Why We Adopted Jonathan –LP National Secretary

National Secretary, Labour Party, Barrister Kayode Ajulo, in this interview speaks on what informed the decision of his party to adopt the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan in the forthcoming presidential polls. REMI OLADOYE was there. Excerpts:
How did your party arrive at the decision to endorse the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan in next week’s presidential election?
I must say that virtually all the presidential candidates in Nigeria today have been wooing my party. I believe that this is not unconnected with the fact that Labour Party is the only party. For you to win any election, you have to associate with the people. We are the one that always identify with the people. The party, as you know comprises the workers, not godfathers. We have no godfathers. Giving anybody our endorsement should not be just like that. We must discuss, the people have to be carried along. I can stand as Kayode Ajulo, National Secretary of the party, to say that we are going this way. But, if we believe that our backbone is the people, everybody must be carried along.
And that is why we had to call the National Executive Committee (NEC). Some parties could get one or two persons then call the press to announce endorsement of a candidate. We do not do that in Labour Party. Everybody, the NEC, National Working Committee (NWC) must put it to vote, before we chose a preferred candidate, which is President Goodluck Jonathan. Then we presented such decision to the National Working Committee (NWC) and the entire NEC members across the nation to arrive at a resolution. What we have done is not just endorse a candidate, but also the entire party constitutes a campaign committee. The campaign for the office of the President of Nigeria is a serious matter beyond parties just endorsing and going to bed. Labour Party will determine who will rule Nigeria; who will be the President of the country.
What criteria influenced this decision?
We considered a lot of things. As God would have it, the two leading contenders are General Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan. Two of them have been in the saddle; one has been there before and the other is there currently. So, the two of them have been tested. It is the antecedents that we considered: How did you come into being? We know for a fact that one once scuttled the democratic government of this country. You cannot deny that the regime of one of them was a nightmare in the history of this country. Evidently, he ruled Nigeria with an iron hand. These are the things we considered.
And, let us be sincere with ourselves, age is a factor. As a party, we talk about dynamism; we talk about being a workers’ party. And for you to bring a pensioner, then we know we have an issue. These are some of the things we have to consider. I am a young man. Then you introduce a 72-year old, or someone we are not even sure of his age, because he does not have certificate. If you have a certificate, then I could do some arithmetic to know your age. It will be a great disservice to this democracy to introduce someone who clearly scuttled democracy to be the beneficiary of the same democracy particularly when such person, all these years has not been put to test on democratic experience. Senate President, David Mark was a soldier but since 1999, we can see his movement on the democratic scene. Mark, going by his experience, can be considered for such position, not a Buhari that is yet to have such experience to be foisted on Nigeria. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo was crisscrossing the country, you would agree that during his first four years, he had to learn the ropes. Can we afford another Buhari to use his first four years to experiment?
As a lawyer, I know what the law says about age. Once you are above 70 years, you cannot hold the position of a company director, that is, a public quoted company, unless there is an exception and you have to provide some documents, file affidavit, make declaration, swear to an oath to all the members of the board so that they know the person’s exact age. We can say that our law in Nigeria forbids holding certain positions once one is 70 years. If our law can be so emphatic on the issue of directorship of company, what about Commander-in-Chief? When Governor Ayodele Fayose talked about his mother using diapers, my mother would soon be 80 years. Once my mother clocked 70 years, I had started to give her special treatment because she is someone we need to pamper, even check the way she thinks. Even, as a young man, the daily stress is killing, not to talk about a 70-year old man. Endorsing Buhari means Nigeria will be one of the conspirators for someone committing suicide because if you allow an old man hold such position, you have just assisted such person to commit suicide.
Some Nigerians argue that President Jonathan lacks the competence to fight corruption squarely and address the issue of insecurity among others?
I am not in a position to address such things, members of his cabinet and his appointees will be in a better position to address such issues. But, we must understand that during electioneering campaign periods like this, people could accuse the President of lacking the competence to fight corruption. This election is to authenticate most of these claims. This election will ascertain whether President Jonathan is competent or not. We hear of Buhari/Idiagbon regime; Even when Abacha established the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), Buhari ran it through a consulting firm. We heard of Alison Ayida. If he wins, Professor Yemi Osinbajo will also be in charge. That is why sometimes what Femi Fani-Kayode says is not far from the truth. Buhari should tell us one single remarkable thing he did. When people talk about corruption, Is it not during Buhari’s regime that Idiagbon sent his son abroad while other youths were arrested? People were killed then; our law was messed up. Even, he committed the supreme crime of truncating the country’s democracy. He banished our constitution.
Just because you led a coup in this country and became Head of State, which is the only qualification he has, then you want to become President, it can never happen. If the alternatives are wrong, one will be better than the other. And as far as I am concerned, the person that can save the face of the democracy we practise is President Jonathan. Everybody is talking about change. Yes, Nigerians want change, but not a change in personalities. What happened in Libya should not happen in Nigeria. When the Arab spring started, everyone was in frenzy. They kept saying Gadaffi is bad, we need change. The question the people of Libya failed to ask themselves was, “what kind of change is it?” And, because they did not ask that question, today Libya regrets. Hence Nigerians must ask, “What kind of change do we desire?” If it is change to Buhari, Nigeria will regret it. For Buhari to win the election, God forbid.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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