By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Senator Gbenga Obadara is a former member of the National Assembly from Ogun State. In this interview, he urged the Federal Government to declare bandits terrorists. Excerpt:
Following the various congresses of your party, All Progressives Congress (APC), would you say that all is now well within the party?
Yes, there is no alternative because everything we have been doing before was in the interim. But now, new officers have been elected for another four years. For them to be removed from office, it is not going to be as easy as when they were in the interim regime. It is a contest and some contestants have won.
But you have instances of parallel congresses in some state chapters of the party. How are those issues going to be resolved without causing further cracks in the party?
It is not only in the Southwest that we have parallel congresses; it is in all geo-political zones of the country. But I believe that all parties concerned will have to come down from their high horses for the sake of peace and see the party as supreme. This is politics and everybody has an interest. All the same, I know that at the end of the day, reason will prevail and everything will be resolved.
As usual, some state actors are already discussing the idea of a Third Force to challenge the dominance of the APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Do you not foresee the possibility of an implosion within your fold?
I believe APC as a party will continue to exist and remain strong. That is what I believe by God’s grace.
The issue of the North and South dichotomy has started to rear its ugly head again ahead of the 2023 general elections. What is the implication of this on the political future of this country?
This is politics and it is natural for everybody to protect his interest. At the end of the day, everybody will allow party interest to prevail and work together for the unity of Nigeria. But it is more reasonable that power shifts to the South. I am a very much believer in fairness and justice.
If power must shift to the South, which zone are you expecting to take the slot?
You will need to look at the contribution of each zone to the party. You will see that common sense will tell you that Southwest has contributed more to the party and they have to be given the opportunity of producing the candidate for the presidential election.
Will that be a fair deal, if you are talking about contribution alone as a determining factor?
Politics is about what you have contributed to it. Is the volume of votes we had in the Southwest the same as the Southeast or South-south? In the South-south, we have only one APC governor who even decamped to APC. Are we going to say because of that we will take the presidency to that place? Politics is not like that.
But the need to give people a sense of belonging is equally important in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria? Isn’t it?
The sense of belonging depends on what you have contributed. In the Southwest, we have five APC governors. In the Southeast, we have only the Imo State governor as a member of APC. Also, in the South-south, we have only one state and that is Cross River State. Do we say because of that we take the presidency there? No, we look at where we have the figure. You can’t just go into an election because X number of people are there. Do you ignore where you have about 20 million votes to go to where you have only five million? Is that what way you are going to show a sense of belonging? The sense of belonging has to go to where we have a good figure. An election is about people, you know that.
Having had the midterm performance assessment of the second tenure of the Buhari administration, would you say that the APC-led government has fulfilled its electoral promises to Nigerians?
Looking at the paucity of funds since this government has been in office, I can tell you we are getting stronger by the day. Many that used to be on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway every day spending hours can now travel to Ibadan within two hours by rail. It can only get better.
What then do you say of the problems of insecurity, kidnapping, banditry, food crisis, and the rising cost of living that have made life almost unbearable for the people?
Insecurity is everywhere in the world. That is why the government has bought Tucano jet fighters to deal with these problems of banditry and kidnapping and bring them to an end. It is not going to end in one day because it is a thing that has been happening over the years. And the government is doing everything to deal with it decisively.
Why has the Federal Government refused to declare bandits as terrorists in spite of the call by the National Assembly?
Anybody that works against the interest of another person is a terrorist. What the bandits are doing is unleashing terror on the people. You can see the terror they are unleashing on travellers on the Ibadan-Lagos expressway, kidnapping people and torturing them. That is terrorism. They should be declared terrorists and be dealt with accordingly.
There is speculation about the possibility of a consensus candidate for the presidential election within your party. Do you subscribe to the idea?
If that will guarantee the unity of the party, I support it. If that is what will bring peace to the party, so be it.
Are you confident that APC can stand up to the challenge of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the next general elections?
I do not see PDP as a threat to APC. We are poised to win that election by God’s grace. Our outstanding performance will give us victory at the poll.
How then would you explain the food crisis the country is facing today?
It is everywhere. Farming is no longer an option for most of our teeming youths who are trooping to the cities. Everybody wants a white-collar job; everybody wants a government job which is not possible. Since nobody is willing to go into farming, it will lead to food crisis. What we need is a reorientation in a way that will make agriculture attractive as an enterprise for everybody. There is a lot of commercial value in agriculture.
You seem to be silent on the effect of farmer/herdsmen clashes that have contributed to the food crisis. Isn’t that also a serious issue?
The anti-grazing law being passed by the state assemblies in the South is already addressing that issue. That will encourage people to go back to their farms and produce.
Even at that, the Federal Government seems to be working at cross purposes with the Southern governors by insisting on restoring the old grazing routes.
Who owns the land? The governors are in charge of the lands in their respective states. Federal Government doesn’t have land in the states. The state governors are the custodians of lands. And the governors have done their duties on that. The land is not even on the Concurrent List, it belongs to the states. You cannot claim what you don’t have.
Nigeria’s rising debt profile is increasingly becoming an issue of concern to the public. What is your take on this matter?
There are two ways to these things. If those debts are for the growth of the economy and infrastructural development, there is no cause for alarm. We will only have a problem if those loans are taken and embezzled. Development of infrastructure is the right approach to development. But we must be cautious.
And do you think that those infrastructure are capable of repaying the loans?
Eventually, the loans will be repaid through those infrastructure. Let us be positive in our thinking.
Would you say that the macro-economic policy of this government is in the right direction giving the rising trend of inflation and the hardship of the economy on the ordinary people?
The problem is our monolithic economy. I am of the firm belief that we need to change the focus of our economy in this country. We need to think out of the box. We can no longer rely on petroleum resources. We need to diversify the economy and refocus on agriculture. I do tell people, this oil is a curse. We need to reassess ourselves and think out of the box.