A former Minister of Communications and Director General of the Asiwaju Tinubu-Shettima Coalition for Good Governance, Adebayo Shittu, in this interview with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, relives the intrigues that led to his non-reappointment for second time as minister, the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket and why some All Progressives Congress politicians are still angry with Tinubu
How will you react to the protest of the APC Northern Christians over Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket?
I don’t want to believe there is anything called APC Northern Christians or Muslims. I see that as rubbish. The APC is not a religious organisation but a political party guided strictly by Nigerian laws and the constitution of the party. I have not seen in what way Tinubu violated either the constitution of Nigeria or that of the APC.
If he violates such a constitution, people should know what to do; head straight for the court. If it is that of the APC that Tinubu violated, of course, the party should know what to do. I suspect that some people who have been positioning themselves for the vice presidential candidacy ticket, with religion as the major determinant and not satisfied with the choice of Shettima, are trying to sensationalise the issue.
Are you saying their anger was not justified?
I am not speaking for Tinubu, but I want to say with all sense of humility and as a knowledgeable Nigerian who also happens to be in the APC, that the candidate was not elected as a flagbearer because he was a Muslim. He was elected out of the 23 aspirants because he was considered to be the most suitable person who could give other parties a good fight. And he also didn’t choose his running mate based on religion but on zone and who could best deliver the votes from the region that he comes from.
There are Christian candidates such as Yakubu Dogara, Boss Mustapha, and Babachir Lawal from the same region who can also deliver good votes. Isn’t it?
I can’t say unless you give me evidence of their electoral productivity. Elections are not a matter of people taking risks.
However, when you have people threatening that because they are Christians from the North, they won’t vote, they are just shooting themselves in the legs. Are you saying that Muslims did not contribute to voting for Yakubu Dogara during his election or Senator Elisha Abbo from Adamawa? Can they win without the Muslims’ votes? These are the issues. They ought not to have limited the whole thing to just religion. It is not even in their interests. In any case, the general election is near. Let’s see what happens.
Why did Tinubu refuse to address the grievances among co-aspirants and party chieftains such as Babachir Lawal, allowing them to linger for too long?
You cannot force an unwilling horse to drink water. Babachir is the closest Nigerian to Tinubu, and he has been touting this even when we were together as members of the same Federal Executive Council. He also never fails to mention that it was even Tinubu who recommended him to Buhari for the position of the SGF. If he now thinks the proper thing is for him to bite the finger that fed him, it is up to his conscience.
What exactly is Tinubu’s running mate, Shettima, bringing to the table?
As I mentioned earlier, an election is not where any candidate will want to take unnecessary risks. Remember that our vice presidential candidate is someone who for eight years sustained governance and orderliness in a zone nearly occupied by Boko Haram and ISWAP criminals.
Does that explain the reason Tinubu chose him?
Was that not a good enough reason to look for somebody who can be trusted to run good governance? We want to win votes, and we thank God we have somebody who delivers. It wouldn’t have made sense to pick a minority. It is about who can deliver the votes, and it is the prerogative of the presidential candidate to choose his running mate. It is not about religion.
We are preparing for an election. It is the prerogative of the presidential candidate to choose who he deems fit and whose votes can make him win at the poll.
By the grace of God, we will defeat Atiku even in Adamawa, his home state.
When exactly is Tinubu reaching out to the aggrieved Christian community?
I am sure my principal has been doing his best to reach out to the Christian community. At least other Christians in the country are rubbishing what Christian Association of Nigeria and other religious bigots are saying. We don’t owe anybody an apology to prove that point.
What is Tinubu doing about the reported internal wrangling among co-aspirants and party chieftains tearing the party apart?
We have seen the result of his face-off with Aregbesola (Minister of Interior, Rauf) at the last Osun election and how Osinbajo has gone quiet after the primary.
Osun’s case is a local problem and cannot be used as a yardstick. This is because a lot of people in Osun are saying they don’t have any problem with Tinubu. They stated that their grouse was with Governor Adegboyega Oyetola.
Was he (Oyetola) accused of not performing up to expectations?
No, he performed very well. The major allegation against him was that he was not providing state party leaders and supporters with “stomach infrastructure,” which became a problem. That was why I said it was a local problem.
Other than that, the people, including some PDP elements, kept saying they would definitely vote for Tinubu in the presidential election. I am sure you have heard or seen some of these video clips online during the Osun election.
In any case, wherever there is a presidential election, only one person will win.
What about Amaechi’s recent outburst and the allegation by APC’s youngest aspirant, Nicholas Felix, that he was shut out by Tinubu’s camp?
Wasn’t Nicholas the aspirant who stepped down for Osinbajo? I don’t know about that because Osinbajo himself was visited by our principal after the primary. Is it somebody who is an appendage to Osinbajo, with due respect to him, that is now complaining?
A lot of these things can be politically settled. It is not everything we should be bringing to public space. They don’t have to involve people who will further inflame passion.
With regard to Amaechi, who alleged that APC delegates were induced to vote in the presidential primary? Is he saying all those who contested with him and supported Asiwaju were also bought with money? That is ridiculous.
As the Bible says, let him without sin cast the first stone. I want the public to disregard those statements.
Due to rising insecurity, naira devaluation and economic challenges faced by the country, there is a palpable fear among Nigerians that Tinubu may not have the answers to all the challenges. What do you think?
Do you see a better alternative to a Tinubu presidency? Can you name a better candidate than the one you have in mind that can surmount all these challenges? This is the same Tinubu who ran Lagos State for eight years excellently. That record remains the most relevant among his peers, politically speaking. He has the best testimonials of those who have ever governed any state in this country.
When you came in as Minister of Communication, many people believed your position was a sort of compensation for something by Buhari’s administration. How true is it?
Are you implying that Buhari just picked me from the streets? Of course, I worked for his success.
In 2011, I was the governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change in Oyo State. As you can see, he didn’t pick me up from the streets. And when we came together for a merger with other parties, I was one of the representatives of the CPC in the merger committee. I am bold to say nobody has done better than me in Oyo State. What should Buhari have done? Will he take the chance on a stranger who had nothing to do with the formation of CPC and APC? My appointment came as a natural course of events.
What you are saying, in essence, is that your ministerial position wasn’t a form of compensation for loyalty. Isn’t it?
Loyalty can’t be in a vacuum. I was a major player. We are talking about a governorship candidate here, not an aspirant. I contested the election while he, on the other hand, ran for the office of the president.
In the end, neither of us made it in 2011. I consistently contributed to the activities of CPC and APC. Tell me, should he pick other people than me who have contributed more than any other party member?
What about the political intrigues that led to your removal from office as Communications Minister?
I was never removed as minister because I served my complete term in office. However, I was not reappointed a second time. I have put all the circumstances of my non-reappointment behind me.
Clearly, some people were envious and blackmailed me with speculation that I caused the defeat of APC in Oyo State. The question is how? Did anybody do anything when I was crying out that the former governor was messing up APC in the state?
The governor would not allow free and fair congresses or primary elections and was dictating everything with a number of people supporting his move.