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Obi better than Tinubu, Atiku by a wide margin - Osuntokun

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Akin Osuntokun, the new CEO of Obi-Datti’s Presidential Campaign Council, shares his thoughts with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francison the 2023 elections among other issues

You are were absent from your inauguration in Abuja as the new CEO of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council. You have not been informed of your appointment?

Of course, I was informed. But I had a preliminary meeting with one of the patrons of the party. In fact, it was the presidential candidate who sent me to the Southwest person. That’s why I wasn’t at the event.

Prior to your appointment, many LP supporters had suggested that Isaac Balami would replace Dr. Doyin Okupe. Does the position come from the hierarchy or any other political appointment?

No, I don’t think we should make every question political. Remember that the former CEO was from the Southwest. Naturally, someone from the same region is expected to replace him. It has nothing to do with prejudice. Also, Balami is a great guy. He also contributed enormously to the party. I think what counted above all for my appointment was the fact that I am from the South West. I spoke with Balami. My own interpretation of things is that someone from the South West should take over from Dr. Doyin Okupe.

Experts believe your arrival on Obi’s campaign team was the work of your former manager, Olusegun Obasanjo. Did you push for this role or were you influenced as speculated?

(Laughter) If I pushed for the job like you said, would I tell you? I don’t need to lobby for this position. I have been appointed, as you know.

What about the claim that Obasanjo probably chose you for this task?

It does not matter. What matters most is the skill and ability to do the job. These are my background. Listen, I ran two campaigns in the past, specifically in 2003 and 2007, when I was political adviser to the president. So launching another campaign is not new ground for me. First of all, I am here. I was appointed in my own name and in recognition and not because I was an adviser to President Obasanjo.

Are there any suggestions that the 2023 presidential election could be a three-horse race that could end in a runoff? Do you agree with the idea?

I do not know. Look, if there’s a runoff, there’s going to be a constitutionally specified procedure for it. That’s what matters most. But as we have seen, it is still a projection. We still have until February 25 to see how things go. If there is a second round, as I said, the Constitution took care of it. It will be the referee.

What are the chances of Obi running for the first time at the polls against Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, who is a veteran presidential candidate and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, who has been described as a political strategist?

I don’t think there is a basis for such controversy. Obi is superior to both of them by a wide margin. This time, Nigerians will not accept being bribed or bought off with money. You have seen how people promote the popularity and acceptance of Peter Obi. It’s spontaneous and moving. This is an indication that people have gone through this kind of backward politics.

Second, at the heart of Obi’s campaign are Nigerian youth, who have continued to play a role throughout society. They represent and personify their own idea of ​​what Nigerian leadership should be. One of the surprises we are going to have is the futility of buying votes. I have no fear in this regard.

You could soon be criticized for promoting a Southeast presidential candidate at the expense of your relative. How are you prepared for this attack?

Of course not! Above all, I was a kind of zone coordinator in the South West and already in the campaign to face Tinubu. Secondly, I belong to the Afenifere group and this is their position. Thirdly, from a perspective of fairness, equity and justice, there is no area more worthy of producing the Nigerian President than the Igbo people of the South East. And, of course, as I said, we can’t go on comparing Obi to the other two contestants. There is no basis for comparison. He is head and shoulders above them both. I have been known to our people in the South West and, I dare say, to Nigeria in general. As a person of integrity, I always take a stand based on principle. Before joining this campaign, you have read my column in recent years and you can tell me that I have always defended the cause of the presidency granted to the Southeast. The Yoruba have gone beyond that.

Now that you’ve brought Afenifere into the picture, we understand the group has been polarized. The leaders also take different positions on which presidential candidate the group should support in 2023…

It’s wrong. He (Afenifere) was not polarized or split. The crisis that arose was between the former leaders and the chief (Reuben) Fasoranti. He even made a statement distancing himself from the attempt to factualize the organization. Thus, the alleged factionalization of the organization is not an issue and would not remain.

Is it true that you are still a candidate for the Zenith Labor Party senatorial since at the time you took the nomination of Obi’s campaign CEO?

It is a redundant problem. I left the ZLP. It is in fact the Constitution that I wrote. Dan Nwanyanwu was the chairman of the Labor Party (Zenith). It was at his insistence that I joined the party because I thought it was a Labor Party. That was until I found out it was the Zenith Labor Party. So I’m not a ZLP member anyway. That’s why I said it was a redundant issue. It is of no consequence.

But your name is still visible in the INEC register of candidates for the 2023 National Assembly. Does this mean that you have left the race?

Of course, I never picked it up in the first place. You can go and check the case by yourself. You can even ask the leaders of the ZLP as well as Nwanyanwu himself, who is the president.

After covering eight states and the FCT, is there any chance that Obi could campaign in all 36 states or are you looking at some strategic areas with less than two months until the election?

Why should we ignore a state? This is not our standard. If we ignore a state, that state will not be justified if it says if you don’t come, I understand. What kind of presidential campaign would that be? We are not like (President Muhammadu) Buhari who could not visit 70% of the South when he was in Congress for progressive change. We are running a serious presidential campaign here. No one should ask us that kind of question. Why should there be states where we wouldn’t campaign?

There are insinuations that Obi’s campaign team is broke, hence the need to spend less on his campaign. How are you going to react to this?

Well, you know, we’re not moneybags like the other two campaigns, but we have enough funds to do what we have to do. So that’s not a problem. We are different from those bags of money that made it (the campaign) a kind of festival. We are ready enough to do what we want to do. In any case, we are also reclaiming Nigerians from the culture of monetary policy or what they call the monetization of politics. And that’s part of it. It is difficult but it is possible to win people back from the destructive monetization policy.

Can this policy really stop vote buying before the 2023 elections?

It’s a mission. Of course, it’s not just for us alone. It is a task for all Nigerians to stop vote buying. It is a very destructive policy to buy people. I mean these people are not commodities. It’s obscene. It is morally and socially offensive to be seen buying people as if you were buying cattle in the market.

It is also believed that there is no silver bullet to buying votes until politicians stop weaponizing poverty. Do you believe in such a theory?

It’s cynical. But before you have a taker, you must have a giver. We have to approach it from both ends. The truth is that the weaponization of poverty is not good for any society. And of course, those who sell their votes will regret what they did. It is no different from selling your future for a pot of porridge as evidenced by the case of Esau and Jacob. Do you remember the consequences of his act? Nigerians are therefore encouraged not to sell their future.

Do you fear that 2023 will be marred by violence through the random attack on the premises of the Independent National Electoral Commission?

Of course, I’m worried. This is cause for concern. The question is, who are the people doing it and for what purpose? It’s because in Nigeria, we don’t take things literally. You don’t know who can bring what to the underground election campaign to do anything. It is not a good seed and there is no way it will germinate good fruit. And if anybody’s behind it, God’s there. He will visit the consequences on those who do this kind of thing.

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