Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has revealed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo withdrew his support for President Muhammadu Buhari in the early days of his administration.
Oyinlola, a close ally of Obasanjo, told Sunday Sun in Abuja that what necessitated Obasanjo’s withdrawal of support for Buhari was the realization that President Buhari was trying to ‘northernise’ his government.
Oyinlola also said it was as a result of President Buhari’s approach to governance issues that made Obasanjo to write President Buhari his classic letter after several unsuccessful attempts to address him on the best approach to issues and governance generally.
Asked at what point Obasanjo and Buhari parted ways, the former military administrator of Lagos State and former two-term Osun State governor said: “At the point where at the initial stage, it was found out that he was trying to northernise the government. And if you see the appointments, you will agree with me that there is not a bit; a clear demonstration of nepotism in his appointment.”
Oyinlola also disclosed why the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) was not registered as a political party, even as he expressed confidence that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will defeat President Buhari in the February 2019 presidential election.
What led to the disappearance of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement, which many believe was to usher in a new movement, the Third Force, canvassed by former President Obasanjo in his epic letter to President Buhari?
Let me start by correcting one issue from your question: what Obasanjo was canvassing for was not a Third Force. It was people that christened it Third Force. Some other groups, I think under the leadership of Olisah Agbakoba, were the ones promoting something in line with Third Force. What Obasanjo said was that what we are getting from this government wasn’t what we bargained for in 2015, and if we allow things to go unchecked, then we may have ourselves to blame at the end of the day by the time the whole country collapses. And that was why he suggested that there must be some kind of movement and I know too well that that came about after several unsuccessful attempts to address Mr President on the best approach to issues and governance generally. So, it was to galvanise patriotic Nigerians and with special reference to youths and women. If you recall, he said in his letter, ‘if and when that Coalition for Nigeria Movement transmutes into a political party, then he will hands off.’ CNM is a movement and if you are going to have a direct influence on the political scenario of Nigeria, you can only do that through the platform of a political party. That was the reason CNM had discussion with several political parties and we believe the objectives of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) met the policy direction of CNM and that of our dream for a future Nigeria.
Why didn’t you register CNM as a political party? Where you afraid that the president may derail your plan?
We are almost certain that the president being a retired military man will not sit down and see and watch a canon coming after him and will not do anything. It will be unthinkable for him to allow a suggested movement like that of Obasanjo to be registered as a political party. We believe if he was thinking rightly that he wouldn’t do such a thing and that is why we looked for an existing political party and that is why we ported into ADC.
What is the strength of ADC nationwide?
Today, if you pick APC, you pick PDP, ADC is the next party in order of ranking.
Are you fielding candidates in the various positions across the country?
Yes. The only position that we can no longer contest for is just the presidency. For other political posts like Senate seats, House of Reps, House of Assembly, yes, we are contesting. But let me say one thing: at the presentation of our decision to have Atiku as our consensus candidate, I reiterated the experience of Osun and suggested that the spirit and letters of the MoU of CUPP should be carried down to the state level. If that is done, then we will be working together to pick the best of candidates from within the ranks of parties forming the CUPP to pick a common candidate for all the posts.
You sound as if you are very confident that the CUPP can remove President Buhari from office?
By the special grace of God, it will. I am confident because I was the secretary of the new-PDP that brought into the merger that made up APC, five sitting governors, many senators, and many members of the House of Reps. If you go back to do a kind of study over the 2015 election, take the votes cast for Buhari in these five states and add that of Niger and Jigawa, the two governors were with us in our movement till the last minute. I think the harassment from the government made them to beat a retreat. But by the time that retreat was beaten, the people had been carried along. So, you can now calculate the votes from those seven states. Remove it from what Buhari had in 2015, he lost.
Considering what the merger later turned out to be, do you have any regret over the role played?
I was not happy with the fact that the spirit of the merger was not attended to. The execution of the agreement was one sided. I say so because, yes, if there are four major parties that made up the coalition – CPC, ANPP, ACN and new-PDP, the position of presidency went to CPC, chairman of the party went to the ANPP, then the Speaker at the initial stage went to ACN. That was the plan. Now, the remaining one, Senate President that was supposed to come to us, some people were foot-dragging and in their equation, of all the sharing formula, we were quietly left out, such that in important decisions and meetings, we were almost forcing them to remember that the new-PDP was part of the merger.
So, it was a selfish union?
That is it! But the Almighty God will never allow iniquity anywhere. And that is why the position of Senate President and that of the Speaker that came to new-PDP, came by the grace of God and out of the greediness of those people. If not, if they had agreed that okay, everybody has taken its own, let new-PDP have the Senate seat as part of the merger troop, there wouldn’t have been any confusion. But things went haywire, opposition even decided to vote for Bukola and Dogara. And that is why it was God that gave the National Assembly to the new-PDP.
Don’t you think the same greed that characterised the merger will play out in the CUPP if it eventually wins the 2019 presidential election?
How can it come up?
Some believe that your decision to quit the APC was a wrong step. Is that correct?
I am the one that have the step to take and there is nobody to assess my movement whether it was wrong or right. If you pick the allegations made against the president and his government by Obasanjo in his letter, nobody could fault it. Obasanjo stuck out his neck for him to my knowledge. I was part of every movement, every support, within and without in the belief that we are having somebody better than Jonathan. But what we have found out now is just that the man has been under exposed and we have been able to carry out a wrong assessment of who he truly is. But he has been in government now and we have been able to see the level of his capacity.
As someone who is very close to former President Obasanjo, at what point did Obasanjo and President Buhari have a point of departure?
At the point where at the initial stage, it was found out that he was trying to northernise the government. And if you see the appointments, you will agree with me that there is not a bit; a clear demonstration of nepotism in his appointment. But he could not say anything because he was at the forefront in the campaign to install Buhari. And when it became difficult for somebody to reach out to the president to chip in one or two words of advice to assist him in governing well, then, what is one waiting for there? It is just a shame that in this country, we seem to gloss over serious issue. The wife said the man is not in charge, that there are only two or three people running the government. She said it that millions of people voted for this man, but only two or three; what else does anybody want to say? This is the wife, that is, his better half.
If the outcome of the forthcoming presidential election does not favour your candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, what will be your reaction?
I know only the Almighty appoints. But I want to believe that with what we have put in place, with the kind of hunger ravaging the entire nation, with the insecurity pervading the nation and so many mis-governance being witnessed, I don’t see Nigerians voting Buhari back into power. That is it! Because if you ask anybody, are you better today than you were four years ago, go and take out a census and see what the response is going to be.
There were earlier calculations zeroing in Atiku’s vice presidential choice on the Southwest and you as his deputy. What later happened? What changed that plan?
Anybody who knows the man we are going to take on for at the next election, will know that there is need for a strategic plan, a very strong strategic plan to be able to take him out. And that is why I am happy with the way it went. If we are talking of equity, then the highest position in the country should not be an exclusive preserve of some zones alone. Today, everybody has been shouting, Southeast, Southeast, why wouldn’t they have the opportunity to serve at the highest position? And I think the first step is by picking a vice president from there.
Does that mean you agree that in 2023, the presidency should go to the Southeast rather than the Southwest?
Totally, totally! That is my personal view.
Are you sure the PDP will agree to that?
You are asking me about my personal opinion. Whatever the party wants to do, that is different. But if equity is anything to go by, it should go there because of all the zones, that is the only one that has never had a shot in this current political dispensation that started in 1999.
Why did you call APC’s the Next Level as the Next Evil scheme the day you announced the adoption of Atiku as your presidential candidate?
What scheme have they played out that is pleasant to the people of the country? Is it the infrastructure that are good, is it the health sector that you can be proud of? There is medical tourism outside the country day in, day out. All our medical personnel are all going out for greener pasture. My personal doctor that I patronise in the UK is a Nigerian. Yes! And I have been with him for 30, 40 years. So, if the equipment are there, when you go out, you find out that it is our own boys that are treating us. But they have the equipment; they have all that they need to carry out their work. With all these, any level they are taking us to is the evil scheme level.
Are you not scared that if President Buhari wins in 2019, he will go after you and other like-minded people?
Yes, he can go after us, but they will have to build more prisons. But you know the NADECO route is still there, very open.