By Chris Onuoha
Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), an activist, is a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). Also one of the conveners of the Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), Agbakoba, in this interview, explains why his group is joining forces with others to try to remove the All Progressives Congress
(APC) from power at the federal level in 2019. He also speaks on other issues including restructuring and state police.
Reports say you pulled out of the anti-APC alliance engineered by the PDP and the former President Olusegun Obasanjo group. What is the situation now?
We didn’t pull out. We simply said that we are not a political party and so we have to be conscious of our neutrality and independence. But we also recognize that we have to work with everybody, whether it is APC, Obasanjo or anyone because the underlining philosophy of the movement of NIM is a better Nigeria. We can achieve that by including everybody in that discussion. But we did not want to be a political party, so we don’t lose our sense of neutrality. That’s our philosophy. How can we develop Nigeria, working with everybody to achieve that purpose? But our political agenda is totally separate. It is to contest for power either in 2019 or 2023. Obviously, 2019 might be challenging since we are starting late. So we can then create an alliance which I can say is now on ground, the ‘CUPP’, which will play a prominent role and we are a principal signatory to the MoU. The political work that we do is to ensure that political power leaves the APC. That’s our agenda, because when the APC came in 2015, they promised change and we have not seen any change since then. So we urge Nigerians to exercise their franchise in an extremely careful manner, unless they wish the suffering they are facing now to continue. If they so wish, let them throw their vote away.
Many people think there may be no formidable opposition to President Muhammad Buhari if, eight months to the 2019 elections, no credible candidates have emerged to confront him. What do you think?
That’s not true because this question is old. Clearly, as you can see, when people said, ‘okay, where is the opposition?’, we said, ‘alright’, and what we did was, and I played a strong role in that, I met with Obasanjo and other top people. We said it doesn’t matter how much we dislike each other but in order to achieve the political aim, objective, we got to be united. And to do so, we needed a memorandum of agreement that brings us together to pick just one presidential candidate. Parties can go on and nominate their presidential candidates but eventually, I can assure you, it will be one. Who it will be, whether it will be Sowore, Atiku Abubakar, Donald Duke, Agbakoba or anybody, the future will tell. We have agreed to lock in, because to go our separate ways will spell defeat.
What you are seeing of late is the beginning of the tsunami. Parliamentarians have moved; next week, you will see governors moving, at least seven. I don’t need to name names but if you are following the Nigerian political development, you will know the likely states where this will happen. And then, as we go on to parties’ conventions and all of that, I think the opposition is strong on ground.
What do you think opposition elements should be doing now ahead of the 2019 polls for Nigerians to take them serious?
First of all is to work together which we have done, second is that we need strength which is now happening as opposition parties get populated. The type of shift we saw in the National Assembly is going to continue. That will give us strength, so that Nigerians will begin to say, ‘Oh, at last, here is the party that can face the ruling party’. What we need is political pluralism because, when there are many parties, Nigerians will have a choice, either the opposition or the ruling party. The scenario will force the parties to work in the interest of Nigerians because clearly Nigerians are angry. They are massively upset. It doesn’t take a prophet to say that the 2019 presidential election will be won by the candidate Nigerians believe can deliver on his promises. After the PDP in almost 16 years did not fulfil its promises and it wants to come back. It is going to be hard. I personally should say that PDP should rebrand by changing its name. That is my personal belief and I have said so in the context of our political coalition. How that will happen, I don’t know because PDP is resisting that change. And if they really want us to succeed, that PDP name needs to be changed, and critical leaders of the party should step aside. We may or may not achieve it. But if we could achieve it, I think we will be on a higher pedestal. If we can’t achieve it, then we can brand ourselves in such a way that we can sell the name PDP. So, those are the issues that we are confronted with. The bottom line is APC must leave government.
The latest issue in the polity is the defection of some opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly. What do you make of it?
They are defecting because they are tired and frustrated, because the ruling party has excluded them. They ruling party is not inclusive. When you win and you remember that you won on the vote of the people, then you must deliver. President Buhari has campaigned three consecutive times and failed, he would have been the best person to understand that the votes he got are very precious. What he could have done is to repay Nigerians with basic infrastructures: Roads, electricity, health care, education and booming economy, but he didn’t do anything. Rather, the APC began to decimate itself and some of its members. Saraki, whether he was guilty or not guilty, the President just excluded everybody.
Then, at the late stage, they now say ‘okay, come’.
By Chris Onuoha