Former president of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, in this interview, says politicians who are already strategising for the 2023 general election are on track and not hurting the system in any way. According to him, “those who are futuristic are the ones who move ahead.” He also spoke on sundry national issues.
Politicians have begun to seriously make permutations for the 2023 general election less than six months into this dispensation. Is that healthy for the polity?
Politicians are special breeds of people. They are not like you and I. Before a politician even says good morning, he knows what will follow the good morning and will also go after that. In other words, they see far; they are futuristic. Those are the real politicians, but we have those who are apostles of here and now. Those who are futuristic are the ones who move ahead and the apostles of here and now are left behind.
So, those who are doing calculations for 2023 know what they are doing because they need to start building up the base. Unfortunately, most of them are looking up to one person or the other asking, ‘do you support me; do you not support me’ and that is not healthy.
Any contestant should be able to stand up on his own and say ‘I am fit and worthy to be president and I want you to look at my direction’ instead of looking up to people to say ‘ah I think you are fit’. In other words, you must say you are fit before people will say you are. So, those who are warming up, let them warm up. The general populace will even be happy because they will be spending money.
But don’t you think that this will distract the incumbents from delivering on their mandate?
It is only somebody who wants to be misled that will be misled. Let me put it bluntly. President Muhammadu Buhari is on the last leg of his administration. Nobody expects him to go to the field to say ‘vote for me’. No matter the manipulations of those who want to see him there beyond 2023, the constitution will always be supreme. Yes, there is a fear that we don’t have a National Assembly that can stand up and be called a National Assembly. But at the end of the day, nobody will succeed in imposing third term. So, let the various political parties start organising for 2023. After all, the expression of interest of who wants to be president is strictly a party affair; it’s not a government affair.
If I belong to ADC, my job is to move around my party men to convince them to nominate me during primary. How does that affect President Buhari? It doesn’t, unless he has ulterior motives. If he has ulterior motives, that is when he will start interfering in the system. In a free and fair democracy, that is not his business at all.
How then would you react to the travails of the Vice President, which is being seen in many quarters as engineered to whittle down his influence and stop him from contesting in 2023?
I think it is a case of the long knives. I hope you remember the Night of the Long Knives, referring to what happened in Germany in the 1930s when Hitler came to power and used the long knives to cut off so many people. What is happening in Aso Rock is close to the long knives. They are settling scores. That is my impression.
My impression is that we have a president with enormous powers, surrounded by people who think that they are also the pseudo president, who think that after the president they are the next and not the vice president. And when the vice president was made acting president, he really showed what it means to be president and they saw it as a threat.
Remember that it was the vice president as acting president who presented the name of Ibrahim Magu to the Senate for confirmation as EFCC chairman; it was not President Buhari. Why? And it was the SSS that wrote a letter to the Senate condemning the character of Magu. Also remember that it was the vice president as acting president who had to swear in the immediate past Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen.
So, the way they are moving in Aso Rock now is more of settlement. I don’t see Yemi Osinbajo as president in waiting, because you must have the party behind you. If you are not with the party, and you are not known as a grassroots person, then you cannot be a threat to the decisions of your party. That is the way I see him. I don’t see him controlling any aspect of politics in Yoruba land, not to talk of the country. But those who want to humiliate him are out to strip him naked. They are like ‘you are a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, come and do your professing here’.
Let me remind you again that the way the former director general of the SSS, Lawal Daura, was removed did not go down well with some people. And when President Buhari came back, people expected him to make a comment but he never did. And till today, nobody was prosecuted for the invasion of the National Assembly.
But look at Omoloye Sowore. What did he do? Just for calling for an end of this government, he is being incarcerated. Yet some people took arms and invaded the National Assembly, the beacon of our democracy, until they were shoved out. Of course, the mastermind of that action was not hidden. But what did Mr President do? Nothing, except to ease out the man who was acting DG of DSS when he returned and then bring another of his own. So, they have a lot of scores to settle with the vice president. The vice president stands for what is right but the other people stand for what is acceptable to them.
Are you saying that Osinbajo’s travails originated from his actions when he acted as president during Buhari’s medical vacations?
I suspect that that is the origin and it is still on. In other words, some people, if they have a man who is by character and upbringing high and above them, they will want to bring him down to earth.
Let me just describe the power structure in Aso Rock. The last person you must pass through to see the president, including every document, is the Chief of Staff, not the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). So, if the Chief of Staff comes and says that the president has approved this or that, how do you go to ask whether Mr President actually approved?
Yes, the vice president is not supposed to pass through the chief of staff in order to see the president because it is one ticket. So, all that will happen is that they will distance themselves from the vice president. And you know the campaign that has been going on in the past few days. They want to present him as a tribalist; they want to present him as a man having too many people working around him. That is what is going on; they want to dismantle him. For whose benefit? Just for the power brokers to show that they are in power.
Given your submission, what is your take on the fact that the President will be away for weeks but did not transfer power to the vice president like he had done in the past?
I think he had to move like a typical politician this time. First, he had to go to Saudi Arabia for one innocuous conference where the highest discussion he had was with the Crown Prince and not the King. The King is the number one citizen of Saudi Arabia just like the president is the number one citizen of Nigeria.
From there, he moved to England to spend 15 days. If he had gone straight, the Constitution would have required him to transfer power to the vice president. But he broke his journey into two; now he will be telling himself that it has not reached 21 days.
But if you watch, since the last time he travelled and the vice president acted as president, which was when he (Osinbajo) removed the SSS DG, among other decisions, Mr President has not been known to transfer power whenever he travels out. And if you want to know, since he was sworn in for a second term, ask yourself how many weeks he has stayed in Nigeria without travelling out. Just check and you will be shocked at the rate at which he travels out. One was climate change conference; another was China summit or so, and so on. A minister or an ambassador can attend many of these conferences. And whenever Mr President travels, he travels with a large entourage and we are talking of reducing the cost of governance.
To the best of my knowledge, no president comes to Nigeria for holiday. No president comes to Nigeria on medical tourism. When we organise conferences, who and who attends? People from Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Chad and the likes. So, Mr President’s travels do not really augur well for us as a country.
There was a claim recently by a presidential aide that the president could work form anywhere. How constitutional is that assertion?
I think those people are being clever by half. We know where the seat of power in Nigeria is. London can never be the seat of power in Nigeria, just like Nigeria cannot be the seat of power in Britain. As long as this is a sovereign country, sovereignty lies on Nigerians, symbolised by Mr President. That is why he is the number one citizen. If the number one citizen is working from a sovereign country, then it is a funny situation.