Shamusideen Alade Longe, one of those that partook in the struggle to the revalidation in the annuled June 12, 1993 election, said to have been won by the late chief Moshood Abiola, speaks with BIOLUWATIFE AKINYEMI on the coming general election.
How would you describe the days of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC ) in comparison with the present political dispensation?
To compare that era with this era is going to be tough because those people supervising that era were military and they were more or less like dictators. They were telling people this is what they want and this is how they are going to do it but at the same time, because the masses wanted to get out of that military control, they teamed together. In the present era, a lot of things have been disorganised. But because we want a good government, we should work together to make things work.
What is your take on the present political atmosphere in the country?
The political atmosphere in the country tends toward different tribes. In the North, they are divided into two. In the South-West, they are aligned to a group. In the North-Central, they are aligned to a group. In the South-South, they are divided into two. This division has created a lot of imbalances and has removed peace in the political system of the country. It portends that there is a need for a lot of reconciliation among the different parties to avoid confrontation with each other. We are talking about the political situation in the country. Everybody knows that, for example, let’s take what is happening in the South-South. I said there is an alignment. Some groups are from a particular party but they are having problems with their party. Some groups are from a particular tribe, but they are not supporting the candidate from their tribe. That is what I mean by alignment.
Do you see any of the presidential candidates dropping his ambition to support others?
This is what I was saying when I said an alignment from different areas, they have to come together and make peace with each other. I don’t know how you came about that a presidential candidate was about to drop his ambition, as of today, I still feel that he is still a contender, but if he is going to drop out, there is still a possibility for others to drop out. And it will be more advantageous for us if we look at one that is strongest among the political parties and support that person to move on. And if I am going to pick, I will pick three that are making waves at the moment. The three of them are Peter Obi, Abubakar Atiku and Bola Tinubu. I don’t know much about Obi, but I have read about his political achievements in Anambra. Talking about Abubakar Atiku, I can refer back to his records during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. And coming to talk about Bola, Bola is somebody I know personally, way back to 1991 during the time of Abiola’s campaign, and his role particularly in trying to criticiseorganisations to ensure that they do the right thing. From then I knew Bola to be somebody who is very determined. I am not surprised to see him where he is.
What are the qualities Nigerians should look for in a presidential candidate?
This is not the time we should be discussing the qualities they should possess. They have already been appointed by their various parties. If they don’t have the qualities, are we going to disqualify them? But the electorate would look for certain qualities before they make their choices with what we have, the candidates presented by the parties. Let us look at it this way, it is not our place to judge them this time, we have gone beyond that. There are commissions that are responsible for assessing or picking who is qualified or good. The party has a role to play in that; the INEC has a role to play; the Federal Character Commission has a role to play in that and so on. They had assessed them for us because they have the power to do that. I can tell you categorically that Bola Tinubu is the best. Why? If you look at Lagos State, he has done well for the state. Everybody keeps saying that he is this; he is that. During Abiola’s tribulation abroad, he was there in support of the man and what he believed in during that period. Before the emergence of Buhari, he played certain roles too. When he was the governor, he demonstrated that he was a good leader and a team player. He must have been a fantastic manager to have been relevant in Lagos State for 23 years and a major influence on the political activities of the southwestern states. I think such a man deserves to be given the chance to rule the country. What he has done to bring Lagos to what it is today, he should be given an opportunity to replicate in the country as a whole.
How would you describe a good government?
I’m not a politician, but since I retired, I have given support to politicians out of retirement. For instance, when Buhari’s campaign was on, I joined APC to give support to Buhari because I believed he was good. I used my personal money to support Buhari. It was not as if I was expecting anything, I just wanted a good government. Now to your question of what is a good government. A good government must alleviate the problem of the masses. A good government in Nigeria might not be a good government in Tanzania. A good government must be able to provide in the area of education what the people want, in the area of agriculture what the people want, in the area of finance, what the people want, in the area of tourism, what the people want and so on and so forth. It is not just ruling over people. Another major area where a good government should perform is in the foreign policies because there is no country that can work in isolation. That is what I expect of a good government
What is your take on the issue of same faith ticket in APC?
The hues and cry about the Muslim/Muslim ticket is a political gimmick by a section of people to satisfy their own political gain. Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, as long as you can deliver the good, why criticise them? Let us look at it this way, we have done this before, we used a quota system, just to ensure that everybody is carried along, but it is destroying our system because good people are set aside for mediocrity. The same faith is meaningless but as far as they can deliver the good, I have nothing against them. If they bring everybody from the southeast in all the positions and let them if they can do the job, we will queue behind them and support them. Taking religion, nepotism, tribalism and other aspects of life to the government is not going to make the government function properly. I’m not saying there are no Christians who are capable of that position, but if I’m the candidate, I should pick whomever I’m comfortable with. Why are we deceiving ourselves? If I’m comfortable with a Muslim, I will pick a Muslim and if I feel it is a Christian that will do the job, I will pick a Christian. Don’t let us put unnecessary sentiment into this. Don’t let us deceive ourselves, we have a Christian as our vice-president as of today, of what advantage has that conferred on the people of Southern Kaduna or people in the South-East? They should let us know. During Abiola’s time, we had Ambassador BabaganaKingibe and Abiola and the whole country queued behind them and they won. This is what I keep saying, we should believe in ourselves, until we love to work like a group who love each other, we will not be able to make progress in our democracy.
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