Gen. JOJ Okoloagu is a member, Board of Trustees (BoT) of All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview with Ochiaka Ugwu, he spoke on the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’ letter to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him not to seek reelection and other sundry issues.
How do you react on the letter written to President Buhari by former President Obasanjo asking him not to seek reelection in 2019?
Honestly speaking, I talk in my capacity as a member of APC Board of Trustees (BoT) as well as an elder in this country given my experience and age and the third leg is that I am a lawyer of over 35 years post call experience. So, having said these things, with utmost respect to the former president, I want to submit that the latter is patently illegal and morally unconscionable.
Again, we have a constitution and electoral act in this country which regulate our political activities and anything said or done outside the precept of these documents is illegal, no matter how well intended and the sentiments thereof.
The letter is a political blackmail intended to confer some advantage to any group, the revered former President Obasanjo is rooting for, no matter the quantum of truth contained therein. It is only President Buhari and Buhari alone who can determine whether he is healthy enough to run in 2019, but my party APC obviously will love him to run. That is the position of South East caucus of the APC believing that his health is good enough to enable him finish the party’s programmes of action as contained in our manifesto when we sought power from the electorate in 2015.
It is also in tandem with the party’s zoning formula which allows him to finish the turn of the North before the South, in which South East genuinely believe that it will be their turn in 2023 with God almighty keeping us alive. In as much as we respect the views and beliefs of the revered former President Obasanjo, it is fair and proper that the zoning formula of the party is respected. If the South East caucus did not find him feat and proper to complete his tenure, we would not have being in a hurry to endorse him. Simply put, he is healthy enough to finish his tenure, because God and God alone gives life and determines when He wants it back.
Power belongs to God and not humans and God only uses human beings to bestow power to any person he wish to give. God almighty in his infinity wisdom has his reason for bringing President Buhari in 2015 to hold the country together and achieve the much he has achieved. Unless and until President Buhari finishes the assignment for which God put him there, no amount of sentiment can change the wheel of fate on Nigeria. Look at the instance of the Late Chief K. O. Mbadiwe who announced Zik’s death, but at the end of the day, he died before Zik. It tells you that nobody has control of his own life.
For anybody to allude to President Buhari’s health as a basis for disqualification to run for the office of the president, that is morally unconscionable and patently illegal.
Anything suggesting otherwise, not contained in our constitution and electoral laws are mere sentiments. I am not holding brief for APC as a party or the Villa because I am expecting them to react. My reactions are based on my position as a Member, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
There is an approach I have for politics and power. Personally, I have sought for senatorial position for three times without success. Even when I won, the PDP forces in my state Enugu blocked me from becoming a senator and i take it that it is not the will of God then. The day God say that I will be a senator, no human being can stop it.
Gen. Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007 did not finish all he intended doing and that best explains his attempt to have a third term. Then why should he worry a man that has just spent two and half years. This is a country where people who are privileged get away with things they say. It is also a distraction, once you start this kind of debate it will lead to intense politicking thereby distracting the leaders. The president will either try to save his face or government. It will bring an unnecessary distraction that we don’t need now.
For goodness sake, I take the position that it is an unnecessary distraction irrespective of the fact that some issues raised are germane. But I think it is for us in the party to decide who we will field. With due respect to President Obasanjo, he said he has left politics. I watched his briefing on the television, at all material times; he was with big wigs of PDP. I could notice the presence of a Kaduna State former governor, Ahmed Makarfi who was the immediate past Interim Chairman of the PDP and some other PDP stalwarts beside former President Obasanjo. I can’t be bamboozled by his claims that APC is not good and neither PDP, because he made his presentation on the television in company of opposition members, the PDP. I have invested my time and energy in APC, so if you are attacking the APC, you are attacking my interest politically. The issues he raised are campaign issues and not issues that you should say somebody should not run for a position.
What was the outcome of the visitation of South East APC leaders to Mr. President?
When the APC South East leaders visited Mr. President, we had the opportunity of talking and shaking hands with him. I did not see any frailty in that man that will stop him from running for an election if he wants to. I shook hands with him. He was my boss and he has not changed much. All of us are just ageing gracefully. The man is not sick. He was but God healed him for the very purpose God foisted him on Nigeria in 2015.
However, we made a request to Mr. President that after him, the South East will take a shot at the presidency. That was our request and he did not object to it. So, 2023 is the turn of South East. That is why I keep on pleading with my kiths and kin in the South East to support APC and vote massively for the party in 2019 as it is the only platform we have that will get us the presidency in the very near future. The only party that is well positioned to make us see Igbo president in our lifetime is APC, because you can’t tell me that PDP is ready to do it. It is our hope that Nigerians will cooperate with the party to give us the chance. We are no second class citizens and 50 years down the line after the Nigerian Civil war, we have not had any Igbo man as a president of Nigeria, yet we have paid our dues. This is why the South East leaders unanimously agreed to support him and we are already doing that and he is going to win massively in the 2019 presidential election. The PDP rigging machine is a notorious fact, but with the new electoral act which will transmit result immediately will make it impossible for them to rig again. But all the same, I think it will be in the best interest of Ndigbo to support President Buhari in 2019.
Those who are bringing coalition movement to unseat APC are wasting their time because they have not told us where the leadership is coming from or who is behind it.
What is your view on the rampage of the herdsmen in the entire country where in the social media they are seen slaughtering and maiming innocent civilians and infants?
Honestly, some of the president’s appointees have not helped matters. Nigerians are quick to ascribe guilt to Mr. President just because he is a Fulani man and the herders are predominantly Fulanis. I want to take this opportunity to humbly request that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice uses the same process he used in obtaining proscription for IBOP to obtain proscription against armed herdsmen. I say again, armed herdsmen and not the ordinary herdsmen who have been living amongst our communities for centuries. For goodness sake there have been herdsmen in this country for a very long time, some where even born and bred in my own village. We don’t know them for being destructive or violent. I make bold to submit that all the armed herdsmen ravaging every part of Nigeria now are pure Boko Haram elements who have infiltrated the society presenting themselves as herdsmen. Their Modus Oparandi in killing and maiming unarmed civilians and infants is reminiscent of the Boko Haram in the days they held sway in the North East of Nigeria. These armed herdsmen are offshoot of Boko Haram. If you go to social media, you will see how they butcher people anyhow. With this, you will know that it is not these people that are herding cattle in our place that are doing this. If the Minister of Justice can obtain the proscription order against the armed herdsmen, this blackmail against President Buhari will definitely stop. Buhari has done a lot of things especially in the area of security, power, and employment generation. This government created a lot of jobs using the N-Power and other pragrammes of the party aimed at generating employment, but the issue is that we don’t just know our population. We are just too many. The claim that we are about 200 million is not realistic because we are certainly more than that. The economy was bad before Buhari came and that was why Obasanjo supported Buhari’s presidency in the first place. Can President Buhari be said to have worked long enough to have impacted on the society in the area of unemployment given uncontrolled population? So, Buhari has performed creditably given the situation he met the country.
As a lawyer, do you think that treason can be located in that statement made by Obasanjo?
You see, because of the characters involved, it is not everything you say in politics. I have just summed it up by saying that the letter was in bad taste for goodness sake. I want you to understand me by quoting me that the letter was in bad taste. It is patently illegal to ask one not to run for a position he is constitutionally qualified to run. It is wrong and our law does not allow it. Morally, it is unconscionable because nobody knows when he will die. You may see Buhari today and still see him in 50 years time.
How do you assess Buhari’s administration so far?
We may not have covered all we set to do, and that is why we believe that President Buahri should have a second term to make for any noticeable deficiencies real or imagined. Even in the letter, Obasanjo expressed that he Buhari has not done what he expected him to do. It is only the masses who constitute over 70 percent of the electorate that will determine President Buhari’s fate in 2019 and not the minority elite. I am part of those that believe that your generation should grow, but nature abhors vacuum. The truth remains that nobody should tell anybody not to run. But come to think of it, is PDP an alternative or the coalition movement? How organised are they to take power in 2019? Nigeria is not a commodity that you can go and buy in the open market. As far as I know and based on my experience, I am still convinced that Buhari is still the best for the country for now.