Senator Olusola Adeyeye, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was the Senate Chief Whip in the 8th National Assembly.
In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI in Abuja, he shared his thoughts on latest developments in the polity, especially on the planned removal of fuel subsidy, direct primary controversy and issues surrounding the 2023 presidential election. Excerpts:
Personally, what is your view on the mode of primaries to be used. Are you in support of direct primaries or the process should be thrown open for the political parties to decide what they want?
Honestly, if there is good faith, it doesn’t really matter. But the truth is, whether you are talking of direct primaries or indirect primaries, where there is corruption and manipulations by unscrupulous cabals, the process can be thwarted and run in such a way that the best interest of the citizenry at large are not served. I live in the United States of America for decades. Some states have what you call direct primaries, some have caucuses. Some have what amounts to indirect primary and they work very well. In fact, in some states, one party will run direct and another party will run indirect. But if there is good faith and if the process is in place to ensure that there are no untoward practices, then it doesn’t really matter. Here of course, unless we deceive ourselves, there are untoward practices and if it is going to be indirect primaries, the delegates can be bought with money. If it is going to be direct primaries, it is also going to be a matter of money. Even on election day, you see people sharing money and distributing loaves of bread. Honestly, it is sad but that is the reality we have found ourselves.
How will you rate the current National Assembly compared to the one you served in, especially given the ‘Rubber stamp’ tag given to them by some Nigerians?
It is not fair to label them as such because the challenges are different. When I was in the National Assembly, there were some things we did that were right and there were some things we did that were wrong. In this current National Assembly, there are things they have done that are right and there are things they have done, in my opinion that were very wrong. Honestly, not being an insider, it will not be too fair for me to be too judgmental because like I said, there were many things that we also did wrong when I was there.
The federal government has concluded plans to remove fuel subsidy next year. Do you think this is a good idea?
As far back as the government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who proposed in his own time that subsidy should be removed, I was one of the few senators of my party who supported the removal of subsidy. The whole story of subsidy is a big scam. It is a way in which a cabal runs with plenty of money into their pockets at the expense of the average Nigerian. I always tell Nigerians to remember that once upon a time, we have a telephone and postal service that was run by P&T that became NITEL and NIPOST. We all complained about their services and high costs. We then brought in the private sector. MTN came in, ECONET came in, GLOBACOM also came as well as other private interests. At the beginning, they were very expensive and they were unaffordable. I remembered when I first returned to the country in 2002, I bought a very cheap telephone called Trium for about N14,000. Later on, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG and other phones came. They were very expensive then. But today, a woman selling akara (bean cake) in my village has a telephone. A farmer working on his farm in my village sometime has two telephones, depending on which one is working in his house and which one is working on his farm. Today, if you send a text message on any Nigerian telephone, you pay less than N5. Also remember that it takes about N500 or more to make a dollar, so when you send a text for N5, it means you are paying less than a fraction of a US cent. So, have we not moved far better than where we were during the days of P&T? Once upon a time, we used to have a Nigerian Airways with airports in only about four Nigerian cities. Today, we have many private carriers. They are not the best run carriers in the world but the truth is, they are run far better than Nigerian Airways was run before its collapse. So, my own prescription is, let the government get out of the sectors of the economy in which the government has shown itself to be a pathetic failure. Why should Nigeria be the only OPEC country that is importing petrol? If we were not importing petrol, if we were manufacturing and processing our own crude oil into finished products, petrol will only be a fraction of what it costs today.
Where do you think the APC should zone its presidential ticket?
I have given interviews in the past in which I said I am ardently opposed to zoning. If we are going to zone and it is based on fairness, then it should be zoned to the South-East. But I don’t believe in zoning. If my party says we can’t zone it to the South-East because we don’t have enough people from the region in our party, in that case, then it should be the turn of the South-West. But honestly, beyond the gimmickry of zoning, what I will want is that we identify competent people who can run this republic well and we go for them. However, I don’t think that will happen because zoning has become a religion in our country. One of the finest men we have in this country is Audu Ogbeh. Nobody mentions his name for no other reason than the accident of birth. So, if you run a system where the best of your talents are not even considered because of the rag-tag lottery of birth, then you must sleep on the bed you have laid.
When you say you don’t believe in zoning, won’t be shocked if another northerner emerges as President in 2023?
I won’t be shocked. Why should be shocked? It is a democracy. I pray that in the emergence of that northerner, we should pay particular attention to the complexity of our nation. If we don’t, the mutual suspicion and dislike will be worsened. But quite frankly, either in the constitution or in the law of the land, zoning is not recognised. So, if the northerners play their cards well and they emerge, that is democracy. If on the other hand, there is enough maturity and compromise in the system, particularly in making sure that we choose people who can run this country well, then we will thank God for that.