BY LUMINOUS JANNAMIKE
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) is a courageous legal practitioner whose sense of keen discernment and penchant for activism became noticeable at a very young age. He was the president of the Students’ Union at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun who led the struggle against an IMF loan which led to the university’s closure for over six months during his undergraduate days.
Adegboruwa believes that the society must look at ways it can use the instrument of law to challenge impunity, recklessness, lawlessness and direct the path of society for the common good. He, therefore, prides himself as an ardent supporter of the aspiration of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
In this interview, he bares his mind on power rotation, consensus candidacy, the performance of the ruling APC, Osinbajo’s unique selling point ahead of 2023 polls, among others issues.
There have been calls from certain politicians and interest groups for political parties to zone their 2023 presidential tickets to the South. Is the clamour justifiable?
Zoning is proper, logical and legal. It is a way of addressing minority fears in order to ensure equity, justice and fair play. Without the zoning principle, the major ethnic group will count to have its way. Zoning of elective offices is in accord with Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which states that ‘the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.’ We call it the federal character legally, and zoning politically. In the same vein, Article (7) of the Peoples Democratic Party constitution and Article (3) of the ruling All Progressives Congress constitution support the zoning principle. So, if the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim and Northerner, it will be unconstitutional and unjust for another Muslim and Northern to succeed him in 2023. That is why I am a proponent of zoning of the presidential ticket of the political parties to the South.
Some political parties are making room for consensus candidacy ahead of their respective presidential primaries. Are there caveats to watch out for?
The guidelines for electoral activities as stated in the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) allows for either consensus, direct, or indirect primary method of selecting political party flagbearers. Therefore, any of the three methods the parties adopt will be proper in the eyes of the law as lon as the candidates align with the principles of zoning.
The Vice President’s aspiration to succeed Buhari in 2023 has made him a political target in many quarters. Some have accused him of being biased against Muslims. Do you see him in that light?
Religion still plays very dominant role in the politics of our nation, because we have two major religions – Christianity and Islam. So, if we go by the principles of power rotation and zoning, the proper expectations should be that the next president of the country should be a Christian Southerner. Looking at the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, many of us see in him a detribalised Nigerian who is not a religious bigot. I recall how he visited the family of Mrs Eunice Olawale, the late wife of Assistant Pastor of the Divine Touch Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, who was murdered while evangelising in Abuja six years ago. For a Vice President who is a pastor in RCCG to use the occasion to preach love and forgiveness, instead using his position to mobilise for reprisal in the face of agitation for revenge is commendable. People can only accuse him of his closeness to God. So far, we have not seen a single case of scandalous conduct linked with him.
The VP has largely avoided inflammatory and incendiary remarks in the pursuit of his political ambition. What does this style of engagement with the electorates portend for Nigeria and its murky brand of politics?
I think the Vice President has brought a new brand of politics in the country which is characterised by decorum, decency and compliance to guidelines. Sometimes people accuse him of betrayal. As a senior lawyer, I ask: betrayal in what sense? I can tell you any public servant with personal integrity who finds himself in Osinbajo’s position will demonstrate loyalty to God, his immediate superior who is President Buhari, the Constitution which represents the people of the country, and his political party. The VP has never for once claimed the glory for his personal achievement in office even as the Acting President. He has no single special adviser or assistant appointed by himself. All his aides are appointees of the President, but seconded to his office. Yet, the man is not complaining. He has submitted totally to his boss as is proper. I believe he stands a chance of bringing a light into the way political actors conduct themselves, if he is elected the president in 2023.
But many think he should have resigned his position since the government of the day has largely failed to keep its campaign promises of 2015 after nearly eight years in power.
I join the people who say the ruling APC has failed to adhere to its own manifesto. It is a failure of the party and not the person of the Vice President. All the stalwarts of the party including the governors and the leadership of the National Assembly should resign and be held responsible for the failure of the APC to keep its campaign promises to Nigerians. It unfair to single the Vice President out. In the second republic, although Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not win the presidential election in 1979, he ensured that all the promises in the manifesto of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) which include free education for all, free medical treatment, full employment, integrated rural development, and a progressive program for development of roads and schools where implemented in Lagos which made Alhaji Lateef Jakande the best governor the state has produced till date. I don’t think the Vice President should be the sole target for the non-performance of his party. Why will anyone do that? We have been craving for good leaders in Nigeria. Today, we have an intellectual in Vice President Osinbajo who fears God, understands public law and order, has reached the peak of career as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. His judicial and prison reforms in Lagos have been copied by many states including the federal government. His reforms inspired the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA). A personality like that should be given the opportunity in 2023 to impact the whole country as president.