There has been an avalanche of reactions concerning Tinubu’s declaration as a lot of people are saying that he’s too old to handle the presidency of Nigeria and that they would not like him to be shuttling abroad for treatment like the current one now, how do you react to this?
First, let me respond to the question concerning Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. I don’t think that those kinds of questions are real issues for us to discuss at this point. Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-p’ing) popularly called Xixia the man who turned around China was 80-something years old when he became the leader of China. And till today, his impact on China is still being felt across the entire world. Leadership is a contest of ideas. It is not a physical contest. So, while age could be an issue in fact it is health that is the issue, not age. But if you are healthy at any stage you can do the work of the President and do it very well. Secondly, you are not a doctor and you can’t discuss somebody’s health. There are people who have existing health conditions and they have had it all their lives. It has not stopped them from achieving anything that they wanted to achieve as long as they are alive. So, for anybody to sit down and start talking about somebody’s health and somebody’s age and all that just doesn’t make sense. Those are the people who have nothing to say. Do you understand what I mean? The real issue that affects the future of this country is the ability and capacity of the leader. His ideas. Leadership should be a contest of ideas. So, I am not saying this because of Asiwaju. I am saying this because of the issue itself because it can apply to anybody in any place. Even in your own workplace. Tomorrow people can wake up and say that you are too old that you should go. That’s how it works. I think in assessing our next president let’s focus on the issues that matter. Some people who are talking about Tinubu’s health may die before him. That’s how life works. So, let’s not go there because when you go there you don’t know which spirits are passing(laughs). Do you understand what I mean? I will rather talk about life and pray for life both for myself and for Asiwaju and for everybody. And I will advise anybody who is wise to also do the same. Don’t join people that sit down and say “oh this person is like this; this person is like that. This one is sick”. As you finish talking you can ask the doctor and they will tell you that “in fact this thing that is doing you like this it looks like it is Cancer.” You think it is a joke. So, when it comes to issues of health, the most important thing is somebody is alive and he can do what is expected of him to be done. Let’s pray when we talk about people, whoever it is. Let’s pray for good health. Some of those who were talking about President Buhari’s health is not here today and Buhari is here looking healthy and sound. Looking younger every day. Travelling where he needs to go. So, let’s leave that matter and focus on what is important which include: Is the man constitutionally qualified? He is. Does he have a track record of performance? He has. Is he an all-inclusive Nigerian who can bring all parts of this country together? He can. Does he have the structure to help the All Progressives Congress move from point A to point B? He does. For somebody who has all these qualities and when you want to discuss it you sit down and say the man is not well, the man is old. What are you talking about? Are you not praying to get old yourself? So, I don’t think that we should discuss all that here.
In 2015 direct Primary election for political parties produced President Muhammadu Buhari, and we know that recent that particular form of election has brought so much hate in the political arena, I want to know as a former lawmaker and now a political leader between the Direct and Indirect Primaries which one do you think will promote internal democracy? And what makes you think that Mr. President that was produced by Direct Primary finds it difficult to give assent to Direct Primary ACT of parliament as amended?
Direct or Indirect Primaries? I think the most important question that we all need to answer is, are we satisfied with the present state of internal democracy in our political parties? And that answer to everybody is NO. Even the President himself had said that. Everybody had said so because we all know that the present system does not give the people the ability to be able to influence things even within their own party. They just don’t have that ability. And we know that without that we can’t deepen our democracy. So, every democracy is a work in progress. You do what you can from time to time to make it better as you see faults and you try to correct them. Members of the National Assembly of course are part of the process. And they got to their constituencies and their states and they saw that they are totally powerless as the people have no say. They themselves have no say.
Those who have the party structure simply just sit down and handpick whoever they like even when they know that the thing is going to collapse. And that is the situation that we have seen here several times. So, people are looking for a way to solve that problem. Now the National Assembly came up with the idea of Independent National Electoral Commission-INEC Supervised Direct Primaries as a solution to that problem that will help to deepen our democracy. And that suggestion has been criticized by many as being too expensive and being too restrictive. There are several reasons why people criticize it which explains why the President decided that they create more challenges. But that does not remove the problem that was there. So, for me what is important to Nigerians at this point is that we have all identified this as a major flaw and as a major challenge to the growth of our democracy. The question becomes what do we do about it? So, this was a proposition proposed by the National Assembly. If people feel that this one is not working, what else is on the table? But to say that we should remain where we are, I don’t think that any Nigerian wants that. The President himself has consistently talked about his commitment to try to deepen our democracy. So, I don’t believe that vetoing this bill could have been an easy decision for him. But if we say this one is not the solution; the question now arises to all of us as it is not just the National Assembly. It’s just me. Even you yourself because at the end of the day the democracy that works, works for everybody. It doesn’t just work for the politician. This present democracy is working more for the politicians than it’s working for the ordinary citizen.
20 years into our Democracy people sit down and wait for one politician to bring rice and bring goats before they will have rice in their own house. Are we making progress? Is that Democracy working for the people? And it is not just for Christmas rice and goat that they have to run to the leader. They go for school fees. They have to wait for the leader. They are sick. You have to run to the leader. Your house rent is due, you have to run to the leader. Are we making progress? I tell my people that we make progress the day you give me money. If our identification is that I give you money, then we’re not making progress. I went through school as my father was a Pastor and he was earning Ninety-four naira only per month (N94) and he has six children and all those six children are graduates of a man who was earning ninety-four naira per month. Today how many people earning minimum wage can their children become Doctors or Lawyers or speak the kind of English language that I am speaking here today? Those are the challenges that are facing this country. We need to deepen our democracy. And that responsibility is a responsibility for all of us. It’s something we all need to be concerned about. When people sit down and see their future at stake and then you talk as if it’s an issue for the National Assembly. No matter how they did it at the National Assembly people will collect their money there but what about you? That’s the question. So, the challenge of deepening our democracy is a challenge for all Nigerians. Like I said in the heads of our people there are solutions to our problems. Let’s go into their heads and look for solutions and implement them.