Prince Dayo Adeyeye, a former Senator who represented Ekiti South Senatorial District is the Chairman and Coordinator of South West Agenda for Tinubu (SWAGA). He speaks on the mission of the group and the controversy over zoning of presidential ticket in 2023. Excerpts:
What is SWAGA 2023 all about and what is your position on the zoning controversy in APC?
There will be a presidential election in 2023 by the grace of God and by the principle that we all agreed, though not cast in stone, but it is generally agreed among politicians of all political divides that the presidency should rotate between the North and the South. It is only fair enough that we should rotate in a very diverse country like this where our democracy is still very nascent and fragile. There are so many centrifugal forces pulling us aside, we need to ensure fairness to all sections of the country.
We need to rotate between North and South. I believe there is a gentleman’s agreement in all the political parties that now, after eight years in the North, the presidency should come down to the South. We have not microzoned to the six geo-political zones of Nigeria; that is we have not agreed that it should be zoned to the South- South; South-East or South-West or the other zones. There is no general agreement on that but there is a general idea that the Presidency should rotate between North and South. That was why in the 2007 presidential election, the PDP and President Obasanjo gave Yar’Adua the chance. Those who contested that year were mainly northerners; the like of Atiku Abubakar, Umaru Yar’Adua, Muhammadu Buhari and the election was won by Yar’Adua. Unfortunately, Yar’A dua couldn’t complete his first term and then Goodluck Jonathan came in.
The problem that we had then when Jonathan was president was that the Northerners felt that South did eight years with Obasanjo as President and with Jonathan; they had already done another 6 years. They felt if Jonathan was to have a second term, that will amount to Southerners doing like 18 years with the north having done just two years. So, there was this extreme tension which I saw as a politician. That tension that the North was being shortchanged and they should have the presidency in 2015 started building up in 2011. That was why this coalition to get Jonathan out at all cost took place.
They succeeded and President Buhari came in in 2015. As of today, the South has had the presidency for about 13 years; the north has done eight years. So, it should come down to the South now so that the South can have a taste of it in 2023 because by then, the North would have done 10 years. We in the South-West are part of the south of Nigeria and the South-West has the right to contest for it.
Kebbi state governor, Atiku Bagudu said APC governors are not for zoning but they want the presidential ticket to be thrown open to all aspirants. What is your take on that?
Absolutely I have nothing against the idea of throwing the presidential ticket open. Even if a party make pronouncement today that the presidency is zoned to a particular place, I can assure you that people from other areas will still come out. But it is in the mind of the people to say that we have zoned the ticket to a particular place. So, when you come to the field, they will defeat you because you may not get the necessary votes. But as long as the constitution of Nigeria says you must not discriminate against anybody, so a political party can have an internal arrangement to say we are zoning a particular position to a particular place. Some other people may disagree and they have a right to. So, you leave and go to the field.
Since the majority believes in the zoning arrangement, you will have your way. That is the way it works in politics. In 2007, it wasn’t only Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that came out, some people came out in the South too. They might be minor candidates but they still came out. That is the way it normally works. Are you going to bar Ayade as a bonafide citizen of Nigeria from contesting if he says he wants to contest? The answer is no. Yahaya Bello said he is interested in the presidency even though he is from the North-Central, can you say he has no right? He has a right to contest as long as the constitution of Nigeria allows it. So, we have nothing against that statement by Bagudu that they want to throw the ticket open because that is what I expect anybody from that political position to say.
If I was asked the same question, I will say ‘Governor Ayade, you are welcome to our party and you are free to contest for presidency if you desire’. Somebody is joining your party and you say he cannot contest. That is not a politically correct thing to do. When the governor of Ebonyi joined APC, he was equally welcomed. He went to see the President and the President put his arms around him and said he has a right just like every other person. He can aspire for whatever position he wants in APC.
The South West has produced the presidency in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The South- South has also produced in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Don’t you think if the presidency is zoned to the South, then it should go to the South- East?
I think that is a very legitimate question. It is absolutely legitimate. But to the extent that microzoning is not generally acceptable for now, let everybody in the South come out and contest for it. The presidency of Nigeria is too important to be awarded to somebody who is sitting in his house. You have to struggle for it.
Political power is never served a la carte. You see the kind of things Americans go through when they are contesting for presidency. For almost two years, they run primary and other things before the election. That has a tendency of you going round the country of meeting all sorts of people. As a journalist, what is my business going to the people in the village? But when I contested for senatorial election, I had to meet everybody including traders, artisans and so on. So, politics is not served a la carte. South-West will not sit back and say we are awarding it to South-East.
Let everyone bring out his own candidate. If people are persuaded more that your candidate is more qualified and in any case, his zone has not produced the presidency, maybe they can consider that. But if we do not come out to project our own man, the presidency may not even come to the South. For example, Yar’Adua was from Katsina state in the North West, why did people not say North-West has produced, therefore Buhari should give it to another person? They said North and Buhari who is from the same Katsina still emerged. If the thing is going back to the North again after the South has produced, it could still go to Katsina in the Northwest if the other zones are not ready and prepared. That is why South-West is projecting its own candidate. We do not say other people don’t have a right to project their own but I will not be the one coming from Ekiti to go to the South-East and South- South to say ‘come out and contest for presidency’. That is why we call it South-West Agenda.
The South- West has come out to projects its own candidate and we believe our candidate is ready and capable. He has sown seeds round the country and they are bearing fruits now. There is all likelihood that by the grace of God, he will make it in 2023. That is why we are working hard for him.
Asiwaju Tinubu has not indicated interest in contesting for 2023. With all your efforts, what if he declines to contest and decided to support another aspirant?
Honestly, I do not have any assurance from Asiwaju Tinubu that he is contesting but I can tell you that he will contest. He will not back out from the presidential race. He cannot back out because there are forces in politics that will not make it possible for him to back out. I am telling you that even though Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has not given us any assurance but you can also be reasonably sure that some of us in SWAGA with our little experience will not be wasting our time if we don’t think that he will come out and do it. I am telling you that by the grace of God he will come out and contest for the presidency. I don’t have assurance from him but we know our efforts cannot be in vain.