How Osinbajo’s tact, capacity to lead Nigeria angered the cabal
The national chairman of National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, who was the party’s 2015 presidential candidate, says in this interview with JOHN AKUBO that they would resist the move against Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo because it is a cabal advancing its interest and not President Muhammadu Buhari. He also says Buhari lacks capacity to rule the country. Excerpts:
Can we say the travails of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the beginning of politics of vendetta ahead of 2023?
The five political parties that formed All Progressives Congress (APC) did not have it smooth and these parties are part of APGA, ANPP, ACN, CPC and a splinter group of PDP; those were the five parties. Normally, when you go into such alliance it is expected that there is a kind of written or verbal agreement probably indication of positions each of the parties would get.
That did not happen. At a point in time what was happening was, if you don’t belong to a ACN, ANPP or CPC you will not benefit from the largesse; so that became a big problem right from the outset. Having to close ranks to give appointments was what led to all of these and then the permutation was probably to give Tinubu the ticket of a vice president but, of course, that did not fly for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. He was asked pick an individual whom he trusted and he picked his former attorney-general who is now Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Nobody should be in doubt. Osinbajo showed a lot of capacity in leading this country when President Muhammadu Buhari was away and those who are following the trend knew he took very confident and hard decisions that ought to have been taken by an active president. That never happened while Buhari was around and so those particular decisions that he took stepped on toes and they were waiting for a time when they could take their pound of flesh.
Unfortunately, at the moment I am in serious doubt as to the capacity of the president, because he has not been able to take some cogent and serious decisions that affect the lives of the people. The Buhari that I know, having worked with him very closely, many people may not know…
In fact, at a point I tried to test whether the rumour that he was Jibrin of Sudan or not was true. What I did was this: when we were to sign the second Peace Accord, if you remember very well, I worked as a member of the Peace Committee and I know anytime we called Buhari for a meeting, Abdulsalam Abubakar who is our leader, and I, Buhari would come to the meeting at 8:00am, sometimes earlier than some of us. What I did to confirm whether he was the one or not was: I stayed away from him, with about three presidential candidates in between us, to be sure if he could recognize me or not. Fortunately, the president recognized me and called me by name. He extended his hand across the three presidential candidates to exchange pleasantries with me. That was an honour, but that day I confirmed that he was actually Buhari, the President of Nigeria and not any Jibrin of Sudan. For him to recognise me meant even if his handlers had done a lot of homework on him that would have been a magnificent work for him to identify me.
However the capacity he has shown so far leaves a lot to be desired, whether he is in control or not and that, of course, was a pointer to when he said ministers should report to his chief of staff. He said he did not know previous ministers, saying he would appoint those he knows this time around. I wonder, if you know the ministers you appointed why would you put a barricade that they have to pass through the chief of staff? That means there is some hidden issue that the president and his chief of staff are concealing from those around them. That gives me a lot of doubt. I hope that it is not anything to do with his health or any other thing. Now the situation is that many of us are in doubt whether President Buhari is actually leading this country the way it ought to be. So it gives room for all the hawks, the hyenas and all to take control of governance, as it were now.
So those who are getting back at Vice President Osinbajo may not be the president himself. They may be those who are already midwifing the activities of governance today and therefore are taking their own pound of flesh on him. That is not good at all for our politics. I am not a towncrier for Osinbajo; I don’t know him from Adam, but the fact still remains that if there is a constitutional provision we all must rise in support. Remember in 2012 when President (Goodluck) Jonathan suffered similar fate, I was the field Marshal of the Save Nigeria Group that led that demonstration with Tunde Bakare, Wole Soyinka, and the rest behind me. If there was gunshot I would have been the first to go down. So we led in defence of democracy and so also we would lead in this democracy. All our lives we have stood in defense of democracy and we would do so if the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is being tampered with. This has nothing to do with political parties, but with the sovereignty, constitutionality of our democracy. If we don’t stand up to defend it, it means similar thing can happen to anyone of us in the nearest future. So, we must defend this democracy.
There are those who believe that the president has the prerogative to assign whoever he wishes to take over any assignment. Would it be out of place if he decides to assign his powers to Abba Kyari, or Boss Mustapha?
Definitely, it would be out of place when there is a constitutional provision for each of the offices. There is a constitutional provision for the vice president to perform; you cannot deny him of that. It is just like when the president travels out of the country; automatically, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in acting capacity becomes Osinbajo. So any alteration in that regard becomes an attack and an affront on the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and which any democrat will resist. So definitely, there would be a serious contraption if such a thing should happen, but then politically you can do it at your peril because definitely it would come back to haunt you.
The issue of 2023 is taking centre-stage over policy direction of this government newly elected. Is it not impacting negatively on governance and the economy?
Automatically it will, and that is the reason some of us in smaller political parties, who have played very big roles in our democratic setting are thinking differently. If we continue in this particular circle for which, if you are a member of the ruling political party then you will be protected in some way, even if you commit the worst offence. We are thinking that on October 1 when the National Conscience Party would be 25 years old, we are going to move against those anomalies. Within the period in review, we have been able to entrench multi-party democracy in Nigeria. Chief Gani Fawahemi led it. We were at the forefront of the agitation for the Child Right Act to be implemented. We have been at the forefront of all the struggles that have to do with the wellbeing and protection of the lives and properties of Nigerians. So also is this issue now.
We are also championing proportional representation. This is our position; we are saying that in order to reduce the level of money used in our polity, in order to encourage mass mobilization of membership, in order to ensure there is inclusiveness in all our political undertakings, our youths, women and people living with disabilities are also carried along. We are saying that proportional representation would help reduce this particular issue. This we intend to pursue from October 1. We would launch it on October 1 in Nigeria, saying that this particular system cannot continue the way it is. That way it protects people who believe if they don’t belong to a particular party they cannot win elections. If we have like 10 per cent, the highest percentage becomes the winner of the election and all other political parties who have won certain percentages becomes included in government; they don’t need to beg.
That way it protects the party; it also increases the supremacy of the political parties and their ideology, because at that point the voters also will vote only for that political party based on their ideology and they are sure that their votes will count because most of them used to entertain the fear that if they vote for a particular party and may be that party does not win, so their votes become wasted. This time around when there is proportional representation they know that when they vote it will count for that party and the political party also will go enmass to mobilize, even if it is their own party that will win that percentage; they are sure they are included in government. That way it will reduce all the shenanigans that we are having already and the dominance of winner-takes-it-all syndrome would be completely eradicated and there would be relative peace in our polity. This type of politics is practised in South Africa, Hungary, Chad and so on and that is why you see that the politics of inclusiveness is there. So that all of us can have a right to governance and the struggle for positions and winning at all cost will definitely reduce to a point that people will know that everybody is included in the government and so you don’t need to even jump boat. In fact, it will eradicate what we call nomadic politicking or political prostitution.
Some have said the plot against the vice president comes as 2023 permutation to sustain a northern president in power. How do you respond to that?
For me it is not about any section of this country; it is about the preferred interest of those who are already in power. They could decide to support a southern candidate, but that is not to the interest of the polity but that of the people already at the corridor of power. It has gone beyond the interest of north and south. As it is now, the permutation is looking to protect a particular section of the country, but ‘no’; it is protecting the interest of those who are already controlling power at the moment; it can be from any part of the country. So for me this particular power play by certain group of people deciding the fate of so many people should be stopped, because it would not give room for any particular individual who has the capacity to change the dynamics to emerge and change the country for better. So we must find a way of tackling these for the interest of democracy and the people of Nigeria.
It is well known fact that a cabal is leading this country and this fact is no longer secret and it has been made public by those who are already in power. Take a cursory look at the situation whereby we have a sitting president and the corrupt people are in position and then you give a directive for the sack of somebody and it is being countered by his own appointees. The case of EFCC, is it not glaring that the person in power is not in control? It happened under the Chief Security Adviser, Magu and the rest here in this country. The wife of the president has come out openly to say to the public saying, ‘where are the men in Nigeria?’ Where are the leaders when a handful of people are controlling government? She said it openly: the hyenas and the jackals. She challenged Nigerian leaders openly; that is the wife of the president and nobody has done anything about it up till today.
What is the role of the civil society in all of these?
Believe me the civil society groups have soiled their hands, because I belong to the civil society. I am a product of civil society. At a point in time, many of the civil society groups who championed the course of this particular government cannot talk anymore now because they have integrity issues they cannot defend; so, their credibility is at stake. They cannot come out, because majority of them are appendages of the ruling party.
Which revolution is appropriate?
I have never supported a violent revolution, but I have supported revolution by the ballot, because the people hold the ace. Because democracy is in the sovereignty of the people, it is only Abraham Lincoln who actually coined it to say the government of the people, for the people and by the people. Really, the sovereignty of leadership lies in the hands of the people and so if the people come out today and decide it will be. That is why we say the multiplicity of democratic system gives opportunities. You don’t need to stay in one political party and if proportional representation comes on stream it gives you room to now decide on which political party you belong or support based on ideological differences and then that can change in a way when it has more percentage than the person who is leading and that way we will have divergent views and opportunity for people to flex their own way of thinking without being gagged as it is today. We are being gagged, intimidated against the process from which they have benefited immensely. That is why the hypocrisy in the system is so unbelievable. If I can remember, some of the people who are in government I stood hand in hand with them to fight during the ‘Save Nigeria Group’ days, to fight during the ‘Occupy Nigeria Group’, to fight during the Nigeria labour Congress (NLC) days and today these are people that are contradicting some of the things we fought for.
Poverty is biting harder. How do we get out of it?
We cannot get out of it because it is something that you are not empowered to decide. A clear cut example, no matter the colouration, ab initio, they said they were challenging us; they went ahead and increased Value Added Tax (VAT) which affects the people directly.
Look at this other narrative: in 2015 we were buying a bag of rice for N15,000 and premium motor spirit (PMS) was at about N91and the dollar was N167, but today that dollar is N350 and above; the bag of rice is increasing to about N20,000, the pump price for PMS is put at double the price which affects the price of commodities to the detriment of the common man. The latest one is, if you are depositing your own personal money you will be charged again for it. Obviously this government lacks ideas of how to generate revenue internally that will favour the interest of the people.
But the charges on deposits are to encourage cashless society and reduce criminality. What is wrong with that?
The first stanza sounds okay when they say they charge you on withdrawals but not on deposits. I am paying money into your bank and you are charging me. No; it doesn’t add up. The people are already impoverished. They are looking for a change that will increase their lifespan. Already it is not as if there is a complete change in the transport system; you travel from here through Lokoja to Okene and Ondo State, your heart would be in your mouth. If you talk about travelling from Kaduna to Abuja it is a serious matter entirely. So in what area? You see, governance is not about giving draconian rules that will affect the people negatively. Governance is about the people. How do you make the life of the people comfortable so they would key into your programmes? Unfortunately, this government has not been able to muster that particular type of synergy between the people and the government. In fact, there is too much propaganda in the streets that people no longer believe anymore. No matter how you coin it, it is not working; they are looking for how they can reduce payment of tax that is not being put to judicious use.
So that when they pay tax, they will see roads being repaired. They will see that their government is working, but now nothing is working; the transportation system has issues, security is in danger. So, in which area have the people received any succour?
I don’t attack individuals but issues that affect the lives of people and once they are dealt with, and if the government is doing well, to positively affect the lives of the people, we will sing their praises but as it is now people are crying. They don’t believe in this particular government anymore. They are just being patient.
When you say you believe in intellectual revolution and that you will champion it. What would be your selling point?
We have always been at the forefront of championing revolution by voting. What we have suggested is that people to use their numerical strength to bargain during election. I met commercial motorcycle riders in Zaria and some of them are graduates and I told them I was not presenting my party that they should vote for me, but I am asking them to pick somebody among them who has the qualification to stand for election. In that way, he can protect their interest in governance, because outside that he cannot do anything. So also I spoke to some market women who have some particular numbers, that they should build people among themselves to go to the political party that gives them their platform for free. In my party I will give you platform free of charge. Why don’t you run under us but they did not come. Majority of them preferred to go to the political party where the food is cooked and ready for eating, because they believe that is the only party that can win election.
They are not ready to use their numerical strength. The same goes for the Nigerian youth who are talking about the ‘Not Too Young To Run’. That is okay but if you come to a political party and you don’t show your capacity, you cannot get the ticket except there is a godfather behind you, but you will do the bidding of the godfather, so you will not be able to do what you set out to achieve. So for me and to them please run away from money politics, pick candidates that you know are capable. Defend your interest, don’t wait for peanuts from somebody to control you because the moment he gets it he will go and collect N15 million monthly while you will only queue in front of his house to collect the crumbs; that has to change. It will not advance your course. Since 1999 what have we achieved with that? It has been pain and misery. Let us change that narrative to a better level where you are the candidate. You know in your community those who are good or bad. You know who has been using you to enrich himself. Yet people continue to vote for the particular individual which is an irony and that narrative must change.