In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Yinka Odumakin, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, speaks on why the Afenifere supported ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, the federal government’s neglect of the South-west and how the restructuring of Nigeria is the only panacea for economic and political growth.
Premium Times: Do you think the present government has been fair to Afenifere?
ODUMAKIN: You see, this government has not been fair to us, not because of sharing of appointments whatever, but because of the critical issues we care about are not being tackled, which was the basis of Awolowo’s intervention of Nigeria’s politics in 1947.
His intervention contributed to Nigerian’s Freedom. Until he breathed his last, it was about Nigeria as a multi ethnic nation, that it should be run along federal lines. Check Nigeria’s constitution, in page 52 or 50, Awo said any attempt to run Nigeria along unity line would be a product of disharmony, discontent, people fighting themselves and the whole machinery of Government would crumble under be bureaucratic centralism, except we get super humans to run the affairs of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is a country where the cream does not make it to the top. The best had never been able to make it to the top and you see it every now and then in terms of leadership in this country. At all levels, National Assembly, Government at higher levels, you see that most time it is the worst presiding over the best. In fact, most times, the best are now made to join the rest.
So, within that context, Nigeria has not been able to fulfill its destiny and that is why we need to continue to strive for Nigeria to be restructured. The only reason why Afenifere supported Jonathan in the last election was his promise to implement 2014 National conference which we believed held the key to reorganising Nigeria. But this government came and said no we are not part of the conference and we are not going to look at it. It should rot away in the achieves.
Northern senators said about two days ago that it was scared for southern senators to ask to implement 2014 conference report because it was not part of the meeting of the content of the report. The 2015 budget, was it not made by the Jonathan Government? Why did they implement that one? Are they part of the formation of 2015 budget? So you took time to implement the 2015 Jonathan budget but it’s only the conference report that was done not by Jonathan but by over 400 Nigerians who assembled for three months that is the only one you consider not being part of which shows clearly that we are fools. What you are saying is that you prefer the status quo to Nigerians that worked for it.
Three weeks ago, the president went to the National Assembly to read the 2018 budget of
N 3.6 trillion for 200 million people? In 1983, Shagari was budgeting N 2.25 billion for 80 million people. So this shows you that if we stopped corruption in Nigeria today, Nigeria will still be poor based on un-productive economy that we are running by means of sharing, by means of collecting oil rents shared every month, whereas, we have so many other things that the federating units can prospect that will give us money, that Nigeria will be able to do about N50 trillion budget every year.
But because of the quest for command and control, some people will just sit down at Abuja request for bailout, budget support and control. That is what they know how to do. We have all that will make this country great. We have land, the land that we have been cultivating to share money, look at Niger state. The state is twice Netherland. But the land mass in Niger state is used to share money in Abuja, while Netherland’s land is the second largest exporter of agriculture products in the world after U.S. This government has short changed or refused to accede to the demand to restructure Nigeria. This shows they have not been fair to us
PT: If you are complaining of this government not being for the South-west, the last PDP convention which most people believed the chairmanship position should go to the South-west was taken to the South-south may support this. Is your region losing its relevance?
ODUMAKIN: First of all, I won’t say that PDP’s move was targeted to the Yorubas. It was about their internal party affairs and not the South-west. But I was made to understand that before the election, they zoned the chairmanship to the south and the presidency to the north. The South now micro zoned it to the South-west. But they should have thought of what to do before they zoned it. Now coming to begin to say that South- west should be given the position, I don’t think it was good enough. One thing that interested me in the convention was that the balance of the contest among Prof Adeniran, Chief Raymond Dokpesi , Sencondus and Adedoja
I took a small recess, I looked at the resume of Prof Adeniran, and it was intimidating. I looked at Dokpesi resume, it was frightening. Looking at Adedoja’s resume, it was great, buy looking at Secondus, I found nothing. All I saw was, he went to primary and secondary school. They did not name the schools he went. They are saying he had a diploma in London and emerged chairman with 2,000 votes. That is exactly my point. The best in Nigeria are suppressed.
PT: Does Afenifere have any plan to salvage this situation?
ODUMAKIN: Afenifere believes strongly that Nigeria should be rescued. We are talking with our ‘friends’ across Nigeria for that rescue mission.
PT:- Before 2015, precisely, in 2011 you were president Buhari’s spokesman while contesting under CPC. In 2015, you left him and supported Jonathan. Why?
ODUMAKIN: I supported Jonathan based on his promises to implement the 2014 national conference report, and if there is that scenario again tomorrow, I will support the person that wants to restructure Nigeria against anybody who is not ready
PT: That means you have no regret supporting Jonathan?
ODUMAKIN: I don’t have any regret. I stand on issues. In 2011, when I supported President Buhari, I went with that ticket because of Pastor Tunde Bakare, his running mate who I had known before then. My first contact with Buhari was in 2011. I never joined CPC. I was there as a media professional.
When they started their merger process, they put me in a committee with El-Rufai (Kaduna governor), Hadiza (NPA boss) and other persons. I went to them and said “no” I am not part of CPC. We met at Abuja in an office. That was where I met El-Rufai, Hadiza and the rest of the team. So, if Jonathan had not said he would implement the 2014 conference report, maybe I would not have voted in 2015.
PT: What is your relationship with Buhari?
ODUMAKIN: He is my President. That is the relationship I have with him.
PT: Do you have any relationship with APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
ODUMAKIN: I have known Tinubu for so many years. I don’t have any political relationship with him at the moment. We have come a long way since 1998 and we have done a lot of things together.
PT: What about his visit to the National Chairman of Afenifere?
ODUMAKIN: Yes he did but unfortunately when he visited, I had other commitment elsewhere. He said it was a visit to reciprocate or a return visit for the visit the leader of Afenifere paid him in 2016. Interestingly, I was on that visit.
PT: Do you read any political meaning to the visit?
ODUMAKIN: Every politician has reason for the doing things that he (or she) does. But the discussion at the meeting was not more than a visit.
PT: What is your say about the rift between the minister of finance and SEC DG?
ODUMAKIN: I was alarmed when I read Gwarzo’s allegation that the minister suspended him because he refused to stop investigation about Oando’s problems with shareholders fund. That was a serious indictment.
That a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could say, ‘don’t investigate a company that has been accused of serious infractions or regulations of shareholders’ fund.’ Until the minister came out to say that it was blackmail, that she has no hand in his allegation.
Yes, she had a meeting with him and there was no such thing. The meeting she had was about the allegation against him. Look at this, he was promoted as DG and he paid himself a severance package of N104 million. Also, there are nine companies alleged to belong to him and his wife. They used those companies to get contracts in SEC and he was investigated by EFCC for that and that was the reason for his suspension.
We want to state here that the investigation against Oando must continue. So, we are interested in that investigation. We want to see the outcome of the investigation. They must pay back shareholders their money. But the warning signal about this Gwarzo man is that we have seen a continued trend that Nigerians must watch. When the NHIS boss was suspended by the Minister of Health for corruption, then he issued a statement that the minister cannot suspend him, only the president can suspend him.
When Maina, the pension thief case came open, he started releasing statements that corruption was fighting back. A man accused of stealing ‘N185 billion’ and houses recovered from him which he said were inherited are brand new houses. So, when you take the NHIS boss, when you take Maina and you take Gwarzo man, then it becomes a trend which is the audacity of corruption.
The impunity with which people, when caught, subjected to investigation, begin to look at points of blackmail without addressing the allegation against them is very dangerous.