By Omoniyi Salaudeen
The intense jostling for presidential race among the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by the various aspirants from different geo-political zones of the country has thrown the balance of power equations in the South off the guard.
In this interview, Senator Gbenga Obadara expressed concern over the growing number of contestants who are interested in the exalted office, calling on the party leadership to wade in and check the rush for nomination form.
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There is an anxiety in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the recent statement made by the National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, that the party has not taken any decision of the issue of zoning of presidency. As one of the stakeholders in the Southwest, what do you think is playing out now in the party?
As it has been known to you, I am an advocate of power shift to the Southwest. And I believe they have to think twice on this issue. You can see how people are now rushing into the presidential race as if it is kindergarten’s play. It will be unfortunate if we allow this to continue. Our governors have already said that power must shift to the South. I hope reason will prevail on them to do what is right.
If you still believe that power will shift to the South, why do you think the aspirants are rushing to pick nomination form with N100 million if there is no assurance of their participation in the coming presidential primary?
That is why we are saying that the party should wade in now and do the needful. It is already getting too late, but they can still salvage the situation.
Is it with the expectation that they will refund the money to those who have obtained the form?
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We hope so. If they had done what they were supposed to do, this problem would not have arisen. It is more reasonable to refund their money. So, the party leadership must count it as part of their loss. Another thing I foresee that is likely to happen is for them to provide a level playing field for all aspirants. If everybody is involved, at the end of the day, everyone will take his gains and losses. That is if the situation does not change.
What do you have to say about the perceived fragmentation of the progressive camp in the Southwest by the high number aspirants jostling for the position?
That is the beauty of democracy; they are expressing their fundamental human rights. If one is interested in running, would you say he should not run?
Will this not impact negatively on the chances of a Southwest candidate emerging from the primary if other zones are allowed to participate in the selection process?
That was the reason Southwest leaders called all the contestants to a meeting. They are the leaders of the party and they are old men. I think they must have let them know the implications of that. May prayer is that it works.
There is also a loud whisper about the possibility of consensus candidate. Do you see it working?
It is not impossible. We did it recently during the national convention and it worked. So, there is nothing to say that it cannot happen again.
If the consensus is going to work out as it did during the last convention, are you expecting the galaxy of gladiators in the race to sign an undertaken that they are stepping down as the 2022 Electoral Amendment Bill stipulated?
All these are individual’s decisions. Whoever wants to sign will sign.
What is the possibility of the APC retaining power in all of this?
I hope we will be able to do that because we have the structure and we have the reach. I think we should be able to retain power in 2023 by God’s grace.
What are those things your party has done that make you confident that the party will retain power in 2023?
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Look at the railway that has been moribund for several years, is it not working now? Without being immodest, with the rot we met on ground, I think we have not done badly. Look at the road infrastructure, it deserves commendation.
The railway is working, but banditry and kidnapping have taken away the shine off that achievement. Haven’t they?
The government knows that they have issues on that and I believe they are working on it. The terror attack on Kaduna-Abuja train is an unfortunate incident. But that does not take away the achievement from the present administration.
At what cost are you talking about the achievement because Nigeria’s debt profile is increasingly rising by the day. How will the country wriggle itself out of the quagmire?
All the presidential aspirants are aware of these challenges. When elections are over, whosoever wins will face it squarely. I pray the best candidate wins so that our country Nigeria can rise up again.
Many concerned stakeholders have said it time and again that Nigeria has never been this divided in the history of its existence as a nation. What kind of leader are you looking at to take on the mantle of leadership and pull back the country from the precipice?
That is why we are praying for the best person to emerge as the president.
What leadership qualities are you expecting from such an emerging president?
You as a Nigerian already know the problems we are having in the country and we have quite a good number of people who have put N100 million on the table to get the job. Definitely, they have something to offer. N100 million is not a small money.
Quite right, but you also know that it is not everybody that is aspiring to be president that has the capacity to lead. Don’t you agree?
That is why everybody must exercise the right to vote.
Now, going into Ogun State politics. What do you make of the recent petition written to the National Chairman of the APC against Governor Dapo Abiodun over an allegation of his criminal record in the United States of America?
I am happy that you used the word allegation. It remains an allegation until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt. I am sure you must have read the response of Chief Afe Babalola on the issue. Let the case run its course.
How good is the Ogun State chapter of the APC to go for the next elections?
There are a few people who are propagating ill-wishes. But I can tell you that APC will remain in the state as a ruling party.
How about the disagreement within the party?
Have you seen a family that does not have disagreement? If there is any disagreement, you can be sure that it will be settled.
What is your own aspiration for this coming dispensation?
By God’s grace I am running for the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Egba Descendant Union, consisting of progressive minded people, looking at my antecedents when I was in the Senate, have bought form and presented it to me.