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Olawepo-Hashim: Since the Second Republic, Nigeria Has Regressed Politically

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Recently, the National Secretary of your party, Sen. Akpanudoedeghe said that the National Chairman of your party, All Progressives Congress, will come from the North and the Presidential ticket will go to the South. This is against your aspiration. Has the party officially announced it?

I ran in the last election as a presidential candidate not just an aspirant. I have not formally declared now but we are looking out to take a very serious position after the national convention of the party. You know that in the constitution of most parties, when it comes to where officers come from and the national convention, you know that it is the the exclusive job of the National Executive Committee not even the National Working Committee or any principal officer of the party or any party for that matter, whether it is Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or whatever party, most of the constitution of parties are similar. I want to take this as a rumour because, to be honest with you, I don’t think that any officer is in a position to zone party offices. This is done by the National Executives Committee.

I have not spoken with the Senator whose name you have mentioned. I am not in a position to confirm that but I can say what I know of party administration and we have a lot of experience in this, that it is going to be decided by the National Executive Committee. That is the organ of the party that has the powers to do so.

Having said that, I do not believe that the Presidency of a country should be exclusively reserved to any particular region. There has never been a time this was done under our democracy. People assume and give various version of history.

In 1999, former President Obasanjo contested for the Presidency under the PDP ticket. We also had contestants like Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and as recent as 2015, when Gen. Buhari was an aspirant, we also had Rochas Okorocha who contested in Lagos and Chief Oyegun was the chairman of the party also from south. If there was any formula that when chairman comes from his region, the Presidential candidate cannot come from same region then Rochas would not have been an aspirant at the convention. But people have different narratives for whatever political objective that they are pursuing. For me, I believe that every Nigerian who is qualified and who is convinced that he is capable of being a good president, should throw his hat into the ring regardless of where the chairman of the party comes from.

If I chose to run after the party’s national convention, I am not going to be limited by where the party chairman comes from. Even if the party chairman comes from my ward, it is not going to stop me from contesting as a president, if I so decide by the grace of God.

The first chairman of APC who was also the former governor of Osun state, Chief Bisi Akande written a book which has attracted criticism from many people. What is your opinion?

I have not gone through the book. I will not be able to make far-reaching comments on that book except there are specific areas of national importance you want me to comment on from that book.

Looking at the Presidential ticket of your party, it looks like the party has conceded it to the South-west and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to be specific

Senator Tinubu is qualified to run for presidency just like every other person from any zone. If he decides to run, he will first of all be an aspirant. I have been a candidate of a party before and I know what it takes to go round the country. He is qualified but it doesn’t have to be based on the fact that he is from the South-west. If you look at it from that angle, then it may work against him more than for him because President Obasanjo is from the South-west. He was the president for eight years. The current Vice President is from the South-west. He is doing eight years in an executive position. This should not be an argument for South-west presidency. It disqualifies the South-west, it does not qualify the South-west. What qualities Tinubu will be his personal story, his vision and the people of the country will have to decide. At the end of the day, every party will go for their primary, the APC will go for its primary and every body who is qualified will show reasons why he should be considered. I don’t see any special reason the South-west will have it, just for being South-west or anybody for that matter.

Anybody that wants to become President should just come out and start campaigning if he is qualified, he is entitled to be President just like any other Nigerian citizen who is a member of the APC. The national convention of the party will decide as it did in Lagos in 2015. Nobody was precluded in 2015 from contesting, Rochas Okorocha contested. If Tinubu had wanted to contest at that time, nothing would have stopped him from contesting.

The North-west has taken much; we had late President Yar’adua, we have President Muhammadu Buhari, we had late President Shehu Shagari, the same thing with the South-west. Do you not think that South-east and North-central has been more marginalised in governance?

Every zone has a right to contest the presidency. You can make a strong case for North-central and South-east; that these zones have not produced anyone in the executive realm in this political dispensation. I have a stand on this issue. To be honest with you, I have said it time without number that the President I am looking to see is the President that will see the whole Nigeria as his constituency. A true Nigerian President that will unite the country, secure the country and bring propserity to the country.

In the US, Bush Senior was President and within eight years, the son of the same Bush became President in America. They also have their own issues, affirmative issues and what have you. Who says that we have not gotten to that stage. I want to tell you that Nigeria is regressing now.
In the First Republic, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was President and Jaja Wachukwu was the Speaker and nobody was complaining about that and most of the security chiefs were from the South. Nobody complained about that because everybody was looking at Nigeria as one country and all that. I will say that we have regressed as a country politically.

Where did we go wrong?

The politics that we played even in the First Republic was more advanced than this and it is such a shame that people who think that they are educated with professorial degrees and what have you are the same people talking that it is the turn of ‘A’ or the turn of ‘B’ and journalists with PhDs, some of them Masters are the one writing these, essayists at the back of national newspapers and all that. This is not what this country was in the First Republic.

In the First Republic, Azikiwe will go to the South-west and control quite a number of seats in the parliament and somebody who is a Muslim from North could come to Benue, and contest at the State House in a predominantly Christian state. I believe that we have degenerated politically in Nigeria and despite the claim of education by most people who make public commentary, unfortunately their reasoning is far below those who didn’t have as much education in the First Republic.

Christmas is around the corner, non-state actors have taken over the security of this country. Recently, the governor of Sokoto state was calling for a state of emergency on security in the state. Are you worried about the care free attitude of our leaders.

I think we have spoken considerably on this issue of security but anyone who has blood flowing through his veins will be moved by all these killings. We should rather focus on the solution rather than bemoaning the problems.

One of the things that I have advocated for a long time is decentralization of the police. This is the medium term solution to this problem. Let states and local governments take care of some aspects of policing at their own level. This will give us a situation whereby the governor should not be appealing to the central government to help it deal with some simple security issues as we have in most federalism.

A lot of people have raised concerns that even this can be abused by state governors and what have you. I believe that once we are able to achieve some level of decentralization and democratisation of the institutions of state at the state level, whererby the legislature and judiciary at that level enjoy some level of independence, then we have checks and balances on the use of force at that level, some of the fears that people have would have been addressed if the powers of the governors over local security are wileded with a lot of accountability to the state institutions that are envisaged to be a bit more independent. The federal government needs to do something quick to stabilize the situation. There is no doubt about that, but what is sustainable is to decentralize policing.

The President has declined to sign the electoral bill, meaning the country will fall back on the old electoral act for future elections. What’s your take?

You were here in 1999, the PDP conducted all its primary apart from presidential primary through direct primary. The governors were elected in 1999 based on direct primary, so we are not talking of something that we did not do before. It was only the presidential candidate that was chosen through indirect primary, every other position up to governorship was through direct primary in 1999. Option A4 system was direct primary right up to the presidential election under the NEC. I don’t know why anybody should be afraid of this because they are making it look like something that we have never done before, something coming from Mars, there is nothing wrong with direct primary. It shouldn’t be be a problem. Direct primary or indirect primary should not create a situation where some segments of political parties should be confronting each other. I believe that itt should not bring any confrontation between the executive and legislature or governors and the legislature.

APC wants democracy, APC wants to consolidate democracy and you have seen the way elections have gone progressively well, you saw what happened in Edo, you saw what happened in Anambra and these reporting system of results were followed in those elections. So I do not think that there is any policy of the APC that is against direct primary or anything.

QUOTE

Every zone has a right to contest the presidency. You can make a strong case for North-central and South-east; that these zones have not produced anyone in the executive realm in this political dispensation. I have a stand on this issue. To be honest with you, I have said it time without number that the President I am looking to see is the President that will see the whole Nigeria as his constituency. A true Nigerian President that will unite the country, secure the country and bring propserity to the country.

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