Senator Gbenga Obadara is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who represented Ogun Central Senatorial District in the last National Assembly.
In this interview, he debunked the claim by some interest groups that President Muhammadu Buhari is serving the interest of the Southwest at the expense of other sections of the country, especially the North, saying the allegation is unfounded.
Agitation for power rotation ahead of the 2023 is still ongoing. But Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State wants the arrangement to be jettisoned in favour of competence and capacity to govern. What is your take on this matter?
Let me put things in correct perspective. Every nation of the world has its own peculiarities. A situation in Nigeria where power shifts somewhere in perpetuity is not good for our fledgling democracy. In a normal clime, the question of where you come from does not arise. It is good we have the best capable hand as our president. But if you look at dichotomy in our country Nigeria is just too much. Maybe in about 20 or 30 years down the line, things can change. But in the present circumstance, power must come back to the South. Almost all political parties chose their presidential candidates for the last election from the North. I do not see any reason the North will continue to remain in power beyond 2023. A time may come when we may no longer need to put that into consideration. But for now, power rotation is still necessary to give every region a sense of belonging. I have a different approach. The approach I have is for all political parties; let’s say five political parties, to come together and rule for five years each with a 25-year development plan. Under the present system where a party comes in and abandons the policies of the previous government leads to a waste of our common resources. By the time we try that for 25 years, I can tell you Nigeria will be better for it. In my own thinking, that is the most sensible thing. For now, el-Rufai’s suggestion cannot work. In other climes, it may work. But here, it cannot work. The problem is that every ethnic nationality has its own peculiarity.
Based on this power agitation, some people have predicted that the ruling All Progressives Congress may not survive beyond 2023. Do you also have the same fear?
I don’t have any such fear. It is only el-Rufai that is throwing that kite. There is no agitation in the APC or that power should not rotate. El-Rufai does not represent the party; it is purely a matter of his personal opinion. I do believe that APC will survive 2023 and beyond. I do not entertain that fear in my mind.
Some interest groups in the North are uncomfortable with the Southwest alliance, particularly with the Yoruba reaction to the issues of herdsmen-farmers clashes, as well as general insecurity in the region. Do you also not foresee the alliance crumbling with the recent developments?
Let me say this very clear, the alliance is for the interest of Nigeria. For a party to have a national appeal, it must involve every part of the country. We are not running a regional government, we are running a federal system. So, I do not entertain any fear in that respect. And I know that Nigeria as a nation will continue to exist for the benefits of all Nigerians.
There is this general feeling in some sections of the country that Southwest has benefitted more than any other region under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Isn’t it so?
It is neither here nor there. In what way has the Southwest benefitted more? According to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, each state must have a minister. So, in what way has the Southwest benefitted more? Anybody who is saying that is just running his mouth. There is no way the Southwest has benefitted more than the rest parts of the federation. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived. The Northwest has the President, Southwest has the Vice President, Northeast has the Senate President, Southwest has the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the South-south has the Deputy Senate President.
With your analysis, would you expect the North to support the Southwest for 2023?
I believe and I know in the mighty name of God I serve that the South will produce the president in 2023.
If you say the South, there is Southeast, South-south and Southwest. Which one do you mean?
It is for us to decide. If I say Southwest, there is nothing bad in supporting Southwest because that is where I come from. But power rotation has always been between the North and South. And I believe that common sense will prevail.
Some aggrieved individuals are nursing ill-feeling against President Buhari for having not done enough for the people of the North…
(Cuts in) They are only being unfair to Buhari. In what way did he do more for the Southwest?
They are particularly not happy with the threatening insecurity in the North while the government appears to be overwhelmed…
(Cuts in) Insecurity is everywhere in the country. If you go to the North, the Boko Haram is there. If you go to the Southwest, kidnapping is going on there on a daily basis. If you go to Enugu in the Southeast, herdsmen issue is there. Insecurity is all over and it is a big challenge to the president. We will be deceiving ourselves if we limit insecurity to one part of the country. It is everywhere.
The ministerial nominees are expected to be sworn-in next week. What is your expectation of the next level administration of President Buhari?
It is the prerogative of the president to assign portfolio to the nominees. We can only expect that the round pegs will be put in the round hole. The mantra of the APC is about corruption, security and economy. The next level we are talking about here is to tackle insecurity the more, address the unemployment in the country, turn Nigeria into the food basket so that we consume what we produce so that the economy can be more buoyant. With the coming of the new minister and putting the round peg in a round hole, I believe things will go a long way. Let us wait for him to unveil the new cabinet and see what will happen.
Talking about food self-sufficiency, the president has announced a new policy banning the CBN from selling Forex to food importers. Do you think Nigeria is self-sufficient now as to place a total ban on food importation?
As the president, he has more information than I do. For him to have given that order, definitely, he knows the reasons. That could be done to encourage our farmers, and I think it will go a long way to boost local production of food. If you know that there is nobody to compete with you, you have greater incentive to produce more. Again, if forex is not available from the Central Bank, people can source it from the Bureau De Change. That way, our foreign exchange reserve will not be expended on importation of things we can produce.
Anti-corruption is part of the mantra of the APC. From your observation of the anti-graft war so far, do you think that the government is moving in the right direction?
Rome was never built in a day. There were individuals people thought were untouchable before. Now, some of them have been dealt with. Example is Senator Joshua Dariye, and former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Iyame. That apart, a lot of money and property have been forfeited to the Federal Government. Was there anything of such before? No. These are efforts that are commendable. We can only wish more people are dealt with. Gradually, we will get there.