The Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress and a former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni has warned those banking on zoning to get them elected into office, reminding them that they have the party’s constitution to contend with. He spoke with Victor Ogunje. Excerpts:
The National Bureau of Statistics recently released some data showing that the country was out of recession. What message does this convey to Nigerians?
It is message of hope. When they said we were out of recession, it does not mean the economy has jumped. You know how economies move, gradual by gradual. Out of recession means, it is no longer going down and the first thing that will happen in business circles, for those who did economics, economy moves in circles, it will pick, and when it goes down, that is what we call recession. It will bottom out and it will begin to go up, so we have bottom out economic movement as we speak. What that means is that, we are not expecting the economy to fare worse. It does not immediately guarantee that all things will begin to bubble, but it means we are not expecting the economy to get worse. Other people had acknowledged it, even the international agencies had acknowledged the fact that Nigeria and South Africa are out of economic recession. We are out of recession and our people as Nigerians should believe it.
When there are good news people don’t always like to acknowledge it but, if it is the bad ones, we will always prefer such. The truth is that, Nigeria is out of recession. Out of recession does not mean that magic will happen.
But prices of food items are still very high. Why?
No, I disagree with you. I was in Benue and I saw their farmland and so on, just like when I was in Kebbi and some other places across Nigeria. I asked the governor, he confirmed it and said they were expecting a very good harvest, that is a part of it and food prices have started to drop, it won’t drop overnight. When people are saying that food prices are too high, it is the law of demand and supply that played out. If somebody has a hundred tubers of yam to sell and another has a hundred tubers of yam to sell and the third has a hundred tubers of yam to sell and they get to the market and the one that is smartest believes that look, if he had to wait to take turns with these people he won’t do well and he wants to pay school fees, and he says, if it is five naira for five tubers I will make my own four naira for five tubers, people will rush it, nobody will teach the others to also reduce their own prices and before you know it, price will go down. When supply is appreciably higher than demand prices will fall. So, I just want to say that yes our economy is out of recession, we can feel it gradually from the fact that things are no longer high as prices are now dropping, it will first bottom out and it will now start to move up.
The Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State had just picked the Deputy Governor, Prof . Kolapo Olusola as its preferred candidate for gubernatorial election. Is there a lesson for your party from this?
There is no lesson for us to learn, because we are a party guided by our own constitution and our constitution will prevail. So, whatever they do is guided by their own constitution, whatever we will do, will be guided by our own constitution. We don’t have any lesson to learn from any party other than from our own constitution and our constitution will guide us on what we will do and that is what we will do.
Some gubernatorial aspirants from your party planned to have a consensus candidate from the southern part of the state. What is your take on this?
My take is that, it is very good if they can do it, simple! It is very good . I wish them the best of luck. But just like I said the other time, our constitution won’t be substituted on the altar of zoning or any other sentiments.
What is your reaction to the south-west leaders’ position on restructuring?
I advise that we must give a name or names to the restructuring we want to see, not amorphous designation. Now, some people have come up to say that going back to the old regions is what their own restructuring means . Let other people also talk about it, if that is it, people will be for or against it and they will debate it. Do we want to go back to regions? There will be yes, there will be no, but, I think it must go beyond talking in one meeting.
We must also get people to be involved. I congratulate them. That is the first firing shot, and I believe they will go further than that .What I would also want us to do in other part of the country, is to involve the people in doing it. The one that my party APC is doing, you would have seen how it is coming. First, they will go round the country and do public hearing and they have broken the word restructuring into specifics, because if you say restructuring, some people would have been in the market place dancing for hours and if you stop them, what are you dancing about? They will say restructuring. What does it mean? They will go blank, they will go dry, not knowing what to say. It. is becoming a bandwagon that people are just joining. Everybody wants to say something to show that they are also a part of it . But I like the way the Ibadan thing happened, if they did not include many things but at least, they included regionalism. I am also a Yoruba man and when the time comes, I will talk whether I want the regional system or not. Other people who are also Yorubas will look at its merit and demerits and how we can harmonize the advantages of regions with the advantages of state and probably have something that will work both ways.
One thing I must say without mincing words is that the debate is just starting, because people are now calling restructuring names, names that are practical and that people can identify with. I must congratulate the people who put together the Ibadan thing and I want the rest of Nigerians to also follow suit, what do you want? Say it and let people know but, I want to warn, it will not be that just a few people will decide what we want, they must include the fact that they must find out from the vast majority of people what they want.
What of the one set up by your party, I mean the one led by Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai. How far can it go?
I want Nigerians to take interest in what the APC is doing. The committee will go round the whole country, find out what does Restructuring mean to the people? What is their attitude to devolution of powers for example and so on. They will collate all the opinions. Please, we also want you to also sensitize people and rally people to go there to submit memoranda. I also want to implore students especially and younger people to take interest. We made a mistake when we were young, when the 1979 constitution was being done, we as younger people, who were students then did not take interest in it, because we thought that constitution was for Chief Awolowo and others and that they were the ones to operate the constitution but, the constitution gave birth to the one we are operating right now. So, if the young ones do not take interest, the burden would fall on them. They should take interest and try as much as possible to do research as well as collate ideas about how Nigeria can get better, because everybody wants a better Nigeria.
You made reference to the Ibadan meeting, but APC didn’t attend it. As a principal stakeholder in the south-west, do you want to say it was a meeting of the Yorubas in PDP ?
Well, I will say it is a meeting of the Yoruba people. Don’t let us give it any colour . But , what I have said I have said that by the time we come to a conclusion, they should invite everybody, otherwise, they won’t be speaking for everybody. If you want Yorubas to go to regions it should involve a broad spectrum of the Yoruba people all over the place and we must show that it is a preponderance of opinions, otherwise, it won’t be for all of us. It does not matter who starts it but they should know that it will not end with them, because, they are going to be talking about what will involve the future of all of us together and if there is a way they did it that just a few of them were there, they must also find a way of ensuring that a broader number of south-west population.
I advise that we must give a name or names to the restructuring we want to see, not amorphous designation.
We don’t have any lesson to learn from any party other than from our own constitution and our constitution will guide us on what we will do