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Emami: Shettima Will Be a Good Pair for Tinubu
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Delta State, Chief Ayiri Emami in this interview with Adedayo Akinwale says the absence of South-south and South-east leaders at the official unveiling of APC Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima, has no political undertone.
How sellable is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu ticket in the South South where you come from?
Well, to some of us, he is good to go. When a product is good, you don’t need a lot of advertisement to sell it. Asiwaju is a very good product. If Asiwaju can get it in other parts, he can equally get it in the South South because he is a very good product to market on his own. It is easier for us to sell Asiwaju than some other persons that you will struggle and struggle to sell in the South South. Asiwaju is a household name in the South South. In my State, he is part of my State. To me, I will tell you that Asiwaju is from Delta State because in Itsekiri, they will tell you that the in-law is the third family member. So, after my father, mother, brother, the other person is in-law. Itsekiri or people from Delta don’t disenfranchise their in-laws. Asiwaju equally has the same right as I do to partake in anything, to be part of any meeting and have his own fair share in anything. I can boldly tell you Asiwaju is from Delta State. Being that he is from Delta, Asiwaju is from South South.
At the unveiling of Shettima as the Vice- Presidential candidate of APC, some key members from the South South and South East were not at the venue, is that not a sign of a crack in the party?
Even me, I was not there, because to us, Shettima has been unveiled before now by Asiwaju himself. So, I was sleeping at home that day, when they called me. What did I need to go and do there? So, I don’t see any political undertone in that. We have been told that it is Shettima and we have been talking. Everybody has congratulated him. The unveiling was just a ceremonial thing. I assumed other leaders not in attendance were very tired and couldn’t attend. So, it is not an issue for me.
You have already established your passion for Asiwaju’s presidency, what I am trying to find out is the Muslim-Muslim ticket issue on ground. Naturally, the North might embrace it but in the region where you come from don’t you think that will be an issue?
Some of us even supported the candidacy of Shettima. We advised Asiwaju to go and look for good person that will give him support, whether Muslim or anything. Religion has not brought anything to our table. For example, Niger Delta Development Commission is an agency that is supposed to be taking care of the Niger Delta and so much money has come into the NDDC but the people monitoring those affairs are all Christians. Go and see whether you will see any development. Governors running the region are all Christians. So, if Asiwaju has a partner that will make him succeed, will give us protection, good roads, good schools, I don’t care. So, whatever that can work for us, that is what we need at this time and Shettima is going to be a very good pair with Asiwaju. What we are saying at the moment is Asiwaju for transformation. We are not seeing the religious aspect of it because to some of us, the Vice President is a Christian under Buhari, what is the difference. Some Christians because of politics will go to the North to go and turban. If you know you forbid something so much, don’t even go to their palace to turban. Why are you going there, don’t you know it is a different faith?
How are you going to sell APC in the South-South because it is a known fact that South South is PDP stronghold?
To me, I will not hide my feelings about the current government. As much as people have different feelings or perceptions about Buhari, some of us could bring very good votes for Buhari in my state despite the fact that APC reward system is very poor. But to some of us, we know that Asiwaju, if you look at his pedigree and people around him, you will know that he is a good product to sell. Even when we have a difficult product, we still moved in and we still sold him and people bought him. So, the way people are defecting from PDP, people are moving massively into APC, I don’t want to mention names. Somebody moved from PDP to APC for a purpose, somebody is also moving out of APC to another party for another mission. But when he is moving out did he tell you he will not support Asiwaju? So, these movements and a lot of people don’t have ideology and belief. In Nigerian politics, a lot of them move with their stomach. So, I call them stomach infrastructure politicians. Someone like me, I have been in opposition in my State for almost eight years. I don’t care, I don’t go close to the Government House, despite all my associates, my friends are in that State. But you will see some people who will tell you, we are APC in federal, we are PDP in Delta State and they will even benefit more than us. But in Asiwaju’s government, I don’t think such a thing will happen. I told my people, one of the problems in Delta is to ensure that the ports in Warri are working, some of us thought that Buhari was going to fix it, the shores in our place is actually being affected by the ocean. The gas project that the foundation was laid by (Goodluck) Jonathan, some of us thought that Buhari will complete it. The Warri refinery, our belief is that with Buhari, it is going to be fixed and a lot of money has been budgeted for these projects. I don’t want to give him 100 percent blame on this issue, but knowing Asiwaju and his antecedent in Lagos and seeing Nigeria as a bigger picture and we want more money into Nigeria and not Lagos. There are various investments that Asiwaju is going to create so that money will come into Nigeria and there is no way you want to design that Warri is going to be out of it, Port-Harcourt will be out of it, Bayelsa will be out of it, Calabar will be out of it, because it is going to be bigger picture. He will want to attract more investors because he is a business like person and he is a politician. The essence of this Muslim-Muslim ticket is this insurgency in the North. In the Niger Delta, yes, we must agitate but my own way of agitation is different from yours. Don’t burst the pipe, if they agree with what we want to start so that the federal government will not say they are budgeting money to do repairs.
In our own region, when the Niger Delta were kidnapping the white men, some of us were going against it, so when there were no white men to kidnap, they started kidnapping their own people. But some people were supporting them then because of political reasons. So, most of the problems we have are caused by politicians, not religion.
Your party hasn’t been able to tackle effectively the security challenges facing the country. What major role do you think the traditional institutions can play to mitigate this, or address it frontally?
First of all, you take the traditional institutions out of politics. You must take our institutions out of politics because it is very dangerous to the institution to play politics because they are under government. Most of them are being paid by the government. If you look at the laws of the States, they are under the state government and when you involve them and they speak their mind and that person you are supporting now lost, you know the repercussion. So, sometimes, you down play the institutions when it comes to national politics like this. As a royal father, you can pray for anybody, if you choose to go and cast your vote, you know who you cast it for. The issue of insurgency, I might not be in the army but I may be able to tell the army this is what I want. I have the boldness to take my own decision. Asiwaju is that man that has the courage of taking a very difficult decision. That is another reason I am with him. If Asiwaju is the president of this country and he has the proper study of Borno, Yobe, the North East, he will be able to deal with the situation. Don’t compare, everybody has their style in terms of leadership. This is the first time in this country where a Minister is doing almost about 8 years in office, we have seen government every two years, they change their ministers. In this government, the President believes if I give you responsibility you should be able to do things yourself but that does not mean Buhari does not have courage, I am not saying that but I think Asiwaju will take some decisions that will hurt a lot of people. They can even say this General will come and kill you and he will have justification for it. Knowing where Buhari is coming from and Nigerians are good with blackmail, war against Indiscipline, his antecedents, people were even complaining that once he became President, he was not going to stick to the constitution, rule of laws and all that. It is the same thing that some Nigerians are trying to do with this Muslim-Muslim ticket so that when a pastor misbehaves tomorrow and Asiwaju takes a decision, they will say he wants to come and Islamize Nigeria.
We are aware that there is a cold war between you and Olu of Warri, can we have an update on the relationship?
It is not specifically cold war, my belief is the ability to take a certain decision makes you a man when you are at helms of affairs. A leader that cannot take a decision whether right or wrong is not a leader. So I took a decision as it was written and if he chose to do the other way, it is like Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ but I shouldn’t be hurt, nobody should bring that problem to me. I have taken a decision based on law as it is written. How will you claim you are a Christian if you know that those things written and as it is written were not written by you. So, whatever the difference, nature will naturally take its course and the good people of Itsekiri who know that I acted based on how it was written felt that we don’t need this because it is not going to take us anywhere. We are looking for a way to see that we go to a round-table so that we don’t destroy our house because we are one people. To me, I take a decision no matter whether you are my best friend but one must stick to the rules. I shouldn’t be hurt or killed by our own rule. I will defend myself. If I take a decision based on our rules, I shouldn’t be hurt or killed based on the rule. If I have to be killed I have to defend myself. I think I can be treated like Pilate.