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Home arrow Africa arrow How I was forced to step down for Osoba’s son - Lekan Abiola
How I was forced to step down for Osoba’s son - Lekan Abiola PDF Print E-mail
Written by NIYI ODEBODE and FIDELIS SORIWEI, The Punch   
Feb 09, 2011 at 05:27 AM

A son of the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential Election, Chief Moshood Abiola, Lekan, who is the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change for Abeokuta North/Obafemi Owode/Odeda Federal Constituency, in this interview with NIYI ODEBODE and FIDELIS SORIWEI, bares his mind on the state of the nation and democracy in the country.


Between 1999 and 2010, you did not come out to contest. Why are you contesting now? How would you assess our democracy?

We’ve gone through dictatorship and my parents and a lot of other people were in the forefront in the fight against dictatorship. We didn’t want the military anymore and thank God that at the end of the day, we were successful. We now have a democracy. We have had two elections so far and each of these elections has been below par. Even the manner in which the candidates were selected in many cases was also not very good. So, we have never had the chance of having our best people rule us. Although we now have a democracy, we do not have the best people in charge of our affairs, if we did, things would not be this bad. You can hear the sound of a generator in the background. Look at how big this house is. Do you know how much it costs to run this house with a generator every day? After 12 years of democracy, we cannot fix the power situation. So, any Nigerian that has good ideas about how he can contribute something to this country should come out and try.

Your parents paid the supreme price for democracy. The expectation was that in 1999, some of your siblings would come out to vie for strategic positions, but you stayed away. What is responsible for this change of mind?

I don’t think that going for a political position is like a birthright. If your father is a good football player, it does not mean that automatically you too must be a football player. Look at Michael Jordan, none of his sons is playing basketball today. So, just because my father was a democrat, who won election, does not mean that all his children must follow that line. Everybody has his destiny. When I decided to come out as an individual, I was looking at the situation. I am not happy with the state in which Nigeria is, right now. I am upset about it and I am sure many people are upset about it. We have a lot of people who don’t have jobs. Salaries of those who have jobs are not even enough. Right now, crude oil is $101. This should be oil boom. When we had the oil boom in the 1970s, the oil was about $40 and we were only producing less than a million barrels a day. Today, we are doing like 2.2 million barrels a day and oil is $101 per barrel. It is disgraceful that we are having economic doom right now, when in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, where crude oil is their main source of income, you see them building tallest buildings in the world and new railway systems. It is very sad. Unemployment is high. The interest rate is 24 per cent.

Do you have faith in democracy now?

You know that the good thing about democracy is that every four years or so, people have the time to chose and change their leaders. Now Nigeria is having that in April. April is a decision time again for Nigerians to come out and say, “We are tired of these people. We are tired of the PDP in the Presidency. We are tired of them in Senate. We are tired of them in the House of Representatives.” The only thing we know about the Senate and the House of Representatives is jumbo pay. We don’t know them for any other thing. These are the people that are meant to be doing oversight, making sure that the budget is implemented, making sure that roads they said they voted billions voted for, have been built. All you hear is that they are collecting jumbo pay. By the grace of God, Nigerians will make the right choice. They have already come out to register in large numbers. I hope that on that day, they will choose the right people to represent them. Americans have already said that in 2015, Nigeria is going to disintegrate. If we fail this time around, it might be like that.

Your father, mother and many other Nigerians made sacrifices for the country to enjoy democracy. Do the kind of people in power now merit being there?

We have had Obasanjo (former president). We had him for eight years. Everybody acknowledged that the country did not move forward at all. He basically did not move the country at all. He basically imposed Yar’Adua on us. Yar’Adua would never have won free and fair primaries but he was imposed on us. The election was not free and fair. Everybody knows that. You know Yar’Adua was very ill and for two and a half years, we did not see anything from him. So, whether he was a good president or not, the fact is that he didn’t have the health to do the job. We all know how that ended. Now Goodluck (President Jonathan), who was not prepared, who would not have been anyone’s choice, for the President, has now become the President. He was picked because the South-South people were making a lot of noise. To sort of appease the South- South, he was made the vice-president. If such a man becomes President, what can you say about him? What I can see about Goodluck is that December 31st, it (government) took out a $1bn and they shared it among themselves. The excess crude account before Yar’Adua died, the foreign reserve was like $13bn, now it has only $3m left, not $3bn; from the $13bn that Yar’Adua left. Goodluck Jonathan distributed a billion dollars, a day before the New Year. While everybody was going to the churches and the mosque for the New Year, they sat down, and divided $1bn. Where has the money gone? We don’t see it on the roads. We don’t see it in power. We don’t see it in security. We don’t see it anywhere.

Do you believe that INEC can conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria in April?

I think that Prof. Attahiru Jega (the Independent National Electoral Commission chairman) will try. I think he too has a lot at stake. We are going to have a better election this time around than we had in 2007. Jonathan is going around saying that he wants free and fair elections. The President is saying he wants free and fair elections, and the other day, Jega too said that he swore by the Koran. For any Moslem, you cannot swear by the Koran and play.

How would you assess the support you have got from your father’s political associates? Do you feel abandoned by them?

I am disappointed. You know, but then I am not particularly surprised. I would have been surprised if they were actually being supportive. In the Action Congress of Nigeria (the leadership), they claim they are democrats and progressives. I wanted to come through the ACN because it is the strongest party for the opposition in the South-West. I am from the South –West. They have so many supporters in Lagos, Osun, and other states. Most of the people in the ACN are the people that I have always known. People like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Governors Olusegun Osoba and Niyi Adebayo, Governor Rauf Aregbesola. I went to them and a lot of the members, the bonafide members embraced me. They were very happy and I had a lot of support, I went to different wards, I went to meet different leaders and everybody was happy that I was coming out. Then I heard that what I wanted to get, a son of one of the leaders, Chief Osoba, was interested in it and that I should go and meet Osoba to discuss this issue with him. They (some party members) said, “This particular seat that you are looking for, Osoba’s son is interested in it. We have left it for him, so you should go and see Osoba.” So I called him (Chief Osoba) and he gave me an appointment and I went to his house. I said, “I came out for this position and they (some members) are telling me that your son is interested in the seat” He said it was true his son was interested. I asked, “What are we going to do now?” He said, “Well you can go for a seat in the House of Assembly or you can wait for an appointment.” I said to myself, “Why can’t you tell your son to go to the Assembly? And why can’t you tell your son to wait for an appointment? The fact is that I am older than your son.” That was what I was saying in my heart because I could not be arguing with Akinrogun (Osoba). He is older than me and I have to respect him.

In my heart, I said, “I have more experience in politics than your son. I have been part of Buhari’s campaign team in the past. Apart from that, I have been married for over a decade or so. Your son is not even married. So, why should I step down for him. The Electoral Act states that there should be primaries.” I told him, “Sir, I will go and think about it.” I went back home in Abeokuta and I called my uncles, aunties, and other family members. In fact, Hafsat (his sister) was even there. Hafsat was even more upset than me. She said, “How could he tell you that you should step down for his son? For what? Who is his son?” She got really angry. I said according to the party’s constitution, we are going to do primaries. So I now started going around trying to get ready for primaries until, they (the party leaders) called a meeting at Akinrogun’s house, where he said that there would not be any primaries and that they would handpick candidates and that whoever was not picked should not worry. He said people not picked would be given appointments. They could go the House to Assembly. I was the only the aspirant who raised his hand. Others were angry but kept quiet. He said I should speak. I said, “ Sir, consensus by definition means everybody is in agreement. So if in a particular case, you pick somebody, and people are not in agreement, what do they do?” He said they could appeal to the appeal panel of the party. I asked who would be in the Appeal Panel? He said the leaders of the party. I asked him if it was the same leaders who made the initial decision that we would appeal to. He said yes. I said thank you very much. At that point in time, I just had to leave; I knew that was the end of the road for me in the ACN.

You said you had an edge over his son; when Osoba asked you to step down for his son, what was in your mind? Did you miss your father’s support then?

I would have stepped down. But I did not because the man was telling me about how he too was about to be killed by Abacha; about how he suffered because of June 12. And when I got home, and I was thinking about it, I said “You said Abacha wanted to kill you, but he didn’t (laughs). You are still alive (heavy laughter). Both my parents are dead. So what are you talking about? Where is my dad today? Mummy oh, I am sorry, she is in the grave. You are telling me to step down for your son? That you suffered for June 12? If you suffered for June 12, and you are still alive and your wife is still alive, then, what can we say has happened to us, the June 12 that fell on our heads? That was what happened to me. I went to join Buhari’s party. The General supported me. He called the leaders of the Congress for Progressive Change in Ogun State and told them to give me all the necessary support and they did that. I met other leaders and they all said no problem.

You are also close to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other leaders in the ACN. Did you tell Tinubu about this issue and did he intervene?

I am not into politics to cause trouble; I am in politics by the grace of God to get into the House of Representatives to represent the people of Abeokuta North/ Obafemi Owode /Odeda. That is what I am going there for. I want to keep my eyes on the ball. It is not for me to be going from one person to the other trying to cause trouble between Asiwaju and Akinrogun. There is no way that Asiwaju will call Akinrogun to tell him that his son should step down. I don’t want anyone to step down for anybody. What I thought would have happened was that there would have been primaries. That would have been proper. When they said that they were going to handpick candidates, I realised that it was the same handpicking that they were doing in different parts of the South-West basically. It was the same handpicking that they did in Oyo State and in a large part of Lagos and Ekiti states and in other places. So I didn’t want to go and meet Asiwaju for that even though I knew that Asiwaju would not be happy with the situation. He wouldn’t be happy but what could he have done? Their policy is to handpick and their chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said they know best who they trust to fly the ACN flag. It is just that unfortunately for them, the trust ends with their wives and their children. So if my own father is not alive, I guess no one can trust me to fly the party’s flag.

Why are you supporting the CPC?

Someone like Buhari, whom I am still supporting has picked Pastor Bakare. It is a wonderful masterstroke because a lot of people used to think that he is a religious fanatic and that he would Islamise Nigeria and things like that. So by picking someone like Pastor Bakare, everybody now knows that it is not possible. Even though in a democratic set up like Nigeria, it is impossible for you to Islamise Nigeria because, to pass any law, you have to go to the Senate and the House of Representatives, but still they use that against him. He has picked Pastor Bakare, who is very intelligent; apart from being a preacher, he is also a lawyer. He is somebody who is also into social activism. I think that it a wonderful choice by the grace of God and I pray that they will finally succeed this time around to tackle the problem of corruption. Corruption is one of the major problems that we have in this country today. If you have very good leaders like General Buhari and Pastor Bakare, then you have less of corruption.

What is you view about our lawmakers?

When people who should not be there end up going there, then they do what they should not be doing. The main thing is to bring the dividends of democracy back to their constituencies. It is not to start going to stuff your pockets. But I have met some of them; I asked them, bawo le se ma gba iru owo yi (How can you be collecting such money?). Many of them showed me text messages from their constituents – “My wife wants to give birth. Someone wants to get married.” One of them said, “Look I am sending N30,000, N20,000, N15,000 to party members. At the end of every month, N4m or N5m goes to all these people.” They said that if they did not collect the money, they would not have money to give to their people. When the lawmakers don’t give their people money, the people say they are useless. So I guess you cannot blame them 100 per cent too. This is because the financial burden on a representative or a senator is huge. But, if we can have a good government that can somehow turn this economy around, the burden will reduce. We have to sit down and decide what we are going to do about the Naira. We have to call a national summit. We should call the CBN governor and the minister of finance and ask, “How can we get the Naira to 40 to one dollar? How can we get it to 20 to one, what can we do to strengthen the Naira because the more the Naira loses value, the poorer we become as a people.” We have to do something urgently about the naira. From one Dollar to one Naira in the 1970s, it is one to 155 today. The South African Rand is seven to one Dollar. And they don’t have more reserves than we do. We have more reserves than them, they only have enough reserves for five months for import.

There is this belief that Chief (Moshood Abiola) was more pro-IBB than Buhari. Specifically, there is this rumour that chief was one of the people that caused the down fall of Buhari...

Yes, I have heard the rumour. I think it is just a rumour. Definitely, my father did not really like some of what Gen. Buhari did. But, looking back now, you see Gen. Babangida was a very close friend of my father; they were very close at some point, and then he annulled the election, a big mistake on his part. I think he has apologised, maybe not openly but he feels sorry about it. That singular move has cost him heavily.

Has he apologised to the family?

Yes, he has sent some messages to our family. In fact, when he thought he would be running, he gave some indications that he wanted to visit the family house. He had come before. He wanted to come and visit the family and talk to us. So he has made some efforts to reach out to the family.

Has he personally apologised to the family?

He hasn’t said sorry, but he said what happened was unfortunate (laughs), which I guess is close to saying it. You know I don’t want to be accusing him anymore. I know that he is not going to be coming back to power anymore so we can just forgive but not forget. We should forgive him as a nation for the annulment of the June 12 1993 election, because the Bible teaches us to “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Also, we should focus on reviving our railways and pipelines by possibly privatising them so as to reduce the burden on our highways. We can look beyond that, you know, the man did some good things in power. He built the bridge and some other things. I think people are abusing him too much. He is not coming back to Aso Rock, except as a guest. So we can afford to be nice to him; I think he is a nice man and we just look at that mistake, which I am sure he himself regrets more than anybody else because that mistake alone has stopped him from coming back. As for my father being a part of the coup, I don’t think that military people really talk to a lot of civilians before they overthrow somebody, but even if my father was involved in that coup, I apologise on behalf of my father to Gen. Buhari.

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