•Lagos State SWAGA Chairman,
South-West Agenda (SWAGA) is an organisation set up by some of the supporters and followers of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, asking him to run for Presidency come 2023. It is a big group that cuts across all the South-West States and other states in the country.
Primate Charles Odugbesi is the Lagos State Chairman of SWAGA. A few days back, he spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and Head of City People TV SUNDAY ADIGUN about the activities of the group. Below are excerpts of the interview.
SWAGA Group was recently launched in Lagos, what is it all about?
The SWAGA thing is all about Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s South-West Agenda. First and foremost that power should come down to the South-West. Then, if it gets to the South-West, who should be the President? We looked around and we found out that it’s only Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is capable of doing that for now. So, Dec. 9th, 2020, groups of people, from South to West, majorly some of the Senators, House of Reps., Deputy Governors, etc, came together and said let us start fighting, that first and foremost this thing should come to South-West, because according to the arrangement so far, both for PDP, APC or any party, if it goes to the North, then it comes to the South. Presently, it’s in the North, it should come to the South. If it comes to the South, South-South can say they want it, South-East are also entitled, South-West is entitled. But the person who left the place before it went to the North was from the South-South.
Now, it should come here and when it gets here, we should not be fighting over it. So, it’s better we come out now and tell them, we want Tinubu to come in. Up till now, he has not told us he wants to run, but we want him to come out and run, and that’s why we are making all this noise. It will get to a time he cannot say no, and that is what SWAGA is all about.
How were you able to command that turn-out at the launching?
That turn-out was curtailed, because if we allow people to come, then we won’t be able to manage the crowd. You know Tinubu is a ready-made market, you need just little effort to sell him, because people know he will do it. If he can turn Lagos State to Mecca then Nigeria will not be a problem.
What do you make of those criticizing the effort of SWAGA, and how do you react to it?
Criticisms! That is part of life. If you do something good, people will criticise you, if you do something bad, people will criticize you. All you need is do what you want to do to satisfy your conscience and know what you are doing, be focused, people criticizing is not a problem. We are built for criticism. In politics, they will definitely criticise you, so let them continue criticizing. By the time we achieve what we want to achieve, you will see them commend us. They will join us.
Is there a plan to set up SWAGA in other states?
It all started from Oyo State, now they’ve gone to Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun. Delta is planning to do a similar thing. North West are planning to do a similar thing. So, it’s going to be National but charity begins at home. We have to start from here before it goes other places.
Looking at the return of Asiwaju, how did you also see the time of his come back with the launching?
God knows how he does his things. When we were planning this thing we didn’t know he was even coming. But as God would have it, as we are doing it, he came in. We had the launching on Thursday, he came in on Friday. If he had come in on Wednesday, they will say he came because of the launching. We were doing our own thing, as Nigerians, we are entitled to be with whoever we want to lead us. That’s what we are doing. He has not even told us he wants to run, but by the time we start making noise and we call him to please come and do it, because we know he’s the one who can do it. And we want to be proud of this comity among the county of nations, and he’s the person that can make it happen for now, except if anybody can convince me that there is another person. Let me know that person so that I will know the antecedents of such a person.
Is it also not scary that he’s the only one that can do it?
In this life, God always creates one person as a messiah. At a particular era, it was Awolowo in Yorubaland. I think Shagari came in some time but this time, it happens that he’s the only person. About 8 years ago, we were shouting “Sai Baba, Sai Buhari.” He has come there, he’s nowhere, doing what he can do. But right now, except if you have another person, you should let me know. I used to ask people; why because you don’t see beyond your nose, that’s life and it’s understandable. There may be some people somewhere we don’t know about please let us know, let them come out, we want the best for Nigeria and the best, for now, is Tinubu.
But with the name, it seems that you are restricting your operations to the South-West?
You know if you want to fight for something, you have to identify with what you want to fight. We wait to fight for the South-West and it is normal we identify with it. The noise is for the South- West but the campaign can be spread to other places.
How do you also see the effort of the opposition?
Which Opposition? From other Parties?
Which party? (laugh) Tell me now, PDP? PDP in Nigeria for now? But you know what is happening already, they are coming in ok, let’s wait. Today is the 11th of October, before the end of this year, the Chairman of Lagos State PDP will cross to APC. When you have a very nice project, it will attract. Iron cannot attract wood. These people know; even the enemies of Tinubu, know. When they want to get popular, they attack him, they accuse him, they criticize him, so, we know. All they were doing is for relevance, not that they don’t know his quality. They know. Some of them will back Tinubu even behind. If there is still something to eat in PDP, they will remain there but will still back him. Femi Fani-Kayode is here now. Many of them are here, so, where is the opponent?
The opposition we are having is within ourselves, within the APC, and that will be taken care of, because they will reason and see. And I want to say something. My mind is telling me that Buhari will not derail from what he promised in 2014. My mind is telling me that he will not betray Tinubu, because it was spelt out, though it was not written. And he knows and even some of his people are saying they will stay with Tinubu because if not for him, their son will not be there. Whatever this man touches becomes Gold, so let him touch Nigeria. Before he touched Lagos, Lagos was tagged dirtiest state, but when he came in, see what happened. I’m not doing all these, running up and down for myself alone, but because of generations yet unborn, to set a pace for this country for them to follow, that’s what we are fighting for, so that the children will meet a country called Nigeria. If we miss it this time, let’s forget about it. If Jesus did not come when he came, there will be no salvation.
How do you intend to reach out to the Northern part?
Are you aware that most of the House of Rep members also went to London to see him? They are aware. When I started TPM before I collapsed it into SWAGA, that is Tinubu Presidential Movement, we already had 18 States. This man is accepted worldwide. The only thing that can stop him from becoming the President of Nigeria is No 1, if he says he’s not running, No 2, if he dies and God forbid, he won’t die or if Buhari dies. My prayer always is that God should keep Tinubu alive, keep Buhari alive because both of them are very important to the realisation of our goal. Buhari should hand over. Because if anything happens, there would be a change.
But how strong is the organisation in Lagos?
Don’t forget that anything Tinubu will attract a crowd. Already, 57 local government chapters have been set up. Once you have the system in place, you don’t have to struggle for. Somebody asked me why we used it that place for the Inauguration. I said we used to make a statement because the owner of that place is the State Chairman of PDP. Even if we used Teslim Balogun Stadium, it will be filled up. Mobilisation is not the problem. It won’t make sense if we cannot raise 3 to 4 million serious voters for Tinubu in Lagos, he’s coming out from here. So, everybody knows what this man is capable of doing. He has the money. It’s not about what he wants to eat; Tinubu can not finish one full chicken at a go, not to talk of one goat and he has the ability to even kill 7million cows. So, it’s not the case of what he wants to eat that he’s looking for again. But we know that God has kept him alive for this generation so that he can put some of his own experience and the talent God gave to him to make Nigeria a better place.
A lot of people believe running the country is bigger than running a state, what’s your take on that?
Governance is Governance. If you can rule Lagos, you can rule Nigeria. Lagos is more complex than Nigeria itself. Somebody who can rule this state correctly and convincingly can rule anywhere, even America. This was a state that had no rule of law. There are lots of things he has done that is speaking for him to date in Lagos. They should just allow this man to come in. If we miss this chance, maybe it will take another 100 years to get another one. But I want to say that I am living in the era of Tinubu. What I can do is what I’m doing now, to make sure that I mop up support for the person I know can do it. Let everybody also do their own part.
What are the challenges you foresee as you move on?
It is when you get to the bridge that you will be able to cross it. You must expect challenges anyway. It’s part of life. If you get anything too easy, then it will not last. Something you have to struggle for always lasts.
Can you tell us about yourself sir?
As I said, my name is Primate Odugbesi. Before now, I was the first and the only Secretary of Action Congress of Nigeria, Lagos State, and the first Secretary of APC, Lagos State. Before now, I was the Coordinator of Tinubu Presidential Movement, now, SWAGA, Chairman, Lagos State Chapter. I’m a Primate of a church, Man Soul International Church situated at Ikorodu.
What is your relationship with other state chairmen?
We are all one. The person who launched the Lagos Chapter is the National Chairman, Senator Adeyeye. All of them were here, from Ekiti, Ondo, etc. When they did theirs, we were all there too. They made Lagos the grand finale. What I like about the arrangement is, we go back to all the people that matter, the traditional rulers. We got their blessing because we respect them and their stool. And they all supported us, even Alaafin of Oyo.
Permit me to take you back a little bit sir. What if Asiwaju says he’s not interested, do you have a plan B and who would that be?
I don’t like to be negative. Whatever I say I want is what God will give me. If God knows he’s not going to be there, He won’t ask me to come up. Because I don’t move when God does not move. I don’t do anything without first consulting God. I don’t have plan B. If it’s not Tinubu, then I go back to my church, I will go back and sit down. I won’t waste my time on anybody because it will be the same thing. Tinubu has done it before, I’ve seen it. I served him before Fashola came in, and he knows how to put the right person in the right place. There are lots of things I’ve learnt from this man that made me say there will never be a Plan B.