The people of Southern Nigeria, who are waiting to have the presidency back in 2023 have been warned that their expectation may be farfetched if the indices on ground are anything to go by. Former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe who gave the warning, however, described the call for the scrapping of zoning in the country by Gov. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State as unpatriotic. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, Ogunlewe who recently crossed to APC from PDP described the governor’s call as self-serving. He also spoke on other national issues.
What is your reaction to the recent call for scrapping of zoning in 2023 by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai?
It is an ill-conceived call that should be ignored. This call by el-Rufai is anti-unity call. It is unpatriotic. It is unpatriotic because it is not a call that will promote unity, and cohesion in the country.
Why am I urging Nigerians to ignore el-Rufai? My reason is very simple: el-Rufai’s statement is nothing but an expression of personal opinion, and as a Nigerian, our constitution allows him freedom of expression. However, I want to advise el-Rufai that he should not allow his own personal ambition to become a source of national discourse which may heat up the polity unnecessarily. But left to me, el-Rufai’s call should not be given attention. We should not allow him to distract the nation when there are other serious national issues that require attention.
According to the Nigerian Constitution, power, especially presidency is supposed to rotate between the North, and the South. Not only that, political offices are supposed to be rotated among the nation’s six geo-political zones. With this arrangement, the presidency is supposed to rotate back to the South in 2023 after President Muhammadu Buhari must have completed his two terms. So, what does el-Rufai mean by saying that zoning should be scrapped in 2023?
With his call, is he promoting unity or trying to cause confusion in the country? That’s why I said earlier that he should be ignored. I’m sure that his call for scrapping of zoning in 2023 will not stand. El-Rufai is trying to promote his own personal interests because it is rumoured ,and it has been widely reported that he is nursing presidential ambition in 2023.
On the issue of 2023, el-Rufai, and others-
I think it is still too early to be talking about 2023.Why should we be talking about 2023 now when President Buhari, and other elected officers have only been sworn into office few months ago? Instead of talking about 2023, we should allow Buhari, and other elected public office holders to do their work. A new cabinet has just been inaugurated, we should allow these people to work instead of distracting them. There are many issues requiring urgent attention that needed to be tackled with urgency by President Buhari, and these include killings, insecurity, banditry, soaring unemployment among others.
Nigeria needs to be saved from looming anarchy. Time is running out for our leaders to do the needful now. If we say all is well, we are deceiving ourselves. Who even knows what will happen tomorrow, and yet they are talking about 2023? Who knows who will be alive or not by 2023? Only God knows tomorrow.
We need to fix Nigeria now. Now, now I mean, we don’t have time again. People are hungry and also angry. Crisis is looming, and this is why Buhari and our other leaders must quickly rise to the occasion, and save this country from plunging into chaos as a result of insecurity and other vices. This is not the time for politicking on 2023.
Are you saying that the Federal Government is not handling the situation the right way?
Buhari as a leader is trying his best. It is difficult for Nigeria to have another Buhari as a leader. Buhari is selfless. He is not greedy but in terms of policy execution, and performance, he has to do better. He has to buckle up. Like I said earlier, we are running out of time. The insecurity problem, poverty, unemployment, all these issues have to be tackled with urgency. We have serious problems on our hands that must be addressed with urgency.
All over the country, Nigerians are complaining of hunger. The gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider daily. Poverty is ravaging many homes. Many unemployed youths are taking to crime because they have no jobs and no means of livelihood. As the saying goes, devil find jobs for idle hands.
The antidote to the myriad of socio-economic problems facing us today is good governance. With good governance, there will be peace, and when you have peace, there will be growth and development. Today, the wealth of this nation is concentrated in few hands, and this is supposed to be commonwealth. Nigeria is naturally blessed with all the natural resources required to make us great but we have failed to harness those resources for the common good of the citizens. We are supposed to be a great nation but here we are still struggling 59 years after independence. Even police officers and men who are supposed to provide security are not well paid or well motivated.
Of late, some groups in the North have been saying that the North will not relinquish power to the South in 2023, how do you see this?
Having said earlier that it is too premature to start talking about 2023, now, let me quickly add that those groups saying so may be saying the truth. It is not that the North will seize power or take power by force. The truth is that if the South is not very careful, power may still remain in the North in 2023.Why and how? The North doesn’t joke with political power, and that’s why during election time, northern leaders usually mobilize their people en masse to go out to vote. Even women in purdah vote during election time in the North. But the contrary is the case in the South. In the South, there is usually voters’ apathy during elections. Registered voters don’t go out en masse to cast their votes unlike in the North where millions troop out to vote. Democracy is a game of numbers, and since the North usually takes voting serious more than the South, then they will continue to have the upper hand over the South.
For example, during the last general elections, the total votes cast in Yobe State alone almost surpassed that of the entire South-West geo-political zone. However, during the elections, out of a total registered 16 million voters in the South-West, only about five million cast their votes. What this means is that political leaders in the South have to work harder by embarking on enlightenment campaign to let the people in the South know the importance of voters registration and voting, otherwise, the presidency may elude the South in 2023.
Prof. Wole Soyinka and former President Olusegun Obasanjo have called for the convocation of a national conference to discuss the way forward for Nigeria but some Nigerians have declared that the implementation of the 2014 confab report is the solution to Nigeria’s current problems, what’s your take on that?
Soyinka and Obasanjo as eminent Nigerians are entitled to their personal views but I will suggest that we should give President Buhari and the new cabinet that has just been inaugurated a chance to work. Let’s allow them to work in order to be able to assess them properly.
For those who are talking about 2014 Jonathan’s confab, it is not only Jonathan that organized a national conference. When Obasanjo was in power, he organized one, when Yar’Adua was also there, he did something along that line. So, I don’t see anything special about Jonathan’s confab.
But definitely we need to do something about the 1999 Constitution that is in practice now. This constitution, which we are running now, is anti-people. It is anti-Nigeria. It is a constitution forced on Nigeria by the military, and there are several flaws in it. There is no rolling plan in that constitution, and any nation that doesn’t have a rolling plan will have serious problem. We must jettison the 1999 Constitution to move Nigeria forward.
You are asking Nigerians not to talk about 2023, but you have been reported on several occasions canvassing support for the rumoured presidential ambition of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, why the contradiction?
I have no apology or regret expressing support for Tinubu if he shows interest in 2023 presidency. Tinubu is eminently qualified for the job. By the way, is he not a Nigerian, does the Nigerian constitution bar him from running for the presidency? No. If Tinubu decides to run, I will support him or any other person that is qualified from the South-West.
Some people have mentioned el-Rufai saying that he has interest in 2023 and that, that was why he called for scrapping of zoning in 2023, but what I want to say is this: El-Rufai can’t be an obstacle to Tinubu. Tinubu is a veteran of many political battles. He’s tested and up to the task. Tinubu knows what to do to get it if he has the interest. He will subdue all his political opponents.