Babachir Lawal: The North has benefited nothing from being in power for long

Babachir Lawal, former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), says the North has benefited nothing from being in power longer the other parts of Nigeria.

Lawal was sacked as SGF in October 2017 after he was indicted by the senate in a N544m grass-cutting scandal.

Speaking on the issue of zoning of the 2023 presidency in an interview with The Punch, Lawal said the issue is a very critical component of the Nigerian entity.

"For any political party to be successful, it has to take into consideration the diverse demography and political structure of its constituents," he said.

"Our politics is built on some fundamental understanding, though not legal. First, there is the issue of religious balance. We want a country in which every Nigeria feels secure to live their life in a peaceful and prosperous manner in an environment created by the government.

"Any political party that ignores this is obviously digging its grave. Nigerians like to count the numbers of Muslims and Christians in the Federal Executive Council to see if there is balance.

"By the way, what did we get from several years that the Presidency has resided in the North? Along that line, we have also had vice presidents who were northerners.

"We have had presidents who were northerners but for some reason, the system is not improving. Presidency from the North is like an albatross around our neck.

"We northerners can do with power going elsewhere so that at least, we can now complain. But you cannot be holding on to power while things are not working fine. Let us also be able to complain, especially those of us who play active roles in the country.

On Mamman Daura, a nephew of the President Buhari's statement zoning should not be the determinant for the President’s successor in 2023," Lawal said Daura's comment should not be taken seriously.

"I am not aware that Mamman Daura is a card-carrying member of our party (APC)," he said.

"Ideally, Daura is supposed to be considered as an elder in the North on account of his age and achievements in public service. On that basis, we accord him a level of respect to the extent that his comments will carry weight.

"But since he has never contested any position, either in the party or in government, we will not take his comments on zoning very seriously.

"My own inclination is to take it as a personal opinion. The issue of zoning is a very critical component of the Nigerian entity. Zoning is not entrenched in the APC constitution nor is it in our (Nigerian) constitution but a political party is in the business of politics to win elections."

Lawal also disclosed how national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, and others packaged Buhari for Nigerians in 2015.

“One of our specific goals was to make Buhari the president. Tinubu was a colossus of south-west politics. If he had said there would be no merger, there wouldn’t have been any merger.

“By the time we went to the APC national convention, the north-west was not with Buhari. The north-west people were either for Atiku or Rabiu Kwankwaso; most of them, at least. The late Inuwa Abdulkadir and I continued to pile pressure on Tinubu, giving him the statistics.

“It became very clear that Buhari was going to win that primary election once Tinubu declared publicly his support for him and accepted that the south-west would vote for Buhari. Between Wednesday and Thursday (before the convention), it was clear Tinubu and Bisi Akande were going to support Buhari and the north-west had no choice but to support Buhari, otherwise, they were going to lose out.

“So if Tinubu had not conceded at that point, I think probably Kwakwanso would have won the presidential nomination of the APC. For that reason alone, you can see Tinubu’s contributions to the emergence of Buhari as president and his role in building the party.

Lawal said Tinubu rallied funding for the campaign when Buhari had no money to fund his election and brought in an agency from the United States that branded Buhari’s image.

“Everybody knows Buhari had no money and he doesn’t play money politics. So he won his presidential primary election without spending money. Also, Buharists didn’t have money; they only had ideas, zeal and fanaticism. And politics requires money,” he said.

“Tinubu, who had his tentacles spread across the corporate world, was the only man who knew where and how to raise the funds needed. He was the one that reached out to all the ‘big men’ who were at the time scared of the then President Goodluck Jonathan.

“At the time, Nigerians saw Buhari as just a wood. He had no emotions. People weren’t seeing him as a loving husband and father and doubted if he could be humane. It was Tinubu who brought in consultants from the US – the firm behind the successful execution of President Barrack Obama’s campaign. It helped to repackage Buhari to Nigerians.

“That was when you started seeing Buhari wearing a suit, and in Igbo, Yoruba and Kanuri attire. The strategy was to transform his image and show a humane, loving and trustworthy person. It helped us.

“Tinubu doesn’t like to take credit for what he does; he lives for politics, gets his money from politics and spends it on politics. He has no other interest except politics. The monies he spent out of his pocket that is unaccounted for outside of the party’s campaign finances are quite enormous. I know this because he’s my friend and because I am also involved in the Buhari government.”

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