Interview

2023 Presidency: It Is Not Yahaya Bello’s Job To Advise Tinubu Not To Run – Oladele

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Hon. Bosun Oladele, is a former member of the House of Representatives who represented Irepo/Olorunsogo/Orelope Federal Constituency of Oyo state from 2015 to 2019. Also a former Commissioner of Information in Oyo state, the chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is the Secretary of South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA), a group of former and serving lawmakers rooting for the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as President in 2023.

In this interview he speaks on wide-ranging issues as it relates to governance in the country, developments in the APC and the 2023 general elections. Excerpts:

The federal government said it is winning the war against insurgency with the daily surrender by bandits. Do you think recent attack on NDA staff quarters in Kaduna has punctured this claim?

The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor has said it all. Certain things must have been compromised. There is no stronger or more dangerous enemy than the one within. So, it is just a confirmation of what has been said repeatedly even by the President and the military authorities in the past. There are insiders within the security forces that are compromising every strategy, move and operation of our military in the fight against insurgency. Just like every other business where people make selfish gains, you don’t progress because of these saboteurs. So, the summary is that there is need to look inward, rejig the security architecture and for us as Nigerians to start soul-searching. If Nigeria will change, then Nigerians will have to change their ways of doing things. Just like my late boss, former Oyo state governor, Abiola Ajimobi used to say, ‘We don’t know if things will change if we change. But for things to change, we must surely change’. There is a need for proper reorientation of our military personnel. They shouldn’t see the armed forces as another business or another means of cashing out. Let there not be insider’s collaboration and abuse. I think President Buhari has been trying his best but he won’t be the one to fight the war. He will only get trusted people to do it. The question now is, these trusted people, how trusted are they? The head of the armed forces, starting from the CDS and others might be trusted by the President who is the Commander-in- Chief , but the people that they also command, could they say the same thing about them? So, we are in a very serious situation. It didn’t just start yesterday. But I believe there is a need for a rebirth.

The son of a serving senator, Bala Ibn Nallah was killed in Kaduna recently. What can the National Assembly do to assist the federal government in the war against insurgency?

It is an unfortunate situation. The national assembly is made up of Nigerians, just like the country Nigeria is made up of Nigerians. The national assembly has its job cut out for it; legislative duties. In some instances, advisory duties. But apart from that, what else can they do? They have to make laws for security purposes, good governance and others. I believe they have been doing this. They have to find a way of working with the executive arm of government so that Nigeria will run the way it should. No matter how much the lawmakers try, they cannot take up arms and go to the war front. They can only do that which is permissible within the human capability and within the laws that are made for their existence. So, I believe it is an unfortunate situation and it underscores the fact that the security challenges are very real and potent.

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Do you think the federal government should consider the 2014 national conference or the El-Rufai report of True Federalism in addressing some of these insecurity challenges, especially the one that borders on creation of State Police?

I am a believer in True Federalism because I believe it will address every issue that seem to be stunting the country’s growth and development. I was one of the two persons from the national assembly nominated to the El-Rufai committee on True Federalism. If you look at local government autonomy, judiciary autonomy, these are some of the steps that are being taken in implementation of that El-Rufai report. I believe that the government is working in that direction. On the issue of state police, it cannot be decreed into existence just like that, there must be systems put in place coupled with the readiness of the state to embrace it. States are supposed to be autonomous to a larger extent and what goes for Lagos State may not be the same thing that will go for Delta or Katsina. There are things that will still be done that will prepare those states for operation of state police. Don’t forget, once state police is approved, it will no longer be under federal command. There will also be the issue of delineation of jurisdictions and areas of operations. So, these are the systems that will be put in place. I don’t know how far the executive arm of government has gone regarding that but one thing I can see is the fact that there are serious efforts to ensure the autonomy of the local governments. It has been put into place and the national assembly has also legislated on that. There are autonomy of the judiciary. The national assembly has done its work on that and the president has signed most of these things into law. I believe with concerted efforts, we will get other things in the report done. A journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.

There has been disquiet in the APC over the continued stay of Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni as the National Caretaker Committee chairman. What is your take on that?

Ordinarily, the advent of Governor Buni as APC chairman was supposed to be a temporary one. The initial plan was for six months. But the way human beings operate, one cannot decipher until it starts unfolding. That is why the great Lord Dennings said ‘Even the devil himself knows not the intent of man’.If we continue talking about Mai Mala Buni from now till tomorrow, the fact remains that he is still there. The President is supposed to be the ultimate leader of the party. It behooves the President to take the best decision. However, don’t forget that the President will only act on what he can see or observe and the information that must have been given to him. That is the only thing the President can do. If the President keeps acting this way, I think we may not get the right direction as we approach 2023 elections. I believe that with the congresses that are ongoing now, the end of the Buni-led era is in sight. A lot of things must be put in place for the next election and of course, the Caretaker Committee at the central level as is it now constituted will not be the one that will birth the next election for the party. So, a lot of things will need to change regarding that. I am hoping that nothing will truncate the current congresses and I’m hoping that sooner or later, the national convention can take place and then, we will have a proper executive in place to run the affairs of the party. But to me, that Buni committee has stayed too long and that has led to all this barrage of criticisms and flurry of court injunctions and activities. So, I sincerely believe that hopefully by November, the Buni-led committee should be on its way out.

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Why do you think the committee is foot-dragging on the date of the convention?

I’m sure the committee has not decided the dates of the state congresses. The state congresses will come before the national convention. I want to believe that the approach of finishing one before we get to another one is even better as long as we keep it up at this tempo. I am not the spokesperson of the Buni-led committee but I believe that in the fullness of time, they will tell us the date of the convention. We are done with the local government congresses. We will then proceed to the state and zonal congresses and then the national convention. I think we may not even have a zonal convention. It is going to be the national convention that will elect the zonal officers, just like we had in 2014. So, we patiently wait for the announcement of the convention date.

Some SWAGA members in Ekiti have been complaining of harassment while some party loyalists have also declared their activities as illegal. How best do you think this can be resolved since you both belong to the APC family?

The attacks and harassment are expected. The reason is not far-fetched. Ambition is at the centre of it all. Of course, if you are doing something and you seem ignored, nobody is taking notice, everywhere is quiet, it means you are ineffectual. But if you are doing something and people are commending and opposing it, it means that what you are doing is hitting the core of the situation. That is the story of SWAGA, especially when it comes to Ekiti state. That is the hotbed of attacks and victimisation of our members. But we believe that Ekiti people are resilient enough, they know their leaders and who to trust and believe in. Despite the attempts at repression, Ekiti SWAGA is even waxing stronger. They are exploring every legal avenue to ensure that they are not only reckoned with but they are given their rightful place, which is what any law abiding individual will endorse. Whether we like it or not, those opposing SWAGA are still within the family and SWAGA is also a key stakeholder in the family. So, it will settle one way or the other; something must give.

You are rooting for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as President in 2023 but Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello few days ago advised him to take the back seat as an elder statesman and allow the youths govern the country. How will you respond to that?

It is laughable. Since when did Yahaya Bello recognise Asiwaju as an elder statesman? Be that as it may, I am not here to attack Yahaya Bello but it is not his call to serve as an adviser for Asiwaju on the issue of 2023 presidency. He is the governor of Kogi state now, Asiwaju was governor years back from 1999 to 2007. If Yahaya Bello wants to be president, he is free constitutionally, even morally to contest but that should not mean that he should start playing advisory role to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. We saw in Asiwaju a presidential material and the qualities are still there. You see people shouting ‘we want younger persons as president today’. Yes, younger persons are doing well in every spheres of life, especially in Nigeria but again, politically, what has been the experience? There must be somebody that is able to understand the past, and who is in the present and who is able to connect with the future. That is the reason why we believe Asiwaju Tinubu will do it. The records are there. Right from when he was a senator, his NADECO days and his period as governor of Lagos state. He has his foot soldiers spread across the country. What more qualities do we need from an individual to get Nigeria on the right path?

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Some people believe that having understudied President Buhari since 2015, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the best candidate for APC in the 2023 elections. If you are to choose between Tinubu and Osinbajo, who will you settle for?

I will put my money on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu anyday. This is because I have seen what he has done in the past. I was old enough to understand the dynamism he brought into governance in Lagos state and the relevance which that has earned him. I have seen him producing leaders. I have seen him assembling teams that were able to deliver, even up till today. Don’t forget that part of the team is the current Vice-President that we are talking about. I am sure the Vice- President also knows that. So, give it to the leader. I am sure if tomorrow Asiwaju for one reason or the other says that he doesn’t want to contest, I am very positive that the Vice- President will also be part of the people that he will be backing. But if he says he wants to contest and we have seen him propping up others and raising leaders, who is better than the master? In Yoruba adage, they say if a king does not pass, no other king will be installed.

So for me, Asiwaju is the man for Nigeria in 2023. People have brought in religious sentiments into the issue. These are things that have divided us in Nigeria and will still continue to divide us are things that has to do with race, region and religion. We must avoid them and see ourselves as Nigerians first. Some people have tried to introduced religion into the politics of 2023. To me, that shouldn’t be. Religion is a personal thing. I am a Christian and I know who I serve and believe. The Muslims also know who they believe in. Let’s leave religion and face governance.

Do you think President Buhari will reciprocate the support Asiwaju gave him in 2015 and 2019 if he (Tinubu) decides to contest in 2023? I ask that question because some loyalists of Tinubu have complained that the president’s utterances and body language is not pointing in that direction?

The president has been a man of honour and integrity. At least, people say he doesn’t betray his own. So, if that is the case, I don’t see him betraying Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. And if I become as old as the President, in my advanced age, the only important thing that I should be chasing is when posterity will judge me. That is the most important thing that should occur to anybody that is advanced in age because it is only the grace of God that has given each person that advancement in age. So, if we have that grace, we must not waste it. A man’s word should be his bond.
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