2023 PRESIDENCY: Despite Adebanjo’s attack, Afenifere will back Tinubu — SWAGA leader

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Iyalaya Amala
2023 PRESIDENCY: Despite Adebanjo’s attack, Afenifere will back Tinubu — SWAGA leader
*‘Ooni, Alaafin, Ataoja, Alake, Akarigbo, Olu of Ilaro, others’ too

*ON KANO OUTING: Why Asiwaju is courting the North

*DECLARES: With or without power shift in APC, ex-Lagos gov ’ll emerge

In the last two weeks, National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has participated in three major events in northern Nigeria.

The first was his visit to Katsina where he donated N50 million to victims of a fire incident. On the heels of that was his chairmanship of the 11th Arewa House Lecture in Kaduna. He thereafter held the annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Kano to commemorate his 69th birthday.

The messages at the fora reverberated in the polity the same way the realignment of major political actors provided a glimpse of the emerging shape of 2023 presidential race. The choice of Kano as the venue of his birthday lecture, the gesture in Katsina and his choice as chairman of the Arewa House Lecture left the impression that Tinubu’s presumed presidential ambition is gathering momentum.

Beyond the perception lie many questions on his perceived presidential ambition. In this interview, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, leader of South-West Agenda, SWAGA, provides the answers.

SWAGA is a group of ex-lawmakers, ministers and other politicians of South-West extraction, sensitizing the public on what was termed the viability of a Tinubu presidency.

Tinubu has done three events in the North in the last few days. And they have been interpreted to mean that he is just courting the North because of his presumed presidential ambition. As someone pushing for a Tinubu presidency, what do you say about this?

There is nothing wrong with that. If you want to be the President of Nigeria, you need to court all the various sections of the country. You also need to court people from every part of the country. Having said that, I want to say that being the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Tinubu is a national figure.

He is a man who relates to various geopolitical zones in the country. He is at home with leaders from various parts of the country. Therefore, it is only proper for him to be involved in those events. He was an invitee at one of the events. He was invited to be the Chairman of Arewa Lecture. He had to take his birthday to Kano for the peace and unity of Nigeria.

At a time people are unleashing various centrifugal forces all over the country, it is good to have a force that would douse the tension and cement better, the fabric of our national unity. I think it is very good for him to have held his birthday in Kano. And the reception that he got there also showed the people of this country are ready to bury ethnicity and queue behind him. They are just ready to bury religious differences and align with whoever they feel will make a difference in the society.

Are you saying the turnout in Kano and the participation of some northern powerbrokers are enough to say that the North would support him if he formally declares?

The turnout in Kano wasn’t a surprise to some of us. We knew that for some time now, there has been a gradual buildup of support for Asiwaju in the North and it was only a question of time for people to see the manifestation. He enjoys tremendous support in the North. I often say that he has planted seeds all over the country and the seeds have grown. The harvest time is now. I am sure if he goes to the North-East there would be a similar turnout. If he goes to Katsina, South-South,, or the South-East, you would see a similar reception. Asiwaju is a national figure who has built bridges across various ethnic, social, and religious divides. The crowd you saw in Kano wasn’t a rented crowd. It was a manifestation of the love they have for him. And the people would stand by him during the election and vote for him. That crowd would translate into massive votes during the 2023 presidential election.

Last year, SWAGA toured the South-West states, sensitising people on Asiwaju’s presumed ambition. What has happened since then and has SWAGA taken the sensitization beyond the South-West?

As the name implies, it is essentially a South-West organisation. We had our inauguration last December in Ibadan. From Ibadan, we visited Osun and Ogun states. Next week, we are visiting Ondo State where we will spend four days. In all the places we have visited, the group was widely received and SWAGA is in every nook and cranny of the states. It is even present in areas we haven’t done a formal inauguration. SWAGA exists in all the polling units in the states we visited and the reception was massive. From Alaafin to Ooni of Ife, Ataoja, to Alake of Egbaland, to Akarigbo, to the Olu of Ilaro, they all received us. These are kings who usually maintain neutrality in matters like this because they are fathers to all. In all the places we visited, the monarchs were ready to speak for people to know their stand. All of them declared their support for Asiwaju. They went further to say he is the best person the South-West can produce at this moment and the man Nigeria needs at this moment. All of them said they have confidence in his ability to lead this country out of troubled waters. It has been a very pleasant experience for us. When we go to Ondo State, we expect the same result. From Ondo, we would proceed to Ekiti and Lagos states.

We were in Akwa Ibom last week where a group, Akwa Ibom stakeholders for Asiwaju Tinubu was launched. It was modeled after the operating mechanism of SWAGA. This group invited me and three other leaders to witness the formal inauguration in Uyo. It was a great experience. There was massive support for Asiwaju in Akwa Ibom. What we started in the South-West is already spreading across the country. Part of the ripple effect is what we saw in Kano and Kaduna last week.

Asiwaju donated N50 million to victims of Katsina fire incident but has been criticised for not doing anything for victims of herders’ attacks and the Sasha crisis in the South-West…

The testimony of the Yoruba monarchs, who said Aiswaju has touched the lives of their various subjects, shows that Asiwaju has been extending such gestures to people in the South-West. He has been doing that to various segments of the Yoruba society unannounced without fanfare. The Katsina gesture generated fanfare because he had to travel to that area to donate. What of the thousands of such gestures that he has made to groups and individuals in the South-West unannounced? I have read some of the criticisms and I believe they came out of ignorance. People continue to testify to his generosity. They testify to the fact that he is always available to assist. Asiwaju is good at home and outside. If you want to be the leader of Nigeria, you don’t just have to be good at home only. People outside your area need to be convinced that you are there for them as well.

A few weeks ago, it was reported that the relationship between Asiwaju and President Buhari is not as cordial as people think. Given the role of incumbency in whoever emerges President in this part of the world, don’t you think the report is enough to give the Aswaiju camp sleepless nights?

A few days after the report, the Presidency came out with a statement, stating that there is no rift between Buhari and Tinubu. The Presidency said the relationship remains cordial. People are free to speculate, but the reply from the Presidency is a good response to the speculations.

Tinubu’s presumed presidential bid doesn’t seem to enjoy the support of some key groups in Yorubaland. For instance, Afenifere leader, Pa Adebanjo, said Buhari is only deceiving Tinubu. How does SWAGA manoeuver around this opposition?

The statement of Chief Ayo Adebanjo doesn’t imply that he doesn’t support Asiwaju. Maybe he is just being cautious by saying he doesn’t believe those people are sincere about his ambition. He is free to say that because he doesn’t know the inner workings of the relationship.

As an elder statesman, he may be expressing fear that there might be no sincerity in the relationship. Afenifere has never come out to oppose Asiwaju because he remains a key member of the body. I was the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere for many years.

In the heydays of Afenifere under the leadership of Abraham Adesanya and Chief Bola Ige, I was the apogee of Afenifere. I know about Afenifere and I am Afenifere. I am one of the leaders of Afenifere and I can say authoritatively that Afenifere is not opposed to the presidential ambition of Asiwaju Tinubu.

As for the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, I cannot speak for them. I don’t know what they are doing but they haven’t said they are opposed to it. I know some of these sociopolitical groups have come out to say the presidency isn’t their priority for now. They are saying that they are more concerned about the restructuring of the country. Some have even said they want Oduduwa Republic. Some are saying they are not interested in Nigeria anymore.

My reply to them is that Nigeria remains one entity and we are part and parcel of that entity. If we believe one of our own can make a difference in the governance of the country, why not support him? That is better than fantasizing about unrealistic things. If you are talking of restructuring, Asiwaju is an apostle of restructuring. He has spoken about it and has even demonstrated his commitment to the devolution of powers.

he was governor of Lagos State, he challenged the Federal Government on the power of the state governments to create local governments. For that, he was punished through the seizure of the allocation to Lagos State for five years. He didn’t compromise nor shy away from the battle. He faced the matter headlong. He believes in the principle that the federating units in an ideal federal structure are the states and federal governments and not the local governments. The local governments are under the state.

We have an abnormal situation that allows allocation to be given directly to the local governments. It is wrong. Perhaps, the military made the local governments a constitutional matter to favour a particular section of the country.

Asiwaju challenged the federal government at the Supreme Court. A man, who has demonstrated such a courageous act, cannot be accused of not being committed to restructuring and devolution of powers, the two key issues Afenifere is advocating for. Now, the idea of restructuring is gaining ground all over the country. Those opposed to it are gradually accepting it. If that is the case, the man Nigeria needs to achieve that is Aswaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Irrespective of the love for Asiwaju in the South, some still accuse him of not speaking loudly against killer herders in the South-West. In fact, his statement on the matter was described by critics as neither here nor there…

I read his statements on those issues and I didn’t see them as pro-anybody. Those are the types of statements to expect from a statesman who wants peace and harmony in the country. People expected him to have taken sides with some particular groups or interests to further accentuate division and tension in the country.

I don’t think that is the role that a person who wants to lead a country should play. A leader should play a role that brings people together and engenders peace in the country. Tinubu’s statements were made to douse tension and bring people together. That is the role I expected him to play. He couldn’t have played the roles of radicals or rabble-rousers. A man, who wants to unify the country, must not make statements that would further create problems and tension. He must not make statements that would further inflame passion in the country.

People believe the current instability in the country stems from the failure of APC. And Tinubu was instrumental to the coming of this administration. How do you now convince Nigerians that a man, who made the Buhari presidency a reality, aspires to take over from the same administration that is touted to have failed?

The question of the APC government being touted as a failure is a matter of great debate. Some believe the government has tried its best and I won’t quarrel with those who said it hasn’t performed well. We are banking on the track record of Asiwaju, especially his successes in managing the affairs of Lagos State.

We believe this can be replicated at the national level. Even if he is in the party people accused of failure, by the time he takes over, we would have a different driver. You need to have faith in the driver of the vehicle. The vehicle may remain the same, but the driver has changed. He may decide to increase the speed to make the vehicle more comfortable. He may even decide to tune up the engine. The driver of a vehicle is very crucial. Asiwaju as the driver would improve on whatever this government has done. He would take Nigeria to a higher level. I want Nigerians to have faith in him. We would always have challenges, and these challenges would be curbed. I believe that with renewed vigour, we can say we have better days ahead. Asiwaju would take Nigeria out of the woods.

For now, SWAGA is concentrating on South-West politics. SWAGA could become part of a larger group or a national movement. But it is believed that some strong elements in the North are still opposed to power shift. The APC hasn’t even made its position known irrespective of claims of a pre-merger agreement. What does that mean to the Tinubu camp?

Honestly, I am not concerned about that. Politics is a game of numbers. I believe the party hasn’t come to the point it will make a formal decision. Even if it doesn’t make its stand known, everybody would go to the convention. No part of the country would be barred from contesting. The convention will produce a winner and we are ready for that.

Even if the party comes out to say it wants power to shift to the South, some elements in the North would still kick against it and contest for the ticket. Any time we say power is shifting to the North, we still see a few southerners saying they are contesting. What is important in politics is to be prepared for any eventuality.

Whether they are opposed to it or not, what we know is that nobody can say the Presidency is still zoned to the North. What they can say is that it should be thrown open for everybody. If that should be the case, I believe we would prevail in a free and fair contest. I don’t care about powerbrokers that sit in their rooms and make calculations.

(Vanguard)
GTWorld

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