By Oluwapelumi Adeoti
Chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) and member, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Chief Modestus Umenzekwe in this interview maintained that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a political guru and has no competitor in the forthcoming 2023 Presidential election. He reasoned that Moslem/Moslem ticket is based on political calculation, and called for inclusive governance.
The political heat is on, it is no longer news that your flag-bearer is His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, what are his chances in the 2023 Presidential Election? What are those things working for him?
Thank you so much. APC is a party to beat in the forthcoming election. It is a well-structured party that has put her footprints on the ground in every aspect of governance. If you watched what played out at the national convention that produced the standard bearer, you would agree with me that we are already marching on to the seat of power because that particular convention was very free, fair and credible. The way other candidates stepped down for the flag-bearer, His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would tell you that the man is destined to govern Nigeria, having paid his dues as a politician, a giant one for that matter. His doggedness and political sagacity was brought to bear on the whole process. So, I am convinced that by the special grace of God, come 29th May, 2023, Nigerians will gather at Eagle Square to swear in Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the new president.
I want you to speak also on the issue of Moslem/Moslem ticket of your party, because a lot of criticisms have trailed that action.
First of all, let me congratulate the APC as a party for making sure that the ticket went to the South. It is a welcome development. You must not get everything perfect because you are a human being but come to think of it, among all the things created by God, it is only human beings that challenged God by their character and conducts, Moslems and Christians alike. Look at the trees that are standing where they were asked to stand by God, the birds are flying as created, but human beings create problems for themselves. We are born to be free but we decided to be in chains by one permutation or the other. For me as a person, I am not speaking for Christians, I am not speaking for Moslems, God created all these religions, including those in traditional religion, and all our prayers go to God; it is left for him to answer, it is left for Him to judge.
Certain things that are supposed to be personal, we are bringing into the public domain. Yes, politics is about interest, whatever we are doing is about interest. As a Christian, I would be glad if a Christian was taken, and if you are a Moslem, you would be glad, but then, we must be able to differentiate between winning election, governance and religion. In my village, there are Moslems living there and up North, there are Christians living there, but human beings bring in these permutations to create problems. Strictly speaking, for me as a person, I don’t know your feeling, I don’t know the feeling of any other person; Christian/Christian ticket is okay for me, Moslem/Moslem ticket is okay for me. The most important thing is, are you going to deliver, are you going to pull Nigeria from the woods, are you going to give us good governance, what are you putting on the table for Nigerians? Look at the system, is there anywhere we are getting it wrong, how are you going to correct it? Those are issues we should be talking about. But you see, human beings deviated from the spiritual injunction and went outside the spiritual realm, thereby creating problem to ourselves. When I was in school, Moslems and Christians, we were living in the same room; at an appointed time the Moslems would go to Mosque, we would go to our Church. Okay, even within the Moslem community, you see sections, sections, sections not agreeing. When you come to the Christian community, you see sections, sections not agreeing. I believe that even with this ticket now, when you get into Moslem group, you would see some people that would be saying why is it this sect that was selected? If it is Christians, the same thing would happen. We have had Christian/Christian ticket in this country in the olden days, and heaven did not fall. But this time, certain things started coming up. It is unfortunate that we are going this way.
What is the way forward?
Mine is to appeal to everybody, in as much as I tell you to vote your conscience but I would prefer that you vote Bola Ahmed Tinubu; let us see what he is going to do, taking into consideration his track record in politics. I believe sincerely that he is going to do a lot. You see, we had a Christian before but the Second Niger Bridge was not done, I am talking now as somebody from the Southeast; Nnamdi Azikiwe’s compound remained untouched, Onitsha/Enugu Expressway remained untouched, Port-Harcourt/Enugu Expressway remained untouched and a whole lot. Now it is a government led by Buhari, a Moslem and a detribalized Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) that did it and by December, that 2nd Niger Bridge will be commissioned. I have gone there, I have walked on it and it gives me joy anytime I go there. Azikiwe’s compound was like a tick forest, and it pained me, this is a man that brought us independence but today, go there and see how that compound is, and a lot of other things I have mentioned before.
So I don’t think that our problem is religion, yes I would have preferred a Christian but the party has calculated that this is where it should be because the cardinal thing is to win election and provide good governance. Therefore I think we should look beyond religion and give this election what it takes so that our standard bearer will go there and do that thing he did in Lagos. This is a man that fought the military to a standstill using all his resources, risking his life and was forced into exile. He came back, contested, won and governed Lagos for eight years. The running battle he had with the Federal Government then, it is not everybody that could have such running battle and sustained it, but he was able to sustain that. Then from Lagos alone he captured the whole of Southwest and all those states are performing very well, from there he went into merger to have APC and captured the Federal government. He is a human builder, he has made a lot of people from the records available; the ones I know and the ones I have read. If such a man is able to build human being, because whatever we are doing human evangelization is very important.
You see, when you bring up human being, then you develop talents, when you bring up human beings, you talk about experts in economy, you talk about engineers, you talk about professional teachers but if you don’t develop these human beings, they would be there at the floor wallowing in abject poverty and hardship, but this man, Tinubu has been able to bring up a lot of people and nobody has denied it. He has invested a lot in the leadership in this country, provided employment here and there, and I think, if he becomes a president, he will improve on these things using the national resources. There are legitimate ways in place for stopping rascality and impunity, and I don’t think he will go into rascality and impunity, so I don’t think this issue of Moslem/Moslem ticket will tear us apart, after all, at Abuja there, you see Moslems and Christians winning and dinning; the top politicians, they are dinning and winning, attending weddings, marrying and again, if Asiwaju could leave his wife to be a senior pastor in Redeem church, what else do we want?
Indeed what we need is education, I don’t see Ashiwaju doing anything strange with Moslem/Moslem ticket; I see this thing as good political calculation. From what I have read about Shettima, I think he will do well. I learnt that he adopted an Igbo boy even before he became a governor, I think he trained him up to Master level or thereabout, that is what I heard, I am not sure. So, I don’t think this thing should create problem for us. My own is to appeal to everybody to play down on this, let us go into this election, let him go there, if things are going wrong, then we will start asking questions, as I am talking now, I will equally talk.
There are also some complaints about his age and health; Nigeria is large, and difficult to govern and therefore needs a president that is healthy, energetic, and full of vitality, they claim Tinubu failed in these indices.
Is he insane? I am asking you…answer me…Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, is he insane? Is he a lunatic? What are we talking about? Okay let me ask you, who is healthy? No, I am asking you, you have to answer me. Who is healthy?
Nobody knows what will happen the next minute
How old is Joe Biden, 79, so what are we talking about or is it because Tinubu is not an American? That was what they were saying when Buhari entered that he would die in four years, nobody is God. You see young boys below the age of 30 years suffering diabetes, you see young girls bellow 40 years suffering one ailment or the other. I don’t want to attack anybody even my enemy based on his or her health. The only thing that can stop somebody from aspiring to the position is if you are a lunatic. Let me also ask you, who is young, answer me?
Nigerians are looking at someone between the age of 40 and 60 years. Actually the people appear to be saying that they need a man that is young, that can move around and have firsthand information and be able to take decisions rather than depending solely on advice and reports from subordinates?
Well, governance is not a one man show, there is no way you can govern even your family without leaning on somebody. You either lean on your wife, your children, and others otherwise you would be challenging God. You must seek advice. You see when we were in the university, one of our lecturers would set exam for you and say, go to anywhere you like and get me a correct answer if you want to pass. So, that someone is leaning on somebody to get advice to govern a nation, is it a crime? And you know that Tinubu is a goal getter. You can see the level of support, people are beginning to understand that this man is the right man for the job. I think you are hearing comments, even some church leaders are talking, so what are we talking about?
But is Tinubu’s chance not threatened by what I may call quest for generational change by the youths. The youths appear to be saying, away with old politicians? Is your party not threatened?
No, every party has various strata of human beings, we have the young; we have the middle age; we have the old, the very old. No one can exist without the other, no government can exist without them, even if it is a boy of 30 years that is there, he cannot do the work without those that have the experiences. If he is a man of 80 years, he cannot do it without the support of others. So youths cannot be everywhere and old people cannot be everywhere. There must be a coming together of both the old and young. APC also has the youth wing, therefore APC has what it takes to do the job.
This is time for agenda setting for Asiwaju, as a chieftain of APC, I think advice from you will go a long way, rather than when such advice is coming from the opposition.
Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is a political guru, he is an administrative guru, and an accountant for that matter. He should treat all geopolitical zones very well, you see what Fashola did in Buhari’s Administration, and that is why some of us are eulogizing him; he was working simultaneously in all the six geopolitical zones. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, I am proposing he steps up on government of inclusion, even the opposition; let him include them, it doesn’t matter, what we need is good governance. Then above all, tackle insecurity, the much he can as a human being, because it involves all of us, it is all over the world, but let him attend to all the political zones, no segregation, the way Lagos is handling people, let him adopt it; he established it, let him attend to all the religions, no special treatment. He has said it, his approach to all religion will be equal.
In terms of development, let him give everybody a sense of belonging, and now he is campaigning, let him also assist ASUU, Federal Government resolve this issue so that our children can go back to school. It is paining me, I have two children in school. Let him wade into the matter as an external person and look at it. So the agenda I am setting for him is for him to treat everybody equally, develop all the six geopolitical zones and above all spread appointments accordingly; with this, there will be no problem.
I think I am done, I don’t want to go into Peter Obi or other candidates…
If you want to go into Peter Obi, that will be for another day. But Peter Obi, he is my in-law, he has ruled Anambra State, and nobody should rubbish him; that is what I can say for now, in as much as we are not in the same political party. It is his right to contest the election, so I don’t have problem with that. I am in APC, it is not what I started today; I started with AD, AC, and now APC. You must be somewhere to talk about your country, just like this religion we are talking about, you must be somewhere, it is either you are a catholic, an Anglican, Jehovah Witness and down the line, the same as Moslem. I don’t know the congregation there, but you must belong to somewhere.