December 27, 2020

2023: We’re not afraid of those opposed to Tinubu — Senator Adeyeye 


Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

…‘I am not aware of Fayemi’s alleged presidential bid

…Cautions: Micro-zoning will create tension in South

By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor

Recently, a group of ex-lawmakers, ministers and other politicians of South-West extraction urged the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to contest the 2023 presidential election.

The group, known as South-West Agenda, SWAGA, also visited the Olubaban and Alaafin of Oyo as part of what they called sensitization on the merits of Tinubu, who is fondly called Jagaban. In this interview, leader of the group, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, speaks on the prospects, hurdles and gains of a Tinubu presidency.

About a fortnight ago, you and a few others visited two foremost Yoruba monarchs, the Olubadan and Alaafin of Oyo, to drum up support for the perceived presidential ambition of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. While your right to do so is not being questioned, don’t you think the timing is wrong and distractive?

I don’t think it is wrong to do so. As a matter of fact, the period of the election, February 2023, is around the corner. The election holds in 2023 and we are in December 2020. That shows that we have about 24 months to the election. If we go by the fact that primaries would be held about three or four months before then, we should be talking about 18 or 19 months to the presidential election. Really, the exercise is around the corner. Those who are not acceptable may not see it that way, but any serious-minded politician knows that the 2023 presidential election is around the corner. It is not too early to start.

Did Tinubu ask you to commence the sensitization?

All along, we have said that Tinubu didn’t ask us to commence this sensitisation project. We are only sensitising people on the merits of his candidacy. We are making people know why he is eminently qualified to lead this country at a time like this.

We, a group of like-minded people comprising people who have been in the National Assembly, ministers, important politicians and non-politicians, decided to urge him to throw his hat into the ring and contest for the presidency of Nigeria. We know that he would accept this challenge by coming out to run for the presidency of this country.

We need an experienced hand. The kind of security challenges we are facing in this country, economic challenges and youth restiveness, show that we need someone who will calm the situation and put Nigeria on the path of rapid socio-economic development. We believe Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is eminently qualified to do that. We visited Olubadan and Alaafin because we did the inaugural meeting in Ibadan, which is the headquarters of the South-West geopolitical zone. We visited the two eminent leaders in Yorubaland in accordance with our tradition. We can’t visit all of them. By the time we visit other states, Nigerians will see more of our activities.

Why Tinubu?

He is the most qualified. If anyone thinks he is more qualified than Tinubu, the person can come out. By our evaluation, we have concluded that today in the South-West, he is the leading active politician. His credentials are known. He was the governor of Lagos State. He was the only surviving Alliance for Democracy, AD, governor, who survived the then onslaught against the party by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He held on to the state and eventually recovered other South-West states from the PDP. He has consistently been relevant in Nigerian politics since 1993.

He was part of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, struggle. When you look at the formation of APC, the emergence of Buhari as President and the success of the party, credits should be given to Tinubu. In fact, those who we are hearing rumours that they are interested in the race, some of them are products of Tinubu. In the actual sense, some of them are angling for the vice presidential ticket. They are people Tinubu had helped secure their positions in the past.

Your sensitization campaign for Tinubu presidency somehow clashes with the general clamour for Igbo presidency in 2023…

Politics is never served ala carte. You need to struggle for political power. Now, some people believe there should be zoning and there are others who think there shouldn’t be zoning of public offices. I think those opposed to zoning are not honest enough. There should be zoning. With what we have, we can zone to geopolitical zones, states, local governments, wards and even villages.

The kind of consensus leaders in this country have is that the presidency should rotate between the North and South not minding whoever gets it in the zones. We have not micro-zoned to geopolitical zones for it to rotate among the sub-zones in the geopolitical zones.

We may have that in the future but not now. Perhaps, a time will come when we would say it should rotate among the states. There may be a time we can decide to do away with zoning but not now. What we have now is a kind of consensus for rotation between North and South. That is a very simple formula because when you go too far by micro-zoning to geopolitical zones, there could be a lot of tension.

If we had micro-zoned to geopolitical zones, Buhari wouldn’t have emerged because people would have said Yar’Adua also hailed from Katsina State. Right now, there are even people clamouring for former President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a southerner. Since it is coming to the South, any of the geopolitical zones in the South has the right to aspire to the presidency.

South-West, South-East and South-South have the right to present candidates for the election. We can’t have a situation where a group of people would go to someone’s house to offer the presidency to him. What I am saying is that the South-East people have the right to contest, just as we in the South-West have the right.

The South-South people also have the right. It is the prerogative of all Nigerians to choose whoever comes out from the South. The person who will emerge won’t be a South-West President, South-East President and South-South President but a Nigerian President. Therefore, the decision to choose that person is the duty of Nigerians. I believe that this game rewards those who work very hard and those who have planted seeds across the country. I am thinking that our man we are projecting in the South-West will emerge.

Some think the entire South should come up with a consensus to avoid a situation whereby power remains in the North. Those who share this view argue that since some powerful elements in the North are still interested in the race, the South should have a common ground…

Consensus is always good but it is more theoretical than practical. It is an idea that is good. Consensus leads to the absence of conflict but politics is never like that. Politics is the art of managing conflicts. If there is a consensus that will be fine, but we are working to ensure that Tinubu emerges as the presidential candidate of APC. If along the line, we have a consensus on his candidate that will be good. In the absence of that, we will go into the contest.

Recently, Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, while supporting power shift to the South, talked about APC’s pre-merger agreement. President Buhari also spoke on honouring all pre- merger agreements. But those opposed to zoning in APC keep saying that zoning has no place in APC constitution. Tell us if such an agreement really exists in APC…

I wasn’t there at the time. I believe what the President has said. I believe what Fashola and El-rufai have said. Nobody has come out to contradict them. To that extent, we all can see that there was indeed a pre-merger agreement. It behooves all honourable people to honour an agreement entered into without compulsion. Such an agreement becomes a covenant that must not be violated by anybody. I expect the agreement to be honoured.

In the South-West, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, is believed to be interested in the 2023 presidential race. Some even claim the crisis in the state chapter of APC is related to ambition. Where does Fayemi’s reported ambition leave Tinubu’s prospects?

I am not aware that Fayemi is nursing the ambition to contest for the presidency. But it is within his rights to do so, just like any other Nigerian who is qualified. I don’t think that is what is tearing the APC apart in Ekiti State. I don’t think it is the reason for division in Ekiti APC. I am an Ekiti person. I know the issue is much deeper than that and has nothing to do with Bola Tinubu’s aspiration. The crisis is about the internal problems in the state chapter of the party. It was caused mainly by the tendency of some group of people to dominate everybody, exclude others and arrogate everything to themselves. Those being dominated are resisting. That is the summary of Ekiti APC crisis.

Why do you think Tinubu is easy to market politically and don’t you foresee stiff opposition from anywhere?

We don’t expect all Nigerians to queue behind us. If we didn’t envisage that, there wouldn’t have been any need for the sensitisation we have embarked upon. It is because we realised there would be obstacles at some stages that we have come out early to work. We expect a lot of challenges to come our way. This is politics where people would throw spanner into your works. A lot of things would come up and we should be prepared for that. Facing challenges is what any politician should expect.


The stories we are hearing in the South-West is that some top APC public office holders of South-West extraction are not disposed to having Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate. And these are people, who are known to have attained political stardom through Tinubu…

The question should be for them. I don’t know whether they have aspirations. I am not in a position to answer the question.

It is also believed that apart from the South-West, some forces in APC are working hard to prevent the former Lagos State governor from getting the APC ticket. How are you going to manage these tendencies?

We expect all those challenges and oppositions from the North, South and anywhere. We are even expecting opposition from Lagos State, but that is normal in politics. In America, Biden, who is the President-elect, didn’t find it easy to emerge. His vice, Kamala Harris, was even opposed to him at some point. People would say a lot of things about Asiwaju Tinubu for the personal and geopolitical interests. We expected all these things, but as we move along, we would remove the roadblocks until we get to our destination.

Opposition against him is not something anyone should be afraid of.

The opposition to zoning, especially from the North is hinged on the argument that it encourages mediocrity. Hence, the move to ensure the next President does not emerge through zoning. In the light of this, do you think zoning should be made a constitutional matter or left at the level of political parties?

I think zoning should not be made a constitutional matter. It should be left to the political parties to continue to have gentleman agreement among themselves. If those who aspire to leadership positions in this country cannot be trusted to keep their words, then the country is doomed. Zoning should be left as it is today.

READ ALSO: Presidency: Power rotation is inevitable until Nigeria is restructured

There would always be people who oppose zoning. If they are saying zoning does not encourage the emergence of the best, every part of this country has competent people who can become President. There are even more educated people in the South than in the North. But we can’t say the South should permanently produce the President because of that. We recognise that there are competent people all over the country, but we are saying that Nigeria is an extremely diverse country. We should give a sense of belonging to every section of the country.

That is why people argue for zoning or rotation. If we continue to have a Christian President or northern President, our diversities would not be taken care of. Whether we like it or not, our backgrounds influence us in some little ways that have profound effects on people all over the country. Even the symbolic importance of seeing somebody from your area in that office is enough for people to have a sense of belonging. That is why one section of the country cannot monopolise the office.

Some Nigerians see Tinubu as someone who made Buhari’s emergence possible. To them, the Buhari administration hasn’t impacted positively on the average Nigerian.

What can you tell them the Tinubu presidency offers?

Tinubu offers the hope of a new beginning. The fact that we have a competent hand that can bring the country together is something to cheer about. The country is highly divided now in terms of religion, ethnicity and geopolitical issues.

Somebody who has a sense of fairness in a way that no part of the country is over-indulged is needed. Someone who will ensure that no part of the country is neglected is needed. I think Bola Tinubu has shown that he is that kind of person. With that, Nigerians can come together in a renewed sense of purpose to work together and move the country forward.

No matter what a leader is doing, if people do not believe in him and cooperate with him, such a leader cannot go far. We believe that Tinubu would bring Nigerians together to move this country forward. Apart from the fact that he has demonstrated it, he is someone who believes in modernity. He uses talented people in key positions. He is not going to rely on his geopolitical zone or ethnic background to appoint people into key positions. He is going to work with competent people from every part of the country.

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