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Igbos must understand Nigeria’s politics to get presidency, says Olajide

His presence at the recent endorsement of the Presidential Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by the leadership of the Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, generated ripples but Dr. Kunle Olajide who until recently was the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) in this interview with OLAOLU OLADIPO talked about the rationale behind the move. Excerpts:

You were part of Yoruba leaders of thought that recently endorsed the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the residence of the leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. People know that you are a chieftain of the Yoruba Council of Elders; could you tell us why you were there?

People, particularly members of the press, usually have this notion that the Yoruba Council of Elders is in competition for relevance with the Afenifere. This is not the case. I must tell you that both organisations are interested in the progress, unity and the development of the Yoruba race. We are both passionate about issues relating to the welfare and wellbeing of the people and the Yoruba nation.

The difference perhaps is that Afenifere makes no pretence about being socio-political while the Yoruba Council of Elders is apolitical. We are not political at all and we are never in any way affiliated ourselves with any political party. Our endorsement is borne out of the fact that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu possesses the requisite competence and track record to turn around the fortunes of the country if elected into office as the country’s president.

We are of the belief that he has the needed political network of political associates having built bridges of friendship across the length and breadth of Nigeria. He has shown enough benevolence to all manner of Nigerians from the Savanna to the Atlantic Ocean over the years. Above all, he is our son, so therefore, we are endorsing him for the Presidency. Our endorsement has nothing to do with any political party. We are endorsing him on his merit. He is our son, we are standing and we will keep standing by him.

It was a meeting of Afenifere and you are not a member of Afenifere but what prompted your attendance at the meeting?

If you permit me to say, all Yorubas are automatic members of Afenifere. Anytime they try to support a political party, we withdraw or move back so that we preserve our unity of all Nigerians irrespective of whatever political party they belong to. We want the good of all Nigerians and the endorsement of Tinubu is consistent with that policy and philosophy. We are members but when they go political, some of us who are members of the Yoruba Council of Elders will withdraw. This is our own son, whatever political party he belongs to doesn’t matter to us. We are bound to support him and his aspiration. We should give him all the needed backing to become the president of the country notwithstanding the political party that he belongs to. Apart from that, his track record of performance over time has also put him in good reckoning. He is the most competent among those contesting the Presidency now.

Your position stands very much in contrast to the position taken by the other faction of Afenifere who are saying that they are endorsing the candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, based on the need to ensure equity, fairness and justice for the people of the South Eastern part of the country who have not produced a president for the country. What do you have to say in that stance?

Well, as far as I am concerned, everybody has the right to his own opinion and decision but for me, anyone desirous of political power must play politics well in a heterogeneous environment such as Nigeria. If any part of Nigeria does not play its politics right it won’t get the Presidency. If the Yoruba nation, Ijaw nation or Hausa nation don’t play their politics right, the chances are that you will hold the wrong end of the stick most of the time, if not all the time. If you fail in this, you will be holding the wrong end of the stick and you will appear to be losing out in the political calculations and permutations. Politics is a serious business and you must do your calculations very well and must be able to read the political barometer in the manner that would favour you. A good politician or group who seeks power must be able to understand and adapt to the prevailing political barometer in Nigeria. Our country is deeply heterogeneous, so any group seeking power must play its politics well.

Why do you think the meeting generated so much controversy?

Is there any controversy? I can’t see any controversy at all.

But the outcome has further polarized Afenifere with Pa Reuben Fashoranti and Pa Ayo Adebanjo jostling for the leadership of the group…

No! I don’t think you are right. Do you know the meaning of Afenifere? Everybody wants the best for himself and that is what the group seeks to do for all bona fide Yoruba people. I don’t think there is any controversy; it is you the media trying to play the non-issues up. I have no doubt in my mind that Baba Ayo Adebanjo will support Asiwaju Tinubu in the long run. I think that will happen ultimately when the time comes. I know that he has thrown his weight behind Peter Obi.

What if Peter Obi comes to Yoruba Council of Elders, will he also get the endorsement of your group? Why not?

We won’t shut our doors against him. In fact, we will listen to him and it is not unlikely that a few members of the organisation will throw their weight behind him. I can tell you certainly that the leadership of the organisation will eventually throw their weight behind Asiwaju. I can’t rule out the possibility that a few people will still throw their weight behind Peter Obi. Yoruba nation is a highly civilised one, populated by great men and women. We are very liberal too.

Could you tell us in concrete terms if there was any kind of commitment that the meeting extracted from Tinubu during the meeting in terms of demand?

We want to know what his responses were? The only commitment that the meeting sought from him was to ensure that he makes the right necessary impacts in terms of quality leadership for the country when elected. It is common knowledge that Yorubas are talented people who excel in all they venture into. We have the Midas touch. Whatever we touch as individuals, we turn to gold and this quality of the Yoruba persona is known to many people within and outside the country and we told him that he can’t be an exception to the norm. We told him to ensure that he utilises his experience overtime to return the country to the path of sanity and progress. We told him to make sure that the unity of the country is well consolidated. We told him to work very well on the stability and the progress of the country. We told him that this is necessary because of the need to return Nigeria to the path of leadership of not only Africa but of the black race. Tinubu is the leader that the Yoruba nation is offering to Nigeria come 2023.

Is that all?

You and I know that we (the people of Yorubaland) have been clamouring for restructuring of the country and devolution of power from the centre to the states and the local government. We cannot continue with the way we have been going in the past and expect different and positive results. We cannot continue to be run centrally. The states must take or be given responsibilities for some of the functions being carried out by the Federal Government. We told him that there must be devolution of power to the state. That’s all we told him and we said it would ensure the progress of the country in the long run.

When you suggested this to him as an agenda to be pursued, what was his response to the meeting?

Tinubu has been part of this agitation over the years and he can’t claim not to understand what we were telling him. It is something that isn’t new or strange to him. It is on record that we have been clamouring for this together. We didn’t suggest it to him but perhaps, you should say that all of us at the meeting wanted to remind one another about what we stand for in the Yoruba nation. We believe in him and there is nothing whatsoever to worry about.

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