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The absence of the presidential flagbearer of APC, Bola Tinubu, at the first signing of peace accord last week by candidates and political parties ahead of 2023 general elections has stirred many controversies around his health and fitness. However, LANRE OLOYEDE reports that the ruling party’s spokesperson, Barr Felix Morka, in this interview, gave detailed explanation of why Tinubu was absent. Excerpts:

How would you react to the omission of the Vice President from the presidential campaign council and other party chieftains?

The omission of the name of the vice president of the federal republic has been explained in terms of the need for him to focus on the business of our country. You must understand that between now, we have an incumbent president. who is saddled with the constitutional responsibility of our country and we are going to have that transition to a new person whoever that might be at the end of the election to take charge. Why the president is the head of this campaign council, he will be engaging in the movement around the country. The idea is to have the vice president and the secretary to the government of the federation be left alone to mind the business of the day-to-day. Because when the campaigns really start, Mr. President who is the chief executive of this country will be involved in all of the movements that are to come. That is the idea of not completely not leaving the job of governance alone.

Would it have made better sense for the vice president to focus on the campaign instead of the president? And the president that was voted for office actually stays on the job?

The Vice president was also voted to office. Don’t forget the presidency in our kind of democracy, s a twin between the President and the Vice President. So, they were both elected on the same ticket. And assigned the same responsibility to govern. Yes, the president is the leader. He is the chief executive. But the Vice President also has a constitutional duty. If the vice president had become the lead on the presidential campaign council, I am sure I will be here sitting taking questions from you too. Both cannot be involved and that is what the president said. But whether it is right by anyone’s judgment, from our perspective, the current government thinks it necessary and even wise to have that bifurcation of responsibility. The fact that he will not be involved in the campaigns doesn’t mean he is going to abdicate his responsibilities as Vice President. He will be there to focus on the job while he is criss-cross the country campaigning.

The Vice president seems to be relegated considering that he is not being included in the campaign council might make outsiders who are not involved in inter-party politics not want to vote for APC. What are your thoughts?

My good friend the Vice President has not disappeared. And I am quite sure that in between his responsibility, the vice president, he will contribute and lend his voice, prestige, and authority, to the campaign of our party. I have no doubt about that. But I don’t think we need to make or think too much of the campaign council’s needs. The fact that you are on the campaign council doesn’t mean you are going to be the best campaigner. And the fact that you are not doesn’t mean you are absent. We are really taking these things to be a bit too much. The fact remains that he is our vice president. He will find that moment to cement the wall of our presidential candidate and all of our candidates. And, that I think assume is part of his responsibility as the vice president.

How about the fact that the APC NWC is not happy that Tinubu allegedly broke an agreement with the campaign council regarding its composition?

I am sure you are referencing the letter out there allegedly said emanated from the national chairman of which I am a member. I made a statement to clarify that. And I would have thought that will be enough to end the speculations around that. The fact is that when you try to put together a campaign council for a ruling party, a party of over 40 million people, that is no joke. And in any event, this is a campaign council that every member of our party wishes to be involved in.

Keep in mind the candidates of our party competed at our primaries and came out on top. Now, a lot of those who made that happen would naturally wish to be involved in the campaign. What you are seeing is an overload of interest and enthusiasm. and the desire of party men and women to be involved in the process. Those who call it a problem, I call it a sweet problem. That is what it is. I rather have that problem where everyone wants to be involved in the council than to have a problem where no one wants to be involved in the council which is the case for our own key opposition party the PDP.

Many of those who were listed and given eminent positions in the campaign council say they are not interested. We have a situation where everyone in our units in our wards wants to be involved, but you know not everyone can be listed as a member of the campaign council. otherwise, it becomes unwieldy and unmanageable. It is a sweet problem that we are trying to resolve. We are happy we have that kind o problem rather than the ones our guys on the other side are dealing with it at the moment.

How is APC going to handle Bola Tinubu’s health from now till February? What is your take on how the party is going to handle the matter?

Our candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is as fit as anyone. I am not saying this to be political. For the purpose of this discussion, you have raised the question of his health. What I am saying from my knowledge even though I am not a medical doctor, from observing him for being around him, engaging with him, and many times over the last few months that I have been at the campaign council, in meetings with him and observing him meeting with others, his schedule will make anyone else think that they are as fit as fiddle to actually get dizzy. I have been around him for six hours uninterrupted. I have watched him go to meetings back to back and walk people to the door as they leave. We can have a conversation about the body being old or aged or being challenged while the mind is still very fit. We can have that conversation. But the point I am making is that from the question you asked, all I can say is that for a man of his age, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is strong and has his wits about him. Physically I have seen him pray. Not even people of my age or your age. Who can manage six hours of none stop meetings without a break? One team after the other. That is what he does every day at the council. Who says that the older you are the more vulnerable or the quicker you are to the grave? Who says that? And that is the assumption I find a bit disturbing. Because the fellow is an elderly person, therefore he is going to kick the bucket. My point is that there is no assumption that should inform our conversation around those who compete. I don’t know of any candidate in this election who has offered us their own medical records. Even the younger ones among them, no one has done that. I am not privy to that and I have not seen anyone.

But can’t the APC start?

Yes, but Atiku Abukabar should start it. Peter Obi may start it. Anyone else may start it. It doesn’t mean that because we are a ruling party, therefore, the initiative to start it must come from us. Because that also played into this whole narrative that a particular candidate may have something about himself that should concern us. I rejected that because that doesn’t support my observation and is certainly not supported by natural occurrences. The people who are younger may even be sicker.

But how come he didn’t show up in the meeting?

It is not because he was ill. That was not the reason he was not there. I was called up this morning to come here. I am here not because I didn’t have other things scheduled. But because I was able to reschedule my plans for today, to be here and that was also a choice I have to make. Now, two things. One is that I was asked to come. The other things that I left behind don’t mean they are not important. But I just choose to be here because of the nature of this engagement. My point is that Asiwaju was absent from the peace accord not because of ill health, he didn’t want to or think highly of that event. But because he had a prior scheduled engagement to be held elsewhere and he was already out. And as you can see for the last couple of days we are getting a feel of what is going on with him. He is fine. And I am sure he will be back in the country very soon.

When will the presidential campaign council be inaugurated and when the campaign will kick off in the APC?

Our campaigns are ongoing already. Even though it is yet to be formally and globally inaugurated. But you know, make no mistake, the units and at ward levels in the local governments and states efforts are underway.

People are really bursting with energy to hit the road. The foremost symbolic thing will be done. And the fact that we didn’t do it on the first day of the campaign doesn’t take away from the seriousness with which we are going to attack this program. And as a matter of fact, again, we are also very keen to have our voice and our efforts lost in the cacophony of the rest of the parties. So, we are taking our time. And within a few days, we will get it right.

By the way, I think we are actually entitled to take a bit of our moment to really fine-tune how the process as the largest party on this continent. And I think there is something that needs to be said about that where anyone at the unit level like me comes from Delta state.

My phone is constantly buzzing with people trying to get involved in the unit and up to ward levels., local government, and state levels. So, what we did was not just at the national level. That is not what really matters. But at the unit level, people are filled with this enthusiasm to get involved. Because they know and are confident that we are going to succeed.

And because we are going to go out there to justify to Nigerians why we deserve another mandate to govern this country. And that is not something about Abuja and the national presidential campaign council. But also of the wards, units, local governments, and the states as well. It is a centralized approach that is what our party is interested in so as to accommodate more people who are keen to get involved in this effort to compete and win the presidency of this country in the election come next year.

What is your take on the fact that a lot of people are seeing the fact that this election is for the southeast/ And considering the fact that your candidate didn’t come out during the independence day celebration while we saw Nigerians troop out for the candidate of the labor party? What does that say to you?

In the APC, we don’t at all take anything for granted. We take everyone seriously in every zone seriously and equally. Our people in the South East region are just as important as any other people from our zones, whether from the rest of the five zones of the country. So, we have enormous respect for them. And, we hope and wish that they will again pop up their energy for our party.

As for the campaign council, as already announced, eminent party men and women who are included from the region in the council are willing. Votes have no regional colorations. You win votes and you win. And, business is to persuade our people around the country to support us.

Now, having said that Peter Obi is a candidate for his party and I think it will be absolutely premature for anyone to judge us just because they are out there conducting these rallies. It doesn’t mean they are going to put up the best rallies and most incredible and magnetic rallies. We are yet to unleash and when we do, I am quite sure that a lot of what you see will absolutely dwarf by the power and numbers of our people who are determined to come out and show support for this candidate of our party.

We are not just a ruling party but beyond being a ruling party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is the head of our ticket is someone who has traversed this country in more ways than you can imagine. This fellow is embedded in the hearts and consciousness of so many people from across the region. And I believed when he began those whole efforts of being an Asiwaju, I don’t think running for president was necessarily on his mind.

But he said it has always been his life ambition. What do you have to say to that?

He may say that now as you may have suggested, but I think when I knew him, back then in the movement, pro-democracy movement, I don’t believe that anyone of us who were in that movement was thinking about the presidency at some point. Our attention was rapt singularly in the efforts to get the military out. My point is that whatever has happened since he became governor of Lagos state and the track records that he has created I think that he has earned the right to the support of those who support him. And, that you cannot take away from him. And I think that is all part of the ingredients that will coalesce into the kind of process and program that we are about to launch. And at the end of the day, I have no doubt that all of the noise that you hear will pale into insignificance in comparison to what is to come of our candidate.

Your party, APC campaigned on change. Some people believed they have taken us back worst off than we were in 2015 and 2019. What has changed now that you are asking for another mandate?

Perception and reality are not necessarily conterminous. Sometimes, perception can take you to the east and reality can be in the west.

How about for those that have been affected by insecurity and feeling the bite of the ASUU strike, as in students who are still at home? I am sure they will know the reality. It is people who are not in your shoe that can be talking about the perception and reality of your view. Do you agree?

I don’t agree. I can be hungry right now but that doesn’t mean I am going to be hungry tomorrow.

No, we have been hungry for years, and you know that?

Yes, the point is, this government for more than 7 years has done objectively an amazing job. And, if you believed that the government has done nothing, what I am saying and about to say may not impress you that much. You are just you and there is still a section in this country of people who can actually sit back and be objective.

There has never been a time for a very long time that this country was a walk in the pack. That living in Nigeria was a walk in the pack. Life has always been challenging for our people. Look at the data and statistics. And you cannot deny that. It was not as if we were living in some utopian system before this government came. And all of a sudden the utopia has evaporated. That was not the case.

Things have always been difficult. I really think that if you really want to be objective and not emotive, about this conversation, you will agree that even on the issue of security, whole lots have been done. A time was when you and I couldn’t walk the streets of Abuja, in the country. In just recent memory, because of all of the violence in our capital city. Bombs going off at places you didn’t expect including the police headquarters.

That is not happening today. Has this government been able to wipe out every threat to our security? No, he has not. Was that the promise? No, it was not. Is it something that is realistic? No, it is not. Some of the most sophisticated governments around the world have been able to wipe out insecurity. No.

They have not but that’s not the test. If we made that the test then you can reach your verdict. That is not the test and standard. That this government promised to extinguish every threat to our security. That was not even the conversation we should be having. The question is always relative. Relative to when this government came in, has there been progressed made? All the swathe of territories controlled by the insurgents, and terrorits is it the same today? The answer is no. Because we are better off than we were in 2015 when it comes to security.

We cannot in two minutes deal with that. Bring me back to discuss some of these issues. It should not only be on security but on the economy, education, and healthcare. Please bring me back. Make that the subject matter and I will be happy to come here and have a real conversation. Because the hysteria is engineered by those who simply want to fly this flag. But that is a departure from the reality of things. Whether it is on national security or the economy, I will be willing to be back.

The post 2023: Why Tinubu didn’t show up for peace accord signing – Morka, APC spokesperson appeared first on Nigerian Pilot News.

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