The APC-led government at the centre is faced with crises and poor performance. Can you confidently say that the government in power has a direction?
When people with different minds join together, it would take some time for them to understand each other perfectly, and I think that is what is going on. It is a transition and it is going to get better as we go. Governance is going according to plan, because as you are aware, people cannot blame the president at the moment because we are all human beings and I don’t think I want to turn him to be a magician, to restructure something which has been damaged for only God knows when, which is not open to Nigerians, we are not aware to what was going on then. What we are dished out to understand is what we know and that is the fact that Nigeria’s economy is buoyant, Nigeria’s economy is this and that and then a lot of us then would criticise that. Look, you can’t say Nigeria’s economy is buoyant, you cannot be in isolation from the others, you cannot, because we know when Obama came in. He inherited economic problems created by the Republicans, it took some time for America to settle because that time the mortgage system collapsed, the building system collapsed, everything collapsed by the time Obama took over the governance. It is the same thing that is applicable here. So that all of us must join hands together to be able to repair the damage that has been done, and it is not done in one day, it takes time. And we believe that if Nigerians cooperate and we understand the problem that is confronting all of us, not the government alone now, all of us, then we must be able to cooperate along the line to ensure that we get out of this problem. I know it is not going to be long. I believe that by the first quarter of next year we would get out of it.
But there have been recovered loots within and abroad. Can’t he revamp the economy with that?
Do you want that to be used again for funding that would go into somebody’s pocket? Our forex is in a shambles, no money to import machinery for manufacturing. The airlines are moving out because they cannot repatriate their money back to their country. We are starting all over. Where do we get money from to support the economy? We have to diversify the economy to ensure that we have sufficient foreign exchange to bring all these goods and capital, to revamp the economy but where is the money? The money is not available and Rome was not built in a day. Agriculture is not like that so you have to wait for another one year to reap what you sow. Nigerians need some patience. The president is not sitting idle and watching. He has been toiling day and night to ensure that we get out of this. Let us earn an honest wage for an honest job. But everybody wants free money. We don’t care where that money comes from as long as it is thrown into the market again. That is why we must be careful, that any money recovered must be spent on infrastructure, development, health, electricity to benefit the people.
If we have electricity, a lot of jobs would have been created; the barber, the hair dresser, everybody would benefit from it. There is no free money even in Freetown, so I think we must be careful. Whatever money we collect must be spent to something tangible that would benefit Nigerians. We can’t get money and throw it the same way the PDP government were using it. If we don’t suffer, we don’t enjoy. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. That is the only time Nigerians can congratulate us and that is the time other people from outside the world can see Nigeria as Eldorado. Criticism can never solve this problem, you criticise the government today, tomorrow, he can’t become a magician, he cannot control the whole thing. It is what they have they give.
Mrs Buhari alleged that her husband’s government had been hijacked. Would you say the president is in charge?
I think it is a domestic thing. But in reality, Mrs. Buhari is a Nigerian; she knows what she saw, and what she knows about the system. Everybody has the right to express their own opinion, and I think Mrs. Buhari has never said something like this before. It is necessary for us to look deeply into what she has said. If it is true, then we must find the way of correcting it, she has voiced her own mind like any Nigerian and she has voiced out her concern as a true Nigerian. If it is true, then the president must be able to correct it. Because I don’t think Mrs. Buhari is a stupid woman. I know she is a very eloquent woman and will not do anything to harm her husband. She must give a note of warning according to what she saw and the warning must be taken seriously. If by mistake the husband wrongly is surrounding himself with people who she felt they are not supposed to be, women, our mothers have nose for certain things that we don’t see. So I don’t think her words should be thrown out as a kitchen talk. He must be able to analyse what she said, why she has said it, and I think it is to save the country if she notices that certain things are going wrong. After all, she is a card-carrying APC member, and has a right to voice out now. She is not an illiterate, we must take note of it and ensure that we go in-depth and try to understand her working mind.
Secondly, I honestly don’t believe that the president surrounds himself with corrupt people. Those hijacking governments are those closer to the government. They could be advisers to the government not giving him good advice. Not necessarily because they are corrupt. We must be careful by not throwing the message she was trying to convey away. I believe she is a very understanding woman who must have seen something. It is left for us to interpret what she has said, and make corrections for the good of all Nigerians.
There are speculations that there is a rift between Buhari and Bola Tinubu. Is this true?
I have said it before, it is not true that there is a rift between Mr. President and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and I say it on certain claims. The fact that during the campaign, Buhari trusted Asiwaju to the extent that he left the whole south west because he knew Asiwaju is a man who will deliver and he delivered to him, despite the fact that Asiwaju is not the one who is going for the president. Our vote in the west played a significant role for wining that presidency; there is no doubt about that. To me, there were some people who tried to create problems, but both of them are mature, wise, too clever for that trick to be played on. I don’t think there is any rift, but people are trying to create some problems between them.
Words have it that there is rift or disagreement in APC at the moment.
It depends on what you mean; it depends on the kind of rift you are talking about because there is always rift everywhere
Such that it might create an alignment or realignment of the party?
Look, there is no problem that cannot be solved. There always will be problems every day, but it depends on the leadership. Do you think everybody wants APC to stand as a party? What is happening in PDP now, they want the same thing to happen in APC. They won’t sit idle expecting peace. They would try to create problems within our own party too. It depends on the leadership. There is misunderstanding between people within the APC, but it has nothing to do with the party yet. To me, I think the party is still solid, even though they might be cracks here and there, is not strong enough reason to say that the party is disintegrating.
You have been state chairman for some time. You want to share the experience?
Well, it has not been easy, especially since we have changed our party several times for progress. And it has not made it really impossible for me to have one stretch of chairmanship of a party, political party. We transited from AD to AC, ACN to APC. Which one do you want me to say, the one of AC or the one of ACN or the one of APC?
It is the same political family, isn’t it?
Yes, it is the same family; certainly it is the same family. It has been very interesting, and I thank God that I have the corporation of my officers at the local ward and state levels. Thanks to the people of the state and our members who stood firmly by the party and from there we moved to about six governors in ACN, and from there we moved to APC with the largest state governors .All along, that transition period has always been interesting and we thank God that everything is over and is okay
The youth form a structural and critical mass of the society. Are there any particular plans for the youths?
Yes. All we are doing is for our youths. Any government that does not recognise their role in the economy is not a government and I think it is better for us to start shedding the role and responsibilities to our youths. I don’t like saying theirs is tomorrow. Theirs is today too. They have to push the development process and isolating them, no government will get anywhere.
Could that be the reason you organised a football competition?
Yes, I do that to encourage the youth, you never can tell where a man can be strong. It may not be engineering, medicine. It is to encourage idle hands, to create something for them. Through this initiative, a coach was developed. He used to be an area boy but he became a coach when I gave them the opportunity. Today he coaches for one of the most dynamic under-15 football teams.
Away from politics, what kind of man are you?
A simple man who wants the good of the country, that’s all.
When you are not politicking, how do you unwind?
I sit down with friends to joke, laugh and sometimes play table tennis. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to play golf though I have the kits, but I don’t have the time to go and play it.
How did you meet your wife?
That was a long time ago. I met my wife over 40 years ago. Then she was working at the ministry of Industry and at that time I was at the ministry of Trade. So at closing time, we met with her friend who happened to be my cousin. From there we took it up and today, we have been married for almost 40 years.
Was it love at first sight?
Sure, I thought so because the way my interest in her developed immediately was magical and I thought, well, this is my wife and we started from there, we were together for four years before we got married.
At what point did you decide to marry her?
I was in the ministry of Foreign Affairs then. Because I had already crossed over to the ministry of foreign affairs, so we had already done engagement a year before. When I was posted then I thought it’s time we tied the knot, and then we did.
How has the marriage been for 40 years?
It has been great. I never wish to get another wife. I pray that we live long for each other. She has been everything to me. We have gone up and down, up and down and then we thank God today we have good children who are now grown up. We have a medical doctor, a geologist, a lawyer, and they are all happy. And anytime I close, I like to go home and see her before going anywhere at all, because we are very close. She is my wife, she is my sister, she is my mother, my everything. She takes care of me and knows when I am worried. She knows when I am sad and she knows when I am happy. She is always very concerned. She treats me as a child, pampers me like a baby, and so I think that what do I want in a woman more than that. She is everything to me.
Who is more romantic between the two of you?
Well I don’t know, but I think I am.
Since you are very busy person, when do you find time to care for her?
Of course, like I told you if I am not going anywhere, I go home. Once I close from office I always go home so we have enough time. Sometimes we go for Chinese and sometimes we go and watch film. Because I don’t like going to parties I always spend my time quietly with my friends. We sit to have drinks. Unfortunately I don’t drink alcohol but I take coca -cola or water, but we have good time with my friends. Sometimes we are in my compound, sometimes I am in theirs. We have a good time and we are always together. When we go to party or to see my friends, we go together and we have been doing that for quite a while. We are used to that when we were in the diplomatic service outside the country before I became a politician, we have always been together. That has been something we are used to, so cutting it off now is very difficult. Even for more than 40 years, we have been living in the same room. One room together everywhere we go, I have always been using one room so there is no separation of room, and we have always been together.
What’s the secret of the 40 years of marriage?
No, there is no magic nor trick. Let me assure you that if you are lucky you have your own wife, not someone else wife; you married on sentiment, you will always have misunderstanding and then between yourself you settle it. From day one when we got married I told her the day somebody calls us to settle our problem, that is the end of the marriage. Because there is no reason why you call the third party to come and settle your problems. If you are really friends and are in love with each other, you can always settle your problem. You should not be too proud to say I’m sorry to your wife. If you are really at fault, that ego should not be there. I can always say I’m sorry, what does it cost me? And if my wife is also at fault she will come and apologise, and that is the end of the story. We have been doing that for over 40 years when we are courting, and when we got married, we continued. Like I said if I know something is wrong with her or I have done something that I don’t know. But I know when she is annoyed and she knows when I am annoyed, but we are not too proud to say we are sorry. It solves a lot of problems when you say sorry and you mean it. It is not that you are woman wrapper, she is your wife, she is your partner. So you must for once remove that your ego as a man.
What is your relationship with Tinubu?
We have been friends for a long time. What I like about Asiwaju is that he will never betray his friends. And if a man can be like that, then he is a man that you can trust. We have been coming since 1989. I know him, he knows me. I don’t believe in 99% loyalty to my friends, I believe in 100%. If you are my friend, I am loyal to you and I expect you to be loyal, but when you don’t do that then that is not friendship. Like I said in the marriage, if you cannot say sorry when you offend your wife, then that marriage will never last. Same with a trusted friend. He is my boss, he is my leader. We were in his cabinet together. When he was in exile we were together, I was in Nigeria, but we communicated and our group was still growing even as he was outside. We kept our group flying, so when he came back, we started, and we are still with him.
Do you mean he doesn’t betray his friends?
Yes, people have been loyal to him because he doesn’t betray his friends. He will rather allow you to betray him rather than him betray you. That is why, many people are loyal today. When you look at it, I’m older but it is because of his consistency. Asiwaju doesn’t mind to spend his last kobo on anybody in need. If you have encounter with him, believe me, you won’t want to betray him. Everybody says a lot of things about him, one thing he is not, he doesn’t betray his friends, except you betray him yourself and God always fight for him. Eventually those who plan and execute something against him always come back to apologise, to beg. That is why, our friendship continues.