•Says Afenifere not opposed to presidential ambition

•Yoruba contenders should repay Tinubu’s good deeds’

RAGING TINUBU STORM: APC govs can’t force consensus on Asiwaju, others — SWAGA chief
Senator Dayo Adeyeye

By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor

Last week’s statement by the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that he had informed President Muhammadu Buhari about his presidential ambition apparently signaled the commencement of the 2023 presidential race. The flurry of activities witnessed ever since he made the remark is quite symbolic. In this interview, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, the promoter of the pro-Tinubu group, South-West Agenda (SWAGA), analyses what could pass as the impact of the former Lagos State governor’s declaration of intent and his chances.

Ever since Asiwaju Bola Tinubu declared interest in the presidency, reactions have been mixed even in his party, All Progressives Congress, APC. Did you envisage that?

We didn’t expect people to quickly embrace his aspiration like that. Of course, the opposition, led by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, won’t be happy about it. Even within the APC, those who are potential rivals, those eyeing the same position, we do not expect them to simply start clapping their hands and embrace his aspiration.

We expected that there would be mixed reactions. What I know is that the majority of Nigerians see it as a welcome development. And the feelers we are getting from across the country are that the masses are extremely happy with the formal statement by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

READ ALSO: 2023: It’s my lifelong ambition to become President —Tinubu

But people were of the opinion that rather than informing Buhari first, Tinubu ought to have first informed the people who own the power he is seeking. To them, the votes belong to the people and not Buhari. What can you say about this?

You give honour to who honour is due. Buhari is Nigeria’s President. He is also the leader of APC on whose platform Tinubu is contesting. It is only normal and proper and in accordance with tradition that the President is formally informed before any other person. Tinubu did what was proper.

Of course, the message has been heard in the country, and I believe the masses would be formally involved either by a formal declaration or through some other events. I am sure if Tinubu had not taken that route, there wouldn’t have been criticism.

Some would have said he belittled the President as the leader of the party. Others would have said he has no regard for Buhari. But as an experienced leader and as a proper African, he has done what is right.

His statement, which wasn’t really a formal declaration, opened a floodgate of declarations in his party. Do you call that a mere coincidence?

It shows that Asiwaju is the leader. What were they waiting for until he declared? They probably lacked the initiative to have taken such a step.

Since the leader has taken the step, they had no option but to follow. He is the frontrunner in the race. He is the man to beat. Having taken that step, some of these people who are mere pretenders to the throne, have joined the race.

That shows that a leader would always be a leader. By coming out first, he has demonstrated that he has the wherewithal to lead the country and set the pace for others to follow.

If you gauge the conversations around his admittance of being interested in the race, you would see that people are not saying he isn’t qualified for the position. Rather, one of the main arguments is that he was chiefly instrumental to the coming of Buhari whose administration is believed to have brought misery upon Nigerians…

 Whether President Buhari is doing well or not is neither here nor there. It is a matter of personal opinion.

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu saw the need for there to be a change in the country. He worked for the change and succeeded. But he was not the person entrusted with governance. He only watched governance from the sideline.

And I believe that he did the best by bringing the government to power. Since he wasn’t the person elected as President, he couldn’t have usurped the power of the President.

He can’t perform the President’s functions. To blame him for whatever failings attributed to government, is not fair. And as I have said earlier, the performance of the President would be judged by history.

Let history be the best judge. The opinions we have about leaders are better weighed by history.

In the South-West, some APC chiefs are believed to be interested in the race. In fact, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who hasn’t declared interest, has become a big issue in the 2023 conversations. Since the majority of these perceived presidential hopefuls of South-West extraction are products of the Tinubu political machinery, what do you make of their reported ambition?

Rightly, Tinubu is their leader. He has made his declarations by coming out to say that he is interested in the office.

It is left for these people to make up their minds on whether to repay the good Tinubu has done for them or to do otherwise.

Since the Tinubu camp is believed to be banking on direct primary, how would it navigate through the hurdles created by Buhari’s refusal to sign the amended Electoral Act and governors’ opposition to direct primary?

Whether they use direct primary or indirect primary, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has massive support to clinch the ticket of the party in a free and fair contest. I don’t think that is a problem for him.

I think that direct primary is the best option for the country. It is to return the party to the people. It is a system that would allow every member of the party to participate in the election of candidates.

I believe that making the system more participatory is one of the merits of direct primary. After more than 20 years of democracy, we are supposed to have attained a stage where the internal processes of political parties are more open and democratized.

The President refused to sign for reasons that are not completely illogical. He said he didn’t want to make it the only option. He said he wanted the parties to have other options.

That is a reasonable argument but I am now challenging the parties, particularly the APC to go for direct primaries. We have used it in the past in many states. In 2019, it was used by the APC during the presidential primaries.

So, the party has experience in that area. To perfect the model, they need to use it in the next elections. We are expecting that it will be used in the Ekiti election and other subsequent elections.

But the reports that APC governors are pushing for a consensus candidate are real. Should that be the case, where does it leave Tinubu’s prospects?

The consensus option is one of the three options allowed by the APC Constitution. But consensus can only be achieved when all aspirants agree to it. Where one aspirant refuses to agree, then, there is no consensus.

It means total agreement by all those contesting. Where there is no total agreement, you cannot have consensus. Insisting on consensus is good for the governors to explore but they can’t force it on anybody who does not agree with them.

It is the legitimate right of anyone to ask for a free and fair contest. The governors can explore the option, but when one person says he is not in agreement, they would embrace another option.

That does not in any way affect the chances of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. If for example, they did not agree on a consensus, they have to choose the option of an election. As I said, he has a reasonable chance of clinching the ticket of the APC whether by direct or indirect primary.

There have been claims that President Buhari is not disposed to Tinubu’s aspiration. He was reported to be rooting for a Jonathan presidency. What does the Tinubu team make of such claims?

I was not privy to the meeting between President Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. I can’t say what transpired.

He only said he told the President he wants to contest. As for the APC governors who are said to be rooting for Jonathan, the report is at the level of rumour.

In the light of many perceptions about Tinubu’s ambition, what are his strengths in this race?

He would run on his enviable track record as governor of Lagos State, pro-democracy fighter, an advocate of true federalism, an advocate of the welfare of the masses and a person who built men and women, who have become great men in the affairs of this country.

He is also known for religious tolerance. He would run as a detribalized Nigerian who has friends across the country.

Asiwaju Tinubu would run on his well-respected image as a defender of democracy, who has fought for a free and fair election. He would run as a great economic thinker.

These are the strengths he is running on. Already, we are witnessing a mass movement around his ambition.

In the South-West, a few powerful influences seem not to be really enthusiastic about his ambition. For instance, the apex Yoruba group, Afenifere, said he isn’t their candidate. Aside from the opposition on a partisan basis, what do you make of Afenifere’s posture?

I don’t think we should misunderstand Afenifere on this. I was once a spokesperson for Afenifere. What Afenifere is simply saying is that they haven’t endorsed anybody at the moment.

That is understood because it would be premature to adopt any party now. They would probably wait and see other sons of O’odua turn out after which they would evaluate them.

Afenifere is not saying they would never endorse Tinubu. They are only saying they have not done so. That does not mean they would not do so when the time comes. They are only saying they have priorities.

They include the group’s objective of moving Nigeria towards true federalism. And I believe in the fullness of time when some of these candidates come out fully, they would support Asiwaju’s presidential ambition.

So far, we have done a tremendous job in SWAGA. We have been able to mobilise all the components of our zone, especially the traditional institution. We have met nearly 300 traditional rulers in the South-West.

We also have the support of the South-West intelligentsia and we are encouraged by their responses. When it comes to Asiwaju, people are closing ranks across party lines. We are seeing a bipartisan response from people.

Meanwhile, you can’t be a successful person and expect everyone to like you. As you are climbing higher in life, the number of your enemies grows.

Anyone opposed to him has the right to do so, but it is Nigerians who would give him the mandate and not a few persons.

Ever since Tinubu visited Buhari, two APC aspirants from the South-East, Dave Umahi and Orji Kalu, have declared interest, harping on Igbo presidency…

There is nothing to fear, the race is a contest. They would all participate. All we need is a free and fair process.

The number of candidates can’t be reduced. They all deserve a level playing field.

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