Prince Kassim Afegbua is not new to the politics of Nigeria. He served as Commissioner for Information in Edo State, and has also been spokesman to former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Afegbua has been clamouring for a Southern president to succeed President Buhari in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice.
He left the PDP to continue his advocacy without joining any party.
In this interview, Afegbua says Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the best candidate to succeed President Buhari. Excerpts:
You’ve been in the forefront championing the Southern cause in terms of 2023 presidential contest. You even left the PDP in protest. What exactly is the crux of the matter?
It is not about playing politics of convenience, it is about playing politics of principles and what is suitable for a plural country. The PDP power process is heavily flawed and it is the reason that Governor Wike has been speaking on, trying to make the leaders of the party to see reasons there has to be balancing given our plural status. As it is now, PDP has been northernised by the present elements within the party who decide what obtains. They manipulate the system, and work from answer to question just to push through their devious agenda. I am not going to keep quiet, even at the height of personal threat to my life. I will speak the truth all the time and I know history will vindicate me. After President Buhari’s eight years, it will be unislamic and unbiblical for anybody from the North to want to ride roughshod on our shoulders to succeed President Buhari. This is why I see the APC governors as heroes of this present dispensation. They stood firmly to tell the president that the South should be allowed the opportunity to succeed him in 2023, conscious of the plural status of Nigeria and the North/South divide.
But Atiku Abubakar still emerged the candidate despite the very valid point you raised bordering on equity and fairness?
Atiku Abubakar’s emergence in the PDP primaries is in bad taste, hence he has not known peace since then till now. He has been unable to settle all the fallout from the convention because of lack of transparency, accountability and sincerity. There is too much of manipulating; dollar rain, arm-twisting and political horse-trading. There are too many satanic plots and desperation on the part of the former vice president. A man who they called unifier, cannot unify his party, is it the country he would be able to unite or unify? There are too many pretenses, cajoling and selfish display of political opportunism. The God I serve Who sees the heart of men, would not allow the PDP candidate to succeed because he would plunge the country into another level of agitation and protestations. You can’t have 16 years of unbroken power in the North. Would they allow the South such opportunity were it to be the case? We must be deliberate in our actions and decisions to help unite this country and build internal cohesion that can propel national conversations for a robust interplay of forces. We cannot be blinded by our selfish individual ambitions in the name of presidency and allow all the cries of marginalisation to persist. This is the real challenge. I want to commend Governor Wike and his four other colleagues for standing for truth. History will be kind to them for taking the right decision and standing firm on the side of equity, justice and fairness.
Now that we have come to this point of campaigns and PDP still going ahead with their Atiku for president campaigns, what do you envisage would happen?
I am keeping tab of what is happening and the effort by some anti-Tinubu elements to confuse the president to look in the direction of Atiku Abubakar. That won’t work, no matter how hard they try to sell Atiku to the president. With what former President Obasanjo said of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, it will be injurious for anybody to embrace his aspiration. How can you be against the run of play, yet you want to lord it over all of us, when your aspiration betrays the very principle of zoning enshrined in the party’s constitution. You cannot be aspiring to lead a constitutional democracy when you have flagrantly disobeyed the provisions of your own constitution in the name of desperation and manipulation. Didn’t you hear all the stealing, mismanagement, bribe and looting going on in the PDP? How can a chairman be accused of collecting N1billon, yet the chairman has kept a conspiratorial silence, not a single word had he spoken to deny or affirm the allegation. Is that the kind of product we require at this time to lead a party that wants to produce a president? I am praying for internal sabotage within the party so that in the final analysis, lessons would be learnt and it would serve as deterrent in future electoral processes.
So, who are you supporting in the South because we have two viable candidates; Peter Obi and Asiwaju Tinubu?
I have declared publicly that I will support any Southern candidate in line with my belief that you must balance the algorithms of power to keep the momentum of national development going. I am supporting Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s aspiration because he appeals to me as a man that is more grounded to lead the country. He has built network of friends across the country. He has a name recognition that is synonymous with success. He has built men and women to stardom and knows very well how to assemble result-driven minds who can help distill his policies for the good of the country. Asiwaju is a value addition kind of mind, he knows how to tap potentials and exploit the opportunities to make things work. His record of performance in Lagos, a microcosm of the Nigerian federation, leaves us with very superlative rating in terms of leadership capacity. His other contestant in the South is also qualified, but has not been fully and roundly grounded in the national politics that can alter the applecart. Peter Obi to me is a man for another season, not for 2023. With Tinubu, his capacity, his deep insight, his knowledge, Nigeria is good to hit the ground running. I want a man who is awake when the country is asleep. He’s one man who has capacity to stay awake for longer hours than his co-contenders for the plum job. I will go with Asiwaju Tinubu and his indefatigable Vice Presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima. That’s a solid combination.
Are you not worried about the same faith ticket that has generated so much hoopla across the country?
In the life of a nation, you need people who have capacity to get things done, not prayer warriors. Those who preach religion are those who are seeking Armageddon and looking to be part of heaven against the fear of hell fire. They are two different things. Leadership reward and result are life’s benefit here on earth. Religious benefits are essentially in the hereafter. So, you can’t reconcile the two domains in the face of our attempt to make the country better. If you want to preach religion, please go and build church or mosque to advance your cause. Nigerians should stop bringing religion to the level of politics. The ethics of politics are hardly ever followed. In politics, you see betrayals, back-stabbing, backbiting, manipulations, gerrymandering, subterfuge, corruption, bribery, vote-buying, and all other vices. Are these what you want to associate with religion? Those who are prayer warriors should help to carry out attitudinal re-orientation of the minds of an average politician to deliver more positive behavioural change to cleanse the Augean stable. That should be the role of religion in helping to build and expand the frontiers of proper attitudinal orientation. Let me paint a scenario here. Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the current vice president, is a pastor of a church before his new status for seven years now. As a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, how many churches was he able to build or how many mosques did President Buhari build? When VP Osinbajo visited the site of Owo massacre sometime this year, he only spoke to the people and left. That’s a Christian. A muslim, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, got there and donated N75 million to the victims of the attack. So, who is more Christian both in conduct and in sharing with the aspirations of the Christians? For me, the religion of a man does not define who he is or whether the person has capacity to deliver on his promises. Religion does not prepare a man for political leadership, it rather prepares a man for ecclesiastical undertakings to deepen the body of Christ or Islam. So, I am not one of those persons who is detained by the same faith discourse. Not in this generation.
Do you honestly believe that Asiwaju Tinubu has the capacity to lead the country on account of the several claims that he is not healthy enough to be saddled with the responsibility of presiding over the nation?
To the best of my knowledge, and given my proximity to the sources of information, I think very strongly that Asiwaju is stronger than most of those making all the noise about. I have seen him in action, the longer hours he keeps, he wakes up and starts his day around 10:00a.m and does not go back to sleep until 4:00a.m. That’s almost 18 hours of the day, yet you say such a person is not strong enough to lead? I have seen him giving people late night appointments, like 1:00a.m, 2:00a.m and 3:00a.m, when most people are already snoring away in their sleep. Besides, I am not his personal physician to determine what his health status is like, but from my interaction, I know the man is strong enough to lead us. He’s not diabetic and does not suffer from high blood pressure. He did kneecap replacement and within three months, he was on his feet again. How else do you want the man to prove his capacity to lead? Or his wellness to contend with state responsibilities? Have you seen and heard about his manifesto? It is a bumper package rich in deliverables; short term, medium term and long-term projections that would help to address a number of issues. Give it to Asiwaju, he’s a deep thinker, a strategist and a communicator. He understands the issues because he has worked in the private sector, he’s been a lawmaker, he’s been an executive governor. So, his experiences are not what you can get across the counter. I will put in my all to ensure that I am able to deliver my polling unit, ward and local government to him at the elections, working with other like-minds and his supporters. But take note that I have not joined APC, I am just a supporter of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu Emirates.