Senator Adesoji Akanbi is the Vice Chairman, South West Yoruba Agenda codenamed SWAGA. The group was established late 2020 to push the interest of the Yoruba in Nigeria and also campaign for the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to contest for president in 2023. In this interview with Newspeakonline, he addresses some concerns about the group’s goal.
A few of you came together some months ago campaigning for formal governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to be the next president of Nigeria. Why specifically are you making this move?
First and foremost, it depends on the way you see things which means that if Nigeria as a country wants to stay united, if Nigeria wants to be together as one, there must be equity and justice. Some of us came together and chose the name we tagged our group, South West Yoruba Agenda (SWAGA). We are of the belief that President Buhari’s second term tenure is coming to an end in the next two years, basically in 2023, and we all know that President Buhari comes from the northern part of this country. Some are agitating for division; some are agitating for restructuring; we are agitating for oneness with fairness and justice and how that can happen is for the power to be rotated between the north and southern part of this country.
Does it mean restructuring is not part of the agenda if Tinubu eventually becomes Mr. President?
Some are clamouring for division and some are talking about restructuring. We believe that restructuring can only be achieved if we have one Nigeria. We believe in SWAGA that fair play and justice are part of the major ingredients of oneness in building the foundation of a united Nigeria. We believe that power should be shifted to southern part of Nigeria which comprises South South, South East and South West. As we all know, South South has benefitted. President Jonathan spent six years and he is from South South. In our own party, the party in government, APC, the key and major players that amalgamated to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) were Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and some other groups and parties. But the major key players are CPC and ACN. And there was an agreement, not written though, between CPC and ACN. So, we are not just talking about Asiwaju, there are three steps before it comes to a candidate. The first step in the agenda is keeping Nigeria safe as one. The second step is Yoruba agenda and we believe that ACN has sacrificed a lot for the formation of APC and the hierarchy of the party strongly considers South West when it comes to issues that affect any of the zones in southern part of this country. The issue of Asiwaju is like the third agenda; if we are able to secure what we are clamoring for – that the next president should come from the South, secondly, he should come from the South West. Thirdly, the candidate should be the one that can win elections, because it won’t be one party affair in the country, it is going to be more than one party. Our constitution does not stipulate that presidency should be rotated, it is an arrangement within a political party. Definitely, if eventually we are able to get the ticket for Yoruba man within APC, there is the likelihood that other parties might not pick their candidate from southern part of Nigeria. If what we are clamouring for is granted, that they zone it to South West, we need a candidate that has appeal to other zones. That’s what led to our decision in clamouring for senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to throw his hat into the ring because of the qualities we strongly believe that he possesses. We all know he is a hunter of talents, a good listener, a goal getter, he is one that can make sacrifice to get results, he is a result-oriented man, he believes in performance and he has demonstrated that for two decades. If eventually our clamour is granted, we want a candidate that can win election, he that is able to build bridges across the country, that other zones can trust. Before you can see a Yoruba man supporting a northerner, he must convince you on some issues. Before a northerner can now support a Yoruba man, he must be able to feel comfortable with him. We believe that at a point in time, all other zones will be comfortable. On the matter of restructuring, I personally do not believe that division is feasible, it’s a tall dream, but I know that restructuring is achievable very well. If at all division will come, it is not now. Restructuring should be on the table before we talk about going our separate ways. It is hard to see a country that broke up in peaceful manner and that is the truth. Show me a country that broke up peacefully in Africa. So why not clamour for one of us in Yoruba and push that agenda like restructuring?
Some leaders in Nigeria are of the opinion that the level of insecurity in Nigeria today is a threat to the reality of 2023 polls, that instead of talking about 2023 now every Nigerian should talk about how to tackle insecurity or how to get the country restructured or even support fragmentation so that each zone will go on its own, what will be the reaction of SWAGA to this suggestion from a few Nigerians?
Sincerely, we are not against it. A country where insecurity is a major problem is not a peaceful country and at the moment there is insecurity in the land. The buck stops on the table of the sitting leader. We just believe that for 2023, insecurity could be a threat, we are aware that the average person should put that into consideration. We all believe what you just said, but not withstanding we don’t wait until then. What will happen in case we are able to tackle the demon of insecurity and election just comes. That means we will be caught unawares, I mean the Yoruba. We all believe that insecurity is a threat to 2023. There is no doubt about that, and it is not about South West alone, it is about the entire Nigeria. At the moment, a lot needs to be done on Nigeria and insecurity. You can see that insecurity is in the six zones but South West is still a bit better. That’s why I support Amotekun, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and community vigilantes, and I agree with them that insecurity is a threat to oneness of the country, not to talk of election.
There seems to be moves by some powerful forces against Asiwaju Tinubu within the APC itself, which was what made the acting head of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, say that Asiwaju Tinubu and President Buhari were deceiving each other. He said if there’s primary election today, Asiwaju can not win. Does SWAGA share his belief?
That is Pa Adebanjo’s opinion;what he can predict from the atmosphere and nobody can challenge his personal opinion.
Some Nigerians also think that given Tinubu’s achievements since 1999, he should rather not contest as president but remain a kingmaker and elder statesman.
Is that suggestion not against what SWAGA stands for?
As I said, the important thing is that he has the fundamental right to contest, that’s more of his choice. Those that are advising him to remain a kingmaker must have identified him to have the quality of bringing out his voice for the people, they believe he is a good fisherman when it comes to fishing for the best in Nigeria. The fact that people are saying that means they are thinking as we do, but our last chapter is different.
What do you think would be outstanding in Asiwaju’s presidency if he makes it?
First and foremost, I know him to be a good listener. I believe a leader that wants to achieve a lot has to listen to people. Asiwaju will not steal and loot from his people. Asiwaju is a person that if you have a superior argument, he will concur, so definitely he listens. Even when he is not in government, he doesn’t loot people
As a top politician in Oyo State and Nigeria, do you think APC and PDP will still be the two topmost parties in 2023 with the way things are going in both parties?
Nobody can deregister those two parties. Politics is dynamic, you can’t rule it out.
What word do you have for South West people and Nigeria as a whole, speaking on behalf of SWAGA
First and foremost, we must take our security seriously, it’s very important. Cmmunity policing should be encouraged and we should be our brother’s keeper. We are Yorubas before we are Nigerians. Insecurity needs to be sorted by all of us, not only by the government. In developed countries, people in the community supply information to the police which helps them handle security breaches more effectively. We should pray for our land and show love.