opposition to emerge the Senate President. So you must negotiate as the opposition will not just vote for you because you are APC.

On the APC leaders’ endorsement of Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate president as they did in the Eight Assembly…

It is because they are myopic, and they don’t understand the stand of the constitution. If you check the content of the constitution, the part that addresses the legislative arm, you would observe that there is no party interference either in the Senate or the House of Representatives, there is nothing like party interference. It is a national issue. So the party has no role to play on the floor at all. It is the senators or the House of Representative members that would vote on that day.

On the use of secret balloting for the election

It must be by secret ballot. Do you expect them to be raising up hands during voting? That is primitive. Even if there is a division, under the rule, you divide. There is no senator until after June 6, they are still senators-elect until they are sworn-in. So, it is the Clerk of the National Assembly that would determine what would happen that day. For the period of one hour, it is the Clerk that would be in charge. So you cannot even talk. He just comes and reels out the rules. It’s not for you to raise up your hands to question him, he may walk you out because he has not inaugurated you, you are just a senator-elect or House of the Representatives member-elect.

What do you make of the approval granted by the APC leadership for Lawan to lobby opposition parties?

I thought the APC chairman (Oshiohmole) said they should not lobby, why are they lobbying? They should just sit down and assume they are going to vote for them. They would be surprised. For instance, if I am from South-South, I will want to be a member of the petroleum committee. Those in the North would want to be in the agricultural committee or irrigation or water resources. Each zones has a special area where they must be part of the head of the committee. So, the persons who want to occupy these positions would negotiate with you and you have to listen to them, if you don’t listen to them, they will not vote for you. It is bargaining.

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It is too early, we still have over a month. However, there is what is called the X factor in the election, which is unknown to most people outside the National Assembly.

What is it about?

It is only on the floor of the National Assembly they discuss it as they don’t discuss it outside.

It is the interplay in the National Assembly and it is a major factor. It is when you are there that you would know the factor. The X factor is simply Money. So, it is the more you look the less you see. It is not free at all as there is no free lunch there because they are going to confront their governors and the leadership of their parties.

Is this factor good for our democracy?

I don’t understand because when they wanted to contest for an election, the X factor was predominant and it is significant in anything we do in Nigeria.

How can we eliminate this X factor from our democracy?

It’s by education, education, and education. Let people get jobs; by reducing poverty and unemployment, the X factor would be limited. But in a predominantly illiterate and poverty-stricken community, with area boys forming the majority of the voters, what do you expect? Out of school children are about 10 million, so how will 10 million people vote for you without being induced?

We are the architect of our misfortune as we don’t take care of our people. In western countries, they have what is called social security. Whether their citizens work or not they get money so that citizens can be less influenced. Their citizens know if the government did not give them jobs, it would provide what would make them survive. That is the way to make citizens happy.

Nigerians are not part of Nigeria as a country. We are just external because we are just living in Nigeria. Nigeria does not understand or take care of its citizens. Nigeria does not even know us as they don’t have our identity. We told them that every Nigerian must have a national identity card but it seems impossible and they spent N245 billion on elections. If you spend half of that on National ID card at least you would know who Nigerians are. As it stands, we don’t know who is a Nigerian. Once there is a national ID card, you can render social services through the local government.

Just imagine that the vice-president is the one distributing money in the market and he doesn’t know the identity of those he is giving the money to whether they are from Togo, Ghana or Mali. All these things are prerequisites to national development as you must have a database of your citizens. That is when you can take care and plan for them. Once there is no basic statistics, how do you develop a nation blindly? So we have not gotten there at all, we are very far from it.

On Vice President Osinbajo and some leaders’ using power shift to the South in 2023 as campaign during the 2019 elections

If they don’t do the needful, everything they are doing is just a waste of time. Nigeria has nowhere to go unless they restructure. Let Buhari get out from the stage, APC would crumble. I can bet you there would be no APC. APC is Buhari, Buhari is APC. That was why most of them lost their constituencies even the chairman of the party lost his constituency but he was bragging that he was able to help the President win with four million votes. Everybody in the party is bragging that they made sure President Buhari returned. That is all the glory but when the man is not contesting what are they going to do or who are they going to campaign with?

During his campaign, Buhari said the electorate should vote for anybody they like after voting for him. APC struggled to retain states it had before. Are they not seeing the danger? In another two years, there may be no APC. They will crumble because they are not united but just surviving on the money. Apart from Buhari, every other thing in APC is money.

In some states, they were fighting among themselves to the extent that they were excluded totally from the election. Members are fighting and nobody is telling them to stop, it means there is no leadership. Is it not strange to you? APC has over 765 pre-election cases in court unresolved. With these cases, are they not going to crumble? Look at what Dayo Adeyeye told them recently, was he not part of us? He is an Afenifere person from the South-West. Without restructuring, you perish as a nation. We have sounded it but they will not listen.

On the upsurge of banditry, killings and insecurity in the country

It is bad governance! Once the government is not working, people would subscribe to self-help. People have no hope in this government because the government has superimposed itself on them, so the next thing is to start revolting

Do you mean a banditry is a form of revolt?

What do you want them to do? Nobody knows they exist. If they wake up in the morning there is no food to eat, they cannot send their children to school, those that are sick cannot go to the Hospital. Is that a nation? Other advanced countries have gone through this thing, the way to solve it is to have a database. Secondly, those that are not working, it is the responsibility of the government to take care of them.

Giving our huge debt profile and poor economy, do you think we are ripe enough for this?

We are more than ripe. It’s because they are stealing money. We are the best country in the world to do that for our people. Do many people steal to survive? How many Nigerians live on their legitimate means? When a policeman is earning N30,000 and his children would go to school and there is no police housing scheme and he lives among the people; how can such policeman work?

What is the way forward?

The way forward is restructuring. The state governors are stealing the money meant for the local governments.

But the Vice-President once said restructuring is not the priority for now as corruption has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric?

He is from the home of restructuring. He is just saying that to save his job. His constituency is restructuring. How can a Yoruba man say he doesn’t understand restructuring? It is because the money is shared at the top. How can you stop corruption when the money is shared at the top? For instance, as a civil servant that retired in Lagos state, you earn as pension N45,000 naira and the permanent secretary who retired at the federal level earn N800,000 as a pension. With this, it shows the money at the top has no parent; it’s for sharing while the money at the local government has ownership. If a local government is given N600 million every month, and the governor cart away N500 million, some will ask the council chairman about it. Whose money are they spending in Abuja? I have been part of them, so I know what I am talking about. It is nobody’s money that they spend at the federal level, it is a national cake and the more you can get for yourself the better. But money at the local government level is community-based money. There is no hope.

But don’t you think probably if power shifts to the South-West in 2023 restructuring can reconsider?

So who is going to shift the power that is not talking about restructuring now? When you want to vote, you remember restructuring. Didn’t these people talk about restructuring when they wanted to contest in 2015? Power is staying in the North; there is no way the South can get it. They have four years to go. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo spent eight years, Goodluck Jonathan spent six, and late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua spent two. Buhari is spending eight. So the North has an unexpired four years to go. So, they should allow the North to spend another four years for it to balance and then we start again from the South-East. That is the calculation.

According to the calculations, those in the South anticipating power shift in 2023 are big jokers. They can never get it. You know the problem of the South-West is, If you are a Muslim, and you are coming out, who are you going to pick in the North as a running mate? Where will you get a Christian that would carry all the North along with you? So you have to pick a Muslim!

So you don’t foresee a Muslim-Muslim ticket working in Nigeria?

They should not even contemplate it because what it is going to cause will be unimaginable. That was what went wrong with late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, it was hard for Late Awo to find a suitable Northerner when he vied for the President. It was impossible for him. Once the North does not believe it is your turn, they will not follow you. They believe they still have four more years to go before they hand it over to you. If you insist they will go back to PDP and PDP will bring out a Kwankwaso or a Tambuwal and a Wike as Vice-president. How can you defeat them?