Hon. Aminu Suleiman is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from Kebbi State and a respected voice from the Northern region, who was actively involved in the Buhari Campaign Organization,BCO, the platform that coordinated the electioneering campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari. Suleiman is presently the Director General of Tinubu Support Organisation, TSO, a movement galvanizing support for the election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Nigeria’s President in 2023. He confirms in this interview that there was indeed a gentleman’s agreement that power should return to the South West geo-political zone after President Buhari’s tenure, adding that Tinubu has sacrificed a lot for Nigeria, including personal ambition for the merger of legacy parties that metamorphosed into the APC to work, and that it is time to pay him back come 2023. He commends South East’s gradual alignmemt with the APC, with the defection of Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi. He however, insisted that they have to wait for their turn after South West and urged the South West not to repeat the mistake the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and late M.K.O Abiola. He also spoke on the #EndSars protest and its aftermath, as well as the worsening insecurity in the North East, among other issues. Excerpts:
What is Tinubu Support Organisation, TSO, all about and why coming up with this group at this point in time?
Let me start by giving brief history of myself with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I was with him since his days as governor of Lagos State and I still maintain my relationship with him. I am part of the journey of the relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju and I know how far they have gone to ensure that President Buhari emerged as President of Nigeria. I know the role that our leader and our mentor, Asiwaju,played for Mr President and that is why we decided to come up with the TSO, because, there was a gentleman agreement that at the end of the tenure of President Buhari, the Presidency will move to the South West and in South West, Asiwaju is a leading candidate.
All the people asking why Asiwaju, why Asiwaju; we have an important message for them and the message is since the return of democracy in 1999 and up till today in the whole of Nigeria, it is only Asiwaju, who is still relevant in his state. It is not magic because it is his goodwill that is working for him. So, we sat down as people that know him very well and have learnt so much from him, and decided to say that you know what, let us use this organisation to support him; because he has done so much for Lagos and Nigeria and he has done much for President Buhari. It is time to pay him back.
If there is any other candidate in South West that can produce the people that Asiwaju has made, such person should come out. Asiwaju has produced many leaders and that speaks volume about the sort of leader he is. I am part of the journey and I can mention Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; MinisterofWorksand Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Governor Fayemi from Ekiti State; MinisterofSports and Youths, Sunday Dare; and so on and so forth.
Asiwaju has paid his dues and he needs to be considered. That is why I am appealing to people working with Mr President that they need to support Asiwaju, because he really worked hard for the President to succeed in his bid to become Nigeria’s President.
You just alluded to a gentleman’s agreement. The Minister of Works and Housing, Fashola, too recently asked APC to respect the said agreement. When was this agreement made and what is it all about?
I told you earlier that politics is about contribution of the people. That is the meaning. You sacrifice your life, use your life, risk your money and that is an agreement. I could remember when some of our presidential aspirants wanted the primaries to be held in Abuja; sensing the game plan, Asiwaju swiftly asked that the primaries be held in Lagos, to make sure that Mr President succeeds. You know that without primaries, Mr President could not have emerged. Asiwaju ensured that the primaries took place in Lagos so that the process would be credible for a credible candidate in person of President Buhari to emerge. All of them are still alive. Atiku contested, Kwankwanso contested. Buhari said I don’t have dollars to share. It is only God that can adequately reward Asiwaju for what he did for Buhari to emerge. That is part of the agreement. Asiwaju worked hard to ensure that Buhari got APC’s ticket.
We also know what Asiwaju has done for the APC to stand till today. Asiwaju also sacrificed his personal ambition for APC to win the presidential election that produced President Buhari.
Is it true that there is a silent war between President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu, because even recently during the #EndSARS Protest, Asiwaju said some people went to report to Mr President that he was the major financier of the protest to discredit Buhari’s government?
What I am seeing is a clear indication that God is with Asiwaju. Even from beginning of the protest, a lot of people called me too to say that your man (Asiwaju) is the one sponsoring the protest, because he thought Mr President is not ready to handover to him. But God has revealed the truth to the people. If Asiwaju is the one sponsoring #EndSARS, why did they go to TVC and the Nation? All these big people, they have money, but Nigerians are struggling and you cannot see their single penny they have put in Nigeria. This man (Asiwaju) tries to invest here. TVC is one of the best television stations in Nigeria; and they know it is owned by his people. TVC employed so many people and yet they went and burnt it and the Nation. So, why are people saying that Tinubu is the one sponsoring #EndSARS?
This man contributed to how Nigeria is standing today. He was in NADECO that fought the military. The question is how can somebody build a house and then destroy it? Whether they like it or not, Asiwaju is one of the people that built this country; he cannot destroy it. Atiku was in Dubai for over four months, he could not come back till about five days to election, but Asiwaju is still in Nigeria despite the fact that he has the capacity to leave this country and go and stay abroad and leave everybody, but he is still living with us and that is why I am going round the South West telling the Yorubas and the people in the South West that they should not repeat the mistake of what happened to Awolowo and Abiola. I am a Northerner; we have done our two terms. Buhari has done two terms; power is coming back to them; and so they should reason with Asiwaju and support him, because he is the last man standing and I know it is only Asiwaju for now.
People keep saying he is getting old. We thank God America just concluded their election and Joe Biden is 78 years old and so they should forget the question of age and I know that Asiwaju will make use of the youths. I mean if you see all his cabinet, especially we can start from His Excellency the governor of Lagos State, he is a young guy; if you look at the Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, he is a young guy; if you look at the Chief of Staff, Tayo Ayinde, he is a young guy; all of the commissioners, we have young guys and Asiwaju made all of them to be where they are today. Obanikoro wanted to go for Senate, he was asked to bring his son and if we can support Asiwaju to become President, he is going to employ all our children and fix this country.
How do you juxtapose your position on power shifting to the South West with agitation from the South East and even the South South that it is their turn?
I have said it severally that you must contribute before you can be elected. South East, maybe it is now they are ready to come for the game. But when we were having the arrangement, they were no where to be found then. They have to wait, it is the turn of the South West for now, because in the first place, they didn’t come and join us. We thank God one of their governors has just decamped. Let him join the queue. There are people there before him. We are happy they have come to join us. They have to give their contribution; they should come and start the campaign with us. Also, I am sorry, I always say this, but the fact is that South South and South East are always having issues. When Mr President wanted to give Ogbonnaya Onu Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, they came to Mr President that Onu did not deserve to be SGF.
This was how they lost that position. During President Obasanjo’s tenure, they had over seven Senate Presidents. So, they should go and settle their house first before they can rule Nigeria. We have settled this matter between North and South West. Then, they were not there, but now if they want to come and contribute, they can get it but not for 2023. Arrangement is between South West and North. Now, if the South East is coming on board, they are welcomed. We thank God one of their governors has just decamped but he cannot say because he came now, he wants to be President. No, it can’t and doesn’t work that way! He must join the queue.
How do you hope to manage all these interests to see reasons with you on why they need to support your candidate?
That is what our group is doing. We are not campaigning for him, we are just doing awareness, telling people who this man is; what he has done for the party and country. We thank God that our movement is gaining momentum and people are calling us. What Asiwaju has done for this country is amazing. None of the candidates can compete with Asiwaju. He made them and let them bring out one person that they made. I know that with this one, God will help Asiwaju to get it. That is why if you look at him, he has not said anything, he is just watching. Don’t forget, this man has been in this game for long and he knows how to do it.
He was the only surviving governor under Obasanjo and by God’s grace, when the time comes, we will see the result.
Some days ago, we saw the massacre of rice farmers by Boko Haram in the North East. Many have called on the President to sack the Service Chiefs and inject new blood with zeal to end insecurity in the region. What do you think should be done to address the worsening insecurity in the North?
Mr President is working hard to tackle this problem and I know very soon, it will get to an end. I have always said it and I am still repeating it, Boko Haram is one of the world’s deadliest groups and I know Boko Haram and insecurity are not peculiar to Nigeria. It is something going on all over the world and I know Mr President is working hard to address the issue. Presently, government is making many arrangements to ensure that it comes to an end and even till this moment I am talking with you, they are having a meeting at the State House in Abuja on the issue.
We must thank Borno State Governor Zulum for doing a good job. We pray for him and the entire country. God will intervene over insecurity in the region.
How about calls that the Service Chiefs should be sacked?
Well, Mr President knows better than us as a former military General. He knows the reason why he is keeping them. He has the experience as a retired General and when people are asking him to sack the Service Chiefs, he knows better than us and he will take the decision when the time comes. I know he will do his best to make sure that he tackles the insecurity in Nigeria.