Atiku shot himself in the leg with ethnic sentiment – Olusola Oke


Former governorship aspirant of the All Progressive Congress and member of the Legal Directorate of Tinubu-Shettima Campaign Council, Chief Olusola Oke, speaks to ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS on the chances of the party and other issues

How will you assess the recent inauguration of Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council?

Great! I was particularly moved by the statement of Mr President that he would personally lead the campaign. It means that our family is together and no sign of cracks anywhere. Any candidate will be delighted to have the number one citizen on his side.

How will you defend the exclusion of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; his counterpart in the Ministry of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, among others?

I don’t think I am the appropriate person to comment on why some people were dropped and others added. But I believe that the All Progressives Congress at this moment is one big family. Therefore, all of us cannot serve in the Presidential Campaign Council. There are others who will have more roles to play at the national, international and regional levels. Since the PCC inauguration, we have not received any discordant tone except from analysts who will want to know certain decisions were taken.

Don’t forget that we now have on board a strategist, a person who is a master of the game. You will observe that he is taking his time to kick-start the campaign because the world is gradually moving away from advocacy to reaching out directly to the people that will vote. In those days, one man can vote for the entire world and return a result. Not anymore. We must give it to the Independent National Electoral Commission; it is international standard at this moment. If you can remove some collateral things that are not within the INEC fold like vote-buying, Nigeria’s electoral system is coming to perfection.

That means you support BVAS

I support it totally. It is an innovation that will sanitise the Nigeria’s voting system. Rigging starts from accreditation. If you cannot tamper with the accreditation, you cannot rig the election. Once you can load the accreditation and verify that 10 or 20 persons are present, there won’t be an issue. So, I am a supporter of BVAS and so is Asiwaju.

What about the allegation that the APC is seeking every means to pressure INEC to dump BVAS?

But INEC has disputed and denied it. We in APC believe in our numbers. If you look at the last revalidation exercise, if all APC members alone vote for our candidates, they will win. This is why we don’t believe in manipulation. You know I was on the other side; so, we know ourselves. Therefore, when they accuse you, they are indirectly telling you what they intend to do. They will do it and put you on defence. That’s what the opposition is doing. The APC is the majority in the National Assembly that passed the BVAS and allowed INEC to carry on their activities with Information Communication Technology to sanitise our electoral system. It couldn’t have been the same APC that will now turn around and be asking for anything less than the best for Nigerians. Of course, you heard the President saying clearly that this election will be a litmus test of his commitment to electoral sanity. So, I am for BVAS any day.

Why is APC not penalising Aregbesola, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and Ngige, who recently refused to endorse Ahmed Tinubu on live television for anti-party activities?

That is to tell you that we respect rights of dissent in democracy. Even with that, we are members of the same family. People must be allowed to express dissenting opinions. The onus of bringing everybody on board lies on the leadership, which is what we are doing. Ngige comes from a region in Nigeria that also wants the presidency. So, if it was out of emotional outburst that he made the statement, the onus is on us as party members to understand. I am sure that is being taken care of.

What about the absence of Ngige’s name from the PCC list?

The task of his office is demanding. We know what he just went through with the A. So you can’t task him with additional responsibilities. He has other burdens and problems coming up. I believe some ministers must be allowed to run the government, especially now that the president is now the chairman. So if you take out the vice president, you want to paralyze governance. Therefore we must allow some of them to continue with their jobs. This present government is not coming to an end until May 29. So there must be governance and the onus of dotting ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s is on the government. That’s why we cannot pull out everybody at this moment.

Does that also apply to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo?

Yes, that is why Osinbajo is also there. While the President is going out for campaign, Osinbajo must be there to stabilise the government and ensure things are running. We are conscious of the need to win and also conscious of the need to have the government running until the last day. I think that is the politics behind his exclusion. But the world is free to read meaning into it. Osinbajo is a gentleman, a party member to the core and he remains Asiwaju’s (Tinubu) son, if you must know.

Didn’t Tinubu disown Osinbajo at one point?

Well, when the son rose to contest for the same position, he knew his father was interested in, he might say so. But the truth is that Asiwaju can’t deny his relationship with him, just as Osinbajo too can’t deny it. I think we should leave them to sort themselves out. They have come a long way. No third party should start to pry into what they did not know.

Can you explain Tinubu’s new found fame for idioms such as his ‘rotten to bad’ and ‘poisoned Holy Communion’ statements lately?

When you are getting deeper in knowledge, you become philosophical. You also become extraordinary in your choice of words and the idiomatic approach to things.

Are you saying it was deliberate?

Yes, it is. In this case, only the deep could begin to understand some of these things. Asiwaju has become an embodiment of knowledge. He has advanced beyond most ordinary persons. Therefore, he has to speak metaphorically with simile, innuendoes and all that when you put them together. So, he doesn’t want to speak raw so that if you want to misapply it, he can tell you that’s not what he meant. He speaks above ordinary, that’s the way I see it. Don’t forget that if you want to become the president of Nigeria, you become inspirational, sometimes spiritual too. You know when Jesus was talking to his disciples, he used to speak in parables. And you will hear them asking him ‘Oga, what do you mean by this and that?’

As a politician who has tasted both sides of the divides, first as a former PDP governorship candidate and now an APC chieftain, how will compare the two parties?

It is individuals that make up parties. Whether a party is good or bad, it is the content in human beings’ life. How you are able to manage it will also depends on your size. The PDP, to me, has atrophied (decrease in size). Therefore, the management issue will not be there. Events of today have shown that the crisis they have a wrecking one and it is wrecking them. It is a case of ‘prophet, heal thyself’. Like you said, I was in the PDP. If the Old Testament was without fault, there would be no need for the New Testament. That testament was faulty.

Will the North be willing to sacrifice Atiku, who matched Buhari vote-for-vote in 2015 and 2019 elections, for Tinubu, a southerner?

Only those who are parochial and ethnical in their thoughts would reason like that. But here, we are talking about party politics. The northerners in the APC are leaders in this political party in their own right. They don’t want to become followers. So, their first loyalty is to their party. Why will a governor, who is a leader, want to be a follower in another party? All of them have access to the Villa where they enter and come out any time. They won’t want to start getting tags or seek somebody’s permission before entering the State House. The correct position is that every point I am in the APC, if I have a twin brother in the PDP, I will work against him because I want to have access to power. My first loyalty has everything to do with my political party to be at the centre.

In a nutshell, you are saying Tinubu will defeat Atiku in the North. Isn’t it?

Definitely! The logical deduction is that anybody in the APC today who is a leader will want the political party to remain. They are not satisfied with this term; they want to take another step. Even when they cannot occupy the position, they want to be known as kingmakers. A number of them came from the PDP and they have regarded the opposition party as the Egypt they are not willing to return to. Following from that logic, you will know that ethnic-seeking will take the back seat. In any event, anybody that has grown up to be governor in this country will become a nationalist. What is of paramount importance is that who among these candidates can deliver, sustain the ideology of our party and build on the legacy of this government? Atiku will come and be looking for bearing. But Tinubu already has a bearing. If you look at his policy document, you will know that this is not a man who is coming to ask questions after the first day. He is not the ‘How do you do this one? Come and explain to me’ type of leader. He is a man that has been groomed for eight years under the tutelage of Buhari. He has seen the bad, the ugly and the good side of things.

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