Next president must bridge gap between rich and poor, says Basorun
Former Secretary to Lagos State Government during the administration of the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande and member of Governance Advisory Council (GAC) of All Progressives Congress (APC), Elder Reuben Olorunfunmi Basorun, 84, spoke to MUYIWA ADEYEMI on why the next president should bridge the gap between the rich and poor. He also touched on the activities of GAC and advised Central Bank Governor (CBN) Godwin Emefiele to resign.
Many see the Governance Advisory Council (GAC) of Lagos State as a cabal that decides who becomes the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) and what the governor does in the state. Is that true?
The Governance Advisory Council (GAC) has other names in other states. Here it is called GAC; indeed it is the Elders Committee of the party. Most of the members are between 65 and 80 plus. In Osun State, they call it “Ijoko Agba”. So it isn’t a cabal and it doesn’t dictate anything unless we agree and it is in the interest of the state, then we will give advice to the governor.
It is not the body that chooses the candidate of the party. The case of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was different. He had to leave because of disagreement, not only among GAC members but also among a few leaders, who look at things after the meeting.
The gentleman, who succeeded him, Babajide Sanwo Olu, was subjected to a primary election where people voted. We also endorsed him for the second term because of what we have found on the ground as his achievements. He was also endorsed by all the Obas, all the legislators, all the members of the state executive, all our councillors and chairmen, who were present. I took the opportunity to move a motion when he came here that this governor has done so well, that we should endorse him for another term.
Also at the GAC meeting, somebody moved the motion and it was seconded that he should go for another term. But we didn’t just do that; the party followed the rule of law. He went for the primary and he prepared to face two other contestants. One of them was Olawale Oluwo, who used to be a member of the party, he left and came back not quite long. He was a state commissioner during Ambode’s administration. He came back and obtained the nomination form. He wrote to the party at the national level asking for a waiver for reasons well known to him.
That waiver wasn’t granted so he couldn’t contest. The other contestant, Olorunfemi Mustapha, I was told, just decided not to contest. SanwoOlu remained the only aspirant and he was declared unopposed at the primary. It is not a question of GAC imposing him.
As a lawyer, do you think it is good for democracy for a party to continue to surrender to a body called GAC?
There is no indefinite situation yet, but the situation in Lagos is because APC is accepted by the generality of Lagosians and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) that conducted elections for the governorship, the state assembly is a separate body from the state electoral body, it is a national body. So if APC remains relevant and it wins, so be it. And if it becomes indefinite, it means that the political party is satisfying the wishes of the masses not because GAC has said so, otherwise, it will be shown the way out.
Lagos APC is democratic in taking decisions. Unknown to many, members object to what they don’t want, they demonstrate against any decision they are not comfortable with. Recently, our members demonstrated in a local government I don’t want to mention, they felt the right person hadn’t been made the candidate for an election.
Again, during the last local government election when such a thing happened, people protested. And in some cases, the party upheld the protests. And there is also an opportunity for aspirants to appeal after the primary.
Lagos PDP governorship candidate, Olajide Adediran (Jandor) is a former member of APC; do you see him winning the governorship election next year?
It is impossible. When he was in APC, he was a mole and he was not a serious party member. He has the ambition but instead of waiting to challenge the incumbent, he crossed to another party, let’s see how far he can go. This is what is happening in Nigeria now; we have many lazy politicians, once they lose the primary, the following day they are in another party, forcing others to withdraw from them and creating problems.
If you undertake research of what we are doing, in the last governorship election we got 700,000 votes for our candidate. This time we are targetting 2.5 million votes. How are we going to achieve this, we set up committees to supervise the registration and encourage people to register for their PVCs. In our party, we have what we call a polling-unit committee in all the 377 wards and local councils.
They are working round the clock, not only to encourage people to get their PVCs but to get the vote for our party during the election because we have discovered that our votes are low. How could we register a 6.5 million electorate and all the votes were not more than 1.3 million for all the parties?
Considering the just concluded Ekiti governorship election, where vote-buying and selling allegedly determined the outcome and APC were described as the highest bidder, how would you explain the phenomenon of vote-buying?
If people sold and bought votes, policemen must have been asked to look for them. They should have arrested them and I don’t know who has been arrested. I can say people voted for the candidate of their choice. The opponent that lost has no other thing to say than to allege that “there was vote-buying”. And if there was vote-buying, it is a general thing but I am not admitting that there was vote-buying. I am aware there was a rigorous campaign by the party and I think Dr Kayode Fayemi did well as the governor of the state.
Chief Segun Oni was governor there before, if I was in Ekiti State and I didn’t even belong to APC, I will vote for APC, why? Oni was with us in APC and was known for changing parties every day because he was desperate to become governor of that state. He now went to SDP; there was a time he was in PDP. I think those who want to serve this country should be more serious and should let people see that it isn’t the position that is more important to them but acceptance to serve.
In fact, I am still surprised about the hullaballoo about what people call vote-buying. At times, the so-called inducement may be a question of reimbursing the expenses of delegates. Somebody travelled from Bayelsa to Abuja to vote for you, if you pay for his transport fare, you haven’t bought any vote. The party is not giving anybody money to come and vote, all those who came from distant places have to be considered before we talk of vote-buying.
What are your expectations in the coming contest between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar ?
Well, let me, first of all, congratulate through this source on a landmark achievement of Tinubu. This is a landmark achievement? It gladdens my heart to see the North through the primary accepted a Yoruba man to come and lead the country.
It has never happened even in the days of the man whose footsteps I believe and I am following till today that kept me in politics, he has made a difference in politics that you can be there and still play your role without soiling your body, hands and character: Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He made efforts but did not get the support of the North. Whatever Tinubu used to convince 13 out of 14 APC governors of the North to announce, and re-announce that they want a Southerner to be the party flag bearer at the national level still baffles me. And they went to the convention to actualise it.
Their massive support made Tinubu win the primary convincingly with a wide margin and it was because people made their choice freely, that is why there was no appeal or protest against that free and fair primary up till now. The whole process was shown live on Television and everybody saw the beauty of democracy, no vote buying or anything undemocratic throughout the primary.
What is your take on the debate of the Muslim-Muslim ticket controversy going on in picking Tinubu’s running mate?
If it were going to be a Muslim-Muslim ticket, it would have been settled, the placeholder wouldn’t have been put there. So there is a process to sit down and choose a running mate that will add value and increase our chances of winning the election. Religion is not the issue here as somebody put it, it isn’t in the Constitution that you consider religion in choosing a running mate. It may be part of what will be considered, but winning the election is the ultimate when considering the choice.
Take for instance our whole 14 Northern APC governors that stood by Tinubu, only one of them is a Christian. In fact, if you consider all the 19 governors from the North, how many of them are Christians and vice versa if you look at how many governors in the South are Muslims. So when you look at the totality of the thing, a man who is going to be the next president should sit down with the mixture of both Christians and Muslims and take a rational and acceptable decision that will let him win.
If it is a Muslim/Muslim ticket without considering the nitty-gritty involved in it or it is Christian/Muslim, the presidential candidate will face the consequence of any decision-making. And we are pleased to note that the placeholder has made a statement that he is ready to step down any day they ask him to step down unlike the one in Yobe, who refused to step down for Lawan.
I wish that a Christian should be vice president but what is paramount in my own mind and in my church where I raise prayer every time is that God should give this country a man after His heart, that is capable of solving myriads of problems facing this country. Manufacturers said they have cut their activities by 61 per cent and that is going to have multiple effects on several other things. The country has a lot to address and whether it is religion or anything, with due respect I am not throwing away my own religion, but let’s pray for the best for this country.
The low-income group are at the mercy of the wealthy which is now about 5 per cent of the whole population, I was calling it 10 per cent before. That is very few people are holding our wealth and they do not care about the mass majority wallowing in abject poverty what can you do to them?
Speaking about the contest between Tinubu and Atiku, well, I believe people have made up their minds on where to pitch their camp. Both of them are experienced politicians and good Nigerians and they are the best Nigerian politics can offer for now but I have no doubt that my party win will the election with a wide margin.
Nigeria is confronted with two major problems, security and economy; do you see Tinubu’s presidency solving these problems?
No individual can solve these problems alone. The prayer we should say for him is to get the right materials to articulate measures for revamping the economy and security. I pray the issue of security doesn’t go beyond what we are experiencing now before the election. It appears the man in charge is tired; maybe he has reached the zenith in thinking about it. We are talking of people abducted in Ondo and Kaduna churches and the killing of worshippers in Owo. Whether you reside in the north or south, nowhere is safe.
Whoever is coming needs to start afresh because if you have the best idea on how to revamp the economy, insecurity will kill it. Nobody will come and invest in a place where people are being killed and kidnapped every day.
For how long are we going to be seeing and hearing about this situation when the country is not at war? I have proposals for the coming president, they are not many and they are not for the public, which I will make available to our candidate. What should be paramount is the interest of the masses. The gap between the haves and haves is not too wide. Complete eradication of the middle class is not good for any society.
Tinubu should start thinking of how to close the gap between the few wealthy individuals and millions of Nigerians that live in abject poverty.
You spent 21 years at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), how will you react to the impression by many Nigerians that the apex bank should be blamed for the economic problems of this country?
The arrowhead of CBN is important and from the design and law, he is totally isolated from participating in politics until recently when he delved into it. I believe the one we knew last month about him must have been there a long time and he shouldn’t have a place in politics. He is no longer a free man and if he were true, a monetary man, an economist or even a banker, who loves this country, he ought to have resigned.
The moment it was mentioned that he dabbled into politics, instead of resigning, he said we were joking and he went to court. Unfortunately, one of these noisemakers and lawyers, who could not give the right legal advice to his client exposed him before he withdrew.
For him to stay in office till now, he is an enemy of Nigeria. I repeat it; Godwin Emefiele is an enemy of Nigeria. When INEC came out and said they were withdrawing their sensitive materials from the custody of CBN, if I were him, I would have resigned the following day. His fellow co-travellers said keeping INEC materials is not part of his functions but who believes him again, that most of the monetary policies he made were not politically motivated?
No wonder, people are alleging that he has an interest in Titan Bank that took over Union Bank. Was he put there to do that?
With due respect, I think people misled President Buhari to extend Emefiele’s tenure.
That’s why people like us will continue to respect leaders like Awolowo and Chief Lateef Jakande. They had ways of tasking whoever they gave responsibility to and had clearer pictures of what they expected from that person.
I am not saying that our President has no idea, but whoever is going to lead the country must at least have ideas on issues. He must be a graduate and after his first degree, he should have some knowledge of law, sociology and psychology to decipher and understand the people working with him.
Petrol has gone to N180 per litre and it isn’t even available. Why NNPC is withdrawing supply is not known yet. In the case of diesel, I bought this morning 100 litres at N80,000 because some people did not do what they were appointed to do. Mr President cannot be everywhere, that’s why people like Emefiele should have been shown the way out. Whoever will take over must be ready to discipline his aides.