How Atiku will win presidential election —Chief Jumoke Akinjide

Former Minister of State for FCT and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State, Chief Jumoke Akinjide, spoke to a group of journalists on the presidential election, how Atiku Abubakar and others will perform in the zones, the focus of the next president, why President Muhammadu Buhari must ensure credible elections, among other issues. DARE ADEKANMBI brings excerpts.


Why do you think, Atiku, who is a Northerner, should succeed Buhari who is concluding eight years of two terms?


First of all, as you know, I am a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We had a very long and deliberate process before we came up with our presidential candidate. At first, the position of the North and Atiku in particular was that if it is going to the South, then it must be zoned to the South-East. That was his position. By the reason that South-West has done eight years and the South-South has done six years, it is only the South-East from the South that has not had the presidency. But certain people who wanted to contest said they should zone it to the South and not to the South-East, at which point the North now said if that is the case, then it should be thrown open to the whole country because if it is a question of equity or who has not done, then the North-East too has not been president, neither has the North-Central. So, that was how we ended up with it being thrown open to everybody. And, of course, in a democracy, you have to live with the results you get. The delegates looked at all the aspirants and Atiku Abubakar got the majority votes.


As you know, the North-East has never had the presidency. In fact, the South, since 1999, has had it for 14 years. People don’t like it when we say it, but it is the truth. The South has had it for 14 years. When Buhari finishes, the North will have had it for 10 years. So, stricto sensu, yes, North handing over to North. But strictly, if you look at it in terms of the number of years, there is no inherent inequity in the North retaining it because if a southerner had won it, the South will have had 22 years to the North’s 10. So, it was a toss-up. I have no moral problems because I know the candidate that the PDP threw up has been proven during the campaign to be the best candidate that can take Nigeria out of the mess that it is in. We are in a hole and we need to stop digging. Atiku Abubakar is the person that has the experience. This is not the time for amateurs; it is not the time for those who we do not trust with power. It is not the time for those we know have had power and have abused it and have continued to abuse it long after they have left office. So, Nigeria can’t afford to get it wrong. I believe Atiku is the best choice for Nigeria at this time.




You have been on the campaign train with Atiku, do you think the South-West is receptive to his candidature, especially in Oyo State?



Let me start from Oyo State where we actually started campaign quite late. We started in December because we were giving the G-5 governors, of which our governor is one, the chance to come to a resolution over the various peace efforts intensifying at that time. Regrettably, December came and they were still at a logjam, which was when I decided on my own initiative to take up the Atiku campaign. Up till now, we still don’t have a state presidential campaign committee. It has been a coalition of the willing in the state that has been campaigning for Atiku. When I started talking to the party, because that is where it starts since the party owns the candidates and has the structure, I realised that 95 to 99 per cent of the party in Oyo State was solidly behind Atiku. That is the truth. They were very happy to see somebody step forward to mobilise for the road walk and you know how successful the road walk was. It was followed the next day by Governor Seyi Makinde’s reelection kick-off. And on that day, when Governor Nyesom Wike tried to insinuate that Atiku may not be the candidate that the G-5 governors will support, he was shouted down unabashedly by Oyo State people. The message went out loud and clear. And so, for me, Oyo State has been a PDP state, an Atiku state and more and more every day, we see that Atiku is accepted by the voters and message is resonating very strongly.


The people have seen that APC has failed Nigerians. APC has taken Nigeria to destitution, insecurity, division, despair and desperation. Nigerians have been almost dehumanized and they hate APC. APC is an anathema in Oyo State. The people don’t want to see them; they don’t want to hear of them. The false narrative that seems to have gained traction when PDP was not campaigning for its candidate, that is the emi l’okan, omo wa ni, has now disappeared completely. As I said, it is something than can’t stand the test of time. When PDP started campaigning and telling people to demonstrate or point to one thing the APC candidate, Tinubu, has done for the good people in Oyo State, nobody could come up with a single thing. In fact, the reply was negative. Yoruba are very sophisticated people and they reason.


They know Tinubu has offended Oyo State people’s interest and the South-West interest because when our daughter, Right Honourable Mulikat Akande Adeola was nominated by the PDP to be the speaker, Tinubu instructed his party members who were in the majority in the South-West at that time to vote against her and vote for the North-West candidate. When Tinubu was pro-chancellor of LAUTECH for eight years, all through that time, the university was in crisis. The university was on strike for a long time; it had financial issues because it was jointly owned. We appealed to him several times, but he did nothing as the leader of the institution. He was derelict in his duty. And now, the PDP government has taken over and we have managed to come to a peaceful negotiation with Osun State and Oyo State now owns LAUTECH 100 per cent and the school has now regained its place as the number one state-owned university in the country. The school is being funded very well by the Oyo State government. So, how can you say Tinubu is our own? The person that is our own and who we know is Atiku Abubakar because he is the one that has advocated and committed to the number agenda of the Yoruba people, which is restructuring of the polity in a way that will work for all and unleash the potential of each zone to develop in accordance with its values, resources and talents. Atiku has been a champion of restructuring since 2004. He wrote a book on restructuring, which shows his commitment. He said his bill on restructuring of the country is ready and from day one, he will send it to the National Assembly. Now, compare the APC candidate who, by his own admission, brought Buhari and when Buhari was asked about restructuring and all the work that had been done in the National Conference by Jonathan, he said he has thrown it into the archives. With a wave of the hand, he dismissed it. In almost eight years, Tinubu has not said a word on restructuring. His party has not made any move towards restructuring of the country.


Under Obasanjo, there was a national conference which was about restructuring. Of course, it didn’t fly. Under Jonathan, there was another national conference on restructuring as well and we came to a consensus on a number of issues and we campaigned on that in 2015. The APC government has not even bothered and has thrown the Yoruba and the South agenda under the bus very contemptuously. Tinubu did not say a word about it. Atiku is a restructuring champion. So, Atiku is our own. The Bible says there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Atiku is a friend of the South-West. My own dream and hope is that this will be the last time in my lifetime in the history of Nigeria that I will care and that Nigerians will really care about who becomes the president of the country. After this election, I don’t want to care who is president of Nigeria because once Atiku becomes the president, he will restructure the country and power will return to the states and the regions. In the American president system that we are copying, nobody cares in Arkansas, South Carolina or New York who is the president. As powerful as America is, you don’t see the governor of Nevada or Arizona lining up in the White House to shake the hands of the president. They don’t because they have their own constitution, flag and the powers to tax the people, generate electricity and do whatever their people want. They don’t get allocation from Washington D.C. The president of America is only powerful in terms of foreign relations and as commander-in-chief, deploying the military outside the shores of America. That is what we want the Nigeria president to be. Not for the governor of Oyo State, because he wants to do a road, he will have to go and talk to somebody in Abuja. States should be able to generate electricity on their own. Niger State can use hydro power. It has got all the dams. They will just build more, generate power and sell to us in Oyo State at cost-reflective tariff. They can sell it to Niger or Chad and make money. That is where we want to get to.





If you are talking about promising restructuring, the APC also promised same in 2015. What some people are saying is that if Atiku cannot resolve the issue of the national chairman that the South-West is saying it wants, the G-5 governors issue and the issue of balancing in the party, how do we then trust on his promise to restructure the country?


As I said, Atiku has been a champion of restructuring for a long time. As I said, the PDP governments have attempted it. They just for different reasons could not actualise it. We believe this time, it will be done. Atiku said he will start it from day one, not until he has settled down. We believe he is committed to. The issue of the G-5 governors has expired. I think it has lost speed. I don’t think we are hearing anything about it anymore. It was overblown. My governor, Seyi Makinde, has said he has no problems with Atiku as the candidate. There was a convention and Atiku was validly elected. He recognises that and has no problem with his brother governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa who is the vice-presidential candidate. Atiku has the right to choose his running mate. Governor Makinde is asking how can the candidate be from the North and the chairman of the party will also be from there too? The other people are saying it is question of timing and that you don’t remove somebody in the middle of the game. Let the chairman see the election process through and the day INEC announces Atiku as the winner of the election, he says he will step down. I don’t see the issue there. In any case, as a South-Westerner, I am not convinced that the South-West has met and they said they want the national chairman’s position. We have six top positions, the president and the vice-president which go by election, then we will zone the rest: Senate president, speaker, SGF and the national chairman. The South-West has never met to say it is the national chairman that we want. Why can we not have the Senate presidency or the speakership or SGF? When it was our turn to have the national chairman and when it mattered, it was taken to Rivers, when Uche Secondus took it. That was the South-West’s slot. Now that all the important things have been done and the duties and powers of the chairman have been exercised, what do we want the position for? I am not sure that is what the South-West wants under the incoming administration.




What do you think is the attraction for Atiku to be president at this time when we are already talking about the debt threshold going towards N77 trillion and people are skeptical about the next president being unable to perform any magic under the circumstances he will be assuming office?


First of all, when you are on a team in a field of sports and you are on the bench and you are watching your team playing football or basket ball and the team keeps missing the goal and losing the game, you are like ‘I can do better. Coach, put me on.’ Atiku headed the economic management team of the Obasanjo presidency. He has done it before. He brought in Soludo as CBN governor, brought in Okonjo-Iweala as Finance Minister, brought in Nuhu Ribadu, el- Rufai, among others. He is a talent spotter. He knows how to create wealth, how to make the economy run and he is the highest employer of labour in his private capacity after the state government in Adamawa State. He is a very successful businessman. I think he keeps looking at it and feels that Nigerian can be better run and he can do much better. That is what I think is motivating him to run.


Nigeria is now ready for restructuring as country and he has been campaigning for it. In 2004 when Atiku started this campaign for restructuring, the campaign was a very unpopular concept in the North. The North probably saw the Federal Government and the unitary system that we have which is disguising as a federalism as being in their favour. They understood it and have been part of it and are not threatened by it. So, when the South-West keeps talking about restructuring, the North thought we wanted to pull away and keep them behind. But now that they have tried Buhari administration which has made it difficult for them to go to farm or sleep in peace in their villages and everything has taken a turn for bad, the North is now ready to listen and embrace restructuring. They know it can’t get worse than this. So, it is a divine purpose now that God has set the stage for the restructuring to take place now. Atiku is telling the North: ‘what are you afraid of? Every region in this country has its advantages and every region has something to offer.’ He said, for example, the North has the most landmass. Do you know Niger State alone is bigger than the whole of the South-East? Niger State alone is a little smaller than the South-West. If the North irrigates its land, it can farm 365 days in a year. Then, when you have agriculture, you can feed the whole of West Africa. They can also put agro industries and add value to agric produce to make tomato become tomato paste, for instance. Shea butter can be refined for cosmetics. The North has a lot of solid minerals. In the new restructuring plan of Atiku, he says he will let the state participate and own minerals resources and it is not going to be like the crude oil that the Federal Government owns. Zamfara State has a lot of gold. Plateau has gems. In the South, Osun has a lot of gold. There is a gold mining company in Osun State that is listed on the Canadian stock exchange as we speak funded by the Canadian stock exchange. So, Atiku is saying the North has two great rivers, Niger and Benue. If you dam them, they will become the source of generating power. Niger State is already called the power state. What is the source of revenue of Washington State? That is the state that supplies all the power used in California. They just transmit it to California which is a desert with no big river. Everybody has something to offer. So, Atiku has convinced people now that restructuring is the way forward to have a Nigeria of our dream, a Nigeria where nobody will be left behind.


I agree with you. The country is in a shambles economically. This again reinforces the point I made at the beginning that this is the time we need people with a vision, experience and who will have the support of the National Assembly. The stage is set perfectly for people who are patriotic, committed and able to roll up their sleeves and work sacrificially for the country and for our children and grand children and leave a legacy.





How popular is Atiku in the North? We have seen massive crowds at Tinubu’s campaigns in the North and Governor El-Rufai has been saying the North will support Tinubu for the sacrifice he made to enable Buhari to become president? APC has more governors than PDP in the North. Don’t you see this as a threat to Atiku in the region?


I don’t think so. The North-East, for example, is solidly behind their candidate because they have never had the presidency. And if El-Rufai thinks that the North owes Tinubu, I think the North-West also feels it owes the North-East because every president has come from the North-West, whether it is Shehu Shagari or Umar Yar’Adua or even Buhari. I think the people in the North are supporting Atiku. The governors may be supporting Tinubu. At the end of the day, it is the people’s will that will prevail. A former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, answered this question when El-Rufai was boasting about Northern governors supporting Tinubu. He said the election will tell whether the North has leaders or not, that the North that he knows, it is the elders and the religious and community leaders and intellectual leaders that influence the people in the North and not the governors who are by-products of the leaders. So, I think we are going to see who is right. But I suspect it is the people and the true leaders and not the people in the political party that will determine where the votes will go. And, honestly, I feel the North has thrown up the best candidate in Atiku in terms of experience, demonstrated commitment to democracy. Atiku left government in 2007 and he has been vying for office of the presidency and has not held the reins of power in Adamawa and has not been deciding who will be governor in Adamawa. He has not dipped his hand in the financial pocket of Adamawa. As a democrat, he has left Adamawa to run its finances, unlike the APC candidate who has held Lagos by the jugular for the past 23 years, directly as governor and indirectly as the political leader and the finances of Lagos have been in his control. We don’t want people who will not let Nigeria and Nigerians to exercise their freedom. We don’t want remote control over our people anymore. Atiku is a democrat in the finest sense of the word.




The North and the South-West may determine the election. People are speculating that the Igbo will follow their own in Peter Obi. In Oyo and Lagos states, the party is divided. In Osun, we don’t know how the Adeleke-Oyetola tango will end. In Ogun, the party is trying to resolve the issue there. So, if you look at Atiku’s chances in the South-West, do you think he has a chance of defeating Tinubu?


If you look at it the other way, I will say that in Osun, the APC is divided between the factions of Oyetola and Aregbesola. In Oyo State, I will tell you that APC has already split into APC with Folarin and Accord of Adelabu. If you look at Ogun, I will tell you that Amosun is not working with the governor there. So, the same thing goes everywhere. Yes, the South-West is a turbulent place for politics. I don’t agree with you that the South-West is going to determine this election. If you look at the past, the South-West does not determine any election. We cancel each other out in the zone. Even at the height of Buhari’s popularity in 2015, by how many votes did he win in the South-West against Jonathan? It was very close. If you put together all the votes for the six states in the South-West, the margin of victory is not up million votes. So, South-West actually does not determine the victory in Nigeria’s presidential election. So, people who think that the APC candidate will run away with victory in the South-West are just dreaming. In the South-West today, Tinubu is not as popular as Buhari was in 2015 in the zone. That time, it was ‘change, change’ that the people were chanting in 2015. Go and look at the results, the South-West was not the one that made the difference. Even if you look at all the votes by which they won, it would have been neutralized by the votes of Rivers State at that time. In the South-West, I think there is going to be parity between Tinubu and Atiku and then we have the third force, Obi, who has taken votes from both parties. So, it is not the South-West that is going to decide. You are going to find out that the South-South votes will matter in the election quite a bit. Tinubu will get nothing in the South-East. I reckon that the PDP and Atiku will come first in some states or second in other states of the federation. I don’t see any state where PDP will come third, not even in Kano State. But there will be states where APC will come third for sure in the South-South, the South-East and even part of the North-Central.




Do you have the same fear as some people that APC may not relinquish power if it loses the election?


I don’t have that fear at all. I think President Buhari has got the message loud and clear from Nigerians and from the international community that the only legacy he can leave after eight years and which will be undisputed, is to do a clean, free, fair election and commit to peaceful transfer of power like he enjoyed in 2015. That is the legacy and place in history that he can have that nobody can even dispute. Everything else can be disputed. He can say he did infrastructure and people will say he was just completing projects started by PDP. Everything else can be rubbished. When Jonathan lost the election, even though there were issues and strong suspicion that things did not go well in the election and there was over voting, voting by minors and ballot stuffing, Jonathan said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he told the party not to take Buhari to the tribunal. That was the first time such a thing happened. He said the PDP should allow Buhari to settle down without distraction and govern the country. So, if Buhari enjoyed that, he owes it to Nigerians to do so too. I think from his utterances and actions so far, he has said he will not allow anybody to mobilise resources and thugs to intimidate Nigerians, that Nigerians have a right to choose their leaders. I believe he will stand by that and he will make it a personal project and not just give instructions, but to be alert and be on point and be on the ball and warn all the security agents and INEC that he will not tolerate anything except a level, fair playing field. If he does that, and I believe he will, then Nigerians will have nothing to complain about. He may even find out that Nigerians will forgive him a lot of the things he done to hurt them.




Are you confident INEC will do a good job at this time?


I am hopeful INEC will do a good job. I know INEC people too want to serve the Nigerian populace well. I believe they know everybody is watching. I understand that Thabo Mbeki has been chosen to lead the Commonwealth monitoring team for the election. Other people from all over the world are going to send election monitors. The whole world is watching Nigeria because our population and place in Africa is so important and with the cooperation of President Buhari, I don’t see any reason why INEC won’t do a good job. INEC has not complained about lack of money.


Anybody who is agitating for postponement of election for any reason is not a friend of Nigeria. I urge the president and INEC to go with the will of Nigerians which is to have this election and transit peacefully. The president has set up a transition committee and this shows his resolve to do the right thing before he retires to his beloved Daura. He can only have a peaceful retirement if he has a good election and hands over peacefully to the next president.






Source: Tribune Online

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