AdemolaSodiq is the Legal Adviser to the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, he speaks on the national assembly crisis and party is supreme mantra. He also said that the Yorubas have broken away from regional politics. Excerpts:
What do you have to say about the crisis in the national assembly and the failure of its leadership to adhere to the All Progressives Congress instructions?
In normal and ordinary situation, the national assembly is an autonomous arm of government but it is clear and obvious that without the existence of a political party through which the candidates were sponsored, the national assembly members cannot be there. In the developed countries, political parties are always strong in the parliament; party caucus will always listen to the party. It should not be a principle that would be watered down by the members of the party.
What is happening was that it is like a carryover from the previous administration of the PDP and the people wants to take their pound of flesh because of what Gbajabiamila has done under PDP, the Tambuwal episode which is still fresh in our memory. Now, it appears the thing is catching up on us and it is quite unfortunate. If you profile the major players in this saga, you will discover that they are people from PDP who have come to join APC. I think the party leader being the President needs to stand on its stand that the party is supreme. I think the party leaders after the initial shock of what I will describe as “Baptism of fire”, it is easy to get accustomed to exercising power at the federal level.
Federal level is a very big and massive field of play unlike when you are governor of a state or when you have about three or four governors under your control, federal field is very big. The powers at the federal level are enormous so I think the party leaders, including the President have buttoned up and putting their house together and speaking with one voice that the party decision must be carried out. Let us wait till when the national assembly resume. Let us see what will play out because I read in the paper today that national assembly principal officers would emerge when they resume.
Do you believe that the ACN which played critical role in the merger lost out in the power sharing arrangement?
You are just touching an aspect we are so proud of, we are proud that for the first time the party that was seen as Yoruba party, the defunct ACN, took Yorubas to the centre by merging with other parties. We are proud of that. If you remember during the time of Papa Awolowo, the referred progenitor, his party and himself were referred to as regional politicians, Nigerians never accepted Awo as a national leader despite the fact that he was playing the role of a vice-president under General YakubuGowon when he was minister of finance and vice chairman of the military council that placed him as the vice president of the country at that time.
Till the time he died he was never regarded as a national leader of Nigeria, he was referred to as a regional leader and his party UPN also. Even AD,AC,ACN were referred to as regional parties so that tag was like a milestone hung on our neck. Now we have succeeded in breaking that jinx by going to the
mainstream. The set of people that normally position themselves as national leaders and they want to play mainstream politics under PDP are Yoruba relegates, but now the bulk of Yorubas are in national politics. I will rather believe that it is too early to start assessing but rather I will want us to adopt a positive attitude to it that this is a break away from the old tag of Yorubas being clannish, and always forming their own party and having regional party, a party that cannot play at the national level.
We have broken away from the mod and I think it is rather too early to start assessing the situation. We should not start assessing now. If Nigerians wait for PDP for 16years to destroy Nigeria, so there is no reason that the Nigerian people cannot wait for atleast six months to see where the new government is going. We are not being marginalized let us wait for the appointment of ministers, SGF, COS and other key appointments before we are to say that South West lost out in the merger.
We are concerned about getting the job done, moving Nigeria forward. So whether you have two or three Yorubas in the team is not our argument. Like I said the field is big it has to take note of the fact that the positions must spread to six geopolitical zones of the country when you have 36 ministers as prescribed by the constitution, and we have six states from Yoruba land so we are expecting six ministers. We cannot expect to have more than that, so as far as I am concerned we are at the experimental stage. We should exercise enough patience we should allow the President to form his government and let us see how it goes. I want to tell you that the President is very methodical in what he is doing; Nigerians are just looking at federal might as a minor thing, he needs to dismantle the corrupt system that he met on ground if he did not do that it will not help the government particularly the security sector. That is why I commend him for the sack of the service chiefs; he needs to clean the system first before he can lay his own foundation.
There are reports that Tinubu is not in good terms with the President and some leaders because of the way the national assembly leadership election went. Is this not going to affect the party at the long run?
Politics is a game of power and Asiwaju is a master of the game, he faced PDP and battled them to the ground and if all PDP members are asked about whom their enemy is they would tell you it is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He has said recently that he has not even made any demand from the President, he has not made any single demand I think Nigerians should be careful so they don’t alter the relationship between Asiwaju and the President. The two of them are gentlemen, there are things they have discussed between themselves and if Asiwaju have demand to make he will make it directly to the President.Anybody will know though a lot of things are attributed to Asiwaju. He is a builder; he will not destroy what he has built so as far as I am concerned I don’t see any reason for Asiwaju to be disgruntled with the party’s leadership and the national assembly leadership and with the President. I don’t believe he is disgruntled at this stage.
Asiwaju that I know is more concerned about deliverable is more concerned about how the party will deliver its campaign promises to the Nigerian people, because we have promised a lot of things. Like in Lagos, he is always thinking about how we will deliver on our promises. Asiwaju will sacrifice everything to ensure that the party delivers on its promises; he will sacrifice his personal ambition and put anybody in any position to ensure that we deliver.
But some Yoruba leaders are skeptical that the Yoruba alliance with the North might not favour the South West. Do you agree with that?
The Yoruba leaders that are crying foul are those that are inconsequential, they are leaders that cannot win election anywhere in Yoruba land. They cannot win election I can tell you that. They are expired; they can’t win election they cannot even win their wards talkless of their local government, so it is a dangerous dimension for them to be saying that. The President has not formed his cabinet and you can recall that he has just recalled the ambassadors and these are positions that would be filled by some people eventually, so who is seeing a particular tribe as being marginalized. We should be cautioned on issues like that at this stage. In all sides, the politicians, media and the people should be cautioned on this issue because it is an issue that can lead to bad blood. As far as I am concerned we are happy that we sent PDP packing from Aso Rock. Presently, power supply is improving even though government has not taken any step. I said it before election that if Buhari wins corruption in all senses would be addressed as all the bosses in all departments in different companies doing one thing or the other to frustrate the government would put their house in order. Those that said there is no Gas before now there is Gas to power their plant and I can assure you that it can be better.
Looking at the recent appointments that the President made, it is obvious that South East was not represented and considering the pluralist nature of Nigeria state, don’t you think this is dangerous?
If you know the military very well you will know that the military has tradition and if you cast your mind back the South East has occupied virtually all positions before, somebody like AzubuikeIhejirika who was ones a chief of army staff, they have also occupied chief of naval staff, air staff, defence, I don’t think they raised any eyebrow. The President has discretion of whom and who that can work with him, and who can make him to achieve his promises made to the people. The military tradition is in full force let the President appoints whoever will be able to work with him to achieve his goal. They don’t need to raise issue like that because what of all the time they have occupied the positions who complained. The South-South is on the list. The important thing is that we have three northerners and three southerners. Getting the job done is the most important thing. I know geography is important in Nigeria when it comes to position but at the same time competency is important.
You said it is too early to assess the government, but there is a saying that the morning makes the evening, why do you think it is still early to assess the government?
It is in order to draw attention to this but it is not yet time to do full assessment.
You talked about ministerial appointments, the Ahmed Jodacommittee recommended appointment of 19 ministers and even the President talked about reducing ministries from 42. Don’t you think some regions would be shortchanged?
Minister is minister whether state minister or substantive minister, all the states will have ministers. It will have 17 substantive ministers and others will be ministers of state.
But the government talks about cutting cost of governance…
The government wants to cut cost and that was why the President and his vice president cut their salary by 50%. They have shown the good gesture, so the ministers and governors would follow suit and cut cost. But where you have a compelling or compulsory provision of the constitution, he has no choice he has to do it. He must appoint atleast a minister from each state. Any zone that believes it is shortchanged can go to court, but that is why they device the strategy of appointing 19 ministers and others will be ministers of state.
Let me take you to the statement made by Chief Bode George on Tinubu, describing him as a local champion that formed alliance with the North without any benefits?
That is a statement from an expired politician. Chief Bode George enjoys limelight while it lasted. Ask him what he has achieved for the South West when he was the national vice chairman of the PDP South West under Chief Obasanjo.He was party leader all through the tenure of Yaradua and Goodluck Jonathan, what tangible thing has he achieved for the Yorubas. When you are talking about Yoruba leaders, if not for people like Chief OlusegunObasanjo, who protected somebody like him he is not supposed to be at the forefront as Yoruba leaders because at the end of the day, even though he was exonerated by the Supreme Court but the important is that he committed the crime. Whether he likes it or not he is an ex-convict, it has been part of history so he is not in the class of people that would truly assess the Nigeria political system.
AsiwajuTinubu has taken the Yoruba into the national government, the bulk of Yorubas when I say the bulk I mean over 80% of Yoruba people have been taken into the national government. Let us wait for what the government would do although it is not going to be a Yoruba government; it is a Nigeria government even though I recognize geography. How many companies do Bode George has which employ Nigeria people. We need to assess him or rather investigate him. He has no company where people earn a leaving; he is just an opportunist who is eating on the political system. He is not a populist minded person like AsiwajuTinubu. Anytime he talks it is just to attack Tinubu. As a PDP leader what has he achieved for the South West, is it the Lagos Ibadan Expressway which was under construction for how many years or the Nigeria Port Authority that is in Lagos State which is a federal institution. Let us look for one particular thing he has succeeded in doing for Lagos State. Everything was about himself, nothing he did to improve life of the Yorubas.
Recently, the governorship election tribunal in Lagos gave victory to the APC but the PDP kicked against it pointing to some legal lapses. What can you say about that?
They are confused, I am sure they are confused people. They filed a petition saying we did not give INEC 21days notice before we did our congress, they said there was malpractices in the election in some places that the elections in 9 local governments out of 20 should be nullified and thereafter they sort for order from the court. One order they asked for was that there candidate should be declared winner of the election and the tribunal said on the issue of 21days notice, we have letter written to the INEC they only got one out of the letter and they based their petition on the only letter they got, while we have two letters as regards our congress which we wrote to INEC. The first letter was written on 19th September telling INEC the date we are going to do the congress when the day was not feasible we wrote another one on the 5th of November telling INEC that the date is not feasible and that we are going to supply them another date very soon. On the 18th of November we wrote them another letter spelling out the new dates.
In fact the tribunal did not rule on that because the tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to entertain such grant, but tribunal said they have jurisdiction only to nullify election not to declare your candidate as winner. I don’t want to cast aspersion on the lawyer they gave the case to but the error was from there. They should appeal if they are not comfortable which they have the right to do so.
There is insinuation that there is negotiation between APC and Agbajenot to challenge the victory of Governor Ambode. Is that true?
That is totally untrue and such can’t happen for APC to approach Agbaje for what. APC does not do things like that. From the time I joined AD uptill now we have never approached the opposition or crossed the other line. We will rather battle the case and face them squarely. We don’t negotiate with opposition. Even from the graveyard I heard that Agbaje was not part of the legal battle, but some leaders in their party want to use it to get some funds from their national body. It is not in our character to negotiate with our opponent.
What is your assessment of the days in office of Governor Ambode?
Honestly, the governor has been up and doing. He has visited so many places where there was traffic jam. People are feeding us back after his visitation steps have been taken and there have been ease. I was watching “your view programme” this morning and people were talking about Apapa. The governor has visited Apapa about two occasions. They said that as he comes things get better but there is need for permanent solution to Apapa road problem with the support of the federal government. We have seen the governor all over the town getting involved and I know he has been doing some work underneath.