By Olakunle Olafioye
A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State, Jackson Lekan-Ojo has berated the party and its presidential candidate for settling for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. In this interview, he describes the move as the confirmation of the Islamisation agenda of the North and avers reasons the ticket will not fly.
APC has finally settled for Muslim-Muslim ticket, how do you rate the party’s chances at next year’s presidential election?
A lot of people are making reference to 1993 in defense of this ticket but the situation in Nigeria that time is different from the current situation in the country now. We know the volatile nature of religion in Nigeria today. Recently, in the South South and South East about five to six Reverend fathers and bishops have been kidnapped. A church was attacked in Owo, churches were attacked in Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara and other states. These incidents have made many to kick against Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket but APC has the temerity to insult the Christian faith by settling down for Muslim-Muslim ticket. Does that mean there are no qualified Christians in the North? The former House of Representatives Speaker, Dogara, is a Christian; the current Secretary to the Federal Government is a Christian and a host of others like that. APC’s choice shows that the Islamisation agenda which the northern people are afraid of carrying out is now being executed, using one of us in the South. The moment the ticket was announced, people like us began to call that Christian community across the country should rise against this ticket. We are going to fight this ticket spiritually and with every other means within the confines of the law. I believe the spirit of error is at play and it will cost Tinubu and APC the presidential ticket next year. A number of staunch APC members even from the North resigned their membership of APC the moment the ticket was confirmed. Any individual or political party that is desirous of building peace and progress that will lead to the development of Nigeria will never attempt to denigrate or oppress any other religion. It is clear that APC and Tinubu want to divide Nigeria along religious line.
There are insinuations that Atiku Abubakar still needs to assuage Governor Wike, who is one of the strongest voices in PDP. Do you see Governor Wike giving Atiku all the necessary support in 2023?
As it stands now, nobody knows the mind of Wike. And in politics, you don’t say ‘never’. Wike made a public pronouncement that his ambition is not to become vice president and that he would never accept anything short of the position of the president. But we all know that, that was then. We knew that if he lost the number one position, that position number two would be his next option. But no matter what happened during the primary, I am of the opinion that he should have been approached directly by Atiku, who emerged the winner. Atiku should have given him the right of first refusal. If he turned it down, then you will go elsewhere. Let us not deceive ourselves; Wike’s political dexterity is uncommon. He is not a stingy person; he is always ready to spend to get whatever he wants positively. It is a grave mistake for anybody to undermine Wike in PDP. But that is not the situation now. A lot of people have been going about quoting what Wike did not say. I am of the opinion that Wike cannot leave the PDP which he is helping to build and which structure is very strong now and move to a building with a leaking roof? No, it is not possible! Wike is a pillar in PDP; he cannot leave his position as a pillar in PDP to become a peg in APC. PDP still needs to persuade and assuage Wike.
I am curious to ask if you have left the APC or planning to leave the party?
No, I am still a chieftain of APC. I am solidly supporting the candidate of APC in Osun State, which is my state and I am still going to support a lot of them but when it comes to the presidential election, I can never support what is going on at that level. I believe in the western approach to politics. The kind of politics they play in America is what I believe. In America, Democrats will not defect but when they have issue with a candidate from their party, they will massively vote Republican. Party is a vehicle while the candidate is the driver. No matter how good the condition of a vehicle is, if a bad driver drives it, he will not lead the vehicle and the passengers to their destination in peace. I make bold to say I will not support Bola Tinubu because he is not going to be a good driver.
The fear of fulanisation is one factor that has made a section of the country to kick against the emergence of another president of Fulani extraction. Atiku is a Fulani man, don’t you think this may pose a major setback to his ambition?
With due respect to Buhari, he is not a socialite in anyway. Religious-wise, cultural-wise, Buhari is not a socialite. But Atiku is a socialite. He is a religious socialite; his friends are both Christians and Muslims. Don’t forget that Atiku’s children are partly Fulani and partly Yoruba. His first wife is an Ijesha-speaking Yoruba from Osun State. All his children speak Yoruba fluently. They travel to Osun State better than the way they travel to Yola. So, if anything is happening to Yoruba today, it will affect Atiku Abubakar squarely because at his age, he is going to leave the baton to his children who are largely Yoruba. Atiku is also an in-law to the Igbo and he is very friendly with the Igbo. There is no local government in Nigeria today that Atiku does not know people. But you cannot say that about Buhari. Atiku is not a religious fundamentalist; he is not an extremist but Buhari is a religious fundamentalist and extremist. So, Atiku should not be compared with Buhari. Atiku Abubakar is a saint where Buhari’ is mentioned. People should not be afraid of Fulanisation of Nigeria under Atiku’s watch. When he was vice president and the head of the economic team, he brought people like Okonjo Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili who are neither Muslims nor Fulani.
Peter Obi’s presidential ambition has continued to gain momentum across the length and breadth of the country. How do you assess his chances considering the odds against the candidates of both APC and PDP?
I have never seen the kind of momentum Peter Obi is gathering before now in this country. But no matter how brilliant you are in JSS 3, you cannot write SSCE and emerge the overall best candidate. It would have been good for Obi to remain Atiku’s running mate. If Peter Obi had remained in PDP, he would have been announced as Atiku’s running mate on the day of the convention. Peter Obi should continue building on the momentum; he will only become a threat in 2027. Religion and ethnicity still play huge roles in politics in Nigeria today. You cannot go to Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa, even Benue and say, “Obidient”. When you look at the situation at hand, I can conveniently rate Obi as one of the best presidential material but the time is not ripe. Our political sophistication has not reached a level where you consider somebody that cannot give you money today. Majority of Nigeria’s voters believe in what they will eat today.