ADETOLA-KASEEM: Nigeria Should Be Everyone’s Priority

Adetola-Kaseem

Chief Gani Adetola-Kaseem is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). In an interview with KAMAL TAYO OROPO, he expressed discomfort with the adoption of candidates by groups.

SOCIO-political groups have been active adopting candidates for the February elections. Would you say this is a welcome development?

WELL, everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. What they are doing is just a matter of opinion, which is guaranteed under the constitution. There is nothing in law that forbids it; they can be voted for and they can vote, they can as well influence those around them to vote in a particular direction. 

   But while one is not saying what they are doing is wrong, I really don’t see how seriously they are going to affect the voting pattern of the people. Many people have already made up their minds on who they are voting for and whatever these organizations say may not matter. Though, some fringe voters, who might be making up their minds on the last day, could still be so influenced by the influential groups –– I used the word ‘influential’ advisedly. The influence in some areas may not be as strong as in others. Some of these groups have lost their influence to certain developments over the years. For example, the Afenifere group has a lot of influence in Yorubaland, but with the present situation on ground, I doubt if many Yorubas take them seriously on the position they have taken under this dispensation.  

To what extent can we say, Afenifere for example, is speaking for the Yoruba people?

   Of course, they cannot say they are speaking for the generality of the Yoruba people. What they are doing amounts to personal opinion as a group of people, based on whatever reason known to them. Surely, they cannot be asking the entirety of the Yoruba people to queue up behind a particular candidate. 

   The only reason they have adduced for supporting a particular candidate in the presidential race, the incumbent president, is that he has convened the national dialogue, and that he has promised to implement decisions of the conference. 

Is that a sufficient reason?

   Personally, no. I am firm believer in the urgent need to restructure the entire polity; not just the country.  The political system as currently operating cannot do the country any good in terms of cost, in terms of structure and in terms of how politicians act with so much impunity.  In my estimation, the ordinary Nigerian is not benefitting from the system.  The cost of governance is so high that nothing is left for development. But whether the last constitutional conference represents the kind of restructuring that I desire, is another matter; to the extent that it does not. The decision of the Afenifere to adopt the incumbent based on that is not enough for me. I don’t agree with the group in its present vocation. And I believe many people don’t agree with them as well.

   I believe they have more reasons than what they are telling the public. There is more to this than what meets the eye. I don’t think the incumbent has done anything significant to warrant the adoption. 

The Afenifere is peopled by eminent elderly Nigerians who have certain national experiences; why would anyone think they don’t know what they are saying? 

  There is nothing wrong with the people in the group. The trouble, however, is that they seem to have adopted the strategy of ‘a friend of my enemy is my friend.’ The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of Yoruba extraction are not on good terms with the people in the Afenifere. People like former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and others, are people who have allegedly offended the elders in Afenifere. And these elderly people have not forgiven them and they appear not ready to stop at anything to checkmating the Tinubu axis.  So, when you have the Bola Tinubu group joining other political group to form the APC they are not likely to get the support of the Afenifere –– it’s all about Yoruba politics. 

   I also have my reservations about some individuals in the APC or those who joined to form the party, but having said that, that is entirely a different issue when it comes to national issue and the state of the nation. At this stage, the country should be the central issue paramount in anyone’s mind. Without doubt, it is a complex situation. 

In the light of your position, what exactly should be role of these socio cultural organisations?

   Don’t forget that these groups are products of partisan politics. The Afenifere, for example, as always been closely associated with the pro-Awolowo political school of thought. It is internal power squabbles that is now seeing them under  different political umbrellas. In truth, one cannot divorce them from partisan politics. They are not just a social group for the sake of socialization; they are more than that. They are always politically active and one would be naïve to think they would not play politics. 

   However, the Afenifere might be slightly different in this regard from other groups in the country. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is more of regional grouping as against racial grouping. There are many tribes in the north and under the pan umbrella of the ACF. The Ndigbo, on the other hand, is tribal like the Afenifere, but rather than been largely political in its formation, it is shaped by the Southeast experience of the civil war. So, these groups may represent different things to their people. Though, they are all now highly political and sometime partisan. There is no way you can push them away from politics. 

What would be your general advice to the group as a fallout to their decision?

   Out of the complexity of the issue, if I were in the leadership of Afenifere, I would rather not take a position. Now, they have taken a position, it is unfortunate. And giving advice may amount to prophecy after the event. Much as I would have ordinarily gone with them because of their previous efforts and age, on this occasion I am not convinced they have acted well and on this occasion I cannot do so. I reckon many people, at least many of those I have discussed with, are not comfortable with their position. 

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