Prince Dayo Adeyeye, former National Publicity Secretary of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, former Minister of State, Works during the Dr Goodluck Jonathan Peoples Democratic Party’s led administration, was a PDP aspirant in the last governorship election in Ekiti State. Now, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Adeyeye, who is spearheading the campaign to ensure former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, joins the 2023 presidential race, speaks with Senior Deputy Editor TAIWO AMODU on reasons Tinubu should run for the presidency, among other issues. Excerpts:
Sometimes last year, there was a pronouncement by the All Progressives Congress, Ekiti State chapter, suspending some of its members, although the National Secretariat eventually reversed it. How did the crisis in the state chapter of the party start?
I was not among the people suspended. I have never been suspended although I identified with the position of those suspended, with their grievances, with the stand they have taken regarding the affairs of the party in the state. Though, I was among those who signed a letter of petition to the national headquarters, I decided to join them to identify with their position and give them a kind of solidarity support.
Basically, we can sum up the problem in Ekiti chapter with just one thing, by simply saying that there was an attempt by one side or group to run the party to the exclusion of others and the other party is also resisting that. That is just the summary. They are resisting absolute domination. We can see that people are agitating and complaining that the congresses that produced the current structure in Ekiti state were not congresses in any sense of the world. The people in that positions simply emerged, the structures were erected without the participation of the members of the party. Some people were deliberately excluded who were party leaders, stalwarts and stakeholders and those people are resisting that and people felt that if we leave things as they are, the party certainly cannot use what is on ground to win the next election and that is why people started agitating and said that there must be changes and inclusion. Any deliberate policy by any political party as you very well known to exclude a large segment of the party, when you begin to make differentiation in a party by calling some people ‘t’okant’okan’ (loyal members) and you referred to other people that they are not ‘t’okant’okan’, ( not loyal) and they are people who worked for the party’s success in the last election, of course there is going to be problem, division, agitation to resist that domination. That is what has happened.
You have not actually mentioned any individual. But let me ask you, the governor is the leader of the party in the state. Where does Governor Kayode Fayemi stand in all this? A fence-sitter or is he backing a camp?
May be when you see him, you can ask him. If we say he is the leader of the party, and I say there is an attempt by some people to dominate others and exclude others from effective participation in the affairs of the party, then you will know where that is coming from. If he is the leader of the party that is the question you can put to him when you have the opportunity of meeting him.
You are a strong member in Ekiti State chapter. Has your group tried to reach out to the governor to say, “Your Excellency, you have to moderate the event in the Ekiti State chapter,” Have you tried to do that?
There is a group of people who actually went as far as taking the party to the court over the last congresses. The case was decided sometimes ago but they have the opportunity of appealing but they followed the president position that all cases in court should be withdrawn and that is why they complied.
I am not one of those who took them to court, but the matter reached that level and how did the leader of the party and those who surrounded him allowed that matter to reach that level? These are people who have worked with him in the past and supported him. Why should the matter be allowed to degenerate to that level and why I looked at their positions and I sympathise with some of the views they were expressing and that was why I joined in signing the petition they wrote to the national headquarters. We did that as patriotic members, to bring the issue in Ekiti to the attention of the national body so that they can intervene positively and put the crisis to an end. It is by so doing as we know that we can prepare ourselves for the next election.
You left PDP to join APC on the eve of the last governorship election in your state. If you look at the treatment you are getting from Governor Fayemi, do you nurse any regret dumping the PDP?
No, I don’t have any regret. I think I took the right decision of backing Fayemi and supporting the APC to win the last gubernatorial election. We did the right thing and my supporters believed that that was the right position to take at that time.
But are you on a good term with your governor whom you helped to defeat Ayo Fayose’s anointed candidate?
I don’t know. But you can also ask him the question when you see him. I don’t want to personalise issues. I think if myself and governor Fayemi see at an event, we will greet each other.
When there were suspension and counter suspension, the interim national leadership of the party came in and said all sides should sheathe their swords. Do you believe that the intervention of the Buni-led committee has been very dispassionate with what they did?
The Buni-led committee, I am not happy, too satisfied with what they have done because they also said they were setting up a committee led by Governor El-rufai to wade into the matter with a view to bringing all sides together to resolve the problem. But then we did not hear anything from the El-rufai committee and they did not even have the courtesy to get back to the stakeholders to say okay we have disbanded the committee we set up and no need for it. They just kept matters in abeyance. It is highly disappointing. You recognised that there was a problem and you set up a committee but that committee never met for a day. That committee never invited memorandum from anybody; it never set up a time table on how to proceed to address the issue and there was no communication from the national headquarters. And that is not too good enough, but to the extent that now all executives have been dissolved and there is going to be congresses from national to the ward level, what we expect now is that the Buni committee will ensure that free and fair congresses are conducted from ward level to the national level. To say it will not be the case in the states where you have governors, they will sit in one room, constitute a committee and write the names of all local government chairmen, that will not be acceptable. In the case of Ekiti, that is not going to be acceptable. I am saying it now. We are not going to accept it. I have maintained this my policy even in the days of Alliance for Democracy that party members should be able to select their leaders at ward level to the state and national level. How do you go and sit down at a place and say these are the executives of a ward when the people did not even know how they emerged? This is what has been causing problems in all the parties and that is why a lot of the parties have not been able to really consolidate effectively at the grass-roots. What I am saying is that the congresses we are going to be having must be free and fair with the full participation of the party members.
Are you cynical that the Buni-led committee will not deliver on free and fair exercise?
I am not cynical. I am only appealing to them to do their job effectively. I believe that they are patriotic enough to ensure that, because they dissolved this structure as a kind of solution to the problem we had on ground. Many of our state chapters are the problem. I think they came to the conclusion that it is better to start afresh and if we are starting afresh, we must start fairly, with a view to resolving the problem that brought you to that situation in the first instance which is that you conduct free and fair congresses that people will accept at all levels. So, I am appealing and I believe they will do what is needful. If they did that, they would have effectively justified their mandate and history will remember them. I am also aware and we are hearing the news that some people are trying to hijack the next congresses believing they can write names as they did last time which will even worsen the crisis and I am sure it will not be tolerated and accepted particularly where I come from in Ekiti State. I am not interested in who is going to win at the ward level but I am interested in members of the party choosing for themselves people they believe are capable of leading them at the ward and local government and state levels. I don’t see why anybody should be particularly interested in positioning people. If you are popular and effective, that should not be a problem for whoever is there; you should be able to work with them. When I was in PDP, the former governor imposed people from ward level to state level. That did not prevent me from contesting the primaries, I eventually won. The fact that you impose people, so what!. So, I am appealing in the interest of democracy that no person should try to use government machinery to hijack the process. You will be inciting another crisis in the party.
What is the agenda and objectives of South West Agenda (SWAGA) for Tinubu, because people have seen it as just merely for the former Lagos State governor and not about the South-West?
We said South-West Agenda for Tinubu. People who said it is for Tinubu are right and we are not shying away from stating categorically that is it as an agenda to promote Tinubu candidacy. But we are saying that it is South-West agenda because we are Southwesterners and we have come together to identify with one of our own who, we believe, we can effectively put forward to vie for the highest office in the land with reasonable assurance that he will succeed. So, to that extent, it is South-West agenda, but, of course, we know that the person will be elected by all Nigerians. We want to back him and put forward our best candidate who has a reasonable chance of success in a competition with giants from other zones. That is the essence of the South-West Agenda. If you say it is for Tinubu, yes, it is to promote and certify the candidacy of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. No apology.
If you say it is a South-West Agenda, Tinubu apparently is not the only one that has shown interest in vying for 2023 presidential ticket. Your State governors also being rumoured to be interested in the race and we are also aware that some people are also asking the incumbent vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to join the race. Why did you reduce it to onlyTinubu?
Look, politics is a game of interest. If you say my governor is also vying for it, even Tinubu has not said it. But some of us said we identify Tinubu to be the most qualified but if you believe we are wrong, then, come out with your own and challenge us.
If you say it is Tinubu, what is his most competitive edge that he has over a sitting vice-president or the Ekiti State governor, who incidentally is the chairman of the forum of 36 states governors?
You see, I don’t want to go into that. I just want you to know that I have the right to support whoever I want to support and politics is not that straightforward. Just because somebody is holding a political position today, don’t forget the outgoing president of the United States, [Donald] Trump, never held any political position and he defeated those who were senators and vice-president. It is a question of your capacity to mobilise and demonstrate to the people that you are the best for the job.
We, who formed SWAGA, believe that is the best person that we can push forward from the South-West at the moment who can compete with others from other zones because other zones have the right to present their own candidates too, particularly from the South who can effectively make a challenge for the position and succeed. That is what we believe and if you think we are not right, okay, you are also entitled to your own opinion. That is why we decided to beg him to come forward and show interest in the race.
If you are talking of competitive edge, the matter speaks for itself. It is a clear issue. I have absolute respect for the vice-president, Professor YemiOsinbajo. Very competent, we are proud of him. He has antecedents.I am sure as time goes on, he may also be part of this agenda because there is no politician in the South-West, particularly the progressives that does not owe one or two things to Tinubu. Many of them, if we do not say they are creations of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he has a major impact in their political affairs and I believe that being Yoruba, who are cultured and have sense of appreciation, many will come around soon to be part of this team to project Senator Tinubu for the president of this country and by the grace of God, we are going to succeed.
We know, because of development in the party, that conceding the presidency to the South is not cast in iron yet. We have heard people from the North-West of Buhari saying there is no agreement on zoning. Where do you think this will take the APC as we move to 2023?
I believe that the APC as a party, sooner than later, we will be able to put the interest of the party and the nation above the inordinate ambition of a few people from a particular zone. Zoning is part of the reality of Nigerian politics today, whether at local, state or national level. If we really want to build a fair and just society, we cannot do away from the politics of zoning. We are multi-ethnic, multi-religious and extremely diverse country. You cannot have a situation where some people have a sense that they are excluded from the governance of a nation. You cannot have a situation in which some people want to allocate to themselves the divine right to produce the leadership of Nigeria. So, to that extent, you have to give every section of the country a sense of belonging. The way our leaders have defined zoning and leaders of both parties and those outside the political arena who are not active politicians; they know and recognise the need for zoning because of the extreme diverse nature of the country. Even the symbolism of it is important to the people who can say, okay this man looks like me, believes in what I believe, speaks my language and from where I come from. This is very important. So, I believe that reason will prevail and it will quench what I call the inordinate ambition of those who believe they can do away with zoning. Zoning has come and it will be respected. Those who question the fact that there is an agreement, I was not there and cannot say authoritatively, but from what I have heard from credible leaders, there were special agreements. Not everybody would be there when such agreements were made.
You have heard the like of Sani Ahmed Yarima, former Zamfara State governor, who was in the defunct ANPP, saying those who said there was an agreement should come forward with such an agreement.
From my experience as a politician, such political agreements are not written. They are not contracts prepared by lawyers. They are understandings reached between people. So, for him to say that, it is very dishonest of him. I don’t expect him to say that. You can tell that to young people. Such decisions are kind of mutual agreement by way of understanding. We understand each other that, look, after you, it will be my own turn. It is never written anywhere. It is never written in any constitution of the political parties neither is it written in the constitution of Nigeria. When there is a gentleman agreement and when it is a gentleman agreement, I expect it to even be more respected than when it is written in black and white which can be litigated upon.
It is an understanding by highly respected leaders who are supposed to honour their words. For such a category of people, it becomes a covenant which has to be respected and that is what I understand took place at the formation of the APC. So, for Yerima to come out and say bring it out, that is not honest enough.
Some people in the South have started canvassing for micro zoning, that the South-East that hasn’t produced the president be allowed to take it in 2023. What is your take on that?
For now, there is no understanding on micro zoning. People just believe rotate this thing between the North and the South and that is the understanding among the politicians in the country. I have not seen people talking about micro zoning because if there is micro zoning, I am not sure President Muhammadu Buhari would have emerged in 2015 because we would have pointed out that Yar’Adua was from North-West. But a lot of people who are from the North agreed on his candidacy whether from the North-East or North-Central. They didn’t mind whether he was coming from the North-West. What mattered to them mostly is that he was coming from the North. So, the understanding we have for now which is that the presidency should rotate between the North and South, therefore, gives the right to every geopolitical zone to vie for the presidency. Whether you are from the South-East, South-South or South-West, you have the right to vie because it is zoned to the South. It is not excluding any area of the South and that kind of policy is not bad, otherwise, we will not have our best candidate emerge from the South if we begin to micro zone to the point of saying it is only one side. It may create frustration in the system that some people will begin to think that it will not get to their turn. But if you do it North and South and you can push forward. I am not against South-East presidential candidate, but let them fight for it. And they should not think that in fighting for it, they should exclude others from the race like South-West and South-South. So, let them put in their best candidate as we are pushing forward our own candidate, and let the South-South also do the same and let Nigerians decide. But to say we will exclude people to give it to you, no, it is not going to work. We will exclude South-West and South-South and it will only be your narrow area? It has never happened in this country. We believe that the thing is North and South and South-West has the right to vie for the position like the South-East and South-South. I won’t say that because Jonathan had been president and, therefore, South-South should not come out, I will say that if you are from the South, yes, you have the right to come in and vie for the position of the President.
Back to Bola Tinubu, he has been a kingmaker for long. People admitted that he has made a lot of people, politically. But this attempt for paradigm shift from being a kingmaker to a king is viewed in certain quarters as a wild goose chase for him. What do you think?
All these people you said they are creations of Tinubu; he assisted them to attain to some level of position which is very good. That is why I said he has the knack to develop people, to advance the careers of people and which he has done. He has credit for that and I believe he has done that more than any other contemporary politician in Nigeria today. So, advancing your interest cannot also be a disadvantage for him to also move forward. If he has lifted you to some certain level, he has not lifted you to the position of a president. He has lifted you for you to also lift him higher and that is how people should read it. Talking of Tinubu being a kingmaker, I want to call him as somebody who has been able to more than any other politician today lift people up politically to high level positions and that should not, therefore, preclude him from aspiring to higher positions. He lifted so many people up who became governors, ministers, senators even up to the position of a vice-president. People should not therefore look at it that having been doing that, he should just continue to do that in vain. He was in a position of being a governor before he could do that. Maybe if he becomes a president, he will be able to do more for the rest of the country, to lift people up and a higher level than what he has been doing before. I expect that those that have been beneficiaries of his political generosity should be the one to carry the banners of his presidency. They should be the ones carrying the banners to say yes, we can attest to this man’s capacity to build people, therefore we are at the forefront of projecting him to Nigeria that he will do what he has done for us for the rest of the country.
But some of these people are sitting and former governors, senators who now believe they are leaders in their own right. Will a sense of entitlement not polarise South-West and deprive it of the unity of purpose ahead 2023?
I don’t think so. That is why we are starting early to sensitise our people to this important issue and we will continue with the sensitisation and, so far, we thank God, we are achieving great success. The enthusiasm is very great among the masses. The traditional rulers, professionals want to key into this project and I am really amazed with the way people have embrace SWAGA. Those people you mentioned are in support of what we are doing. An overwhelming majority of them who think they have been beneficiaries of the Tinubu school of leadership are with us, I will even say 90 per cent. A few ingrates or those who are inordinately ambitious may say we are leaders in our own right and will also vie for the same position. It is their right to do so. As we always say, politics is a [numbers] game. We will see how far they can go and how far we can go. They are welcome to the race. I want to assure you that the vast majority of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s school leadership, who are now important men in their own right, are fully in support of what we are doing. Many of them showed up in Ibadan the other day; a majority of them have since signified their interests in joining hands with us to pursue this common cause.
The SWAGA agenda means it might even cut across the political divide. How far have you gone in reaching out to the mainstream Yoruba political leadership. I am talking about the Yoruba Council of Elders, Afenifere and the rest of them?
We are reaching out to them. Just watch the events that will unfold in the next few weeks and months. We are in contact with them. But if you want to see what will happen openly, you will begin to see activities just in a matter of weeks. I want to assure you that we are reaching out to all the segments Yoruba society and all political groups in the South-West, even the PDP leadership and some of them have expressed their intention to support us as we go along the line. I believe it is going to be a project whereby all hands will be on deck in the South-West. People realised the fact that until you have somebody who believes in some of the agenda in which we the South-West have come to regard as sacrosanct which is the agenda of restructuring, agenda of true federalism, unless you have somebody who believes in this principles at the helm of affairs, we will not go far. We were agitating for it in Afenifere. I can’t remember how many statements I issued as the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere in the early days of Afenifere, in 1998 – 2004 under the leadership Pa Abraham Adesanya with BolaIge as deputy leader. It has been our agenda that Nigeria should be restructured. We have never shied away from it; we have never deviated from that position and we believe that until we have somebody who believes in this agenda at the helm of affairs, we are just wasting our time.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu believes in this position; he tested it practically when he was a governor. He decided to challenge over centralization of power at the centre. He challenged it and created local governments in Lagos to put the whole thing to test. It has always been the right of the states to create local government.
The happening in Nigeria today has convinced most people that we cannot continue to run a highly centralised system in which you will post a man from Zamfara to my hometown in Ekiti to come and be the DPO. What does he know about the terrain. We need to decentralise a lot of these things; we need to give a lot of latitude to the states to manage so many things much more than they are doing now.
I know of a fact that in 2014 when the blueprint of APC was unveiled at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, power devolution was the first item. Why has it been difficult, five years down the line, even with El-rufai’s committee, to do something about your electoral promise? Nigerians now see it as a failure of the leadership of the party and the presidency and it is making your party a hard sell in the South. Aren’t you worried?
Absolutely, I agree with you. I have said it . Look towards the end of Jonathan tenure, he made efforts to create a constitutional conference and Nigerians in that constitutional conference agreed on some principles, virtually agreed to true federalism. To me, always there is a near consensus in this country that there must be devolution of power and restructuring of the polity. But we need a driving force and that is why I am saying that with Tinubu, we shall have that driving force
Finally sir, do you still nurse the ambition to govern Ekiti?
Well, the future is in the hands of the God Almighty. I am a tool in His hands and whatever direction God wants to push me, I will be ready to go
But for now, you have not made up your mind?
I have completely surrendered to God Almighty to determine. He is the only one who can determine all things. I rule out nothing and I take nothing for granted. So, wait and see. We believe that at the fullness of time, God Almighty will do that which will be in the interest of the entire people of Ekiti State and which will lead to further development and advancement of the interest of Nigeria.
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