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2023 presidency: Why North needs Peter Obi – Senator Azu Agboti

By Daniel kanu

Senator Azu Agboti, American–trained Chartered Accountant represented Ebonyi South Senatorial zone at the Red Chamber.

He was chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) and later chairman,  Senate Services Committee.In this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, the outstanding lawmaker spoke on the 2023 elections and challenges of insecurity, INEC capacity to deliver and the Peter Obi magic, among other national issues. Excerpt:

Let’s begin with your take on the political campaigns so far, as it concerns the presidential candidates of different political parties. Is it issue-based campaigns in your assessment and are you satisfied with the conversations on the front burner?

I think it has been a no-holds-barred kind of campaign so far because people are saying things the way they feel, people are saying what they want to say, but we must be careful to know where our right stops and the other person’s right starts . I think the campaign so far is short of being issue-oriented and I think we should stick with the real issues and not on personalities and types of bogous things, unnecessary attacks. Attacks on personalities rather than tackling or dealing with the real issues confronting the country. Issues of economy,  security,  neglect on education,  health care,  unity  among Nigerians etc, real issues must be the focus.  Most of the attacks are unnecessary,  they don’t make anybody happy. But Peter Obi is hitting on issues and stands out in the way and manner he is running his campaigns. Obi is doing very well, no doubt.

Some people  especially  those from the North are saying that Obi is yet to convince the North…?

(Cuts in) How? He has been reaching out to the North, but all the same  we still have three months. But the North is always very slow in keying into anything, they take their time to study the situation. But I think any Northerner that is not listening to Obi is probably suffering from amnesia.  They know what has happened up North for the last seven and half years and if they want to go back to it, well, that is their pot of soup or whatever you may want to call it. But I think they will come around , let’s give them chance.  When there are voting issues some people hang in-between  and will be undecided until the last month of electioneering. They are still listening to the parties  who are running. We have over 20 political parties running, they are listening to all of them. They will come around , I am sure to support Obi. The North knows where they have been in the last seven years, the devastation, the damage incurred,  the violence etc. They should not be lectured on having a rethink. Obi will be committed to ensure the North is fixed.

How worried are you concerning the looming security challenges that abound.  Some are entertaining fears that elections may not hold in certain areas?

I don’t think so. I think as we approach the elections everybody will fall in place. They want to make it look that way so that people will drop their campaign and run away. Nothing is going to happen.  I think President Buhari means to hand over this country to a decent person, his lieutenants having done him any good.

Are you confident that the Independent National Electoral Commission  (INEC) will deliver on its promises,  an election that is fair,  free and credible?

Yes,  I believe so. I believe they have what it takes to deliver a transparent election. But that does not mean that other stakeholders will not sit up as to compliment.  I believe INEC has capacity to give us what will be transparent.

There is this upsurge in the burning of INEC offices in different parts of the country  and what is the implication ?

They just want to instil fears  into the people with those their childish behaviour, burning up public property; for what? Despite those distractions,  I think the elections will still go on smoothly.

What is your response when the ruling party, APC, continued to boast about their scorecard, insisting they performed creditably well?

Well,  the Electoral Act is a good thing to point to.  It is close to good Electoral Act and is probably better than the ones we have had in the past and performance is relative, it’s like emotion.  What is satisfactory for the APC, may not be satisfactory to the PDP, neither will it be satisfactory to the Obi-dients. So, fine, if they say they did very well  it is left for us to judge them not for them to judge themselves. But you won’t  blame them,  nobody will come out to say he didn’t do well, but its relative. What are you comparing it to? Performance is relative.  I have seen some people in secondary school classrooms they come back and say: I was first in the class , then you ask what was your score and they say 40 per cent.  That means 40 per cent was first in that class and the rest of the class scored something like 20, 25, 30, down the line, so will you say the person didn’t do  well, he came first in their class with 40 per cent. Hope you understand what I  mean? The person is happy, but did he do well when you make the right comparison? So, as I said it’s relative. Looking at the revenue, all the resources that were at the disposal of the APC, could one say it’s okay when compared to their achievements? I think it’s Nigerians that should judge and not them.

You said as the elections are drawing closer the insecurity will be disappearing, but it seems to be on the  increase in violence and all that?

It will come down.  The insecurity will subside. As we get closer to the elections situation will calm down.  Everybody wants to live in a peaceful country,  don’t we? Even the politicians will not want everywhere to scatter. Where will they ply their trade? What we are witnessing is the way of our politicians, they will heat up the polity, but at the last minute they will calm down for the elections to hold,  it’s their way.  As elections period draws closer the situation will calm down. INEC people want to live in a peaceful country, so are the politicians. Where are they going to run to when the fireworks start and begins to overwhelm everyone?

But there are individuals,  like the bandits that are bent on destroying everything,  everywhere not minding if they die in the process?

Well if the APC government wants to go out  believing in fire,  okay,  that’s their own cup of tea. But, I don’t think APC wants to hand over this country in tatters. I don’t think so.

How will you respond to the attack on the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi by Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo?

I think it’s a  personal thing between the two of them. Soludo is free to say anything he wants to say. The mouth is his, the brain is his and Obi didn’t say anything to him  What Prof Soludo said has not reduced 0bi’s followership.  You see , there is  reason for everything in this world.  So whatever that Prof Soludo said remains with him. But like the Ohanaeze chieftains sald: they are speaking in different parts, but at the end they are going to come together and do the needful. I believe it’s okay for people to voice their opinion.

Opponents of LP are saying that Peter Obi will find it even difficult winning the Southeast. Do you think this is true?

It’s not true and Obi did not and is not running just as a Southeast president, but as a Nigerian president from Southeast extraction. Obi is just a Nigerian who believes he can do the job. But I am sure Obi is going to win landslide in the Southeast.  I will like to put my  bet on that.

What is it that stands Peter Obi out as a  candidate that you admire as I can see that you are an Obi-dient supporter?

Obi stands out because of the way he started his campaign, he is a populist  and Obi’s idea  is one that its time has come and such ideas don’t ever die. I believe that’s what stands him out among the pack.  Nobody was campaigning positively towards the youths, you can see how his campaign resonated with the youth population.  It was when they saw it was working for Obi everybody is now talking about the youth, but if nothing else the youth have become the beautiful pride. They know where they want to go. There is  no gainsaying the fact that Obi has capacity and has marshalled out what to do , the solution bullets. He has integrity too, so, he can be trusted. You can verify anything and everything about him.

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