Prince Dayo Adeyeye, a former Senator
who represented Ekiti South Senatorial District is the Chairman and
Coordinator of South West Agenda for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (SWAGA). In
this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he speaks on the mission of the
group and the controversy over zoning of presidential ticket in 2023.
What is SWAGA 2023 all about and what is your position on the zoning controversy in APC?
will be a presidential election in 2023 by the grace of God and by the
principle that we all agreed, though not cast in stone, but it is
generally agreed among politicians of all political divides that the
presidency should rotate between the North and the South. It is only
fair enough that we should rotate in a very diverse country like this
where our democracy is still very nascent and fragile. There are so many
centrifugal forces pulling us aside, we need to ensure fairness to all
sections of the country.
We need to rotate between North and
South. I believe there is a gentleman’s agreement in all the political
parties that now, after eight years in the North, the presidency should
come down to the South. We have not microzoned to the six geo-political
zones of Nigeria; that is we have not agreed that it should be zoned to
the South- South; South-East or South-West or the other zones. There is
no general agreement on that but there is a general idea that the
Presidency should rotate between North and South. That was why in the
2007 presidential election, the PDP and President Obasanjo gave Yar’Adua
the chance. Those who contested that year were mainly northerners; the
like of Atiku Abubakar, Umaru Yar’Adua, Muhammadu Buhari and the
election was won by Yar’Adua. Unfortunately, Yar’A dua couldn’t complete
his first term and then Goodluck Jonathan came in.
that we had then when Jonathan was president was that the Northerners
felt that South did eight years with Obasanjo as President and with
Jonathan; they had already done another 6 years. They felt if Jonathan
was to have a second term, that will amount to Southerners doing like 18
years with the north having done just two years. So, there was this
extreme tension which I saw as a politician. That tension that the North
was being shortchanged and they should have the presidency in 2015
started building up in 2011. That was why this coalition to get Jonathan
out at all cost took place.
They succeeded and President Buhari
came in in 2015. As of today, the South has had the presidency for
about 13 years; the north has done eight years. So, it should come down
to the South now so that the South can have a taste of it in 2023
because by then, the North would have done 10 years. We in the
South-West are part of the south of Nigeria and the South-West has the
right to contest for it.
Kebbi state governor, Atiku Bagudu
said APC governors are not for zoning but they want the presidential
ticket to be thrown open to all aspirants. What is your take on that?
I have nothing against the idea of throwing the presidential ticket
open. Even if a party make pronouncement today that the presidency is
zoned to a particular place, I can assure you that people from other
areas will still come out. But it is in the mind of the people to say
that we have zoned the ticket to a particular place. So, when you come
to the field, they will defeat you because you may not get the necessary
votes. But as long as the constitution of Nigeria says you must not
discriminate against anybody, so a political party can have an internal
arrangement to say we are zoning a particular position to a particular
place. Some other people may disagree and they have a right to. So, you
leave and go to the field.
Since the majority believes in the
zoning arrangement, you will have your way. That is the way it works in
politics. In 2007, it wasn’t only Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that came out,
some people came out in the South too. They might be minor candidates
but they still came out. That is the way it normally works. Are you
going to bar Ayade as a bonafide citizen of Nigeria from contesting if
he says he wants to contest? The answer is no. Yahaya Bello said he is
interested in the presidency even though he is from the North-Central,
can you say he has no right? He has a right to contest as long as the
constitution of Nigeria allows it. So, we have nothing against that
statement by Bagudu that they want to throw the ticket open because that
is what I expect anybody from that political position to say.
I was asked the same question, I will say ‘Governor Ayade, you are
welcome to our party and you are free to contest for presidency if you
desire’. Somebody is joining your party and you say he cannot contest.
That is not a politically correct thing to do. When the governor of
Ebonyi joined APC, he was equally welcomed. He went to see the President
and the President put his arms around him and said he has a right just
like every other person. He can aspire for whatever position he wants in
The South West has produced the presidency in Chief
Olusegun Obasanjo. The South- South has also produced in Dr. Goodluck
Jonathan. Don’t you think if the presidency is zoned to the South, then
it should go to the South- East?
I think that is a very
legitimate question. It is absolutely legitimate. But to the extent that
microzoning is not generally acceptable for now, let everybody in the
South come out and contest for it. The presidency of Nigeria is too
important to be awarded to somebody who is sitting in his house. You
have to struggle for it.
Political power is never served a la
carte. You see the kind of things Americans go through when they are
contesting for presidency. For almost two years, they run primary and
other things before the election. That has a tendency of you going round
the country of meeting all sorts of people. As a journalist, what is my
business going to the people in the village? But when I contested for
senatorial election, I had to meet everybody including traders, artisans
and so on. So, politics is not served a la carte. South-West will not
sit back and say we are awarding it to South-East.
bring out his own candidate. If people are persuaded more that your
candidate is more qualified and in any case, his zone has not produced
the presidency, maybe they can consider that. But if we do not come out
to project our own man, the presidency may not even come to the South.
For example, Yar’Adua was from Katsina state in the North West, why did
people not say North-West has produced, therefore Buhari should give it
to another person? They said North and Buhari who is from the same
Katsina still emerged. If the thing is going back to the North again
after the South has produced, it could still go to Katsina in the
Northwest if the other zones are not ready and prepared. That is why
South-West is projecting its own candidate. We do not say other people
don’t have a right to project their own but I will not be the one coming
from Ekiti to go to the South-East and South- South to say ‘come out
and contest for presidency’. That is why we call it South-West Agenda.
South- West has come out to projects its own candidate and we believe
our candidate is ready and capable. He has sown seeds round the country
and they are bearing fruits now. There is all likelihood that by the
grace of God, he will make it in 2023. That is why we are working hard
Asiwaju Tinubu has not indicated interest in
contesting for 2023. With all your efforts, what if he declines to
contest and decided to support another aspirant?
do not have any assurance from Asiwaju Tinubu that he is contesting but
I can tell you that he will contest. He will not back out from the
presidential race. He cannot back out because there are forces in
politics that will not make it possible for him to back out. I am
telling you that even though Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has not given us any
assurance but you can also be reasonably sure that some of us in SWAGA
with our little experience will not be wasting our time if we don’t
think that he will come out and do it. I am telling you that by the
grace of God he will come out and contest for the presidency. I don’t
have assurance from him but we know our efforts cannot be in vain.