Do you know that ebullient politician, Dr Doyin Okupe will be 70 soon? Be the first to know. City People can tell you that authoritatively. He will be 70 next year. But he does not look it an inch. He is still his bubbly self. He is still has handsome as ever. And his analysis of issues still remains as clinical as ever. He is very deep. He is an accomplished professional politician who has been in politics for about 3 decades. He is a resolute and articulate crusader-cum-politician who has an incredible history of speaking Truth to Power and speaking for the masses and he has remained as relevant as the new breed of actors in the political space.
Beyond party politics, Dr Okupe is an assertive individual who prefers to position himself on the side of the common man, and identifies with pressing grassroot concerns to shape lasting and sustainable solutions to most problems. He is a medical doctor who has been off practice for very many years, choosing to face politics. He co-founded co-founded Royal Cross Medical Centre.
Dr Okupe was one of those caught in the web of the military repression against the struggle for democracy. He was detained under the General Sani Abacha’s regime alongside other renowned pro-democratic agitators. His intimidating political and administrative credential precedes this fearless and dogged fighter who is yet to give up his crusade for the unity and existence of a one Nigeria.
During the 2nd Republic, Okupe was a House of Representatives candidate of the (NPN) in 1983 parliamentary election.
In the 3rd Republic, Okupe became the National Publicity Secretary of (NRC). He was one of the representatives of the NRC that observed the collation of 1993 Nigerian presidential election results at the headquarters of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
General Sani Abacha military government detained Okupe on 3 October 1996. Later on, in March 1998, during the aborted transition programme of Abacha, he was among the politicians disqualified from participating in United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) primaries.
At the advent of the 4th Republic, Okupe was appointed Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Later on, in 2002, he was one of the governorship aspirants of the PDP primaries in Ogun State, and was a major contender along with Gbenga Daniel. In 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Okupe his Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs.
He is one of the very few who have traversed the length and breadth of the country and can identify the peculiarity of every ethnic group, beyond personal interest.
Last Saturday, he spoke to City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE and Online Editor SEUN JOSEPH on the state of the nation and he told us why it will be difficult for any northern president to solve the problem of insurgency in Nigeria. And his interest in 2025 Presidency. Read Excerpts;
The indications that the PDP will zone the presidency to the north. Does that sit well with you sir?
It doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. Morally, it does not because a northern president is about to end a two-term in 2023. How can another Northern President start for another 8 years in this country where there is so much tension because of this type of domination? So, if PDP stakeholders are thinking like that, they are not thinking right. They are not thinking straight. The argument of PDP that the last president in PDP was a southerner cannot stand. He was a southerner, Yes. But now, we lost an election and a northerner came in. That has already abrogated the virtue of zoning as we know it. It cannot happen. And when we elect a President, is it not to solve the nation’s ill? One of the greatest ills of the nation today, apart from poverty, is insecurity and the issue of insurgency. No Northern presidential aspirant can stop the insurgency. It’s not possible.
You see, I’m a doctor. In medicine, when your wife has a medical crisis, or your brother or mother, even if you are the best surgeon, you’re not allowed to operate on them. It’s either because of your anxiety or emotional attachment, you overdo or you underdo. Even a professor of surgery will allow another colleague to carry out the surgery. Because the neutral doctor will give it the professional attention that is required that the person whose family member is the subject. The real problem of insurgency is of northern origin.
How do you mean sir?
They are northerners. Give it any colouration, Fulani or not, they are northerners. So to confront them will be difficult for somebody who shares that ethnic or regional affinity with them. If there’s a riot in Iperu, my hometown. You know we almost know one another, and I’m a head of the anti-riot squad, don’t send me to Iperu. Because I may be rational with the mission, because my cousin will be involved, my mother’s siblings will be involved. But if you take somebody from Enugu or other parts of the country, he just applies the law. And he will use a normal system to quench it.
If we are really serious and we want Nigeria to move forward and want to end insurgency, banditry and kidnapping of school children in the north, you cannot use a northern president. Because if it was possible, Buhari would have done it. If it was achievable, Buhari would have done it. And we do not have any aspirant, either in PDP or APC who has a stronger character than Buhari.
It is only a well-celebrated servant politician who understands the terrain that can resolve this issue, with the support of the northerners. That is the truth. And that is the truth we must tell ourselves.
How do you see the possibility of the southern politicians that are likely to run for the presidency?
I have the greatest respect for Asiwaju. I used to be very close to him although we have never been on the same side politically, you know we have always maintained a close link. Asiwaju is competent. He has capacity. If he’s well enough, I have said it before, he will be a good president. But I’m a better person to fit that position than him for various reasons.
I am much more of a nationalist in terms of my background and in terms of my outreach than him. He has operated mainly on a regional basis, but I have done nearly 30 years on the national platform. Even though I have so much respect for his organisational ability, I believe I am also slightly better endowed. But I have absolute confidence in him that if he’s elected, Nigeria will benefit from him.