Chief Olajide Awe, the pioneer chairman of All Progressives Congress, Ekiti State, tells ABIODUN NEJO in this chat that Nigeria’s democracy has grown over time and that the 2023 general elections will separate the men from the boys
Some people have been talking about the qualities expected of Nigeria’s next president, what do you think these should be?
In my opinion, the president that is going to emerge in 2023 should be a father figure for the nation, a man who in every inch of the life of this country understands what to do in all ramifications. Somebody who understands the constitution of Nigeria as it applies to the office of Commander-in-Chief, a father figure that will be able to discharge his constitutional duties in areas of security, economy, social services, education and others. He must be a man who understands the calibre of people going to work for him and place them in proper positions to move the nation forward. In my opinion, that is the type of person we need to be the president of Nigeria.
Do you see these attributes in the presidential candidates of the different parties, particularly the leading ones?
If you are asking me that, I will not commit a political blunder by saying that this and that person is qualified or not, I will only say categorically about the personality of the presidential candidate of my party, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In all ramifications, the candidate of APC is a round peg in a round hole for the Presidency. I may not discuss much about the candidates of other political parties but my party candidate who I subscribed part of my franchise at the primary level. I know that Tinubu is eminently qualified to be the president of this country. What I have stated so far as what is expected of who will be the president, Tinubu qualifies 100 per cent.
But there is a belief in some quarters that health-wise, Tinubu is not fit to be Nigeria’s president. What gives you the impression he will make a good president?
Only God would determine who would live and who would die tomorrow. Taking all precautions, only God Almighty can say that. I know the man is healthy despite his age. We are all ageing and we are all praying to God to get to a ripe age. Old age is not a disease, although some issues are associated with old age and Tinubu is not exempted.
Another is the noise over the same-faith presidential/vice presidential ticket in APC…
(Cuts in) I think we should have less noise about that. Look at what is happening in the United Kingdom today where a British Asian, who is a Hindu believer, is now the Prime Minister of UK, so, if we are still sitting here in Nigeria, talking about the Muslim-Muslim ticket, it seems we don’t have anything to do. We should put a stop to that. The world is moving. The world is moving, not totally on religion but on technology and what you can bring to the table.
But as it is, don’t you entertain the fear that the Muslim-Muslim ticket might work against your party?
What is Muslim-Muslim? It is so puerile, the talk is something we ought to have discarded, you are talking about Bola Tinubu as a Muslim when his wife is a pastor in a Christian-dominated environment and they are living together under one roof – a pastor keeping food for a Muslim, for God’s sake. What is happening in the UK today is enough lesson for us to know that religion is a thing of the mind, it is between you and your God. You can be anything.
People say the leading political parties in the presidential race, i.e APC, PDP, LP…
(Cuts in) Listing People’s Democratic Party and Labour Party as leading political parties! Is it in the name or pages of newspapers or what is on the ground? How can you tell me that LP is a leading political party in Nigeria? That is totally absurd. What makes LP to be a leading political party? Is it on Whatsapp or the internet? We should not also be talking about PDP which is suffering from its internal contradictions. How can you mention PDP as a leading political party? A party that cannot put its own house in order!
We should be talking of APC, a relevant party, a party that cuts across the nooks and crannies of this country, a party that has substance, a party that is relevant to our socio-cultural elements in the country. To me, when you are talking of a party, a well-organised party with cohesion, with people of substance, you are talking of APC. Let us be factual. To me, the end justifies the means. Come 2023, we will know the men from the boys when we get to the election arena.
Obi of LP is generally believed to have a rising popularity
You have said believe, the belief on the internet, the belief on Whatsapp, but we are talking of the reality in 774 councils in the country, the reality in the 36 states of Nigeria and FCT, we are talking of the number of federal constituencies and senatorial districts in the country. When it comes to party issue, what has LP brought to the table? We should be talking about a party that has fielded candidates in all the senatorial districts of the country, not a party that cannot field candidates in more than 10 or 11 states, we are talking of parties with substance, not about somebody that was aggrieved and went to pitch his tent somewhere.
But is your party not being threatened by Obi’s growing popularity?
Threatened? When we get to the bridge, we will cross. 2023 will determine whether APC is threatened or not. I am telling you, LP will not have poll agents in so many polling units in this country. LP will not have representations in so many states in this country, not to talk of winning senatorial or House of Representatives seats. When we are talking of politics of which party will win or which party will have a geographical spread, we know what we are saying. We are not threatened at all by Obi. Which popularity does he have? Is it because he wears black about and starts making faulty statements and giving unrealistic data? We are talking about substance, real people, people of note coming out to tell you what is real and what is going to happen.
PDP was in power for 16 years and APC has been in power for about seven and a half years…
There is nothing to write home about in the 16 years of PDP. It was 16 years of waste, 16 years of stagnancy, 16 years of vandalism, and 16 years of holocaust. But we have a lot to show for the seven and half years of APC.
But PDP members believe your party has failed in government
Far from the truth. So far so good, since APC has been there, we can concretely point out what we have done in all sectors of the economy. In terms of road construction in some geo-political zones of the country, we can talk of the railway. The only deficit that this country is having, and I believe it is general all over the world, is the security challenge. The government has been trying hard to tackle the issue of bandits, which, to every one of us, is a worldwide issue. When you talk of somebody who stayed for 16 years and somebody who has stayed for seven and a half years, you know the difference now. The deficit we have, we are trying to find a solution to it.
Under the PDP and APC governments since 1999, will you say democracy has grown?
Let us look at democracy vis a vis franchise. If you look at the developments that have taken place in the areas of the electoral system, you will know that a lot has been achieved. If you look at the area of fundamental human rights, compared with what was obtainable in the past, you will know that a lot of milestones have been crossed. If you look at infrastructural facilities, you will know that the present administration has done a lot. These are the indices that you measure and say that democracy has improved or not. Looking at Ekiti and Osun state governorship elections, you can easily see that the Independent National Electoral Commission has come of age. Rome, they say, was not built in a day. Gradually, things are changing. I appeal to Nigerians to try as much as possible to imbibe this culture.
For the first time in Ekiti State, a successor governor emerged from the same party, APC. People are talking about continuity but some say continuity should be selective. What do you think the Oyebanji government should continue with and what should be its priorities?
It was not happenstance that APC won back-to-back. It was the culmination of Dr Kayode Fayemi’s performance, careful study of the environment by the party leadership and the character/vision of Oyebanji, the dramatis personae which made Ekiti people believe that there should be continuity in what Fayemi was doing. Ekiti people realised that having a party today and another party tomorrow will not lead to the development and will always make dividends of democracy elude them. They are convinced that the same party will build on what is on the ground in all areas including the economy, education, social services, and infrastructural development. For the new APC government, we are going to select those things that we know are dear to our people, those things that we know will move Ekiti State forward, and programmes that will benefit our people. We are going to select from what Fayemi has done and that has not been completed. We will select those that will appeal most to the yearnings and aspirations of our people in the areas of infrastructure, education, social services to the people and human capital development projects. These are the areas we are going to select the best. You cannot do it all. Governors will come to Ekiti as long as we remain on the surface of the earth. That is exactly what we are going to do.