ADEFUYE: Whoever thinks North will produce president in 2023 is daydreaming
Senator Anthony Adefuye is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and also a member of Lagos Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC). He spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE on 2023 and why North cannot dream of retaining power after President Muhammadu Buhari’s two-term tenure.
There is a kind of unease among the Yoruba in APC over the manner President Buhari has been removing and replacing people of Southwest extraction in this government. Do you think it is part of the alleged agenda by the North to retain power in 2023?
IF people are showing concern, I think they have every right. First, it was the embarrassment of Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The second was the removal of Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, with the third being the removal of Muiz Banire from Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Fowler completed his first term, but if a man has tripled the income, shouldn’t he be given a second term? So, I have no idea why Fowler was not given a second term. There must be a reason for doing so. I am one of the leaders who don’t just like to talk. There must be a very good reason why the man who is doing so well in the eyes of the public was removed.
Now for Muiz Banire, I learned that a new law was passed that says whoever wants to head AMCON must have at least been an equivalent of a deputy governor of the Central Bank. That was why he was removed.
These are coincidences, and that is why one has to be very careful. I don’t comment on issues for which I have no fact. It is until I have better facts I can say something. But as you said, Yoruba has every reason to show concern over what is happening. If you remember in his first term, even some Yoruba ministers had three portfolios and we were all clapping for him. So, if things are changing, we should ask: what has changed the policy, the equilibrium? If we need to do the adjustment, we will do it. If we need to do a repair job, we should do it.
Don’t you think all these developments are pointers to how 2023 elections will play out?
I don’t know. 2023 is still far. Who knows who will make 2023? Does anybody know? Does only God know who will see 2023? As I said, I don’t jump into conclusion, because what we say, people tend to believe it. Therefore, I always make sure that what I say is backed with facts and figures, so that I am sure of what I am saying.
It is very curious that no leader of Southwest in APC uttered any comment in respect of what the Vice President went thorough or is still going through, to the extent he was accused of fund mismanagement.
That issue was thrashed and the accusation was dropped. There was no issue of mismanagement of fund. We all know the Vice President is an impeccable anti-corruption crusader. So, no matter what anybody thinks and says, we know who is who. I think the relationship between the Vice President and the President is still very cordial.
As one of the leaders of Southwest in APC, what do you think the region should start doing now ahead of 2023 to reposition the zone, particularly the challenges it is facing now?
What we should be doing now is working towards 2023 to ensure that the Presidency comes to the Southwest. The Southwest has never produced the President before under APC. After Obasanjo, it was Umar Yar’Adua, after which Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan came on board.
There is an assumption that former Lagos State governor and APC National Leader; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is preparing to run for Presidency…
He has never told me that, but is he not qualified? Is he not a qualified Yoruba man to run for Presidency if he wants to?
If he declares for Presidency, will he get support of Southwest?
Is he not controlling the Southwest now? Is it not his party that is controlling the Southwest?
Is he really controlling Southwest, considering the outcome of the last general election, and the fact that there is an issue in Ondo?
Cuts in. APC controls the Southwest, regardless of whatever tendencies. He installed all these people you are talking about, and none of them will compete with him if he decides to come out. I am telling you for a fact, none of them will come out if Tinubu decides to run for the Presidency.
How do you think Southwest can best handle the issue of Afenifere people who are clamouring for Southeast Presidency come 2023?
This is a free Nigeria, and anybody can clamour for anything he wants. Politics is dynamic. Is Afenifere not dancing with Obasanjo now? And we have heard the unprintable things they said about him in the past. So, they have the choice to say whatever they like and to support whoever they want.
Coming to Lagos, was it not a miscalculation for the party to have stopped former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, considering the challenges the incumbent is going through?
I don’t think so. Whatever we did, we did it in the best interest of the people. Based on what Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu met on ground, I think they are doing very well.
How do you see the alleged move by the North to extend its stay in power beyond 2023?
It is impossible. It is in the imagination of journalists and opposition.
It is not the journalists’ imagination. It is the body language and what we are hearing from some Northern leaders, who are insisting on producing Buhari’s successor…
You are reading the body language dangerously; it is incorrect. The issue of the Presidency is an unwritten agreement; it rotates between the North and the South. Once a Northerner has been there for eight years maximum, it must come down to the South. So, whoever is thinking that it is the North and is ambitious to become the President in 2023 is daydreaming and wants to break Nigeria.
The crisis in APC has degenerated to the level where some governors are calling for the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s removal. What is your view on this?
I have told you politics is struggling for power. There might be personal reasons why those governors want to remove Oshiomhole, based on individual differences. But the fact is that APC has a way of resolving its crisis and I think we shall also solve this one. There is no crisis that is not resolvable, once there is leadership. At the appropriate time, the leadership will put a halt to all grievances.
Looking at what is happening in Edo State, are you not concerned that APC risks losing the state to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) next year?
You are worried about Edo. Why are you not talking about PDP, a party that has collapsed and is shattered nationally? At least APC is still alive and the party members are fighting one another. In a party organisation, you find rivalry, you find people struggling for power; it is not new.
But in the light of what happened a few days ago, when Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki tried to stop Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s defection rally to APC…
You can stop a rally if you discover it could compromise security. When two people from the same party are fighting, you don’t solve it through a rally. You solve it at a roundtable because if the rally had gone as proposed, there might have been disturbances. You can only say when a rally will start and how it starts, but you cannot say how and where it will end. So, it was not out of fear. It was for the state’s peace and tranquility.
The battle for 2023 seems to have started and many believe that was one of the reasons some power brokers are trying to decimate Osinbajo…
Did Osinbajo say he wanted to contest in 2023? No, he never said so. It is all assumptions. Do you know we had to beg Osinbajo to become Vice President? He was reluctant.
Osinbajo was begged before he accepted to be Vice President?
Yes. He never wanted to be. He never showed any interest. Whomever God wants to crown, whether he is struggling or sleeping, God sees everybody and he will give him the crown. So, if we begin to analyse 2023 issues, we will mislead ourselves. The issue on the ground now is that we just had a new term of four years. How do we manage it? How do we ensure that Yoruba people benefit maximally from this administration? This is the first time we are beginning to enjoy being at a party at the centre. How do we maximise this benefit? I think that is what we should be thinking now and not fighting ourselves. We are not going to fight ourselves in Yoruba land. We are going to ensure that the Presidency comes to Southwest. It will be Southwest’s turn in 2023.
How is this achievable, if the North, considering its population decides to play the spoiler?
That is your imagination. All the time we have been doing election in the North, there was no state that gave 100 per cent to a Northern candidate. When MKO Abiola contested in June 12, 1993, presidential election, we won almost all the states in the North. When Obasanjo contested, we won almost all the states in the North. When God wants to do His thing, nobody can put asunder.
Are you invariably saying Southwest is not bothered by the North’s population?
Are you going to kill them because they have a population? The geography of many people is very faulty. Do you know that Kwara and Kogi are Yoruba? Do you know Benue was part of the East? So, where does the North control the majority? As far as I am concerned, in Nigeria today, it is either people vote by conscience or by ethnicity. So, when you say the Northern population, quite a lot of Yoruba today are in the North, Kogi, Kwara and other parts of the North. Even in Benue, some Yoruba are there, just like the Igbo. In Plateau, there are Igbo. We have had an election before, where a Northerner defeated a Southerner in the Southwest.
What benefit has accrued to Yoruba since it aligned with the North in 2014/2015?
During PDP era under Jonathan, there was no Yoruba man in the number one to 22 in the order of protocol. I can give you the breakdown. The number one to 22 in the order of protocol was either Igbo or Northerner. So, what are people saying? We have never benefitted so much as we are doing now. Whoever doesn’t carry the Yoruba along will not win the election in Nigeria.
Since the death of Chief Mrs. H.I.D Awolowo, we have heard little or nothing about the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF)…
Journalists only listen to the opposition, people who want to throw stone and fight. YUF is an umbrella of all the Yoruba ethnic groups. We cannot just talk when there is no reason to talk. We are intact, and you will hear from us very soon. We don’t just talk, or people won’t want to reckon with us. We don’t just speak without reason, or because someone has posted some things on social media. We are going to make every effort to unite Yoruba leaders this time, and because it is our turn, we are not going to allow anybody to divide us. Our concern is that the next President should come from Yoruba land.
Your party received condemnation over the outcome of the last governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa…
The opposition will attack you when you defeat them. Is it a new thing? Why didn’t they protest when they won in Sokoto? Why was there no outcry? Anytime APC wins, there are condemnations. I think journalists should sit and have a rethink and flow with people and not only with the opposition. Journalists must do investigative reporting before jumping to a conclusion. You must have a source that will give you the right information.
Could you justify the travails of Sowore, knowing that his offence may not be so grave?
What is a revolution? How do we know you don’t have arms? Do you start a revolution alone? I am not saying they shouldn’t give him bail or release him, but let us beg the government to release him and not complicate the boy’s issue. Did Papa Obafemi
Awolowo commit anything when he was charged for a treasonable felony? Was he not imprisoned for many years?
In 2011, Tinubu and the Southwest played a significant role in the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2015, they also played a similar role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari. But today, people are saying it is Tinubu and Yoruba that put Nigeria in the hands of Northerners.
Have you ever put Nigeria in better hands than Buhari’s? Tell me who could have managed our resources the way Buhari has done with the empty treasury, which was looted. Is it because we are not talking? Has anybody better than Buhari ever handled Nigeria’s resources before?