Interview

June 16, 2024

POWER PLAY REVELATIONS! Why APC ex-Chair Adamu opposed Tinubu’s emergence as President – Senator Omisore

Omisore APC Secretary

*Omisore

•Says party spent N9b as legal fees on 10,000 cases arising from congresses
•’‘Tinubu’s ministers have own agenda’

By Kennedy Mbele

Chief Iyiola Ajani Omisore, a former Deputy Governor of Osun State (1999-2003), served as senator between 2003 and 2011. Omisore is the immediate past National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He occupied the APC top office in 2022 when the party elected its candidate for the 2023 presidential election, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, and was, in fact, a witness to the intrigues that nearly saw some other aspirants, particularly former Senate President Ahmad Lawan, actively promoted by then APC National Chairman Abdullahi Adamu, emerging as candidate. In this interview, the top politician speaks on the 2022 APC presidential primary among other issues in the polity. Excerpts:

Looking at where the country is today, do you think we are on a trajectory to delivering that great Nigeria that all of us believed in?


 Well, you know that the great Nigeria that all of us believe in is quite subjective. Great Nigeria in my perspective might be different from yours. It depends on the outlook or the exposure of the assessor. But we can now base it on best practices; what is expected normally in a similar society. Nigeria, since independence, has been through several experiences; military coups, civil war, political experiences,1st Republic down to the 5th Republic, etc and you would always realise that each time a Republic ends, people continue to complain about happenings, such as bad road, no power supply, etc. You know, Nigeria is evolving both as a nation and also in population. Unfortunately, for us in this country, our population is growing geometrically; other nation’s populations grow at arithmetic progression. So, our population is a challenge because population affects the use of available facilities.

We had about 7,000 mega watts of electricity about five years ago. In any nation, you project for millions but here the reverse is the case. Then, we have the issue of data whereas this helps in planning. When there is no data, you cannot plan well. But Nigeria is moving forward though the movement might be slower than expected. Look at where we are today, we have government transiting democratically and the fact that we are transiting means that we are progressing. No system of government is better than democracy. The best military regime is worse than the worst democracy because dictatorship makes people suffer in silence. Now, we are in a new government headed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

He has taken some strong steps and when you are in leadership you must take bold steps. When you take decisions people will complain but after your tenure people appreciate you. Look at the issue of petrol subsidy, every party that contested the 2023 presidential election had petrol subsidy removal as a major campaign promise in their manifestoes. So, how come it has become an issue now that it was removed? The issue of we shouldn’t have removed it has become an issue of semantics. Subsidy had to go because we had lost so much money on it. Let’s look inwards and adjust. So, I believe Nigeria is progressing; we are developing and, in a nation that is growing, there will be some gaps there but I believe that we are on the steady road. 

 The geometrical increase in our population presents a leadership problem…
 As a mathematician, I always define my own logically because mathematics is logical.

 What is your take on the way out of widespread poverty in the country?


 Well, you know, poverty is in every nation. But it can be relative, interdependent, subjective, reasonable or unreasonable. Poverty is a menace we are trying to fight. During the administration of former President Buhari, he started fighting it with the setting up of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and this government is following that trajectory.

But is the public ready to cooperate with government? Our culture, perspective, reasonability, upbringing and training sometimes do not help government. In advanced countries like Britain, they have welfare programs but the people are also disciplined and cultured when it comes to honesty. When you are hosting our people and you have prepared food for 100 guests and only 50 turn up, the 50 will still rush the food so that they can take two or three shares home because of the fear of tomorrow. It is a moral issue that we have to resolve through orientation.

This government is making efforts to reduce poverty through its programs such as Hamanitarian Affairs Ministry, consumer credit scheme, student loan scheme, etc. So, the situation can improve if our people can be patient enough to understand government and try to be honest to ourselves; be their neighbour’s keeper because the moment you take more that your share, other people will be affected. We are trying as a government today to ensure that we fill all those gaps. That is why we have different programs so that one can pick the one that suits him or her. There are more to come, please bear with us and we must take bold steps whether we like it or not. Look at the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he lost election towards the end of his life but because he took bold steps, people started praising him. So, I think by the time the president is through with his tenure, people will realise what he has done.

But Chief Awolowo lost election because he was trying to impose taxes…


 Even in some places, no matter what he said or did, people won’t still vote for him. What is his business? In some parts, people said they won’t go to school despite his free education policy, saying “why must we go to school?” My grandfather, who died in 1949, didn’t allow the children he liked most to go to school, he sent those he didn’t like to school because he didn’t see the future. He was protecting those he liked. Let us be patient with the present administration, they are taking grand steps. The last time I met Mr President, he had engaged German government for power supply. He is engaging. When you have a president that is engaging, you know the meaning. When you engage, you make progress but when you don’t engage, there is problem. When you engage, you explain and correct. He has said he is not a god; that when he makes a mistake he corrects it.



 The issue of lack of trust in government has been there for long. People see a lot of excesses on the part of government. For instance, the purchase of SUV at N160 million each for our lawmakers in this time of economic hardship and long convoys for top government officials. How come government is not addressing the economic challenges in fundamental ways that show sincerity?


 Citizens’ distrust is like malice in this country. It has been there since and also happens abroad. For instance, there is government convoy abroad. What you said is perhaps a perception. There is minimum number of cars in the convoy for a governor or president. It is coded in the protocol. How can you have a convoy of the president, governor or minister without an ambulance?

We have had cases where ambulance in a convoy stopped and assisted people that needed assistance such as accident victims. As you know, if the number of vehicles in a convoy is reduced, people will still say the convoy is not large enough and these are people who will do more if given the opportunity. We have seen people who criticized government but misbehaved when they become common councilor. You also know that we have to protect our principals. The life of somebody like the president who enjoys immunity is at risk because of the type of duties he discharges such as signing death warrants. Such people have strong attackers and as such must be adequately protected.

 Like what happened in 1976 when General Murtala was assassinated?


 Exactly! So, when you have people who have issues with you; and there are cartels, you protect your life and you know what our security architecture is compared to that of America and other developed nations. Do you know how huge the convoy of the American president is even when travelling by air? 

 You are a leader of the All Progressives Congress. Do you think the party has delivered on its electoral promises since 2015?


 Rome was not built in a day and issues of yesteryears can be humongous but what is important is work in progress. Any patient whose ailment is diagnosed well is on the path of healing. So, now, we know our problems, no doubt about it. This administration of President Tinubu is work in progress and because we were there and saw what happened, we took off immediately. That was why fuel subsidy was removed. Imagine if we still have fuel subsidy at the current exchange rate of dollar, we would have been losing a lot of money on subsidy. I believe that the steps we are taking now as a government are good. It is just one quarter of his tenure and, with what he has done so far, we can see ray of hope. Like I said, this is work in progress. Mr President is engaging and consolidating. He is engaging, reversing, encouraging and replying .These are the most important steps for a leader.

 Mr President has spent one year in office. What can you tell us about the issue of balance, so far?
 As we all know, the president is the leader of the country. He supervises policies, directives and gives instructions. Of course, he will not implement. He has ministers and advisers on have their own agenda. When you have a president with so and so number of ministers, they are individuals with their own visions which should key into Mr President’s vision, ordinarily, but some of them have their own ideas. So, basically, Mr President is checkmating them to go in line. For instance, the poverty alleviation program has turned into a mess but the president has taken a bold step by suspending the minister immediately and directed the ministry to re-calibrate because that must stop as the whole nation cannot suffer for the alleged sin of one minister. So, it is being re-calibrated under the supervision of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy. They are looking for a way to make disbursements cashless and at the same time doing something in the interim because nothing concerns rural dwellers with the alleged messing up of a minister. Progress has been made in advanced countries because their presidents engage stakeholders. Look at the issue of DISCOs that the minister said should be supervised by states, which was a wrong pronouncement because they are privately owned and under the Exclusive List.

How can state governments supervise private businesses? He now retracted the statement. The issue of power supply is not DISCOs, No! DISCOs will only distribute what they have; GENCOS will produce power, give to TCN which will now transfer to DISCOs. So the issue is that whatever DISCOs receive is what they will supply to consumers. So, why is there so much noise about DISCOs?


 It is because people see a lot of inefficiency in them.


 What I am saying is that those inefficiencies are sometimes beyond them because they can’t give what they don’t have. Some GENCOs have improved. Now that President Tinubu is involved, capacity has improved. DISCOs have no choice. They can’t hoard power supply anymore because they make money each time they supply. So the president has identified the mistake and has taken measures to ensure that it is corrected. That’s part of engagement I am talking about. In the past, you hardly see Nigeria’s president engaging. It was engagement that led to the creation of consumer credit, student loan scheme, etc. It is from the grassroots to the top. You cannot satisfy 10 people let alone over 200 million Nigerians.

So, we are struggling as a party and as a president to meet the yearnings and aspirations of our people. This is just one quarter of a term. What we have been able to do is bold step-taking, what we need now is to consolidate. Look at the issue of concrete or bitumen roads. This is the tropical region where rain falls all the time and we all know the effect of rainfall on bitumen; though concrete road is expensive, but in the long run, what happens? Luckily for us, the Minister of Works, David Umahi, is a civil engineer who has seen the way it is done. That is why when you put professionals in charge of ministries, it makes the job easier; that’s what is called putting square pegs in square holes. But when you bring a medical doctor to head Ministry of Works, his Permanent Secretary, Adviser, etc will have to brief him and, at the end, they get him confused. But as an engineer, he knows his line of thought, concrete mix, design structure, etc. So you cannot tell him stories. Before any road is constructed, a study of the soil is conducted and the result determines whether it should be concrete or bitumen. We are not trying to throw bitumen dealers out of market. No! That is not the idea. I am encouraging government to always engage professionals in professional ministries so they can add more value. Relying on briefings will not help us because that can get the minister confused. Imagine having a civil engineer as the Governor of Central Bank, CBN. He does not know monetary policy, amount of money in circulation, he will just be dangling. But, President Tinubu is on top of all these by engaging professionals to lead our various ministries. He is doing so well. We are consolidating and I am sure we are going to do more in the next one year.


Do you think Mr President should re-jig his cabinet now that he is one year in office?


 Well, I have been hearing about the issue of reshuffling cabinet here and there. It is like a football player playing for 90 minutes. Sometimes when you put a new player, after 30 minutes, no matter how you look at it, it will be as if he is the one with stamina alone. He has stamina of zero minute. He has to work hard. That is the prerogative of the president because the Constitution says that the ministers occupy their positions at the pleasure of the president. Whatever I want to say or you are saying depends on what the presidents wants them to do or ask them to do. He can assess them by himself because he is engaging. He knows what to do at the right time. Our president today is a very smart president. He knows what he expects from each person. I am sure if he wants to rejig his cabinet it did not start today. For me, I can’t assess what I don’t know. I don’t know what they are doing or their mandate or policy. Sometimes the minister might be pronouncing what the president wants that the people do not want and it is not his fault and it is the interest of the public. So, you can’t just sit down and conclude that because a minister did not please you, the minister is not doing well. Mr President is engaging, he gets feedback and as such knows what to do.



 Do you think that there are some outstanding ministers so far?


 I don’t believe in all these outstanding ministers, awards to best governor. Those are just semantics and praise-singing. When I started work in England as a young engineer, our Managing Director told my colleagues that we were there as engineers and that if we didn’t do well, he will not employ you. So, when they have been chosen as ministers, for them to be outstanding is the minimum requirement. It is when you fall short of performance that it becomes an issue. The issue of outstanding is for lesser minds. In this country today, there are more than 100 million people who can be ministers; there are more than 50 million who are better than ministers; so it is a privilege. Then you start making noise that you are outstanding. Outstanding where?


 Let us go back to the happenings at the APC convention of 2022 where the 2023 presidential candidate of the party emerged and the events in the run-up, particularly the one concerning the opposition by then-National Chairman Abdullahi Adamu to the emergence of President Bola Tinubu as the candidate. Then party Chairman apparently preferred Senator Ahmed Lawan who he claimed was President Buhari’s candidate. As an insider, what is the story?


 In politics everybody has their mindset; we came from different zones with different interests. And, I was the most senior member of the party from South-West and my own mandate was to deliver South-West for presidency. Somebody from South-South too had his own mandate which was to deliver South-South for presidency. I suppose so. My own was to get to my destination which I succeeded in doing. The way and manner I did my journey is between me and God. All the same, I respect people’s opinion. I can’t blame anybody who may want to be smart to get to a destination too. The point is that if you want to be smart, I need to outsmart you. Like I said, my own mission was to deliver South-West for presidency which we have achieved today. Now, there was no consensus at the convention. But by the time we got to the convention, it was clear where we were going. Since 1999, I have been involved in conventions, and so I had direct experience on what was going to play up. There is no how you can be transitioning from one government to another that people will not smell games coming up. I won’t say people were not reasonable but politics is all about interest, upholding your interest and delivering your deliverables. So, if you are lucky to deliver, to God be the glory; if you are not, to God be the glory too. So, everything that that happened at that time was political. 



So we can assume that the National Chairman then wanted to deliver the presidency to the North…
 Exactly! And there was nothing bad in that too. 



 But the North was just finishing 8 years…


 The point is that people seem to agree and that is another contention. Sometimes they use the word rotation; sometimes they use the word ‘oscillation’. When you want to rotate, you rotate from North to South. When you want to oscillate, you can oscillate from South to South. Same thing happened in 2007 when some people came out after Obasanjo presidency from South-South and South-East. They were clamouring for rotation or oscillation. So, I believe Nigerians have the final say on who becomes their president and there is no corner of this country that doesn’t have presidential material. Nigeria is not lacking in human resources. Whatever happened at that time was for that time. What we did now is to do something that will stand the test of time. In the build-up to the elections, there is no how principal players such as myself and then-National Chairman will not have a position, basically. So, in playing the roles expected of our positions, we could play to the left or to the right but the point is that we had to put ourselves to the convention where democracy took place, where democracy was respected, where everybody had a choice and it was transparent, and the moment you do a transparent primary, there won’t be any noise. It is only when people feel cheated that they go to court. If you look at our time, we elected about 21 governors and it was tough. We insisted that there must be democracy. If you liked, “go and compromise voters”, it was your problem; our own was to vote, how you compromised voters at the voting point was not our business.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, came there and counted the votes. That is why we were able to win all the governors we presented for election because we were transparent even to a fault in the primaries across the land. There were more cases in court arising from the congresses than the elections. If you go to the secretariat, there were about N9b deficit and 10, 000 cases on congresses alone.

 Legal fees?


 Yes, legal fees alone. There are many cases in court but from the experiences we had, we said we had to move on. There were complaints everywhere. If you start going back, we have 2-3 months to do convention for presidential election. We didn’t want to be distracted. Let us draw a line, do what is democratic to the best of our knowledge and move on.



 The minimum wage matter is out there. How do you think it can be resolved?


 Minimum wage is basic salary. In actual sense, it is not minimum because it does not include allowances. Workers will not say that because it pays them to keep quite on that. 

 So, minimum is basic salary…


 Yes. It is the basic salary. The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and government should find out the possible ways to resolve the issues. Negotiation is engagement. They will meet at a point. It is not for you and I to determine what happens. You don’t go into negotiation with fixed mind. You must go with parameters, empirical reasons why things cannot work in a particular way.

 But the president says he is committed to giving living wage?


 Living wage is subjective too and that is the point. Living wage in a rural area is not the living wage in Abuja. The President has that as a…level, it is now left for the operators to justify and I advise the president too, it is not a tutorial but how much do you have in the purse? How much can we pay? Workers always want more, it is always work in progress. Government too must be reasonable by looking at the inflation trend. I am sure that with the type of team negotiating, they will come to a reasonable conclusion.