Chief Olu Adegboro is an Awoist, a democrat and disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In this maiden edition of “Platform”, an interview programme put together by The Hope, he speaks on crisis in APC and how it could be restored, 2019 elections, who Atiku is, why Nigerians should vote for President Buhari again and other sundry issues.
We want you to take a look at the political firmament of the country, what does it portend to this nation and do we have any cause for concern?
I must say that we have cause for concern. Two political parties are prominent, our own party APC and also PDP.
In APC, we are lucky we were voted in at the national level on the agenda of change and since our candidate became the president of Nigeria we have made a lot of efforts to keep faith with our agenda of change. The president and his cabinet have been able to address the critical problems of internal insecurity as reflected in Boko Haram terrorism.
By the time the president came in, Boko Haram was controlling a lot of territories, many local governments in the North East. But we must give thanks to God, today, they are not controlling any local government.
That is a very important achievement of our president. The other problem that have also been addressed very powerfully is the economic problem.
We were at the verge of recession by the time the government took over and within a very short time we were in recession. The government did everything possible to take us out of recession. And today, unless we don’t want to be realistic, the economy of the country is taking some positive shape.
Also there is the problem of corruption. We all know the devastating effect of corruption on the economy of the country, on the social life of the country, on the political life of the country.
Corruption almost destroyed the country and it was becoming a fashion that if you hold any public position, you will be corrupt in other to acquire a lot of ill gotten wealth.
But today, any public office holder knows that he has a president that is prepared to go to all extent to fight corruption. There is no doubting the fact that he has been able to bring down corruption. And because of these efforts, because of his aggressive combating of so many of these social change, the government we took over from, the party that we took over from has not been happy, because of their leaders have been guilty of this corruption, and responsible for bringing us down. So they have been doing everything possible to reorganise and to become formidable.
So today, PDP which we took over from, which almost ruined this country is becoming very visible. They have gone to the extent of using some renegades from APC to give them powerful leaders and to pose a threat to us.
So to answer your question, the most important challenge of our present political structure is the challenge posed by the PDP to the ruling party, APC.
And we have to be realistic, there is no way a ruling party can satisfy everybody. So many people are complaining that the ruling party has not been able to address some critical issues like restructuring, and the economy has not been too buoyant and those people are now exploiting the complaints of a few people to pose a great threat.
My fear is this, I am worried that we were not above to beat PDP in Ekiti very widely. The defeat of PDP in Ekiti was very narrow, narrower also is the defeat of PDP in Osun. If this tendency continues, PDP will pose very serious threat to APC.
Still on the issue of your party, before and after the primary, APC, was engulfed in a lot of crisis. Don’t you think this will also pose a serious challenge to your party’s chances in 2019?
It is very unfortunate that the primary elections provoked a lot of crisis. It is very unfortunate, and it is because of lack of experience of some of our leadership. We have to be honest, some of them are not very experienced politically.
During the time of Awolowo, I still remember, I left my job to start Unity Party of Nigeria with Awolowo leadership. We inaugurated Unity party at Ebute Meta Mainland Hotel.
And my aim then was to contest for the House of Assembly, so when the time for some of us to show interest in the House of Assembly came, many of us showed interests, but because a lot of responsibilities was entrusted in the leadership of the respective areas, our leaders met those of us having ambition, they screened us and after screening us, they decided that they will pick one of us, and that person then was Alex Adedipe. They used their influence and their relationship to appeal to all of us and voluntarily we withdrew. There was no crisis, there was no contest.
(cuts in) And there was no decamping?
Because there was no crisis, how could there be decamping? You see the problem we are today is that our party would still have to recognise leaders in the different areas and give them the responsibility of finding a way to select those people who are aspirants for legislative houses.
It was because this was lacking that is why we have a lot of crisis, but you cannot blame our political party absolutely, this is a political party that was formed not long ago, unlike Unity Party of Nigeria that had political tradition. We are just trying to build our own tradition and I want to assure you that this crisis we have at the moment will fizzle out, and we are going to stabilise.
What form of compensation would you suggest for those who are aggrieved?
My first suggestion is that the leaders, the elders of the party in the respective areas should be mobilised, because it would be a reconciliation committees. And these elders should invite those who are aggrieved and those who are lucky to reconcile them and the aggrieved. Those aggrieved, all they need is assurance that they will still be able to have important compensation in the party. When the elders speak to them that they will have those for real, that we are going to take it up, they will believe.
You know I was telling you that I left my job in a bid to contest in 1978 and when the elders appealed to me, I decided to dust my certificate, and I went back to work in the polytechnic as Senior Assistant Lecturer.
I was in my house, after we won the election, when Chief Reuben Fasoranti brought a letter of appointement to me, as a member of Central School Board, which combines both the Teaching Service Commission and SUBEB, and I was very happy that I didn’t waste my time,
I think the same thing should still happen. The governor should be allowed to have confidence in the leadership of the party, also the governor should have a very powerful advisory committee of elders of the party who will be meeting the governor from time to time, I am talking in terms of Ondo State and the same thing can be replicated in others states.
If you see what is happening in Lagos state today, they have something like that. Once the governor can have a very powerful advisory body, we can recommend to him what he will do to compensate those people who are aggrieved.
You cannot blame them that they are aggrieved. Number one, nobody tried to approach them to step down for some other aspirants.
During the first time of Governor Akeredolu when he first showed interest in the governorship, about twenty people showed interest and we succeeded, the leadership of the party headed by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu succeeded in persuading almost all of them to step down for Akeredolu and they stepped down.
So I sincerely believe that if the governor can be made to have access to our experience, I mean the experience of elders, to have access to our knowledge, they we will be able to advice him on how to take care of the aggrieved people, and on our own side too we will be talking to the aggrieved people and appealing to them that our party is our party and that we should not allow our personal ambition that many of us have at one time or the other, to make us destroy our party.
Still on 2019 election, between President Buhari and Alhaji Atiku, who do you think the cap fits most and why?
If you have been reading a lot of materials on Atiku, you will even feel sad that a person like that could emerge as a presidential candidate of a major political party in Nigeria.
Look at Obasanjo who have just endorsed him. Obasanjo’s opinion about him before was terrible, and nobody has been able to fault Obasanjo’s opinion about him.
So given his background and the way he has been able to use his public position to become so wealthy, even wealthier than Nigeria, nobody who has sense can pray that a person like that should become the president of Nigeria.
If you look at those people who surround him, these are the same people who are agents of corruption. So between Atiku and Buhari, Buhari with all the positions he has been holding in the military and the politics of this country, he has not been accused of any corruption.
And corruption is a major problem that this country has. We cannot now fail to continue with the war against corruption. If we allow Atiku to become the president of Nigeria, I think he will not be in the position to fight corruption and that will be a great set back to what our party has been trying to achieve for the people of this country,
How would you describe Atiku, if you are given an opportunity to do an appraisal?
If I want to describe Atiku I will see him as a very up and coming politician. A person who understood the mentality of some leaders in this country, and who have been able, because of this understanding, use the money he has illegally acquired, to make them follow him up to the point of allowing him to emerge as a presidential candidate of a major political party.
If I want to talk about Atiku I will not talk well about him because I don’t see anything good in him. In fact it is very unfortunate that a person like that who is not in the position to even go to the United States where he has a lot of properties, to go and see his properties. I am told, the United States has not allowed him to have a visit, because of this problem of corruption. So it is a disaster that a person like that is coming out to contest for the presidency of Nigeria, a real disaster.
Some Nigerians think that the issues that should top the campaign towards 2019 Presidential election should be restructuring, insecurity, and economy, what do you think about this?
Security and economy has been at the top of the agenda of the APC government before now.
The government has been aggressively tackling security and corruption. On restructuring, honestly Atiku is trying to exploit this restructuring issue to deceive some respectable Nigerian leaders, particularly Afenifere leaders.
Our party APC has commitment to restructuring. In fact after the APC formed the Federal Government, there was a committee set up to look at the possibility of implementing restructuring.
You will agree with me if you are a politician, if you have any experience, that restructuring is not something that can be done overnight, it has to be tackled very systematically. And that is why the APC government has not been able to achieve much.
If the APC government decides to address restructuring now, all the other areas of challenges like security we have mentioned, like economy, like corruption, will go to the background, all attention will now be focused on restructuring and that will create a lot of problems for this country.
So if we are campaigning, during the campaign, Atiku will try, PDP will try to exploit the challenge of restructuring and I believe that APC will not say we are opposed to restructuring if we are opposed to restructuring, why set up a committee headed by El Rufai to move round and find a way of implementing it? APC is going to address restructuring as time goes on but it cannot be done immediately because of the problems the country is having. If we address restructuring and abandon all these problems, Nigeria will collapse, God forbid. If APC government decides to address restructuring for now, all the other areas of challenges like security, economy and corruption we have mentioned will go to the background.
Is it right for Afenifere to be seen openly flirting with a political party and canversing support for any of the existing political Parties?.
Many of us have featured in Afenifere, very prominent people. The leadership of Afenifere are just trying to be a little self centered. I am sorry and forced to use that word, am sorry because I respect them a lot but when Jonathan was in power and he was not doing anything concrete in respect of restructuring they were supporting Jonathan. Jonathan set up a committee at the national level to review the Constitution. Thoughout the time he did not implement the recommendations of the committee and our leaders were supporting him.
I think the problem with our leaders, if they want to be honest, is not that they see restructuring as a major agenda, they see the new leadership of APC headed by Tinubu and some other leaders as a threat to their traditional political leadership. It is that threat to their political leadership that is making them first of all to support Jonathan when he was in power and now to start thinking of supporting Atiku.
The way we were brought up in Afenifere, if unfortunately, the first solid foundation leadership of Afenifere did not die, I am talking of Bola Ige, he will not allow any matter like restructuring to make him dine with the devil, he will not but instead, he will find a very diplomatic manner to continue to associate with the progressives.
Everybody knows that most of us who are progressives in the South West, who are younger than many of them, we are in APC, the way we started, we started with AD, I was a member of the national EXCO of AD. When we realised that Obasanjo was trying to use Akinfenwa to distabilise Alliance for Democracy, we made up our minds to form another party, so that, we will contest election, we have only one governor then Tinubu in the National Executive of AD. Some of us went to Tinubu and said “If we did not form another party, we would not be able to contest the forthcoming election.
That was why some of us started travelling round the country to prepare for the formation of AC, ACN, e.t.c. All of us in APC today are products of progressive politics of the South West and it’s only our elders, maybe not all of them are doing this for selfish purpose, we have seen how they were making some little money during Jonathan but they know that Buhari is very tough, he is not the type of person that can be exploited maybe that is why they are now paying attention to restructuring. APC is going to restructure but it has to do it in a way that it will not affect the survival of Nigeria. The survival of Nigeria is the priority, that is what is happening.
Your political party gave some candidates automatic ticket, is it democratic?
Very good, you know, one of the critical threats our party faced was the use of money to entice some members to leave our party to join the opposition and our party cannot but be grateful to those legislators who were able to resist all these temptations. Those of them who stood by us because what is the purpose of providing a platform for people to contest. You provide platform, so as to be sure that people who are using the platform to contest believe in the ideals of that political party and some of these legislators, they have proved that they believe in the ideals of APC, they have proved that they could be relied upon, they have proved that they are consistent. People say, the devil you know is better than the Angel you do not know.
Already, our National Working Committee of the party has known this. Look at Sani Shehu, despite the problem he was having with the Governor of Kaduna state, he stood firm in his support for the party. The party must encourage a person like that and people like that in order to build APC on a very sound footing, that was why the APC decided to say thank you to those legislators who stood by us at critical moment by giving them automatic ticket.
However, the mistake they made is that they should have done this earlier and prevent some other interested aspirants using a lot of money to collect form and to mobilise people. The whole thing will come to the same thing you have said, how do we pacify them? We must find a way and pacify them. Those people spent millions within the party to look for these tickets before some of these people were given automatic tickets. It is not a bad idea at all, it is to show gratitude, you could imagine when so many of them were defecting to PDP we were afraid that PDP will have majority in the Senate and House of Representatives . If some of these legislators, defected with them, what will happen to the party?. Is even possible that Saraki and Co will come out to say they want to impeach Buhari, so for people who prevent the impeachment of the president, for people who made efforts to prevent disintegration of the party and country, something must be done to show gratitude to them and to encourage other people in future to show loyalty to the party.
The new lexicon in Nigeria political philosophy is vote buying, what is your view?
Well, you see, if you study the character of Nigerians you discover that most of them want money and they are prepare to do anything to get money. So this vote buying reflect the nature of Nigerians and I want to be realistic, I am not too sure, it can be stopped without very powerful reaction from government. If about twenty people are caught receiving money and they are arrested and put on trial and jailed vote buying will stop.
Nigerians do not want to suffer, that will reduce vote buying but without that I want to be very honest with myself, we may not be able to do away with vote buying but the danger of vote buying is that bad and corrupt people will continue to get public position and not in the interest of Nigeria, they end up ruining the country when they get to power.
Let’s take a look at the Nigeria Federalism, is it not a drain pipe on the nation’s resources?
What is the alternative to federalism? There are two alternatives. Confederalism which is weaker than Federalism, which will gulp a lot of resources than Federalism and Unitary system which will promote dictatorship and tyranny. So most of the advanced countries today like America, they practiced effectively on Federalism, the problem with us is that our Federal system is not very perfect and this is why some people are talking of restructuring. If in a very clever manner we are able to effect restructuring, there is no alternative to federation system. Why money is being wasted today, I must say is because of the greed of Nigerians as reflected in our leadership.
Look at the amount they are earning in the National legislator, is terrible and criminal, in fact, am really afraid that these people may end up allowing our democracy to be destroyed.
But despite the woes and cries, why has it been very difficult to get these things slashed?
Why it has been difficult to get it slashed, is that these people have a lot of powers, checks and balances and any attempt to slash their resources will bounce back on the executive and they will start waging wars against the executive and the executive sees such war as destabilising and will prevent them from continuing the good job they are having.
But am sure, it cannot continue like this. How can some people be earning more than 10, 30million naira in a month when so many people are suffering. Let us pray that this their greed does not invite the military to take over power.
Will you now say that Nigeria is really not yet ripe for democracy?
Well, you see, democracy cannot be perfect over night, Nigeria is not a question of being riped, Nigeria is suitable for democracy and we are developing gradually, it cannot be done suddenly, we are moving to a perfect state of democracy, look at before now, elections were done with impunity but today starting from the former INEC, you can say that the conduct of our election is now very transparent. Gradually we are moving to a perfect democracy and am sure to a promise land and we are going to get there.
Taking a look at the political configurating of the country, is Yoruba strategically positioned come 2019?
Thank you very much, well, we must thank God for APC because like I told you, the Yorubas played a very important role in what developed to get APC into power. Unless we do not want to be realistic, we are holding very important positions in APC. The Vice President is a Yoruba person, Deputy Speaker is a Yoruba person, Majority Leader of the House of Representative is a Yoruba person, also, Fasola is holding the most important position in the government. Three positions now combined as one ministry .
Before the problem that the former Minister of Finance has, Yoruba held the position of the Minister of Finance. So, I am sure for 2019 if God allows APC to win,, we will still continue to hold important positions but people say, it is the morning that shows the day. If PDP is allow to win this election, the Yoruba’s like during the Jonathan will return to the background, look at it now, Daniel was his Director Genaral when he now bought the ticket of PDP, he decided to go and pick Peter Obi as his vice President, nobody heard anything about Daniel again.
Even the Director General of his campaign is Saraki. So definitely, I can say, like I said, it is the morning that shows the day. If PDP wins election, Yoruba again will be surcharge, Yoruba again will be thrown to the background, Yoruba again will not have important positions to hold in the government.
We could see now, look at Saraki, most of them that contested in the PDP national convention for Presidential candidate are now coming out to contest for senate.
So, if a Yoruba man is not Vice Presidential candidate of PDP and Saraki is contesting again for senate which means if PDP wins, Saraki will still continue as president of Senate. Yoruba man will not be relevant. So it is APC that will continue to make Yoruba people relevant in the politics of the country.
Sir, what is your impression of the EFCC, an effective organisation to fight corruption or what?
Well, let us thank Obasanjo for one thing, that he introduced EFCC, let us also thank Ribadu giving a good name to EFCC, the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom for political office holders. Implication of this is that EFCC is not a tool to witch hunt opponent of government. Look at the recent development in respect of EFCC fighting corruption.
Dariye, former governor of Plateau belongs to APC, he succeeded in becoming a senator under APC and also the former governor of Taraba, all of them APC Senators but they are imprisoned today. So, this is an indication that EFCC is not a tool of the government to suppress opposition.
The Fayose case, right from the world go, Fayose himself admitted that after his tenure he could not but be product of EFCC and by the time he left power, he put on a polo ‘vex’ where he said “EFCC am here”. So, he was expecting it and his own case was not a matter of victimisation I do not think so, EFCC is helping to fight corruption. The only problem we have in the fight against corruption is that ICPC is not very effective at all. Is like wasting a lot of resources. But EFCC is effective and is fighting corruption, whether you are in APC, PDP or any political party. There is no discrimination .
What is your view on the No work, No Pay proposed by Buhari government.
It is not president Buhari who proposed it, is Ngige, well, I disagree with it and they have their own reason, they do not want the system to be distabilised, they do not want the system to be disturbed, they believe that any absence of work by workers for a day or few days will go a long way to affect the economy of the country, but as a social reformer and as a former student leader, I cannot support that workers strike should attract No pay.
We should still find a way of meeting workers half way in such a way that their strike will not post a threat to the economy of the nation.