2023 Presidency: Northern candidates seeking to succeed Buhari greedy, selfish – APC chieftain

Former National Chairman, Conference of All Progressives Congress (APC) State Chairmen, Chief Henry Ajomale has declared that for equity, fairness, and justice, President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor must come from the South. 

Making the declaration in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS he warned that anything to the contrary will portend danger for the nation’s democracy. He also spoke on other national issues, reports Saturday Sun.


As preparations for the general elections gather momentum, many Nigerians have been talking about the present insecurity in the country, expressing fears that it may affect the polls. What’s your take on that?


There has been general anxiety in the country because of the security situation in the country. Many Nigerians are worried about the nefarious activities of kidnappers, bandits, and other criminals terrorising the country. But I think things are a bit better now, and it is my hope that the situation will get better before the polls. The Federal Government has been taking some actions that have ensured that things are getting better. Although we are not yet out of the woods I’m optimistic that the situation will get better. During this festive period, a lot of people travelled home by road to celebrate with their families and loved ones, and this was not something that could be done about a year ago, and that’s to show that we are getting some positive results in the battle against these criminals. This is to show us that the situation is better than what it used to be. We can’t say that we are there 90 per cent in the battle against insurgents but things have improved dramatically within the last six or seven months.


This security challenge is not only peculiar to Nigeria, it is everywhere. Look at the Sahel region, in Chad, Burkina-Faso, and a host of other countries in that region. Insurgents are making life difficult for the people, and some of these countries even have to look for foreign assistance to combat the threats posed by these terrorists. The economy of these nations has also been affected just as it has also affected our own here. It is not only here that we are facing this crisis. We should try to understand that what is happening is not peculiar to Nigeria.


But the federal government must find ways to solve the problem because one of the primary responsibilities of the government to the citizens is to provide security. As the elections are fast approaching, tension will be heightened, and this is why the Federal Government must step up the battle against the insurgents in order to reassure Nigerians that there is no cause for alarm. They must step up the present campaign against them. If there is any need for the federal government to seek foreign assistance, and co-operation in order to get the desired results, they should not hesitate to do so. Nigerians should not entertain any fear about the elections. I believe that the federal government is up to the task.


Now that the campaigns have started, do you think candidates are addressing issues?


Some of them are doing so. Some of them are outlining their programmes of action, they are telling Nigerians what they intend to do if they get elected into office. Some of them have promised to remove petroleum subsidies while some of them have also vowed to reform the power sector. These are good for our national development and growth as a nation. Some of these programmes they promised to implement like the removal of petroleum subsidies may not be popular initially with some Nigerians but they will help us solve the problems of the country. Removal of petroleum subsidies is a right step in the right direction because billions of naira that the government annually set aside for subsidy go into the wrong hands. Some powerful groups of Nigerians are making money out of subsidies while the majority of the people are suffering because of the greediness of these evil people who are using subsidies to defraud the Federal Government. Billions of naira that the government releases for subsidy are stolen. They are never accounted for. This money falls into the wrong hands, and the elements behind the subsidy regime have formed themselves into a powerful cabal milking the nation dry. Their ranks should be broken. They are enemies of the people. We have to take drastic actions on some national matters like the subsidy issue, otherwise we are postponing the evil day. Enough is enough. We can’t continue like this. We need a leader who is courageous and fearless and that will break the subsidy cartel, and in other sectors where some unscrupulous Nigerians are defrauding the nation. There is a cabal holding Nigeria hostage in the petroleum sector, and we must deal with that cabal once and for all. Although the cabal will fight back, the in-coming government with the support and backing of Nigerians must subdue them.


How would you assess the leading presidential candidates?


I have a strong conviction that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu still stands a shoulder above others. He has a track record. He performed very well when he was Lagos State governor between 1999 and 2007. He laid a solid foundation which other succeeding governors are building upon. He is the architect of modern Lagos, and it is due to the excellent work he did that Lagos State has become a role model for other states in the country. Other leading candidates are also qualified. But of the whole lot, I can vouch for Tinubu, and I believe that with his running mate, ex-governor Kashim Shettima, the two will be able to transform this country.


What’s your take on the endorsement of Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party by former President Olusegun Obasanjo?


Obasanjo has the right to support and endorse any candidate of his choice, but Obasanjo only has one vote. It is Nigerians that will decide. Obi and his supporters should not be deceived or carried away by Obasanjo’s endorsement because the former president has no electoral value. He can’t even deliver his own ward in Abeokuta for Obi. He will lose in his own ward. Not only that, Obasanjo doesn’t have a history of backing and supporting any candidate, and that candidate will win. He has supported others in the past, but they failed and if he is supporting a candidate now, there is no guarantee that that candidate will win. Obasanjo is just playing to the gallery, and if Obi relies on him, he will at the end of the day be disappointed. APC is not losing any sleep over Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi.


But others like the Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, the Middle-Belt Forum, Chief Edwin Clark have also endorsed him


Forget all that. These people have only one vote, and not only that, they don’t have the clout to mobilise Nigerians to garner support for Obi. Somebody like Pa Ayo Adebanjo, how many people has he endorsed in the past that won elections? None. All these people are just making pronouncements that don’t carry any weight. Even within the Afenifere group, many members have already opposed Pa Adebanjo. So if the old man is already facing opposition within his own group, is that not a sign that he has failed already? Adebanjo should first go and sort out his problem with his group. He doesn’t have any electoral value that he can add to Obi’s aspiration. He can’t even guarantee that he will deliver his Lekki ward home polling booth for Obi, and that is why I said earlier that Obi should not be deceived by the endorsements of these people. Their endorsements amount to nothing but it is their constitutional right to endorse any candidate of their choice.


Some Nigerians have been asking the question of whether Nigerians can vote for another Northerner after Buhari’s eight years in office, and what that would portend for the nation’s unity. What’s your take on that?


That’s why we have been advocating zoning or rotational Presidency. Now that Buhari, a Northerner is about to complete his tenure, it should be the turn of the South. For unity, equity, fairness, and justice, it should be the turn of the South. I don’t know what somebody like Atiku Abubakar is looking for again. He has become a serial contender from the military era in the 90s. What’s he looking for? Atiku is desperate to become President at all costs. He has been in the SDP, PDP, ACN, APC, and now back to PDP. But Nigerians over the years have been rejecting him, so what’s he looking for again? He should go and rest. Atiku is desperate but desperation can’t help him. Nigerians have rejected him before and I still believe they are going to reject him this time around because he has nothing to offer. To me, Atiku and other Northern candidates aspiring to become President after Buhari are greedy and selfish. We should not do anything that will jeopardise the nation’s unity. We should respect the principle of zoning whereby power will revolve between the North and the South.


But some people are also saying that if it comes to the South, that the South-West has also had a fair share, with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Only the South-East hasn’t tasted power in the South since 1999?


Whenever it is the turn of the South, the president can come from any zone in the region. I don’t mind the President coming from the South-East, but my own support is for the candidate of my party APC, and that’s Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. But I believe that Buhari’s successor should come from the South, and that candidate can be from any part of the South. But for us to have another Northerner succeeding Buhari, that would portend grave danger for the nation’s unity and our democracy.


We should respect zoning as it will help us deepen our democracy. We should not allow the greedy ambition of some selfish individuals to threaten the nation’s democracy. The presidency should be alternated between the North and the South so that everybody can be given a sense of belonging. It is zoning that can help us strengthen our democracy. Those unpatriotic Nigerians that are saying that zoning is not in our constitution are saying that for selfish reasons.


How would you assess INEC’S preparations for the general elections? Are you confident they will perform creditably?


INEC is doing very well, and I have no doubt that they will conduct free, and fair elections. Again with the introduction of BVAS, it will be difficult for anybody to rig the elections. The introduction of BVAS is a coup against election riggers. It is a good step in the right direction as election results will be electronically transmitted. I know that some politicians have been calling for its reversal because BVAS will spoil business for them, and I believe that it is those politicians that want to rig the elections that are making such calls. But they should be ignored. BVAS will do us good for the polls, and I believe it is even too late now to be calling for its reversal.


We shouldn’t distract INEC from the good work they are presently doing. I will however like to appeal to the Federal Government to provide adequate security around INEC facilities across the country because we are gradually entering a crucial period toward the elections. President Buhari has promised Nigerians free and fair elections, and INEC has also given similar assurances, and I’m optimistic that they will keep to their word. I strongly believe that INEC will conduct the elections without fear and favour, and not only that, I also believe that the elections will be free and fair.


What’s your opinion on a recent report by the NBS that 133 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty under the present APC-led government?


The present economic hardship in the country is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It is a global phenomenon. Across the world today, there is economic hardship which is having biting effects on the citizens. Although some people have been trying to blame the APC leadership for the present hardship, those who don’t have a short memory will remember that the situation was worse under the PDP government and that was why Nigerians clamoured for the change that brought APC to power. I believe the government is trying its best to improve people’s lives, but they still need to do more. Nigerians are not supposed to be suffering but a lot of our money is being stolen. We must look for ways to block the loopholes. The incoming government must look for ways to block the loopholes from where people are stealing public funds. It is not only politicians that are involved but civil servants are also involved. In fact, they are the major culprits. They are even the ones that show politicians how to loot the treasury. They are the architects of corruption in the country, and they are the ones corrupting politicians. Look at the case of the nation’s Accountant-General, which is linked to the siphoning of N109 billion in public funds. These civil servants have a corruptive influence on the public servants. They are the ones that usually show the politicians how they can loot because they also make their own illegal money along the line.


Although the present government tried its best to wage war against corruption, as usual, these civil servants made it difficult to record huge success against corruption. We need to reform the civil service to prevent it from becoming a major obstacle in the fight against corruption by any government in power. These civil servants are always there, and they will always be there because they are a key part of the government. Civil Service reform is very important for Nigeria to achieve greatness as a nation, and the incoming government must pay attention to that. Buhari’s government would have still done far, far better but for the unpatriotic acts of some corrupt civil servants. They should beam searchlight on the civil service and weed out the corrupt ones.


The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has vowed to defeat the ruling APC in the gubernatorial elections in Lagos State, claiming that Lagosians are yearning for a change. What’s your reaction to that?


That’s an empty boast. PDP is dead in Lagos State. Lagosians have seen the light, and they will never want to go into darkness. Since 1999, that’s how PDP leaders have always been boasting but they have always been defeated, and this time around it is not going to be different. APC will inflict a crushing defeat on PDP. To make matter worse for the party, PDP’s top leaders in Lagos State are not supporting the party’s governorship candidate. So who is going to mobilise votes for their candidate? The party is already divided before the polls while APC is waxing stronger by the day. Not only that, Lagosians have been enjoying dividends of democracy under APC since 1999, and the transformations taking place under APC-led governments are visible for all to see. PDP only exists in name in Lagos State as the party is already dead, and buried. Under APC, Lagos is working, and not only that unique revolutionary changes which are having positive changes in the lives of Lagosians are taking place, and Lagosians are happy with the government. So why are they going to vote for a party that is non-existent and that is already extinct? PDP is dead, and it can never resurrect again in Lagos.


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