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INTERVIEW: Why We Are Dragging Tinubu Into Presidency Race – Senator Adeyeye

Senator Dayo Adeyeye, a former Minister of State for Works, and ex-spokesperson of the Senate, is the Chairman, Planning Committee, South West Agenda for Asiwaju Tinubu 2023 (SWAGA ’23). The movement was officially launched in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital by delegates from all the South West states of Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti State, on Tuesday December 15, 2020.  The official launch and unveiling of the group’s logo, came less than 24 hours after the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, endorsed the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for 2023 presidential race. The group had visited both Alaafin and the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I, a day before the launch for royal blessings before embarking on the mission.

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The SWAGA ’23 team comprises ex-senators, former members of the House of Representatives, and some other serving and ex-political office holders from different states across the six states of South West. A former member of Oyo State House of Assembly, Bosun Oladele is the secretary of the group.

The programme was graced by former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; and an ex-Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe. The list also comprised former Speakers of Lagos State and Ogun State Houses of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and Suraj Adekunbi, respectively. The immediate past Secretary to Ondo State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde; former deputy governor of Oyo State, Otunba Moses Adeyemo; and Senator Adesoji Akanbi, who represented Oyo South in the Senate from 2015 to 2019.

Senator Abu Ibrahim from Katsina South Senatorial District, who was involved in merger negotiations between Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) towards 2015 general elections, was respresented on the occasion by Dr. Aliyu Zakari-Jiya. National Coordinator, Northern Region Support Tinubu for 2023, Hamman Dikko, was also at the programme. On the sidelines of the programme, Prince Adeyeye answered questions exclusively from Saturday Sun on what the concept of SWAGA ’23 stands for, predictions that APC may not exist beyond 2023, allegation that APC is good as opposition party than being in power, and how to balance the equation of struggle for power between the South West, South South and South East when power rotates to the South from the North, as well as other sundry issues. OLUSEYE OJO asked the questions.

You just officially unveiled the SWAGA ’23, what exactly does the concept stand for?

The concept speaks for itself. It is South West Agenda for Asiwaju Tinubu. SWAGA is an agenda to draft Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, into the presidential race. It is a South West idea, muted by South West leaders of like mind, who believe in the capacity and the ability of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead Nigeria at this present time.

Nigeria at this present time needs very dynamic, forward looking, and experienced leader. Nigeria is at a crossroads and we have looked and searched and discovered that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu towers above every other politician in this country to offer the right leadership at this present time.

This is why we are so much interested in the interest of Nigeria. It is not a selfish South West Agenda. It is actually in the national interest of Nigeria that we are making this effort to project him, to market him, and to sell him to other Nigerians.

We believe that he is a fantastic product that we can market and sell, and that other Nigerians will embrace what we have seen, and also join the mass movement to support and ensure his victory at the poll.

Some people have been saying 2023 is still a long time, they want to know why you are rooting for Asiwaju Tinubu this early?

Make the hay while the sun shines. The Year 2023 is very close. President Muhammadu Buhari has now spent one year and seven months in four-year second term mandate. The election of 2023 will come in February of that year. Let me analyse to you; forget that year. Don’t mention 2023. 

The election is coming up early February and we have only one month before the election when we enter 2023. So, we are talking of only 2021 and 2022. If you look at it, we have just 24 months. And we are talking of presidential election in a very big country like Nigeria.

The campaigns have not started. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not even declared open campaign for presidential election. That will probably be towards the end of 2022.

But we call what we are doing a sensitisation campaign, just to sensitise people to begin to have this idea and this concept, to let people begin to think along that line.

We are not embarking on campaign. Did you see us in a rally? Did you see us sharing leaflets, pasting posters, making billboards, going to television stations to make campaigns? Those are political and this one is a mere sensitisation discussion. It is about getting people of like mind together to embrace this concept. So, it is not a campaign per say. And it is not too early to begin to sensitise people to that. If you yourself wants to contest in February 2023, will you not start telling some of your friends by now?

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not commissioned us to embark on this mission. It is not even his idea, it is not his problem. It is we who believe in his leadership and that he is going to make a tremendous impact in the life of this country if he is at the helm of affairs. We believe that he will offer an unequalled leadership, especially at a time like this in Nigeria. This is why we have started sensitising people to the idea, and that is what we are doing and we will continue. It is not too early to do that.

You said Asiwaju Tinubu has not commissioned you to embark on this mission, how are you sure he will run in the presidential race in 2023? What if he says he will not run?

We will make it impossible for him to say that, because he holds it to Nigerians to participate in that election. It is patriotic duty we are calling him to do. If truly, he is man who believes in the wellbeing of this country, for the progress and development of Nigeria, he has no choice than to accede to our request. He should come out and offer himself for the leadership of this country at this time. We are calling on him to serve. We are confident that he will come out and run for the presidency.

With all the efforts that you have put into this mission, people would want to know who is bankrolling you?

I can say it categorically without any fear of contradiction that this is self-contribution. All the people you see are making their own personal financial sacrifices. That is the truth. We are not soliciting support from anybody. We don’t even want anybody to come and support us financially. If you are even a moneybag or a billionaire, we will ask you to keep your money because we don’t want anybody to hijack it. All the people who are participating are making their own financial contributions. As I am making, others are making. Everything you will see us do will be through personal sacrifices of those who are starting this movement. We are not soliciting anything from Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We are not soliciting anything from anybody whoever. It is a mass movement.

We are building a model in this country and very soon, you will see ordinary people in all of these states, making contributions. It used to happen in the days of Awo and co. But now, everybody is expecting politicians to donate, to bring out money. 

Of course, this is leadership now. All the people you have been seeing with this movement, are either former senators, ministers, members of the House of Representatives and so on, making contributions. They have the capacities. Nobody is bankrupt.

Some political observers have noted that with the internal wrangling within APC, the party may not actually exist beyond 2023, and that it may break and a third force would emerge. What is your take on this?

We are embarking on this mission to prevent this. Honestly, the emergence of a person like Bola Ahmed Tinubu is one of the things that can make APC to survive beyond 2023. If you are a deep political analyst, and you understand politics of this country, Tinubu taking over the mantle of leadership of this country now, as National Leader of APC, is what we need now.

I see a scenario of the 1993 presidential poll when M.K.O Abiola won the election throughout the country, even he defeated his opponent in his ward. With Tinubu, the election of 2023 is going to be a repeat of the 1993. Tinubu will win massively across the country because he has built structures across the country. He has connections and has watered the ground round the whole country. He has sown seeds round the whole country and those seeds will germinate now. He is the only one who has that capacity at a time like this. So, in order to prevent what analysts or doomsday seers are saying from happening, we need a person like Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We need to drag him in now. This is a national emergency. He has to come to the scene to save the party.

The opposition PDP has alleged in the past that APC was good as an opposition party. But now that you are in government at the centre, it seems you do not understand how to govern the country very well. How will you respond to this?

There are challenges at this moment that the government of the day is trying to solve. In many, we have not been very successful. We are making efforts. Some efforts are yielding positive results. But all Nigerians should put our hands together now and forget partisan politics. This is a time we should all unite to join hands with the government to save the country. It will not be too helpful to continue to see how we can exploit every situation from partisan political advantage. We are in an emergency and we must try and save this country now.

The APC took over the reins of power in 2015, and by 2023, you will be eight years in office controlling the country. Why do you want APC to stay in power beyond 2023? What has the party done to deserve continued stay in power?

The party has a lot of achievements to its credit. There are problems and challenges. Whether we like it or not, every issue has two sides to it. There are positive sides. There so many achievements the government has also recorded. I can sit down here and be enumerating. They are obvious and clear to some Nigerians, depending on where you are standing and where you are looking at the issues. The most important thing is going forward. This is why the issue of SWAGA is that there must be somebody in 2023 that must see as very competitive, very good, has good track records, has the experience and the capacity, and ability, and the patriotism to lead this country to another level.

We are now facing very serious challenges, such that the unity and continued co-existence of this country is threatened. So, we need a leadership that can hold the country together. It is when we have Nigeria together that we can think of development. I am saying that the person is Bola Ahmed Tinubu.  I challenge anybody, if you have a better candidate, bring him forward and let us see. Then, let us go to Nigerians and market them. We will see who has the better candidate. I believe that the challenge is to have a good leader to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, who has tried his best. We should begin to identify somebody to take over from him and do a fantastic job.

You said you had an agreement before the incumbent administration came to power in 2015 that APC would operate rotational presidency between the North and the South. Now, the North will complete its eight years in 2023, and power should come to the South. Some people are saying it is the turn of the South East to produce the president. But you are supporting Tinubu from the South West, how will you balance the two?

It is at two levels for them to know we have an agreement within the APC, even the PDP and even Nigerians, so that in the interest of peace, unity, fairness and justice, power cannot remain in one place. It is necessary to give every area of the country, and every group a sense of belonging. So, there is an understanding that the minimum we can do is to allow power to shift periodically between the North and the South. There is a consensus on that between the North and the South.

When it comes to the South, every area of the South has equal right to contest for it. Whoever the cap fits will wear it. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is from South West. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is from South South. That will not preclude people from these two areas from asking for it when it comes to the South. They have the rights to challenge everything. Don’t forget that former president, Umar Yar’Adua, was from Katsina State and President Buhari is also from Katsina. The northerners do not see that they are shortchanged because the power came back to the north. What is going to be essential now is power should come to the south.

Every area of the south, whether South South, South East or the South West, has equal right. But we must have somebody that most Nigerians can rally round.  The mere fact that we say we are zoning and power should rotate does not mean that Nigerians would now go for third-rate or second-rate person. Nigerians are looking for a leader that can truly lead them. So, let every zone of the south get whoever they want and let Nigerians choose.

But some people are saying power should be retained in the north. If it so, what will you do?

Power cannot stay in the north. If they don’t believe in it, APC believes in it and Nigerians believe in it. In the interest of peace, you cannot have one zone monopolising power. I still want to commend Olusegun Obasanjo. When he was leaving power, a lot of people came out in the South to continue after him, such as Peter Odili, Donald Duke and so on, they wanted to be president.  But Obasanjo stood his ground that after his eight years, power should go to the north. That was why Yar’Adua was supported to become the president. I believe that has been the principle.

Some of the people who opposed Jonathan in 2015 said from 2007, Yar’Adua ruled for two and half years before his death. They stated that Jonathan completed the rest term of Yar’Adua and was elected in 2011 as president. They said power should go back to the north. They said the north was being shortchanged, that since democracy started in 1999 to 2015, the north had only done two and half years out of 16 years. That was their argument. They said power must come to the north at all cost. This created a terrible tension in this country, that even made it possible for people to come together to form APC.

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