Nigeria needs leader who can take tough decisions — Oshiomhole – Punch Newspapers

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In this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS, the Nigeria Labour Congress ex-president and Edo State two-term Governor, Adam Oshiomhole, discusses the All Progressives Congress’s Muslim-Muslim ticket and the state of the nation
What sort of leader do you think Nigeria needs at this critical moment?
We need a leader who can get the country together without being preoccupied with religion and ethnicity issues. We should strive to have a leadership that will engender a safe environment so that you can go to your church and worship while I can equally go to my mosque and worship. So you can visit your village and I can also visit mine, even though we are all Nigerians. That is the extent to which the issues of religion and ethnicity should be of concern: having the freedom to worship and the guarantee of safety to move around the country without fear or hindrance.
What gives you the impression you can succeed in the Senate?
I was the Edo State governor, which, to a certain extent, is like a miniature Nigeria. I come from a minority part of the state that had not produced an elected governor before me.
Because of my reputation, I got the backing of the majority ethnic group, I contested for re-election against a retired general from the majority ethnic group, yet the people supported me.
By the time I left office, a large majority of Edo people, regardless of their political affiliations, had a favourable assessment of my stewardship. Even till date, you can go to the streets of any city or village in Edo State and seek the people’s opinion about me.

How will you assess the chances of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the 2023 election, especially with the Muslim-Muslim ticket?
By the special grace of God, he would win the next election and become president of Nigeria.
…With a Muslim Muslim ticket?
Yes, Nigeria is not all about Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian. The issues confronting us are not how many churches or mosques a Muslim-Muslim ticket will build.
Unfortunately, that is not the issue we have on the ground, and people believe you can continue to do the same thing and expect different outcomes. We can’t be bogged down by issues of religion and ethnicity. Each time you do that, you compromise on something else.
The finest hour of Nigerians as a people was when these issues didn’t matter and the crisis we are in today, trying to do all kinds of balancing and only when it suits us. People are quick to remind us with joy how in Rwanda today, there is no tribalism stating what they have accomplished after the genocidal war and detailing the economic and social consequences, with the economy growing in double digits and doing better than Nigeria. How are they beginning to attract foreign investments and booming tourism?
Today, it will require a man of courage to return Nigeria to the state it was in. We are a secular state and balancing won’t help us. I watched recently as a certain Senator was relating the Muslim-Muslim ticket to inhumanity. If he is a true believer in God, let him search his conscience to see the acts of inhumanity he has committed against his fellow beings. This is a man who beat up a young girl in a sex toy shop and caused a scandal that was an embarrassment to his family and the national assembly. If it was in other jurisdictions, he could not remain in the senate after the scandal.

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Again, I saw another guy, who can’t deliver a unit in Rivers State, speaking against the Muslim-Muslim ticket without offering insight into why he is against it.
Are you saying Nigerians shouldn’t voice their disapproval and nurse their fear that we might as a multi-religious nation end up with a Muslim president, deputy, Senate president, Secretary-General, and House of Representatives Speaker?
Now you are quoting someone I know. He can choose to manipulate and play with the rules. It’s up to him, but it is most dishonest to say or make commentary that suggests that the incoming president and other top officials of the present administration are Muslims. These are just some elites wrestling with the truth to confuse the Nigerian victims.
Have you ever heard someone tell their housekeeper, “I’d like to eat an omelette, but please don’t touch my eggs. You know the value of those eggs?” ‘Yes sir!’ “Did you understand me? You must ensure I have an omelette tomorrow morning. Also, two visitors are coming, so make an omelette for three, but don’t touch my eggs.” Is it possible?
I think Nigeria has to move away from dysfunctional politics to a politics of issues. The amount of airtime and newspaper pages we devote to these issues and some, of course, who are opposed to Asiwaju, find this a ready excuse to attack him.
There is another man who has introduced another dimension recently. That should be Datti Baba-Ahmed, the running mate of presidential candidate Peter Obi. He said that he agreed that Asiwaju was a formidable politician with a good record.
However, he is one of those who entered into a partnership that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power. Is that a crime, if I may ask?

What I would have wished to ask him, though, was if he knows how the partnership he has entered as a running mate will play out at the end. Only God knows that, no man has the power to know the future. As the saying goes, “Man proposes; God disposes.”
On a serious note, how many of the governors of the class of 1999 are still politically relevant? It is not because they don’t want to; it is just that they have faded into political irrelevance with time.

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    Many critics believe any serious Nigerian shouldn’t be discussing Tinubu’s presidency. What’s your position on this?
    First, we need to ask what makes Asiwaju still relevant. I can share one or two things I know. You know that in 1999, the South-West rejected Obasanjo by their votes and he lost even his unit. OBJ lost all the South-West states but still became president. This is why nobody should play God in this business of elections. Only God knows who’s going to win. Now, talking about religion in the South-West, there are Christians and Muslims.
    By 2003, Obasanjo was being harassed that he had no political base because he didn’t win his state. He became president courtesy of the other parts of Nigeria.
    The generals may not have joined the conversation, but there were many postulations as to how he won.
    In 2003, President Obasanjo wanted to make a statement that he also had his home base. He opened a negotiation with some South-West governors to support him, and in return, he would support them for their second term bid. They were all doing their first term at the time. At least once, I witnessed a conversation where Tinubu said, “No.” He was not going to make a deal with Obasanjo but insisted on working hard to win his election. He advised his colleagues that you can’t do a deal with this man.

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    However, his colleagues didn’t agree with him. They went ahead to support Obasanjo. The presidential election came first, and once OBJ was comfortable, he moved against Segun Osoba. While the PDP was rigging out all the AD South-West governors, Asiwaju was the only one that survived the onslaught. Is that not a fact?
    And that was how the South-West became PDP and Asiwaju was the only AD governor then. Obasanjo moved to take over the AD and compromised a lot of its members. Asiwaju soon discovered that fighting within the AD where he was the only governor might just end in court and no one was sure how it would turn out. He decided to form a completely new party, which gave birth to ACN. Is that also not correct? And on the ACN platform he fought. I am sure the media won’t forget this in a hurry.
    Professor Maurice Iwu changed the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner twice within two months, changed electoral officers within 48 hours of the election and changed the commissioners of police. The last one came with 24 hours to go before the election, with one mandate to make sure Lagos becomes a PDP state.
    Asiwaju fought hard and defeated Obasanjo. That was how Fashola became governor, and when you look at Fashola’s record, every effort invested in it was worth it.
    Not only did he consolidate on Asiwaju’s performance, he also took governance to a whole new appreciable level. Asiwaju was not done. He re-launched his quest to reclaim the South-West, except for Lagos. And in the next election, he recovered a lot of the South-West states back to the ACN.
    That was how Rauf Aregbesola, Kayode Fayemi, Ajibola Ajimobi, and Ibikunle Amosun came in.
    I am familiar with this discussion because I was in the NLC. People could freely discuss in my presence because I was not partisan. So if someone has shown such courage and what Nigeria needs now is the courage to make difficult decisions, we must think out of the box, not regular politics.

    Nigerians, on the one hand, want a tough, courageous leader. On the other hand, they want the same leader to be sensitive to all kinds of primordial issues.
    Will the gale of defection going on in Rivers, Kaduna, Kebbi, and even in the Senate and House of Representatives, do you still fancy the chances of Tinubu?
    For a deeper reflection, I will ask you: Is this the first time people are defecting? In fact, we now have on record that the only office that has not witnessed defectors is the president’s office.
    Even the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, defected from the PDP while he was vice president. The matter went to court, but did that stop Obasanjo from winning and even being succeeded by another PDP president in the person of the Late Umaru Yar’adua?
    Defection, unfortunately, is part of our system. Although it is not supposed to be celebrated, it just points to the poverty of ideology in our political party formations.
    There are more serious contradictions than I’ve seen but I don’t want to talk about them now because it’s not yet time for political campaigns according to the INEC timetable.
    There are a lot of more important policies and individuals fitting into parties that you know but when we get there, we will discuss it.

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    To be honest, it is not a helpful conversation, and I’m not worried because I have seen a lot of big names, powerful people depending on your definition of power, saying this is what they want and they even go ahead to endorse somebody in another political party, yet, the person they endorsed didn’t win in the end. I don’t think anyone is against the endorsement.
    Meanwhile, you people (the media) will do loud headlines as if the world has come to an end.
    I think the ordinary Nigerian artisans, carpenters, bricklayers, vulcanisers and the unemployed youth just want somebody who can give them jobs. I don’t think they care about the religion of who wins. The real long-term solution is to make radical economic decisions and social policies.
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