Presidency: I Don’t Foresee Runoff, Says Eta

Presidency: I Don’t Foresee Runoff, Says Eta

Former National Vice- Chairman, South South, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and a member of its Independent Campaign Council, ICC, Ntufam Hillard Eta, in this interview with journalists in Abuja, says his party is sure of victory at the forthcoming general elections. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there for AljazirahNigeria.

Barely a week to the general elections, the narrative out there is that the APC is a party divided against itself. How prepared is your party for this election and how confident are you that you are winning?

Well, thank you very much for this question. I have also read people said this. I have also listened to an interview on one of the stations, this same question was put to the former national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. And like him, I will say that it is far from the truth. The APC has the President, Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker; members of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, the 22 Governors; 22 Deputy Governors, members of the House of Assembly, elected chairmen all over Nigeria, together working for the success of the party at all levels.

That cannot be said of our major opponent, the PDP. They have 13 Governors, about five of them are not on the same page with both the party’s presidential candidate and even the party itself. So, it is rather the other party that is divided. It is the other party that is grappling with its internal contradictions and it is becoming clearer on a daily basis that they are not formidable enough to give the APC the kind of contest that is necessary to grow and deepen our democracy.

So, on the whole, on the 25th of February, about a week from now, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Senator Shettima Kashim will be elected the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And I want to believe that we will still maintain our majority hold on the National Assembly. And on the 11th March, the APC will increase the number of Governors within our party. So, on the whole we are poised for a victory and every narrative that is contrary to our victory is in the figment of imagination of the nay sayers and doomsdays prophets.

Will you say one of your governors, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai merely raised an alarm when he said a certain cabal within the presidency is against the presidential aspiration of Senator Bola Tinubu?

Well, if you listened to the interview by His Excellency the Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji El- Rufai, he also mentioned that members of this cabal are not members of the party and not part of the presidency, they are just around the Presidency. I will go further to say that I recognise that there is a transition in terms of political leadership in the northern part of the country.

So, if you put into context what Governor El-Rufai said with regards to the cabal who are opposed to the emergence of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President, you will immediately come to the issue of that political leadership struggle in the north between the old order and the new emerging order in terms of political leadership of the north.

Those who are foot soldiers for this cabal who are found in the Villa are those carrying out this agenda on behalf of this old order. We are aware that people like General Ali Gusau and few other agents and retired Generals in the north with a few other civilians are the ones that are beating this drum. The cabal as you find them in the Villa are just dancing to the beatings of that drum.

But what is essential for us to know is that the emerging political leadership of the north that is more patriotic, that is more Nigerian will come out successful in this struggle, in these contradictions, so that what gives those of us, patriots especially from the southern part of Nigeria to further deepen our patriotism, our Nigerianess and open a new vista for us in the way that we accept Nigeria, in the way that we love Nigeria.

Let me say that this old order in the way that they conduct their politics give validation to secessionists in the South-west and in South-east. Because the mantra of this old order in the north is that Nigeria does not matter as long as they superintend over the affairs of the country. The unity, the sustainability, the very existence of Nigeria does not matter. And the deficit that they have brought to northern part of our country over the years with that mindset and that leadership ethos should continue. But the emerging new political leadership we say no, the north is part of the larger Nigeria and Nigeria should thrive to deal with the issue of illiteracy, issues of poverty, issues of access to education, the issues of general development.

But these people that you have described as the old order, they still see themselves as the social gatekeepers in the north and the primordial sentiment they are playing is that Atiku is one of them and that is what has led to the so called sabotage of Tinubu in the north. What is your take?

This is not the first time this old order is playing this card. They also played this card about 30 years ago when Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola was contesting for the presidency of Nigeria but the Talakawas, even the ones that at that time were quite young who I now call the emerging political leadership countered them and the north overwhelmingly and massively voted for M. K.O. The same thing is about to happen. The new leadership of the north will superintend over the election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu even in the north regardless of the shenanigans of those you described as the social gatekeepers of the north.

As an aside no matter how robust, no matter how good you are as a gatekeeper, the day shall come when you will be disgraced and what is happening now is that these new people: the El-Rufais of this world, the Adamu Garbas of this world, Ali Ali of this world, they are the ones that are going to replace the likes of General Gusau, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Babangida, Zango Daura. These new crop of leaders, people like Atiku Bagudu they are going to replace them because you can not be a gatekeeper forever. It is against nature. In fact, in my place they say if you lose a tooth, behold another one will spring up.

There are people who are of the opinion that we might experience a run off in the presidential election. There are also insinuations that given the current atmosphere, the election may be postponed. Do you foresee a postponement, do you call for a postponement?

You know, in my own thinking and this is my thinking that the cabal does not have enough time to put into place their plan so they are now looking for more time to bring to conclusion, or to bring to implementation or bring to success their plan. So one of the things that they wanted to do was to use the scarcity of the Naira and fuel to cause mass protests across the nation so that the elections will be postponed so that they will have more time to execute their plan. The people have become wiser, Nigerians have become wiser, they know that this is the plan of the cabal.

Secondly, you asked whether we will run into a run off. I don’t think so because if you look at the North-west, you look at the North-central, you look at the North-east, you look at the South-south, especially in the South-south, somebody is going to score 25%. I can assure you that Asiwaju will score 25% in more than 30 states in Nigeria and he will have the majority of the votes. And if that happens anybody who comes second, I don’t think there will be a run off because he is going to score 25% in most states than other competitors and he is going to have more popular votes. So, I am not foreseeing a run off.

You are from South-south, that is the region of the PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Okowa . How secured is South-south zone for the APC?

First of all, you must know that the South-south has the third largest number of votes in Nigeria and we are going to participate in the building of Nigeria with those votes. In the South-south, it has become the truth to us that for Nigeria’s coexistence and survival for now, the natural demand is that of oscillation of the presidency between the north and the south. So, we are aware that it is the turn of the south to produce the president of Nigeria. We are also aware that it is not the turn of the south to produce a vice president.

So, Okowa is on his own and the result of the election will show that our people have taken the decision to join other Nigerians to encourage the survival and the existence of Nigeria by at this time subjecting ourselves to that arrangement of the oscillation of the presidency as I said earlier on.

It will shock you that even Delta state that Okowa comes from, Okowa will struggle to give his principal the constitutionally required 25% of the votes. He is going to struggle. There is no Okowa effect beyond Delta state, there is no Okowa effect in Rivers state, there is no Okowa effect in Akwa Ibom, there is no Okowa effect in Cross River and other parts of the South-south.

We are not going to vote for Atiku. The largest percentage of the voters of the South-south will cast their votes for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Cross River state, in Rivers state, in Akwa Ibom state, in Delta state.

The Peter Obi phenomenon has helped us in the sense that even those who will ordinarily wanted to vote for Atiku will rather cast their vote for Obi. So, it is going to be a direct contest between Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr Peter Obi. But Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will come out top in the South-south.

One major challenge your party has ahead of the election, holding less than 10 days is that the APC government is becoming unpopular with the naira swap, it is also unpopular with the fact that petrol is scarce. In other words, a few days to the election, it is becoming difficult to sell the candidature of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. How do you react to this?

Well, I look at them from two perspectives. One, the Naira swap or the redesign of our currency is a policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria. And much as I would have loved to insulate our Central Bank from partisan politics, I can not do because the present Central Bank Governor is a politician and he is partisanly involved. I can assure you that he is one of the foot soldiers of the cabal that has taken upon itself to de-market Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The other perspective is that, a few months before now, there was a national cry for the probing of what they call the stamp duties tax that amounted to trillions of Naira. So, the redesign of the Naira, even it looks as if it has the imprimatur of the president, because of the kind of person the president is, he must have been railroaded into taken the decision thinking that the decision was to help in the growth of Nigeria.

I will like to say the second perspective is that, Mr Godwin Emefiele applied what I called the Tinapa principle. The Tinapa principle is a principle where when you have a challenge, you create a scenario that distract people from that challenge. A few months before now there was a national cry for the probing of the whereabouts of the stamp duty tax that ran into trillions of Naira. I can not sit here and tell you the number of trillions but I know that from what I read that they ran into trillions of Naira.

Today, Nigerians are not talking about the stamp duty tax anymore. Everybody is now concentrating on the scarcity of Naira notes. I think it was a properly orchestrated plan to distract Nigerians from a humongous corruption that attended the stamp duty tax in Nigeria. I think we should not lose the sense that that is something that has to be done and it is a national task that must be done.

To come to the policy itself, Nigeria is not the only country that has done currency redesign. As you are aware, presently in the UK, there is a currency redesign. With the demise of the late Queen, the head of the King is now on the currency in the UK but what they are doing is that, it is a normal transition so that every currency that has the image of the Queen as it comes into the banking process it doesn’t go out again. It is replaced by the one that has the image of King Charles.

Now, nobody has told me for instance why the Central Bank is saying the monies I must have struggled through life to keep in a bank, the amount that I can take in a day is N20,000. Even in the Socialist Soviet Union, I do not believe that the government has the right to monitor and schedule the way people spend their own money. Now, if there are so many like Oshiomhole said the other night, there are so many institutions of government created to tackle corruption, Central Bank is not one of them.

You know, if you tell me how to use my money, I now have the right to decide whether I want to keep my money in your custody or not. So, even the intendment that they want to bring people into the banking process may not succeed because, if I know that you want to monitor how I spend my money, you will not allow me use my money for my business the way I would have loved to use my money, I will not bring it into the banking system.

So you see, just today, the Central Bank is lamenting that the mint has no capacity to print the quantity of money that is required in the system which means ab initio this plan was not properly thought through. There was no rigorous thinking on this plan. It was done in a hurry to de-market Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Because people will ask how, why is it only Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu? It is because, one he is the front runner. Number two, he has the ticket of the party that is in government. And a lot of Nigerians do not know that Central Bank is independent of government. So, they believe that any policy that Godwin Emefiele brings to bear on their lives is the policy of the APC, thereby de-marketing our candidate.

Unfortunately for them, in the 774 local government areas in Nigeria we have foot soldiers. In all the wards we have foot soldiers. In all the polling units in Nigeria, we have foot soldiers. And these foot soldiers have been interacting with our people, telling our people that this policy was done by Godwin Emefiele as a foot soldier of the cabal, as a man who is interested in who becomes the president of Nigeria and he has long time ago thrown his support to Abubakar Atiku. So, we have told our people and they know.

It is interesting that Governor Wike, a PDP Governor said that whereas, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose party is in government is standing shoulder to shoulder with the people on this matter and asking government to do what is right and the PDP presidential candidate is saying that the Central Bank should rather tighten the screw on the people. That the suffering of the people is a good thing.

They are all celebrating the suffering of the people just because they want to de-market Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But, we have the last word for them, the votes for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu have long been locked down and there is nothing anybody can do about it. By the special grace of God and the democratic will of the people on the 25th of February, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be elected president of Nigeria.

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