2023: Voting PDP or APC, akin to looking for a messiah in hell – Okurounmu Tells Nigerians

CHAIRMAN of the presidential advisory council that midwifed the 2014 national conference, Senator Femi Okunrounmu has advised Nigerians to look elsewhere if they hope to get a messiah to salvage the country in the 2023 presidential election.


In an exclusive interview with Sunday Tribune, Okurounmu said making a choice between the presidential offerings from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled before it is akin to looking for a messiah in hell. “I don’t see a messiah coming from hell.


If you are looking for a messiah, he will come from heaven and not hell.


“The two parties you have mentioned, PDP and APC, are hellish parties. They are parties that are draining the resources of Nigeria into the private pockets of their leaders.


Complete Interview

Senator Femi Okurounmu is a household name in Nigeria’s political space, with experience spanning both legislative and executive arms of government. The one-time Secretary General of the Afenifere, a Yoruba-socio political organisation and chairman of the Advisory Committee that midwifed the 2014 national dialogue speaks to DARE ADEKANMBI on the 2023 elections and what should be the Yoruba agenda, advises Nigerians to reject the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), among other burning issues.

There has been this back and forth over where the pendulum should swing in 2023 between advocates of zoning and those saying all the zones, except the North-West, are free to contest. What do you make of this?

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The problem of Nigeria is more than which zone produces the next president. Nigeria has such a deep problem that the country itself is on the brink of collapse because of serious issues. So, those who are concentrating on which zone should produce the next president either don’t understand the problem or they are merely trivialising it or they are concentrating purely on their own selfish interest. Those who call themselves politicians today are mostly pursuing their own selfish interest which is mostly monetary.

Those in politics today are just after money; they are not after the interest of their people. So, that is why it is easy for them to cross from APC to PDP and vice versa and they can cross as many times as they want and they are just welcome in either of the two parties they cross to. Whichever one they cross to is the one that will help them make more money. None of them is thinking of how they are going to make Nigeria great, improve life for the ordinary man, address inequality and ensure justice, stop the feeling of marginalisation, save their people from servitude of the Fulani who are more or less lording it over everybody and having their way. The politicians are not thinking of these.

If you are making all the money as president sitting over a country where your people are being oppressed and the people are not benefiting from your being president in any way, of what use is your presidency? I don’t see what the Yoruba will benefit from Senator Bola Tinubu’s presidency, for instance, or even Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s presidency. Tinubu says it has been his longtime ambition to be president. So, he wants to be president to satisfy a personal ambition. What has Tinubu, who made Buhari president, been saying in the last seven years that Buhari has been oppressing Nigerians, including the Yoruba, enslaving us and Fulanising the country? Tinubu cannot say a word. Now that we are suffering under a regime created by Tinubu, then of what use is it if he becomes president? What will the Yoruba gain from him?

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I am not interested in which zone or regime should produce the next president. I am interested in how we are going to have a better country, how we are going to have better governance, how we are going to have a country in our children will be happy to live and to work in. All our children now are running away from the country because it is not a good country for them to live in.

The beauty of any politician is to always be thinking of how we can have a better life for our children. Any politician who is currently thinking of that will not be talking about which zone produces the next president. That is not our priority today.


But with Buhari serving out his constitutionally limited two terms next years, should power remain in the North or move to the South?

Look, I am not interested in the issue of zoning as I said earlier.  I am interested in how next year, we are going to have a country where the Yoruba, the Igbo and the people in the Middle Belt will not feel persecuted and the Fulani will not be the king of all, ruling over us as if Nigeria belongs to them. We have had enough of that. Next year, we have to end Fulani autocracy, dictatorship and enslavement. That has to end. That, to me, should be our priority in the South. How we are going to have a just and fair country.


INEC is making a lot of promises, saying elections will be very credible and there will be electronic transmission of results and so on. Are you optimistic 2023 elections will be better than past elections?

Gullibility is a sign of stupidity. A person who is deceived the first, second and third time and has been deceived all his life and yet remains gullible is a fool. That is all I can say about that.


Are you saying INEC is not sincere in its promises?

Well, you can infer what I mean by what I am saying. INEC will never tell you that the elections will not be fair. They will always promise you before election how everything will go well, how they will do everything right. Has it ever happened?

You headed the committee that midwifed the 2014 national conference. Why do you think Buhari has refused to look at the reports and the recommendations contained therein?

The fact that you have to even ask me that question shows that our media men only push out news items and don’t form appropriate opinion and judgment about the news. I don’t have to tell you that Buhari is a Jihadist. He believes in Fulani supremacy and the supremacy of the North. He does not believe that the constitution we are operating now should be changed in anyway because it confers all powers and advantages on the North.  Buhari does not listen to those who are looking for justice, equity and a constitution that will make all Nigerians have equal privileges and opportunities.

If Buhari has his way, he will bring Fulani from all over West Africa and make them to occupy Nigeria and turn the country into a Fulani enclave. If he has his way, he will continue to have the northerners enjoy all the absolute advantages that they enjoy so that whatever the North wants is what will happen in the country and the rest will just be doing follow follow. So, that is what he wants and that is why he does not want to see the report of the 2014 national conference which is supposed to move Nigeria towards equity and justice. He does not want to see the report and that is why you have to question your people, the Yoruba leaders, who supported him and put him in power. That is why you have to be questioning if they have your interest in mind. Do they want justice for you? Do they want equity for you? Or do they want to enslave you?


Do you see a messiah coming from either APC or PDP in 2023 as regard presidential candidate?

I don’t see a messiah coming from hell. If you are looking for a messiah, he will come from heaven and not hell. The two parties you have mentioned, PDP and APC, are hellish parties. They are parties that are draining the resources of Nigeria into the private pockets of their leaders. All their leaders are pocketing billions of naira. Buhari said he will fight corruption, but how many of them are in jail today? They are billionaires. To become a president of Nigeria, you will need tens of billions of naira. Will such money be legally acquired through hard work? If you spend tens of billions of naira to be president, what do they expect you to do when you get there? How can a messiah come from that kind of environment or atmosphere? The primary alone will consume billions and if you don’t pay the delegates, they won’t vote for you. You have to put them in hotels, feed them and give them money. What kind of a president will you be after spending such money? You journalists should question the system. Can the system as we have it now even produce a good leader? The system can’t produce a good leader the way it is run.

If PDP and APC are hellish, as you have described them, do we have any hope that a third force might come to supplant the dominant parties?

I have been saying it for three years now. The hope of Nigeria is in young people coming together to wrestle power from these vagabonds who are in power. Unless young people, who are patriotic, nationalistic and committed to developing their country take over the way young people did in the 1950s, when those who ran government then whether in the AG or others were young people, nothing will move in the country. So, the young people need to organise themselves to capture power from the corrupt and old people. But unfortunately, all the young people of today are concerned with is to wait for their own turn so that they too can be stealing money. Any young man today waiting for his turn to steal money is the kind of person that will go and join APC or PDP. Any young man who believes in Nigeria and wants a better future for the country will not join APC or PDP. We surely need a third force of young and committed men and women who are prepared to have government the way government should be run. This is where I believe the young men should focus their energy.


Some people will say though the situation is very bad, it is not irremediable, as we still have non-politicians in the private sector who can run the country better…

Private sector people can’t run government. If you want to run a government, you have to be in a political party. But if you want to stay in the private sector, you can only give your opinion and suggestions. There are decent people in that sector, alright, but they can’t run government. There are many capable young men, knowledgeable young men and women who are not given the chance. The system does not give them a chance. If you are very learned you man today and you have the best of intentions for Nigeria, the system will not give you a chance because you are not yet a trillionaire. It is when you are a trillionaire that you can have a chance to participate in politics, according to the way it is being done now. If you are not a billionaire, no matter how good your ideas, how patriotic you are, how idealistic you are, the system will crush and finish you. You won’t be given a chance. The system has finished all our young men and women.


What then will be your suggestion on how to de-monetise politics in Nigeria so that young people can participate?

Young men and women in the country must realise that they are in the majority and democracy is one man, one vote. If they can take their minds off these billionaires, those people dashing them money, cars and bags of rice and regard them as devil and organise themselves to float their own political party to contest the next election and refuse to take bribe from the billionaires, then they will win power.


The general election is just a year away. What would you offer to the Yoruba people as advice on what they should do, in view of their lot under Buhari? What should be their position?

The Yoruba should organise themselves into an alternative political party. I will not recommend APC or PDP for any Yoruba man. The Yoruba should bring themselves together into an alternative party and seek a mandate from the people with the commitment to giving Nigeria a new constitution if they win power. What Nigeria needs now is a new constitution. In fact, we need to organise an alternative party that will let Nigerians know this. If we have a new constitution, it is then we can begin to have all the clamour about restructuring that we have been making for decades implemented. The Fulani will not implement restructuring for us. The northerners will not show interest in restructuring or support the writing of a new constitution. But if we organise ourselves, instead of just shouting and talking, have an alternative political platform with a clear mandate to go and write a new constitution and if we win power, that will be the beginning.


Are you suggesting a party that is like the Alliance for Democracy at the beginning of this republic?

I am recommending a political party that will be home to all advocates of restructuring whether from the South-West, South-East, Middle Belt and even the core North and all those who believe in restructuring and a new constitution. The party will also accommodate all those who believe the current constitution promotes injustice and iniquity. These are the people who should organise themselves around the political party and capture power to give Nigeria a new constitution.

You were in the National Assembly between 1999 and 2003. How would you rate the performance of the current Assembly which is trying to tinker with the 1999 constitution?

You journalist should be at the forefront of this thing. Every National Assembly has set up a committee to review the constitution, including our own National Assembly, and consumed a lot of money, travelling round the country and seeking opinions. As soon as that particular Assembly ends, that is the end. A new Assembly will come and start all over again. It is just a way of deceiving the people. We are not going to get a meaningful change or a re-write of the constitution through the National Assembly which is dominated by those who don’t want a change. The constitution is skewed in favour of the North which has a majority of the Assembly. These people have an interest in preserving the status quo. They won’t support restructuring because they feel it is to their disadvantage. So, all this effort to change the constitution is just to deceive the people.


You always complain that the Yoruba make a lot of noise without concrete actions accompanying their clamour. What do you think is responsible for this?

It is because our education, somehow, is not deep enough. It one thing to be academically and intellectually sound; it is another thing to be politically wise. Education is different from wisdom. Most Yoruba have textbookish knowledge, but lack political wisdom. We need to begin to apply political wisdom. We need to begin to deploy our education along the line of political wisdom. Above all, we need to have the love of our people. We are very knowledgeable, but many of us are selfish.  We go after our own self-interest. When a typical Yoruba man is faced with a choice between self-interest and Yoruba interest, he will go first after his own self-interest. That is what is crippling and crushing the Yoruba nation. Yoruba people must love one another, love their nation and develop and promote corporate interest above personal interest. If we look at Yorubaland today, from Tinubu downwards, they are all pursuing personal interest. Yoruba people need leaders who will pursue corporate and not personal interests.

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