From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
A Kaduna-based political scientist and commentator on national issues, Otunba Olusegun Folorunso is the National Coordinator of Yoruba Awareness Forum (YAF) in the 19 Northern states and Abuja.
Otunba Folorunso who had been in partisan politics since 1979 was the immediate past director media and publicity for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kaduna State, as well as the founding member of the party.
He was also the national assistant secretary, Alliance for Democracy (AD), as well as its founding member, along with the late Jolly Tanko Yusuf and other members in Kaduna.
The political scientist said that he was part of Kagoro Declaration that gave birth to APC in Kaduna State in 2014.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Otunba Folorunso said that the Yoruba group in the 19 Northern states believe that the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is likely to floor his rival in APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu because Atiku as son in-law to Yoruba people, is as good as son of the soil.
To this end, he said that Yoruba will not like to shame or disappoint their daughter who is married to Atiku by voting for her husband massively to win the 2023 presidential election. Excerpts:
As an immediate past member of the All Progressive Congress (APC), at what point did you leave the party and why?
I left APC in two ways; first, I left unofficially, and secondly, I left officially about seven months ago. And unofficially I left about 12 months ago. Before I left I was promoting the party on a local radio station in Kaduna by way of defending the ideals of the party and counter propaganda for two years. But at a point the radio programme lost its value and popularity because of insecurity in the country. Some of us were no longer save on the streets. So, unofficially I left the programme and the party. Now I had to go into consultation, and after due consultation, I had to leave the party officially to declare support along with my colleagues in Yoruba Awareness Forum for the presidential candidate of Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa of the PDP and the party itself.
It therefore means that you are now a chieftain of the PDP?
I wouldn’t ascribe a chieftain to myself. I will rather say I am a very good admirer of PDP and volunteer of PDP for the forthcoming elections. And to the large extent, the national executive council members and the entire members of the Yoruba Awareness Forum in the 19 Northern states have agreed to work for Atiku/Okowa, PDP and all the PDP candidates in the North and Abuja.
Are you now abandoning Tinubu who is naturally a Yoruba man as you?
No. But that is a very good question. You see, one thing about Yoruba, it is not a tribe, Yoruba nation is also a race. Yoruba nation transcends Nigeria. There are Yoruba in Brazil, in Ghana, Togo, and other countries like that, but wherever you find a Yoruba man, his number one interest is peace, security of life and property. In the days of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), when it was the in-thing in Nigeria, it was not about bringing a Yoruba man on board, that was why my late uncle, Adejasi Ajasin of Owo where I come from, who was the chairman of NADECO said that the coalition was not about Yoruba nor about him, but it was the restoration of democracy. And of one of the caveats he gave before he died was that he did not want the instrumentality of NADECO to be used to metamorphosis into a political party. But after his demise the young elements thought the coalition could be used to achieve personal aims. So, that was when the organogram of NADECO turned to PDP. But then the late Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme who naturally could have been the presidential candidate did not key into it because since it was NADECO that turned to PDP, he should have become the presidential candidate. But unfortunately, the military were not happy so it became a case of trying to take a bone from the mouth of a dog. Naturally, you don’t expect the dog to be happy with you. That was why they made sure that Alex Ekwueme did not get the presidential slot, and they brought Olusegun Obasanjo from prison. As a practising journalist then, I was among those who were opportuned to interview him when he came to the house of Alhaji Bamaga Tukur in Kaduna here. So, eventually he became the president of Nigeria. But as the then National Secretary of Yoruba Awareness Forum, we keyed into it that the worst democratic era is better than the best military era. We, therefore, put our wieght behind the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the personality of Olusegun Obasanjo because as Awareness Forum we are more political than the entire Yoruba community in the North. In fact, Yoruba community in the North is apolitical. So, Obasanjo won the election irrespective of other members of NADECO that formed Alliance for Democracy (AD) which was my party then. AD was headed by Chief Olu Falae. But when Yoruba Awareness Forum met in Kano, and in consultation with the Yoruba community we decided to go for PDP, why because we needed the best therapy that could save the situation. If there is a medical problem, if there is a security problem, it behoves on one to go for the best therapy. So, as it is now the best therapy that could rescue Nigeria is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his vice president and the PDP as the party. Any other therapy apart from these three therapies I have mentioned will amount to wasting our votes and allow APC to continue with the regime of socio-economic hardship. I was an insider of APC government where nobody listen to advice or taking advice. It is a regime where dictatorship has become the order of the day. Another angle I want you to know is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had played his part in restoration of democracy, history and prosperity will remember him forever. Tinubu is a Yoruba son, but Atiku Abubakar is a Yoruba son in-law. But in Yoruba culture there is no difference between a Yoruba biological son and a Yoruba son in-law for five decades having been married to Hajiya Titilayo from Ilesha, therefore, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is our son in-law. When I was a member of the entourage of the late Chief Oguntoyibo, our formal president general of Yoruba community in the North, to visit Obasanjo in Aso Rock, it was easier for us to see our son in-law, Atiku Abubakar than to see our son, Olusegun Obasanjo. And when you talk about His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, his daughter is married to an Owo man, so you can see that both of them; Atiku and Okowa are connected to Yoruba in one way or the other. Okowa’s daughter is married to an Owo man who is a medical doctor from Ondo State. So, tribal sentiment should not be the issue now. The most important thing is how do we rescue Nigeria from economic quagmire, security conodrum that the country has found itself.
It was believed that Bola Tinubu was a member of NADECO. At what point was he a member of the coalition?
Thank you very much. You know, when NADECO came up as a child of necessity, in every venture in life you need three set of people; the elders, the youth who are the foot soldiers and the financier because you need something to wheel whatever venture you are into in life. The elders were the Babakunle Ajasin, Ayo Adebanjo, Fasoranti. And among the youth then, we have Chief Bola Ige, and when you talk of the financier, then you have Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. And also Adekunbos, Akikuyomis who were the financiers as well as the foot soldiers. And that was why Bola Tinubu and others had to run to exile when General Sani Abacha came. However, the problems we are facing today is the problems of the APC administration. I can tell you that it is easier to campaign for the late Idi Amin or Abacha than to campaign for APC in Nigeria of today. Somebody may have his own reasons to campaign for APC, and I have my own reasons which are pecuniary.
What are your own reasons not to campaign for APC?
My reasons; one, security of life and property, look at insecurity in the country, there is hardly nobody that has not been affected in one way or the other. Some of us abandoned our places because of insecurity, students are no longer free in schools, the state of insecurity has affected the economy, investors that are to bring in Dollars are being scared away, so nothing is moving. Look at hardship every. People cannot even afford to board public transport. So, the issue now is how to rescue Nigeria. We have met and and we have consulted that Northern Yoruba have endorsed Atiku which we issued press statement to that effect about a month ago. The Yoruba people are free minded, they are independent minded. And that is why Afenefire of the Southwest has endorsed Peter Obi, and association of 201 Yoruba union has also endorsed Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and we the Yoruba in the 19 Northern states and Abuja have not only endorsed Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa and PDP, but to work for them to win the election. We are not only doing this in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, we are also consulting with people in the Southern states because by January 2023 we will be launching a mass movement code-named, Otege (enough is enough) and it will be in the eight states of Yoruba land. It means enough of Tinubu domination of Yoruba politics. The states are Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Kwara and Kogi. And to a large extent, we can move to auxillary states where we have Oduduwa children to tell them that enough is enough of Tinubu domination of Yoruba politics.
There is this mass movement by Nigerian youths, especially on social media rooting for Peter Obi as the next president. How do you react to this?
On a serious note, I look at Peter Obi of the Labour Party as a game changer. But as a political scientist and a veteran journalist and a practising politician, I have discovered that game changer doesn’t win election. In this 2023 game, Peter Obi is a game changer. Àtiku Abubakar is a game winner. While Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a game loser.
So what is your advice to the youths that are yearning for Peter Obi?
My advice to the youths is that they should know that they cannot clap with one hand. But I am impressed that the youths are growing, they are learning fast. And if you listen to what Atiku Abubakar campaign organisation said few weeks ago, they said the euphoria for Peter Obi among the youths have started reducing. Because when the election comes, it is not only the youths that determine where the election goes. I am 59 years of age, I will be 60 very soon. I have been in politics since 1979 as Awolowo Vanguard. But there was never a time we voted without listening to the elders. When I was the assistant general secretary for Alliance for Democracy (AD), we broke into two factions. I was of the Olu Falae faction. And the Bola Ige faction where Asiwaju Bola Tinubu belonged, they went and brought one man, Abdulkadir from Bauchi. I was working under the tutelage of the late Baba Adebanjo and the late Adesoya for three to four years. So, the youths cannot just wake up overnight and decide what happens in the society where we have the elders. And I am telling you that a time shall come when the youths will begin to know the value of their votes. It is one thing to have your PVC, it is another thing to attach value to your PVC. If you know that your PVC is going to be a lost vote, you use it wisely. Some of the youths have started reasoning that it is better to vote for PDP than to vote for Labour Party.