Chief Charles Idahosa is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state. He was a former Political Adviser to ex-governor of the state and current National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI in Benin City, he spoke on recent developments in the nation as well as the political crisis in his home state. Excerpts:
President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed the Deep Offshore Act in London, United Kingdom (UK). While some Nigerians condemned the action saying the Vice- President, Yemi Osinbajo could have signed it here, others said the President can rule from anywhere. What is your reaction to that?
I think the president has the prerogative of asking his aides to bring documents to him in the UK to sign. That doesn’t imply that he is ruling from anywhere. I don’t subscribe to the idea that the president can rule from anywhere. Any person saying that is a sycophant who is seeking cheap publicity. The president has not disclosed to us why he has taken two-weeks leave. But whatever he is doing there and there is a pressing state matter that needs his attention; his aides can take documents to him there for him to append his signature. It has happened many times. I remembered the same thing happened when Yar’Adua was abroad because he was very ill. But i think President Buhari just wanted to take a break because I saw him with the Archbishop of Canterbury. So, I believe President Buhari can sign important documents that are urgent to our well-being anywhere he is without anybody interpreting that he can rule from anywhere. I remember when we were in the government in this state and we were in South Africa; something urgent needed to be done. The document was brought to the governor there but he wasn’t ruling from there. So, there is nothing wrong in taking urgent document to the president wherever he is; what is wrong to me, is saying that he can rule from anywhere. But I am glad that the President has returned to the country and has assured us that he is more energised and ready for work.
Some aides of Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo’s were recently sacked and some Nigerians who believe there are attempts to whittle down his powers are asking him to either fight back or resign. What advice will you give in this situation?
Nigerians are very funny people who like blowing things out of proportion. The President employs the aides of the Vice-President. If for any reason the President wants to downsize, why should anybody read any meaning to it? The number of staff of the Vice-President was more than that of the President and therefore they felt there is a need to reduce it. I don’t think anybody should read any meaning to it. I don’t see anything Osinbajo has done that will bring confrontation between him and the cabals. I think what is confusing Nigerians is what happened during Obasanjo and Atiku’s presidency. Obasanjo started sacking Atiku’s staff and that culminated in the open confrontation which led to Atiku going to court and even contested for presidency under another political platform while still in office as Vice-President. Buhari is not as complicated as people think he is. But as far as I am concerned, I don’t think there is any problem. I am not close to the presidency but as an observer from a distance, if the President says the number of staff of the Vice- President is too much and decided to reduce it, I don’t see anything wrong in that. People are just trying to make a mountain of a molehill. Don’t forget that the opposition will always take advantage of everything to fight back but I don’t see any issue here. It is just politics.
Some people are alleging that President Buhari is scheming to get a Third term in office. Do you think that is realistic?
Buhari is not that kind of person. I have also read it and I believe that it is the handiwork of fifth columnists. The president is a democrat who will not do anything to subvert the constitution.
Some associates of Atiku are asking him to contest again in 2023. What is your reaction to that?
We have not gotten to 2023 yet. This is still 2019 and besides, I am not a member of the PDP but I see a situation where the North will not let go of power. They will still go for the presidency in 2023 after President Buhari’s tenure. If that happens, I am going to support a northern president.
Do you mean you will support a northerner as President after Buhari must have completed his eight years?
Yes, I will support a northern president because we southerners, there is something funny about us. We think we know more than the northerners but the northerners are more politically sophisticated and aware more than us. I think the leaders who by 1998 agreed to a clean slate after so many years of military coup and after the MKO Abiola debacle agreed that the South and North will rule for eight years and it will continue like that on a rotational basis. We were all very happy with that arrangement. I believe that anybody saying that the northerners have dominated us is talking bunkum. The northern heads of state were getting to power by coups. For all the coups that failed, those involved were tied to the stakes and shot and they were 90 percent northerners. The southerners were scared of doing a coup. I remembered the case of Olusegun Obasanjo. He was so scared to be Head of State after Murtala Mohammed was assassinated. If Theophilus Danjuma wanted to be Head of State that year, it would have been so easy for him. I remembered Danjuma was quoted to have told Obasanjo ‘How can you be alive as second-in-command and you said you don’t want to be Head of State? Let me take over and we tell Nigerians that we eliminated you’; that was when Obasanjo panicked and accepted to become Head of State. By 1999, most of the people who were in power came in through military coup and that cannot be used to judge a democratic government. In order to appease the southerners, especially the South- West over what happened to MKO Abiola, they brought Obasanjo out of prison, cleaned him up, gave him money and he became President of Nigeria. Obasanjo became president with northern votes because he lost his polling unit, his ward, local government, his state and his zone. Alliance for Democracy (AD) took all the states in the South-West.
When Obasanjo became president, he consolidated by plotting against the North. After doing his eight years, he wanted a Third term but it failed. He then decided to pick a sick northerner in the person of late Umaru Yar’Adua knowing full well that he cannot last eight years as President. He also picked a clueless and weakling politician in the person of Goodluck Jonathan as Vice-President, leaving people like Odili and Donald Duke who were very effective. Obasanjo’s plan was that if Yar’Adua dies, Jonathan who does not know his left from his right will take over as President so that he can continue his Third term agenda through him. He however forgot to put into consideration that Jonathan had people like Chief E. K. Clark and other Ijaw leaders. So, immediately Jonathan succeeded Yar’Adua as president, they took control of him and Obasanjo got stranded. He became so angry and started fighting Jonathan and brought Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari also pushed him aside and he also became angry and endorsed Atiku, thinking that whoever he supports will win the election. For the first time, Buhari now won election without his support. What I am trying to say in essence is that the northerners did not finish their tenure from 2007 to 2015 and it was a deliberate and selfish act by Obasanjo. So, the period of six years that Jonathan ruled after Yar’Adua died, we must make sure the North completes it so that the equation will be balanced. That is why I will support a northern candidate if the north decides to contest in 2023. I will not support a southern candidate because we must respect our northern brothers. That is my position as regards the 2023 presidential election.
What about the agitation for Igbo Presidency in 2023?
Forget the Igbos! They have shot themselves in the leg. It is a very funny demand. Why will anyone want to give Igbos presidency when there is no APC in the zone at all? The only party that could have given Igbos presidency is the APC. Buhari told them but they decided to vote PDP. Now, from all indications, they will rather support Atiku for presidency again because the Vice- President position will still go the South-East. I see Atiku running again because the 2019 presidential election is the nearest Atiku has come. So, I don’t think the Igbos deserve presidency because if they do, they ought to have planned properly. The late Emeka Ojukwu gave them APGA but they threw it away. So, under which party will they get presidency?