• Friday, June 14, 2024
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Igbo have a right to demand presidency but they should produce someone acceptable – Ogunleye

Igbo have a right to demand presidency but they should produce someone acceptable – Ogunleye

Biodun Ogunleye is a former deputy governor of Lagos State in the Bola Tinubu administration. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke on the 2023 presidential bid of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, party politics, zoning, among other issues in the polity. Excerpts:

A number of aspirants jostling for the presidency are already out from various parties; what is your take on Bola Tinubu’s ambition?

Tinubu is competent to be the president, he is our leader, we are supporting him, the political leadership of APC in Lagos including me is behind him. He still has to try his luck across the country, but we are supporting him. I think he has his support groups, SWAGA, and so many of them.

Some Nigerians have raised concerns about Tinubu’s health and his true age. What is your take on that?

As far as I am concerned, age is immaterial. I was once a young man, I came back to this country at 33, and I was a fully qualified professional. But before I left for London for eight years I was with them politically in Lagos Island helping to look after people like Nnamadi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and the rest.

When I came back I had my job I came back to the party. I went back to Lagos Island but my godfather said no, go back to Ikorodu where you hail from and I came back.

We took our turn to learn the rope, we were not shouting like the younger ones are doing now to the elders to get them off the way. We learned from them and when it was time they left and it became our turn. I was holding positions, I was chairman of AD twice and when the offer came for me to repeat for a third time I said no and I quit.

Today, they are talking of age, as powerful as America is President Biden is in his 70’s now, even Trump before him.

So, when people talk I say they should learn as well. I don’t see anything wrong with his age, except there is a medical certificate that there is something wrong with his age that would not allow him to be president. I see him. We hold meetings together, if not regularly, but when it is necessary we hold meetings together. I had my health issues and I cleared it.

You talked about the state of party politics and why you are not happy with the situation now. What is your position?

The other time I was talking about the party being supreme, and when you want to define the party you can do that; the party is the majority of organisation at any level. Where a meeting is convened, whatever decision is taken there must be binding, sometimes simple majority and sometimes by consensus.

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The party is just a few people controlling everything now. The party should be able to mediate in crisis by utilising the structure that is available for it. Some parties’ board of trustees or national caucus or whatever name they should allow all these to operate; is not that they should be in government; local council, state level or national level moderate if the party is not allowed to carry out its function. That is why when most of the parties are having problems, there would be no solution.

You just have people leaving the party; we are supposed to have ideology, I have not left my party, the progressives group since all this while, not that I have been happy all the time, but the ideology has bound us together. Some people jump about from APC and PDP that is not the way the party should be.

How do you think these issues can be resolved?

That is why I am saying there should be supremacy of the party; we have to have political culture. In those days if you were coming to join the party for just a position they would frustrate you, they would not allow you to get it. They would try to check if you are serious. So, you don’t just come and say you want to be senator, chairman of council. If you do that you would be frustrated and deliberately.

It is unlike now when moneybags can come and hijack the process, it does not allow the political culture to grow. Check nations that have grown and have developed their culture. Check the United States when Trump was misbehaving. You know the structure that was established was there, his own governors and the Republican party were telling him; they were feeding you with wrong information. Maybe, we have not gone to that extent, but how long are we going to wait when people are going to the moon? You are still talking about structure that you cannot even manage. The political structure must be there to have peace and when you get peace and security you can move on.

What is your take on the signing of the amended Electoral Act, especially the insertion of the consensus mode of conducting primaries?

To me when they say direct and indirect, they are terminologies that I don’t understand. Secret ballot is clear, consensus is clear, and the delegate is clear. At the ward level you cannot have a delegate system; all members of the ward are delegates. I have argued this case with the legacy chairman of APC, even my leader Bola Tinubu was there.

If you are talking of the delegate system it can be applied from the local government upward but I don’t agree with that.

In one of the primaries of Buhari we voted from the ward. Any party that does not have the means to organise that should pack up, because that is the basis. I mean secret ballot system, you vote for your councillor and local government chairman at the local level right from there and they can go and collate.

Like I said before, in one of the primaries of Buhari, we voted from the ward, so you don’t tamper with the wishes of the people. I argued this many years ago when Bisi Akande was chairman of ACN you don’t do that you don’t temper with the choice of the people to vote who they want.

In this system anybody contesting would have an agent who would oversee the votes of his principal. And when that is done you collate. But these days there is a lot of rascality, those who are to collate may be manipulating the result. It depends on the type of the people that we are.

That is why I say secret ballot, consensus if we can agree. When they are talking about the delegate system we can go and do it. But they have their flaws; the delegate system is subject to purchasing.

So, since you have money let’s see how you can purchase members from the ward level, let see how much money you have to go and purchase members across the country. The party has to be supreme; it should have teeth to bite. In South Africa, it was the party that told President Zuma to go and resign. But across Nigeria the party are appendages.

But in this system the President is often the leader of the party. You don’t agree?

That is part of the problem, they have hijacked the party. It is wrong and it should not be so. We have the structure, there is a board of trustees, so people are calling it by a different name now, when there is a crisis in the party the board of trustees should be able to intervene and when they finish they can report to the party. But they need to quickly define what the party is; the party has structure from the ward to the national level and each structure has its function. So, when you say the party has taken a decision, it is a decision of the majority of the party of that cell, either national or state at a duly and legally convened meeting. Such a decision is taken on behalf of the members of the party.

What is your take on zoning, in view of the clamour from the South East that it is their turn to rule in 2023?

Our brothers and sisters from the South East are entitled to ask for that position; I want to agree with the fact that they have not had the privilege of producing the presidency from that zone. But if we have parties that are functioning the succession plan would be clear. I am not at the national level; I don’t know what meeting they hold, I can only judge from Lagos State and the level that I have reached.

I have served before, I did not serve Awolowo, but I served Jakande. There were meetings regularly just like now with Bola Tinubu. There were meetings on Sunday, those on the technical side were doing their job, those who are in the political side were doing their job. Then once in a month the political leadership in the state would meet and that political leadership comprises the governor, if you are in control of the state, the cabinet, the chairman of board of parastatals, chairmen and secretaries of local government areas of the party. Apart from that, we had those who have served at the state level, but still members of the party, that was the structure.

Whatever decision taken there was final, although we had the party but decision taken there the party stands by it, the governor goes and executes it.

So, from that structure you would know who and who would fall in either presently, or in future and those who are going to serve at the government level. In Lagos during my own time, it was known that one of us would be governor between Agbalajobi, Sarumi and me.

It was clear that whoever got it was lucky. So, it was not a case of zoning it to Epe, Ikorodu or so. In fact, at that time, Yar’ Adua was telling Jakande that Sarumi and Agbalajobi were Muslim that they had been disqualified, since the next person who is me is a Christian.

We don’t talk of zoning in Lagos; we talk of who is going to perform. I am saying all that because the question of zoning is not just to bring somebody, either competent or not. Like I started the Igbo people have a right to demand the presidency but let them go and produce someone acceptable.

How confident are you that APC would retain power in 2023 in view of the present crisis leading up to the national convention this month?

I am going to the convention, we have our leaders in the state who are there, and we have Senators who are there. If they tell us this is the person we should vote that is who we are going to vote for. I believe APC would win, but there are things that have to be done to push APC so that APC can push the country forward. We need the right set of people in leadership positions; selfless people. I believe APC would retain power, even the by- election across the country we did not do badly. Abuja is where our leaders were scared, but you can see they share the chairmen, but they had more councillors than us.