MR. Jimi Agbaje became a household name in 2007 during the governorship elections in Lagos State, when he adopted the slogan “Jaykay is ok”. In an interview in Lagos, select journalists caught up with him at his Lagos office, where he bared his mind on the proposal for a national conference and explains why he is yet to get a platform to fulfill his political dreams in 2015. Excerpts:
What is your take on the proposed national conference as some allege that it is diversionary?
We have to make the issues very clear. First is: do we need a national conference? And I will say yes. Why do we need a national conference? We all agree that Nigeria is not working the way it should. It is not fitting into the dreams of the founding fathers of this country. There are so many things that are not working and therefore, my answer is that there is need a for a national conference, there is need for us to sit down and talk.
Now, whether it is diversionary or not is another issue altogether, because if you don’t try something, then, you do not succeed.
We must try because we have tried so many times to talk, but without success. But again, the fact that it did not succeed in the previous times, did not bring about a break down of the country. In other words, it did not do us harm and so, I do not see why anybody should be strict against the need to have a national conference based on the reason that they are diversionary.
I believe that those that are saying it is diversionary are playing politics and we cannot continue to play politics with the people and the electorate.
If we get it right this time, it would be good for Nigeria, if we do not get it right, we will probably stay where we were before but if we do not try, we will not get it right.
Are your worried by the claim by the president that the outcome of the conference will be sent to the National Assembly for ratification?
Do not forget that the president’s mandate was very clear and it was that the committee should bring about a framework. I think the president is free to give his own suggestion but I think at the end of the day, the president will accept what the majority of the people say.
I will say that we should go through the process and whatever the people decide, we will then wait and see how the president takes it but I believe that the way it has started, the president must be fully conscious that people expect the dialogue to be successful, there has to be success from it. Therefore, I do not see him trying to thrown spanner in the wheels of progress. So, it is what the people finally come up with that I believe we will get.
What, do you think should be the focus of this conference?
You know when there are many problems, what you go for is the foundation. I think what we need to go for is the structure of our country and that is the way we practice federalism. If we are able to address the federal structure, we would have been able to address a lot of the minor problems besieging us. The federal structure is faulty.
For me, the first thing is the federal structure because that will address the way we spend money or better still, the way we share money. All we have in our present structure is how to share the cake but we do not bake the cake. The most important issue is the federal structure and it will address a lot of the other issues.
Would say the timing is right?
My answer is that if there is a will, there is a way. If we are determined to do it, we will do it. I believe that it is doable or else, we will just keep going round in circles in this country.
Many supporters of a national conference, however, claim that President Jonathan, is not sincere on it?
It is going to be a test for the presidency in the way it utilizes the kind of report it gets. It could make or it could mar the presidency but that is the challenge the presidency has to take.
But do you think we can negotiate the unity of this country?
There is no crime in discussing the unity of Nigeria. We all refer to the Ethiopian constitution, where it says that you can negotiate. We can negotiate the unity of this country but it should be done in a proper way. What I am getting at is that we are not going to violently break up Nigeria, if it has to break up. The reality is that, we will find out that we are better together as one country if we get it right, than as more than one country.
In 2007, you ran a very robust campaign and became a household name but after that you disappeared from the scene. What have you been doing?
I have been very must around, I have been playing politics, I have been trying to make a living. For me, I believe we play too much of politics in our country at the expense of governance.
There is a time for everything. If I am running for office, I will be more on the pages of newspapers but when I am not running for office, I will be in the background and do my work in the back ground. When you play politics, you have to allow those who govern to govern and where you are in a position to advise them behind the scene, then, you do. For me, let me assure you that I am very much around, I am still involved in politics, I am not running away from politics.
There have been reports that you have become the beautiful bride being wooed by both the APC and PDP?
(Laughs) like I said I am in politics but I am yet to join a political party. The Nigerian constitution stipulates that for you to play politics in any elective form, you must belong to a political party.
We are still looking at it. I will join a political party but I am yet to join one. You will agree with me that from where I am coming from, I need to look well before I leap. That is what I am doing, I am still looking and I hope that I will be able to leap sooner than later.