Equity demands South produce the President –

Equity demands South produce the President – The Sun Nigeria

A chieftain of All Progressives Congress in Kwara and two-time House of Rep. member as well as a former leader in the State House of Assembly in the Second Republic, Chief Stephen Wole Oke, spoke with LAYI OLANREWAJU, on a number of national issues. They include zoning, insecurity, agitations for self-determination, a generational shift in leadership, and Tinubu’s declaration to run for the post of President. His views: 

There had been talks about zoning and 2023. What’s your stance? Do you believe in zoning and which geopolitical zone should produce the next president?

There is nothing bad in it because of our diversities and ethnic nationalities. We have six geo-political zones. Each of them consists of different sub-nationalities.  If we have a country where things are normal, I wouldn’t support zoning. I would rather support a situation where the best from any part of the country are allowed to rule us. Talking of zoning, it does not produce the best from each zone. What happens today in Nigeria is that a person who eventually emerges would be determined by how much he was able to buy the electorate. But I will like to advise that no matter which zone each party wants to pick their candidates from, they should go for the best we need to develop and move the nation forward. They should not let money influence their choice of candidates. Rather, they should allow the ability of such a candidate to determine his or her suitability. It will help the country.  Money politics has ruined the country to a large extent. Religion also has contributed to the destruction of our democracy.

PDP recently elected its chairman from the North Central Zone. This is being seen in some quarters as a pointer to the fact that its presidential candidate may come from the South. Do you think APC should do likewise?

Since PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) is from the North, he is going to spend two terms of eight years. Simple logic demands that if we should carry everybody along in the development of the nation if the present Head of State is from the North, the next Head of State should come from the South.  This should be so if we want to treat everyone equally. So if PDP picks its chairman from the North Central, I think they are hoping to pick their presidential candidate from the South although I am not their party man. But I wonder why some of their leaders from the South, are rooting for President from the North.

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How do you think that the agitations by self-determination groups should be handled?

Honestly, if you look at the whole thing, it is unfortunate. The man in power, that is Buhari, belongs to an ethnic group. But the ethnic group which he belongs wants to continue to dominate and control whoever is in power. They feel they are born to rule others. I don’t see what is wrong with the agitation for the restructuring of the country. Look at the First Republic North, South, West, East, and see the type of growth and healthy development that ensued through healthy rivalry. A region like the West, the Yoruba area would have been turned into a Singapore or any of the European tigers. Restructuring is very essential; we need it for the progress of the country. What do you think are the solutions to the problems that Nigeria is currently facing?

There is nothing happening in Nigeria today that is unusual, particularly in the area of security. If you look at it, insecurity, kidnapping, etc are far more concentrated in certain parts of the country. If their leaders had done the right thing while they were in power we would not have had any problem now. But they neglected their responsibilities and failed to take care of the almajiris. The type of thing happening in the North East, North West, cannot happen in the West, in terms of how people are killing others. If Northern leaders had helped get functional education for their people, we wouldn’t have had some of the problems we are having now.  Look at the number of out-of-school children. You are talking about millions. So what is happening today is the tip of the iceberg. If they don’t take care of those children, who are street beggars, almajiris, something worse can come up tomorrow. Some people feel that if they can’t rule then they will try and create problems for the rulers. But let me add that what is happening in Nigeria is not peculiar to us as a nation. There are problems in other countries, but each with its peculiarities. We are in Nigeria; that is why insecurity concerns us. But I believe that no matter how long the insecurity of a thing goes on, at the end of the day, peace will return and the lessons we learn will help us to develop faster.

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People are expressing fears that there might be no election in 2023 because of insecurity. What is your take on this?

We are all afraid of 2023. But don’t be surprised to see, in the next election the use of more thugs than ever in the history of this nation. Look at what is happening now; it is the outcome of what politicians did in the past. They used ISWAP, Boko Haram for the election. But after the election, they let them loose. That is why we are afraid of 2023. But come next year, there will be more involvement of thugs and rascals in the elections.

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There are calls for a generational shift in the leadership of the country. Do you support this?

Our people say that if “elders are not in town, the town will spoil”. What will be the age or at what age will it be good for us to have a youth as the leader? Look at the USA. The President is 78 or 79; his predecessor was 76/77 years. Look at other countries where they have people of advanced age. I don’t want to agree that youths should take over. Rather, they should learn under the tutelage of the old. They will one day grow old. They should continue to learn until gain experience. A Yoruba adage says if a youth climbs a treetop and an old man is standing on the ground, what the old man would see while standing up, the youth on the treetop will not see it. That is a relevant proverb. A man of about 25 years, what type of experience do you expect him to have gathered to enable him to perform successfully in any leadership position?

What type of laws can the legislators make to curb insecurity?

It is not the duty of legislators to execute laws; rather their duty is to make laws. They are not the police or other security agencies to implement the laws they made. What I will like to say is that security should be everyone’s concern, from the President to the last person, especially our traditional rulers who are close to the grassroots and can point out the bad eggs amongst the communities. Traditional rulers in the North should not hide anybody. Whoever they know that is causing trouble should be handed over to security agencies.

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Some aspirants in 2023 want a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Will Nigerians accept this?

Though it was acceptable to us in 1993, I doubt if it would be accepted now because people are more conscious of their religious beliefs. It is unthinkable for any Muslim-Muslim ticket to take place in today’s Nigeria. You must have heard the comments from leaders of Northern Nigerian CAN that seem to justify their fear: their churches are burnt, members killed. In the best interest of the country, Muslim-Christian tickets should be encouraged.

Do you think the North will accept Asiwaju Tinubu’s aspiration to be President?

Why will the North not accept him because, from all indications, he has not done anything anti-North. After all, he is a Muslim. He played a very big role, made it possible for us to have Buhari as President. The role he played resulted in APC winning all its elections. If he had not worked, if he had not laboured to ensure the type of coalition that brought APC to power, Buhari might have never been President. He attempted it several times but failed. But he and Tinubu worked hard to ensure that we had a coalition of several parties that eventually produced Buhari as President. For anybody to say Tinubu will not be accepted I don’t think the person is talking reality. After all, Tinubu is not as old as Buhari. He is intelligent and may not be controlled. The North might not want him for that reason. But for the sake of Nigerian development and growth, he deserves to be given a chance.

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