House of Representatives member James Fakeke (Ikeja Constituency) spoke with EMMANUEL OLADESU and BUNMI OGUNMODEDE on the presidential aspiration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and preparations for the primary.
What are the issues that will shape the presidential election in 2023?
My understanding and prediction of issues that are likely to shape the presidential election in 2023 are basically based on what is going on now; the state if the nation, the achievements of this government, the perceived inactivity or otherwise of this government, the expectations of Nigerians as regards some critical issues, most especially security, secondly security, and thirdly, economy.
When we took over in 2015, during the campaign, we used security as our weapon to campaign. It was our understanding that Mr President, of course, will fight insecurity. It was a challenge we had.
As much as he has tried, the unemployment rate, which has to do with our economy, has unfortunately assisted the human resource market for recruitment into those challenges. For example, there was no banditry. The word: banditry, was not well known in 2015. It was more of Boko Haram; sponsored terrorism by elements outside the country and destruction of schools and some places in the North. But now, we have banditry everywhere, down to the South. I see us facing these issues during the campaign.
Where you do place the ambition of the leader you are campaigning for, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in all these?
What is important is who has the capacity to solve these problems. That is one. Two, economy. Most analysts have come to say that our currency was N180 or below N200 in 2015. Today, it is close to N600, our excavation rate, to the extend that we have devalued our naira and made it worthless. So, what Nigerians will be interested in in 2023 will be who can bring back our economy, who can provide jobs, who can create jobs, who can create wealth. What have those in charge of the economy today done? What are they supposed to fo that they have not done?
For me, I notice that this administration has so many lawyers without economists. Each time an analysis is made, you don’t expect a lawyer to provide economic solutions to issues. And of course, unfortunately, we are where we are today because of lack of foresight to know that when we continue to import and export, our currency is likely to crash. We are import-dependant. Even, when the government tried to look inward and engage in food production, the security challenges, of course, affected it. So, Nigeria was faced with importing food to eat. At a stage, when the borders were closed for rice not to be smuggled into Nigeria, for the industries in Nigeria yo survive, we knew how much money we were losing to the neighbouring countries. How much money Nigeria made within those short period? Unfortunately, the people went back to produce rice; there were states setting up rice mills everywhere. What surprised me most was the cost of the locally produced rice in relation to the imported.
So, in 2023, we will be debating how to solve the problem. How will Nigeria become self-sufficient? We will be debating the issue of power. Why should so many industries in the country turned their buildings to warehouses. Most of them have relocated. Why has it been difficult for us to take the bull by the horn and face this power challenge once and for all. Those challenges will face us.
We look at unemployment. We have so many youths coming out of schools, compared to 10 years ago. We have so many universities that have approved, private and government, compared to 10 years ago. We have failed to realise that when each of those schools turn in their graduates, on yearly basis, where would they work? There is no commensurate employment opportunity for them. So, an idle hand is a devil’s workshop. So, it is easy to start seeing crimes that have never happened before. Only recently, I started seeing youngsters, under-18, killing human beings, putting knives to the throats of human beings, not goats.
I saw during EndSars where human beings were being cut. I saw it on social media.
For me, 2023 will be a challenge.
How can the challenge be tackled?
The question will be who has the capacity among all the people who are contesting? I must say that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu tried his best to support the government of the day. You can only wish that things will be better off. Buhari has come and eight years are going. When you look back before Buhari, he has achieved a lot in all the areas. But, because of the insecurity challenges, killings here and there, banditry, kidnapping. Kidnapping was not there before. It wasn’t common. It wasn’t the business before. Now, it is business. Evans and his group that started it were arrested. Now, they kidnap you, take you to the bush. You pay ransom and you are released. In some cases, you pay ransom and they still kill you.
We can’t say that Buhari has not done anything. But, the little he has done is not enough to solve the problem because the problems are just too much.
In this country, where we have people who are in charge of security, the NSA, for example, or even the military helmsmen, who finds difficult to quit and let others come with new ideas, until we are able to hire and fire, until we are able to take the bull by the horn, and hold people responsible, we may find it difficult to get out from where we are.
When you look back to where we were coming from, and where we are today, and you want to look at 2023, you even look at 2022. What will happen? My only prayer is that we should bring in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who I know has the capacity to tackle all those issues, not to talk of the security challenges. Gone were those days when you could move freely. During the Anini saga, you could not move out with your flashy cars. In those days, armed robbers would gather the cars and take them away.
This man came. Governors are not incharge of the security system, the control system. He set up the Security Trust Fund. The security trust fund is being copied in virtually all the states. Today, Lagos is safe. Successive governments after him have continued to implement it. Even, as a local government chairman, I knew how much I was contributing to the security of our state.
So, the man who did that has the capacity to also face the challenges confronting us. If you look at Lagos, compared to the economy of Nigeria, what we are facing today are low revenue, very high expenditure. All the revenue sources in the country, there are holes in them; in other words, leakages. So, if you have someone who can block all those leakages, our country will be better off.
Tinubu blocked so many leakages in Lagos. He was able to move from N600 million per month to over N40 billion today through successive governments. That is the type of person we want.
Looking forward, we are looking at somebody who can create jobs for our teeming youths. It means making the system to work. If the system works, everybody will be better off. Industries will come back.
You can only bring industries back if you have power. Stable power. Nigerians are willing to pay. But, the power is not there. Nobody wants to pay for what he doesn’t have. If you recollect, Asiwaju started the ERON. When he started ERON then, if they had allowed it to work, today, we will not be where we are. Possibly, so many stays would be privileged. They will have their own independent power sources. But, a situation where the entire livewire; power of a nation was given to an individual. Someone who is into agriculture, you give him power to run. What does he know. His own is just to make money. We sign power agreement and you domicile the agreement outside the country, if you want to cancel the agreement, it will not be by the law of Nigeria. It will be by the law of France, UK. How will that work? So, this is where we are.
Looking forward, in 2023, it is only Asiwaju who has that capacity. It is either you perform or you cancel the agreement. It is better for Nigeria to bear the cost now than bear the cost for the next 10 years.
I see 2023 as the challenge. If you want to move from what is now to a better tomorrow; to how a nation is built and developments are brought, we should think. We need to check ourselves, our attitude to infrastructure, our attitude to our neighbours. If we travel to Cotonou, we obry their laws. But, here, we don’t obey laws.
Why is the Southwest not on the same page on the issuexof 2023 succession? Why are people brought up by the leader also squaring up with him in this electionn?
I can only talk about myself and my constituents. I can’t talk for Osinbajo or Fayemi, for example. But, I can just make a general remark, th
at I do not expect it. I will not betray my own leader or and my own benefactor. I will not. I will not betray Asiwaju for anything. I will rather quit politics. If I see o cannot go along with him, I will rather quit.
Those who are aspiring to contestcwith him just want to destroy their names because sooner or later, it will dawn on them that what they thought they could achieve, they will not achieve it. As far as democracy is concerned, it is their right to say they want to contest election. But, I know that by the grace of God, what is before any of us in the Southwest is greater than any individual. We will achieve it. Those who want to challenge the unity of the Southwest will be disgraced.
I do not expect those of us in the same house to start throwing stones into that house. Moreover, I don’t expect pastors or religious people who are supposed to show examples, whose attitudes are supposed to portray holiness to do otherwise. Either as Muslims or Christians, we serve the same God. He does not sleep.
Are the activities of these Asiwaju boys not sending dangerous signals to other zones?
No. To some, yes. To the majority, no. Majority of the northerners are looking at them and laughing at them. They are laughing at those betraying Asiwaju because the way so many of them are behaving, they are looking at them; that oh, the man who helped them, they are behaving to him like this and that if they can betray him, they can betray anybody. If you can face Tinubu, then, you can face Buhari himself. It is two edge sword. But, it is normal. Even, Judas Iscariot did it. But, he failed.
Is your party still going to canvass consensus presidential candidacy, reminiscent of what happened at the APC convention in Abuja. How feasible? Would that not be counter-productive?
The APC convention is different from presidential primary. It is elective. It is not party management. It is country management. They are two different things entirely. The APC Constitution gives three criteria for primaries. One, consensus at councillorship. Two, indirect or direct at presidential. There is no consensus at presidential primary in the constitution. Thirdly, the Electoral Act is very clear. Even, if you have to do consensus, everybody who is contesting must consent to it in writing. If anyone wants to do consensus for presidential primary, he must follow the law. If they want to use consensus, all the people should choose Asiwaju as consensus candidate. I have not seen any other person who is better than him in all spheres; capacity, knowledge and exposure.
What are the factors that will guarantee a free and fair presidential primary in your party?
I think the party administrators will be transparent. They should be open and fair. The first point of call are the delegates. Those delegates going to vote, their names must be published, given to each aspirant, long before the date of primary. Not just at the venue. The only way you can be free and fair is to let the aspirants know the names of delegates, their local governments and states so that we can canvass them.
The party should make the field open. If I have my way, I will say every delegate should queue behind their aspirants. But, it is indirect. Let the party take absolute control so that there will be no manipulation.
The president gave a hint about his candidate…..
I cannot interpret that. I am not Jesus. So far, so good, he has asked those who approached him to go to the race, to approach the people, canvas for votes.
Are zoning and micro-zoning, which are part of the conventions of your party, dead, in principle?
The chairmanship was taken to the northern part at the convention. It is just normal that the presidential candidate should come from the South. It is assumed. It is not dead. It is alive.
What about the 2014 agreement between the North and South?
In 2014/15, when the parties came together, discussions were held. There was gentleman’s agreement. I even learnt that some lawyers said some documentary agreement should be made. But, Asiwaju said no, as a true Muslim, he believed. So, he went into it without signing any document. I believe those who he had those discussions with, majority of them are alive today, and they will honour those discussions. Asiwaju is not saying: raise up my hand, I am the only aspirant. No. Just allow a free and fair election. Buhari contested and won through a free and fair primary. That is what we are asking for. That is what is paramount to Asiwaju’s followers. Mr President will allow that. Aspirants are showing interest. Even people who didn’t know how the party came about. It is normal in politics. You are free to announce your presidential aspiration in your house, on the pulpit, anywhere. The people, party and delegates will take decision. We are getting ready for the primary and by the grace of God, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will win. Nigeria has to be better. What we see in Lagos must be transfered to Nigeria. Lagos is already on auto-pilot. If the eight years of the governor, his successor will follow the laid down rules.
I was invited to the foundation laying of the bridge from Opebi to Ojota to Mende and the governor said the drawing was laid by Asiwaju when he was governor; that Asiwaju envisage this almost 20 years ago. That is what we want in Nigeria. He will change the dynamics. We are flaring our gas, which is now gold in Europe. If we had invested in sub-marine pipes and crossed it to Europe, we will be making billions, competing with Russia. This is the way Asiwaju thinks.
The same Asiwaju fought Obasanjo, in the areas of Econet. He invested in Econet. Lagos State bidded and won. Look at what telecommunication is today. The bidding will bring billions. Now, they are now setting up independent power project everywhere. Asiwaju started it. If ylwe have power, Nigeria will be better. Look at Ajaokuta Steel today. It is zero.
Asiwaju has capacity. He is courageous. He is influential. He is connected. No country can take him for granted. He has made friends across the globe.
Do you forsee a challenge to your party from the opposition?
It is normal. We are not in a one party state. We have two major parties. If we don’t have a challenge, that is a banana republic. You must assess your opponent. If PDP conducts it’s primary, and Atiku wins, who among the pack in APC can face Atiku. It is only Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If our party must win, we must allow a free and fair primary fir Asiwaju to emerge, so that the party will not die. If you manipulate him out, the party can die. If we are to face the PDP, we must allow the best candidate to win. The best candidate is Bola Ahmed Tinubu.