From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
In the build up to the 2019 general elections, new political associations and parties are springing up. One of the political parties is the Action Democratic Party ( ADP), which has since submitted its papers with the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), to seek for a formal registration.
In this interview,one of the promoters of the party , Chief Alani Bankole, who is the father of the former Speaker, House of Representatives,Dimeji Bankole, says that for Nigeria to move forward, the younger generation must be allowed to take over the reins of power in the country.
How do you convince Nigerians that the ADP, you and a few others recently formed, would be different from the PDP and the defunct APP, which you played a huge part in their formation?
The only thing that is permanent in life is change. I was among the 14 people who started PDP and I was among the three people who started APP, which is now part of the APC. Our major aim, when we formed PDP, was for us to have a party strong enough to scare away the military people from coming back. We have achieved that.
The aim of forming APP was to stop PDP from becoming a sole party, so as not to give us a one party system of government. We have succeeded.
But if you have followed closely since 1999, most of us who formed the two parties opted out, or were pushed out within the first five years.The people who actually took over government at the state and federal level were people who were close to the military. They had enough money to hijack the nomination processes of the two parties.
So we were unable to restructure governance because we made some fundamental mistakes in the structure of the party, which would have put us in the position to continue to, at least, have a say in the running of the party, thereby having a say in the running of the government.
The PDP which we formed is the not the party that exists today. If you remember, most of us that formed the party were Baba Sunday Awoniyi ,Solomon Lar , Adamu Ciroma , Shinkafi, Sule Lamido and Professor Jerry Gana.
Chief Bola Ige, Ayo Adebanjo etc helped to form AD.Jerry Gana, Bola Ige, Ayo Adebanjo: those were the key players in the formation of the original three political parties. Some of us were involved in PDP; some were involved in APP and some also in AD.
After five years, none of us were in position to influence what was happening in the party. Some of us had ideas, visions, but had no financial muscle to remain in the party. Let me remind you; Obasanjo stopped Awoniyi from becoming the first national chairman after the elections. Awoniyi was chosen by the leadership of the party, but Obasanjo stayed at that convention for 24 hours to make sure Awoniyi did not win. That was the beginning of the collapse of PDP. And as far back as November 25, 2005, I predicted it on Ogun Television that I could no longer be in the PDP, because they were going to collapse, because of the activities of Obasanjo which had began to affect the activities of PDP in the states then.
So, Obasanjo became the national chairman of the party and the President of Nigeria. Power corrupts absolutely and nobody could stop him. The governors took over in their states, so there was no separation of power. And we in the APP refused Obsanjo on the basis that a military man cannot become a good democratic president. He moved back to PDP and they accepted him, which was what happened.
I formed the APP and became the national chairman and left later, and my attitude is this; in life you should know the best time to quit. I was a leader of PDP, my son joined PDP, he won the election, he became the speaker, should I continue to play politics to support him or to go against him? So, I retired and went back to my village and I was living quietly in Abeokuta until about six months ago some other people invited me, and said’ look, what are we doing here?’, this country is collapsing and if we’re not careful, we are going into commotion and confusion in 2019, because PDP will not be able to give any reasonable resistance and APC may even collapse before then. We don’t want confusion, so let us get younger people together and try to manage them and guide them on what to do and allow them to do it, maybe they might be able to do it better, since we’re all suffering and we now see what is happening.
We don’t want to contest election, we don’t need it. We want to see if we can tell the younger ones who are thinking the way we are thinking to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Is that suppose to be a vote of no confidence on APC and PDP?
We are not condemning PDP or APC, they are victims of their circumstances. If you choose someone who has lived all his life in the military to come and lead you, you should expect dictatorship from him, because that is the only thing he knows.
You just put together a group of people, who don’t know each other, but who came together because they want to take power. How do you get a team to run the government? That is the problem of the APC. The only person they’ve gotten is Buhari. Unfortunately, he is now sick, that is why they are no more APC. What did they use to campaign? Buhari’s integrity is what gave them the election.
So, people just voted Buhari not because he was the best. I said it before he was sworn in, that Buhari is not the person to change this economy. This man has got nothing to offer us except his integrity. He is too old. He has been out of government for 30 years. He has no team, and so what vision does he want to give us? He has no vision, he has no health, he has no knowledge, but he has integrity, leave integrity; will that give us food? And that is why we are where we are.
So invariably, you’re saying Nigerians should not hope for things to get better under Buhari?
I am not saying so. I should be asking you, what is your own vision? Whatis your hope under Buhari? What I am saying, with all emphasis is that Buhari’s integrity is all he has got, and that does not give us food on our tables. Nigeria has a terrible economy and we need someone with stamina, intellectually and physically sound . He is a 73 year old man, Obasanjo was able to do what he could do because he was only 62. Obasanjo was waking up by 6 o’clock and sleeping by 3am the following day, I was very close to him. Can my brother, Buhari do that today, because of his age and sickness? I opted out, because I believed I had nothing to offer politically again. I started contesting at the age of 36. I wanted to be governor of my state at the age of 38. What should I be looking for at 75 again? When people like you of the same age as Obama, Tony Blair have not been given opportunity to even try, what type of country is that?
What do you think is the key in terms of restructuring the nation?
The key is handing over to the younger people. Why are all the banks making huge successes? Why are companies making fabulous success? Why is it that our government is only able to put 20 percent of our resources into development? When you run a country like that, you can never succeed.
Let us bring those boys who have succeeded in private enterprises, let us encourage them to come and run this government. But let the politicians run politics. Don’t insist and become Mr. know all, the real structure, I mean is age restructuring, because I believe the younger ones of today are more knowledgeable than us. They might not be as experienced as us, but we can now use our experience to connect them and support them from the background. My hope is in the younger people like you, because I’ve seen you do very well in your various endeavours, giving the opportunity and giving the right atmosphere.
In the next six months you will see a shift in APC, PDP to this ADP, because of the contacts I’ve been having for the past year. For the past one month, I have not been able to sleep before 1am or 2am, I have been receiving calls from all over this country.
Where do you stand in the fight against corruption by this government?
There is corruption in Nigeria, and there is corruption even in the press, in the market place, so it depends on who is criticizing.
But the truth is that corruption in Nigeria is not being fought from the root. When you don’t give your children proper training, whatever they do will affect the community, and whatever affects the community affects the country at large.
According to my religion, whatever you have, you are a caretaker; you have to be just with them. So, I think we should fight corruption from the root. So, if you’re talking about the way we are fighting the PDP, the PDP was in government for 16 years, and they are likely to have been involved in corruption at a larger scale than other parties.
That is why some of the people in APC are also being fought. Saraki is in APC, but the government is fighting him for corruption. That is why I am saying, fight it from the root. And you can’t expect the government to start to fight his own people, he (Buhari) is only human. That is why we are talking of structure; it is from setting up the correct structure, that you can fight corruption.
Obasanjo tried it by setting up ICPC, but when he decided to use it for personal agenda, it failed because the EFCC have not charged so many cases to court amongst all the cases they are investigating. They accused my son, we challenged them to go to court, and we faced them. We didn’t ask for any adjournment, they didn’t have a case against us. We knew it was Obasanjo that was fighting my son, how many accused have done that? Some of them are still in the Senate, is that not corruption, why is EFCC not making sure they conclude their cases.
So people who are saying this government isn’t fighting corruption the best way have a point, but I don’t think that point is enough to discourage this government.
So what’s your take?
The ADP is saying we are going to do it differently, that’s why the party is being formed, we are going to strengthen agencies like EFCC, ICPC to give them the real equipment they need to fight corruption, not the President trying to use EFCC to stop someone from contesting against his person.
When my son became the speaker, the first year, they returned over N500 billion from unspent fund. The following year they got another N600 billion, the last year they budgeted N450 billion. And he had the guts to probe Obasanjo’s N16 billion for electricity finances, that was the beginning of my son’s problems. Until people have courage to do the right thing, this thing will continue.
Are you insinuating that Obasanjo too is corrupt?
I am not sure if Obsanjo is corrupt or not, but I agree he should be probed. But nobody can say he is guilty until he is probed; he is still yet to submit himself. Fayose is not my friend, he is a small boy but he is saying let former leaders submit themselves, and help this country.
The truth is that, before I came into politics in 1977, I have been a millionaire in those days, which is equivalent to a trillionaire now, and I was never into politics for money.
I never held any political office, I never controlled any budget up till today. The nearest to that was being a director of Federal Mortgage Bank from 1979 to 1983, and no member of my family built any extra house during that time. I built my house in 79 and moved into it in 1982 and I have lived there till today, so it depends on your way of life.
I have tried to be as straight forward as ever. When my company bought Nitel, people said it was Dimeji who got the money through the National Assembly , because at that particular time they were borrowing money from the bank.
Obasanjo wanted to sell it to someone at N120 million, we bought it at N4 billion , and the bank financed it, but they didn’t allow us to take over. They felt the amount was too high. But what they didn’t know was that all the communication networks was inside the building, they thought I was buying only the building, they were stupid people. I told them to pay N500 million every month, they said no; I told them to go to court. So, you see, you can make money when you use your senses and your knowledge. I knew all the cable available in Nigeria then for Mtn and Econet was in the floor of that building, they thought I was stupid to buy it for N4billion .
Look at Dangote and the amount of money he has made. He didn’t steal anybody’s money. They have taken the building back from us, but of course I got my money back. The building was advertised, and we got approval from that government to sell it.