A former spokesperson for the Senate, Adedayo Adeyeye, speaks on the moves by the South-West Agenda to ensure the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as Nigeria’s President in 2023
What informed your decision to form the South-West Agenda?
I made it very clear in my welcome address during the inauguration of SWAGA in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on December 15, 2020. We believe that power should rotate now. After President Muhammadu Buhari must have successfully completed his tenure, on May 28, 2023, we believe that the next president should come from southern Nigeria. We believe that most Nigeria’s political leaders agree with this principle. We also believe that the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – agree with this principle. We in SWAGA also know that there is a gentleman agreement even within the APC that recognises the principle of zoning and that power, after the tenure of President Buhari, should rotate back to the South of Nigeria. So, to that extent, if that is the case, we believe that the South must begin to prepare for the Presidency in earnest. We have looked around and we believe that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the most qualified person that could be presented as a formidable candidate for the job. People of like minds came together and we believe that he is the pre-eminent person politically in the South, and that he is the most qualified person to occupy the seat in 2023.
We are not precluding the right of any person from other geopolitical zones in the southern part of the country to come out and also contest the Presidency but we also have the right to support whoever we like and that is what we are doing. We have identified him as very qualified, as capable, having the required qualifications and wherewithal to assume that highest office in the land. That was why SWAGA was launched. It was launched principally to prSunday oject the candidacy of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. That is what we are doing and we are happy that we had a very successful launch. Now, SWAGA is everywhere in the globe. We are already in Australia, America, where people are forming branches of SWAGA.
Is SWAGA limited to APC or do you also have members from other political parties who believe in Tinubu’s candidacy?
Actually, SWAGA goes beyond the APC. Like we said, it is a South-West Agenda. All of us in the SWAGA leadership are from the South-West. There could also be North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-East or South-South Agenda for Tinubu. The South-West Agenda, we believe, should encompass every citizen of the South-West geopolitical zone and we must all embrace it so that we can put forward somebody for the Presidency in 2023. So, the PDP members are welcome, those who don’t belong to any political party are also welcome. Obas and chiefs are welcome, trade unions, student bodies are also welcome. It is a South-West Agenda, embracing and encompassing everybody in the South-West.
How acceptable is SWAGA to South-West APC leaders?
As far as I am concerned, the known leaders of the APC in the South-West, at least 90 per cent of them, are in support of the agenda and they are actively encouraging us in SWAGA.
But Chief Segun Osoba, a well known leader of the party in the South-West, believe it is too early to zero in on an individual now for the position of the President….(cuts in)
I don’t believe that it is too early to start mobilising support for Asiwaju Tinubu now. This is because 2023 is around the corner. We are already in January 2021; the election, according to the time table of the Independent National Electoral Commission, will take place in February 2023. That means we only have two years to make necessary preparations.
We should not also forget that the primaries of political parties will take place next year. So, it cannot be too early to start sensitisation for an individual’s candidacy. If you are really serious, this is the best time to start something in a big, highly diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria with a very huge population.
It is better to start early enough if we want to succeed. We believe we have to start our work immediately. That is why we are starting now because Nigeria is fast becoming a much more complex society.
Time will tell whether what we are doing is right or wrong. We are not actually campaigning but merely sensitising people to the idea of the candidacy of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It is not a bad idea to start telling people that he is the best man for the job.
President Muhammadu Buhari started his campaigns early when he wanted to contest on the platform of the All Progressives Congress in 2015. There is still a long way to go and that is why we are saying that it is better to start a long journey very early and adequately prepared.
Chief Segun Osoba could hold his opinion, I will respect him. He is an elder statesman, a highly respected leader and a very successful politician. So, we respect his views and we also believe that on our own part, what we are doing from our own perspective, is the right thing,
Are you carrying the South-West APC governors along in the agenda for Tinubu presidential candidacy?
We have not met any governor
Do you have any plan of meeting them?
Of course, along the line we are going to meet them but we do not want to start with the governors. The governors are doing their jobs, so let them face governance. We want to sensitise the general citizens of the South-West and Nigerians in general to this important project. We don’t want to start with governors or senators. A lot of SWAGA members are former senators, House of Representatives members and ministers. Prominent and important politicians in the South-West are in SWAGA. Since we launched SWAGA in Ibadan, there have been prominent PDP leaders whose names I will not mention that are ready and willing to be part of SWAGA. They want to be part of SWAGA,that is the truth. That is why I said that sensitisation is very important. We have to start early enough. We need to get some people who would be committed to the project and then we move forward from there. We are not starting with South-West APC governors but along the line, we cannot avoid them. We will still have to meet with them and sell our candidate to them.
Have you started meeting with leaders of the various Yoruba groups? If yes, what is their position on the candidacy of Tinubu?
We want to reach out to as many socio-political and cultural groups in Yoruba land as possible. We are just starting. It is still a long journey. It is our job to convince those who may not be convinced as of today. We will persuade them to join the train and support the candidacy of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. We know it is not everybody that would agree with his candidacy and that is the nature of politics. We cannot all agree on one thing. However, it is our duty in SWAGA to try as much as possible to bring on board those who may have one reservation or the other against Asiwaju.
You are a member of Afenifere and the group and Tinubu are not on good terms. How do you want to use SWAGA to bring both parties together for reconciliation?
What is the disagreement between Asiwaju Tinubu and Afenifere? Is there any misunderstanding between them?
There is! Afenifere leaders have since parted ways with Tinubu who led the formation of the Action Congress of Nigeria that later merged with other parties to form the APC. Both are not on the same page politically.
Who constitutes Afenifere now?
We know that Pa Reuben Fasoranti is the leader while Pa Arogbofa is the Secretary. Also, prominent Yoruba people like Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Olu Falae, among others, have parted ways with Tinubu politically…..(cuts in)
In the heydays of Afenifere, when I had the privilege to be the National Publicity Secretary, that was when the late Pa Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige, Onasanya, Odebiyi were the leaders, we didn’t always agree on an issue. The Yoruba people are highly sophisticated and well educated. Because of that, a lot of the people don’t always agree on one point. Even in the heydays, we had disagreements within ourselves. There was a time that the late Bola Ige had a disagreement with the rest of the leaders, so much so that even the AD, the party we formed, broke up into two factions in the year 2000. Many of us understand the issue of Afenifere better than others. We have not always taken one point of view in Afenifere and in the recent time, Afenifere has not been meeting regularly to take particular positions on important national issues. However, I believe that this is the right time for all of us to come together with Asiwaju Tinubu himself playing a great role in Afenifere because he is a product of Afenifere and I believe that in the final analysis, Afenifere will support his candidacy. They will embrace him and campaign actively for him.
Why are you so optimistic about that?
It is because the agenda that Asiwaju Tinubu has been pursuing is not contradictory to the agenda of Afenifere for Nigeria which is to institute true federalism in Nigeria, to bring about decentralisation of government, and to ensure restructuring of the polity. These are things that Asiwaju Tinubu has been campaigning for, which are also what Afenifere has been campaigning for. There could be differences in terms of tactics and strategy but the objective has never changed. I don’t know any member of Afenifere who had denounced those principles and Asiwaju Tinubu has also not denounced them anywhere. They were only adopting different strategy and tactics of reaching the goals. Somebody had called me after we launched SWAGA and he said what we needed was restructuring and not the Presidency and I asked him to tell me how we could achieve restructuring without having the powers to do so. I told him that we had been advocating restructuring since the 1990s. We had Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man in power who didn’t believe in it. He even believes in the over-concentration of power in the centre and he did everything within the eight years that he spent to over concentrate power at the centre at the expense of the states. So, if the same Obasanjo is talking about restructuring now, I will laugh but I will say thank God almighty for showing him the light. Those are our views in Afenifere and we believe those are the things that could move Nigeria forward. Afenifere has not been doing that for any selfish purpose. There is nothing that the Yoruba people stand to gain, over and above other groups in Nigeria if the country is practising a true federal system. Rather, we believe that it will move Nigeria forward and we would achieve equity, justice and rapid socio-economic development of the country. We need some leverage to achieve that, hence we believe it is not out of place to fight for Presidency.
Do you think Asiwaju Tinubu will be acceptable to the North and why do you think so?
Yes, I believe so because most Nigerians are looking for a leader that can really change things in the country for the better, that can really move the country forward and would really solve the myriad of problems which are confronting us as a nation. We in the leadership tend to exaggerate our division. We tend to play so much on the issue of religion and ethnicity. I had the privilege of working for the campaign of the late Chief Moshood Abiola in 1993. I had earlier campaigned for Chief Olu Falae and we traversed the length and breadth of the country. I saw genuine enthusiasm and affection for Falae’s candidacy throughout the length and breadth of the country. Of course, he didn’t win the primaries, the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was leading before General Ibrahim Babangida cancelled it. The late Chief Abiola came on board and he won in every area of the country and defeated his opponent in his ward in Kano. Most Nigerians just wanted a good leader. We all want somebody who will change the course of the downward trend in the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria and take Nigeria to a higher level. Tinubu will be acceptable to all the geopolitical zones.
Why do you think Tinubu is the best the South-West could offer?
This is because he has paid his dues . He was governor for eight years and everybody saw his enviable performances and most people have seen his capabilities. During those times, he operated an open-door policy which accommodated all the various ethnic groups in Lagos State. Lagos is the most diverse state in Nigeria. Every village in the country is represented in Lagos. There were no cases of discrimination; Lagos doors were opened to everybody. Tinubu’s government embraced everybody. Everybody that came to Lagos carried out their daily activities under a peaceful atmosphere. In Lagos, we didn’t see the kinds of ethnic purges that are being experienced in some parts of Nigeria. He ensured fairness and equity in Lagos for everybody. He even brought people from other ethnic groups to governance in Lagos. He appointed them into important positions in his government and that trend has continued in Lagos till today. So, Nigerians know that this man is highly detribalised, open-minded and ready to embrace every ethnic group in Nigeria. He has planted seeds round the whole country which are now bearing fruits in all the states of Nigeria. He has been helpful to so many politicians and individuals in various parts of the country who are now ready to support him. They saw this as a payback time and they want to show their gratitude to him as they did for the late Abiola in 1993.
People in the South-East geopolitical zone believe that they have been short-changed and that it is now time for an Igbo presidency and some of their leaders have asked Tinubu to drop his ambition in the interest of fairness and justice. What is your reaction?
The Igbo people deserve presidency like other tribes in southern Nigeria in 2023. The rotation is between the North and the South. This means that every group or individual in the South has the right to aspire to lead the country. The President will be elected by all Nigerians, not by a single ethnic group. The candidate may come from any part of the South but the individual must be acceptable to all Nigerians. He must be able to gather the majority of votes of all Nigerians. So, you don’t stay in your house and say it is my right. Fight for it, maybe you will be able to convince other Nigerians that you are the best for it. We are not precluding the right of anybody to contest the Presidency in the South. What we are saying is that we also have the right to contest for Presidency in the South-West. We want to persuade people from all parts of the country to support us. Let those who also believe it is their time to produce the president go to the field and start persuading the people. Nigerians will at the end of the day, pick the best candidate.
There are insinuations that the removal of Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC and the fresh party registration were targeted at Tinubu to frustrate his ambition. Do you believe that?
I don’t believe in what you are saying and I don’t want to insinuate or believe in any conspiracy theory. Some people could gather and conspire but at the end of the day, it is the majority that would decide. I don’t believe that the two cases you mentioned were targeted at Asiwaju Tinubu’s candidacy. It is true that there are things happening within the party and not so many people are happy with the development. Some people like it, others don’t. However, let us watch the events as they unfold. In any case, all those things are not capable of discouraging Asiwaju from contesting. It is also not going to discourage those of us who are mobilising support for him either. We intend to muster enough strength in the country to withstand any of such challenges or conspiracies, if at all they exist.
Most Nigerians believe the APC government has caused more trouble to the economy and failed to tackle insecurity among other challenges of unemployment and poor infrastructure. Do you therefore believe that the party on which Tinubu will be pursuing his presidential ambition is still marketable?
We can’t fold our arms and remain helpless. That is why we searched the whole country and identified, zeroed in on Asiwaju who can bail us out of the present predicament that we found ourselves as a nation. It took a Jerry Rawlings, when Ghana was prostrate on its knees, completely destroyed, to emerge and put Ghana back on the path of rapid socio-economic development. He changed the trajectory completely. We may say that a tree does not make a forest but a visionary leader can make all the difference for a nation, a people and a generation. A visionary leader, a capable person can turn things around. Check out what the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was able to do in the old Western Region. Take any economy to the most deplorable level and put a person like Awolowo in charge; you will see what he would achieve within a short period. That is why we believe that a visionary leader like Asiwaju Tinubu is needed at this point in time and we challenge anyone, from any part of the country to bring out a better candidate and let them go into a debate. The military cannot be an option because they will further destroy the economy and drag Nigeria centuries backward.
Nigerians trusted those who campaigned for the APC and Buhari in 2014 but the same government is now giving excuses for the party’s non-performance. Are we not going to experience the same thing with the emergence of Asiwaju?
I don’t think that an Asiwaju Bola Tinubu presidency will be making excuses for non-performance because he will surely perform. For instance, when Asiwaju Tinubu, as a true democrat, as a person who believe in true federalism, decided to put the constitution of Nigeria to test when he created additional local government councils in Lagos State as governor; President Obasanjo objected to the action and they fought that battle up to the Supreme Court. The President seized the statutory allocations to all the local government councils in the state but Asiwaju was undaunted. He did not offer excuses for non-performance. Even though the allocation was withheld for more than four years, he kept on working. Other state governors would have said that they could not perform because of the seized allocations. Tinubu kept on working, providing security for the people, improving their welfare and workers were not owed salaries. He created an ingenious method by which they raised revenue. So, Tinubu’s presidency will not be a regime of excuses. Giving that antecedent, I believe that Tinubu’s government will not be offering excuses. He will just start working from day one to right the wrong.
Some groups in Yoruba land are campaigning for self determination. They wanted an Oduduwa Republic not the Presidency. What is your take on this?
I don’t think we should secede from the country. Let us get the right person to be president so as to arrest all the problems confronting the country and then we can move forward as a great nation.