Elderstatesman and former presidential aspirant, Senator Olabiyi Durojaye has declared the endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan for a second term in office by pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere as a unilateral action which didn’t enjoy the support of all members of the body.
While dissociating himself from the endorsement, Durojaye, who spoke with Saturday Sun in Lagos, insisted that President Jonathan doesn’t deserve a second term.
“I want the whole world to know that the endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan for a second term by our leaders like Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Pa Reuben Fasoranti and Senator Femi Okunrounmu didn’t reflect the position and stand of all Afenifere members. Some of us like myself, Senator Ayo Fasanmi and Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora have not endorsed Jonathan for a second term. Rather, we believe in change because Jonathan has not lived up to expectation”, he declared in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS,THE SUN
Durojaye also spoke on other issues including the postponement of the polls by INEC, calls for Jega’s resignation, among a host of others. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the postponement of general elections from February 14 to March 28 by INEC?
I’m not happy about the postponement because it amounts to admission of failure on the part of the Federal Government which is saddled with the duty of providing security for the entire country. Who is responsible for providing the wherewithal for conducting an election? It is the Federal Government.
INEC is just an agency under the control of Federal Government. I have heard reports before that all materials required by the agency to conduct the elections have been provided by the Federal Government, but why excuses now? Instead of the Federal Government to admit and apologise to Nigerians over its failure and inadequacies, it is now passing the buck to INEC.
Why the security excuse now? At a time when everybody had prepared for the poll, government now passing the buck to INEC was able to come up with an unconvincing excuse to shift the polls. To me, rather than making it look as if it was INEC that shifted the poll, the Federal Government should have been bold to come out to take responsibility for the shift.
I strongly believe that there is a hidden agenda. Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government is desperate to cling to power. Nigerians should be vigilant. Let me, however, warn that if things should go bad in Nigeria, it would have serious repercussion on the entire continent, and the international community would also feel its impact, and that was why the United Nations Secretary General sent for UN’s former Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to come here to hold talks with President Goodluck Jonathan, and General Muhammadu Buhari. Even the United States of America sent Secretary of State, John Kerry, to hold meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
All these moves were aimed at ensuring that we avoid a needless crisis, but with the way PDP-led Federal Government has handled the issue of the election, it leaves much to be desired. Jonathan should be advised that he should try to be a good student of history. Whatever he does today, posterity will either be kind or harsh on his legacies.
Again, what is the guarantee that there won’t be further excuses at the expiration of the six weeks extension by INEC. The poll extension could also be a gimmick by PDP to slow down the opposition which appears to be waxing strong. What the Federal Government has done is like shifting the goal post. When your opponent is about to score.
Are you saying that the poll shift was occasioned by the prospect of a likely defeat of PDP by the opposition APC?
That is exactly what happened. All the signals are there. Defeat was staring PDP in the face, and out of panic, the idea of poll shift came. Everybody in Nigeria today is clamouring for a change. Everybody is tired of bad and inept leadership.
With this current development, what are your fears for Nigeria?
Personally, I have no fear. I have strong faith in God that at the end of it all, Nigeria will remain. In Nigeria, it is sad that we do not have true spirit of sportsmanship. African leaders are afflicted with this sit-tight syndrome. The only exception so far has been the late Nelson Mandela. He did the Black race proud through his exemplary leadership style, and that is why he was rated among the 100 greatest men that had ever lived. He is the only African on that list.
But some people recently were comparing President Goodluck Jonathan with Mandela, how do you see that?
That is a big joke. How can you compare Jonathan with Mandela? There is no basis for comparison. Those making the comparison are jesters. It is a cheap joke. Mandela’s shoes are too big for Jonathan to wear.
Those jesters praising Jonathan today, I won’t be surprised when the man leaves office, and they start abusing him. These are people that are called AGIP, meaning Any Government In Power. These unpatriotic elements, because of crumbs they get from those in authority, are ready to sing the leaders praise to heavens even when such leaders are not living up to expectations.
Jonathan is playing a dangerous game with Nigeria. He and his supporters and those selfish advisers who are not ready to tell him the truth should think of Nigeria first.
I was one of those who risked their lives to enthrone democracy in Nigeria. I was a leading member of NADECO. Not only me but also others who put their lives on the line by fighting military dictatorship are not happy with the unfolding scenario, and we won’t like democracy to be truncated.
Democracy is about choice and change. Jonathan is still young, I’m 82 years, and the president is still in his late 50s, if he loses an election, he can still come back to recontest. There is nothing that bars him from recontesting, what he can’t do is to contest again after eight years in office. If he doesn’t win this time round, he should honourably step down, hand over power to a winner. He can then reorganise himself, and restrategise with the aim of recontesting. He should try to be a hero and not a villain in Nigeria’s history. If Jonathan wins the election in a free and fair contest, I will congratulate him.
As a person, Jonathan has not offended me in anyway so I have no reason to condemn him, but what is at stake is the country.
Jonathan has not lived up to expectation. Look at our economy, see what will happen in the next six weeks. The indications have revealed that investments in Nigerian Stock Exchange are diminishing. Apart from that, look at the insecurity, the Boko Haram insurgency is also affecting the economy. Economy is not doing well, and to make matters worse, the polls postponement will also have adverse effect on our economy.
Instead of picking up, our economy has been going down the slope, hundreds of youths are unemployed. This is not the democracy we fought for. We put our lives on the line so that democracy could prevail, but these people are joking with it. They are toying with democracy. What is wrong in contesting and losing an election? Why are they afraid of going? Let’s learn to be contented with whatever God has given, you can’t get what God has not given you.
But the Federal Government is telling Nigerians that there is no cause for alarm…?
(Cuts in) Excuse me. If the economy is robust as they want us to believe, and if there is no cause for alarm, does the belly of the common man on the street lend credence to that assertion by the government?
What you see all over the place is anger and hunger. Nigerians are hungry but they are also angry. Look at the case of the missing Chibok girls, several months after, the Federal Government is yet to find an answer. But you can imagine the agony of the parents. The failure on the Chibok girls issue is even enough to force a government to throw in the towel in some climes.
Some Nigerians are confused by the turn of events, what is your advice?
Nigerians should remain calm. Although I’m surprised that there has been calm, I know Nigerians are calculating. They know that those who postpone the elections are only postponing their own day of shame. In fact, the postponement will win more sympathy for the progressives. It will attract more support for them.
Before the turn of events, INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, was somebody many hold in high esteem, do you think the election postponement is capable of affecting his reputation?
I won’t be able to provide, a categorical answer, until the end of the exercise, it will be difficult to assess Jega now. But my advice to Jega is that he should be focused. He should not allow any distraction between now and March 28 when the election will come up. He should try to be an unbiased umpire. He should not succumb to threat or blackmail or any form of arm-twisting.
How do you see the recent call by the Southern People’s Assembly led by Chief E. K. Clark, calling for Jega’s resignation?
I won’t like to talk about the personality of Jega or Clark, I won’t like to talk on any of them but only react to issues. But I can tell you that Jega has been saying for long that he is not only capable of doing the job, but that he is even ready to conduct the poll, but do we know government’s agenda? Now somebody’s name is being touted as a replacement for Jega. But why all these now?
Why replacing Jega now? Will that not amount to travesty of justice? Replacing Jega now will amount to shifting goal post when somebody is about scoring a goal. Who are we going to pick up now that will have the built up experience that Jega has? It won’t be decent to replace Jega now.
The Yoruba socio-cultural group, the Afenifere recently endorsed President Jonathan for a second term …?
(Cuts in) I, as a member of Afenifere, didn’t endorse him. I gave a dissenting opinion.
Why did you disagree with other Afenifere leaders over the endorsement of Jonathan?
I gave my reasons. Jonathan has not performed. Nigeria is worst off under Jonathan. Where has Jonathan performed? Forget all those things being said by his supporters, it is all propaganda. It is even insulting that Jonathan’s supporters are threatening that there will be trouble if he doesn’t win. That is an insult.
People saying that should have been arrested for treason. Why must some people say heavens will fall if Jonathan loses? These people are no longer talking about excellence and performance? Why is the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo popular today? It was due to his excellent performance while in power. Even today, compare the level of development in APC controlled states and that of PDP, the difference is clear.
Still on that Afenifere issue …?
(Cuts in). There should be no controversy about it. It is simple and clear. Although these leaders in Afenifere like Chiefs Fasoranti, Ayo Adebanjo, Olanihun Ajayi and others are my elders but I don’t agree with them on this issue of Jonathan. They are entitled to their own views while I’m entitled to my own view as well.
Three of us that are leading members of Afenifere opposed Papa Ayo Adebanjo and others that supported Jonathan are doing so based on principle and assessment of Jonathan’s administration.
The three of us, Senator Ayo Fasoranti, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora and myself share the same belief on Jonathan and that is, he doesn’t deserve being re-elected for second term.
Papa Ayo Adebanjo knows me very well that I can’t be bent to follow a position I don’t agree with. Integrity lies in telling the truth no matter whose ox is gored. To me, Jonathan has not done well. You don’t rate government based on promises but on achievements, Jonathan’s government might have made a lot of promises, but what has it achieved?
Look at power generation, it has deteriorated. Look at the level of corruption, and even state of roads in some parts of the country, and some people say this government should continue. I will say NO. Jonathan should go. Nigeria is heading towards a wrong direction under Jonathan. Let’s have an alternative.
If another government comes into power, if it doesn’t perform, then in another four years time, we can have PDP back. That is the way it is supposed to be – we should not be saying that it must only be my party that should be in control of government. I have always been an advocate of two party structure, and we are almost getting there, with PDP and APC. Although we have smaller parties, but power can alternate between these two major ones, PDP and APC.
I personally have my doubts as to whether this government is capable of conducting free and fair election but let’s still give Jega and INEC benefit of the doubt. It appears PDP and this government are desperate to remain in power. It is doubtful whether PDP can ensure a level playing field.
On your dissent view with that of Afenifere leaders like Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and Pa Reuben Fasoranti, don’t you think they will be angry with you?
Let them be angry if they want to. I have no regret on my position. My stand against Jonathan is based on principle and not sentiments.
They have always been angry with me for expressing dissenting views on some issues during our meetings. I will always show them respect which I have always been doing. However, what is at stake this time round demands saying the truth. I show respect for elders, but on this issue of Jonathan’s administration, I don’t agree with them. The administration has failed Nigerians. This is time for men of courage to stand up and say the truth no matter whose ox is gored.