Director of Media and Publicity, All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Mr Bayo Onanuga spoke to RALPH OMOLOLU AGBANA on similarities and differences Nigerians should expect in leadership styles of the Buhari/Osinbajo presidency and Tinubu/Shetima government if the APC wins the 2023 general elections.
Can Nigerians trust Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket your party is presenting for the election?
WE are trying not to talk about the religious barrier anymore because a lot of people don’t understand why Kashim Shettima was picked. It is far beyond religion, but this campaign is not about religion. Tinubu as a person has his sterling achievements in Lagos to point to. Shettima, despite Boko Haram in Borno State, also has many things to point to that he achieved while he was the governor and the joint ticket to remind you is like APC giving Nigerians, as you see, two-in-one.
Even though they are electing a President, they are electing two presidents in one because Tinubu and Shettima share so many qualities and you can even see it in the succession that they were able to achieve. Tinubu left Babatunde Fashola, Akinwumi Ambode and now Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Shettima left Zulum. You can see that Zulum is shinning the way Fashola shone in Lagos, so they have similar qualities and it takes a good leader to have a good successor.
A leader is good when he’s able to leave a successor who would be able to carry on his work and that’s what Tinubu did and that’s also what Shettima did. Those are the qualities they both shared and in terms of achievement, we could see what both of them did in their parts of the country. That’s what brought about the ticket of achievers with good records. It is just a coincidence that they are Muslims. But we are assuring Nigerians that two of them will be good for this country by the time they are elected in February next year.
We are trying to douse the fear of the Christians that this is not about religion, but about what is good for our country. And we are assuring that the two candidates on the ticket of APC will lead our country to solve the challenges facing the current administration and take Nigeria even much higher.
How are you solving complaints from some quarters that greeted the list of the campaign council?
The Tinubu/Shettima project is a mass project; so many groups are involved. Tinubu Support Group, Tinubu Support Organisation, etcetera, there are so many of them and they are all involved, the governors and everyone are involved. So, we have made a campaign list that accommodated all manner of tendencies. It is just that everybody wants to be there but unfortunately, everybody cannot be there.
Do you believe that the 2023 general elections and of 1993 have something in common?
You know 1993 came against the background of the military regime and there was MKO Abiola who hoped that things would be better. But things are not totally hopeless in our country as of today, so with Tinubu’s government we will build on what Buhari is leaving behind and take Nigeria higher and much better, that’s what we’re going to do to take us on a journey beyond where we are today.
It is not that everything is totally bad in our country and we don’t believe the propaganda of PDP that Nigeria is hopeless, but we want to prove that there are so many positives to show, even though we know that there are challenges we are contending with. Every country contends with various challenges, so we are not an exemption from that. Tinubu is coming to build on what we have today to make Nigeria much more prosperous and to make our people much happier than where they are today.
Considering the public perception of the current government, are you implying that Tinubu will not deviate from President Buhari’s style of leadership?
Leaders are bound to be different in styles. When you have two new people in government the style would be different. Buhari has his own style. Tinubu and Shettima are different from Buhari and Osinbajo, so you look at them and say that what the two of them are going to teach is that they have records of where they are coming from, Borno and Lagos, you also have records of Buhari in office, records in infrastructure, social investment programmes, which is touching the lives of millions of Nigerians that have no pair in entire Africa because there is nothing like that in Africa.
So, many programmes that the government has done that people are not giving kudos for, we are going to campaign on all that and we will all also go further by saying we acknowledge there are challenges that the government is going through, that the new government, which would be elected in February would solve, even if the present government cannot solve them.
President Buhari has said before he leaves, he will make Nigeria safer than he met it and I see that with what the military has been doing in recent weeks. Some people are saying why are they just waking up but they are doing it, after all. Look at the issue of oil theft; they say okay maybe they should give it to non-state actors to police these pipelines. They gave the contract to NNPC, it was given to Tompolo and his firm and people started shouting again! “Why would you give it to Tompolo?” My suspicion is that those who are stealing the oil are those protesting the government’s moves to protect the pipelines. Government cannot allow things to go on like this; they are stealing close to 200,000 barrels of oil per day.
How do you intend to manage the sensitivity of the people of the Southeast with President Buhari’s profiling of the geo-political zone as a tiny dot on the map?
It is unfortunate that President Buhari, sometimes, says things that are quoted out of context. When he said the Southeast was a tiny dot, it was against the background of the problem being caused by IPOB. People didn’t get to really understand the kind of crisis IPOB is creating in our country, including calling Nigeria a zoo, that all of us here are animals.
As far as they are concerned, only members of IPOB are the real people, who then march in all kinds of campaigns against this country. So, it was in that circumstances that President Buhari spoke and called them a tiny dot. May be he was talking according to the size and entire status of the Southeast, which is not up to Oyo State, in truth. Maybe that’s what President Buhari was talking about, I am not speaking for Buhari but I think he speaks in that context.
Our candidate is reaching out to Southeast leaders, some of the people who are close to him are from Southeast, so, he’s going to relate differently to them, unlike the way President Buhari relates with them. It was this same Buhari that some people in the Southeast so ridiculed, so derided and said he hates the region but helped them to construct the second Niger Bridge that the PDP, which they love to vote for, could not achieve for 16 years. It is not just a bridge but a bridge with so many roads linked to it.
The project started in 2018 and by the grace of God, it would be commissioned before the end of this year. A lot of people still find it difficult to hide their hatred after the bridge construction. They said the project didn’t start under Buhari’s government but under Jonathan’s administration and they know President Jonathan didn’t even put a block there. Buhari started it from scratch and I’m very sure he will finish it. The last time I heard about it, I was told streetlights were being installed on the bridge but I’m very sure they would be delivered soon. When Buhari came in, the great Zik Mausoleum was abandoned by the previous PDP administrations and they were giving PDP their votes. Buhari went there he made sure he renovated the Mausoleum and turned it into a tourist centre, he did it in Anambra and he also did so many roads in the Southeast.
Your candidate didn’t visit the southeast before the presidential primary. Why?
It is not that he didn’t want to visit the Southeast, he was ready to go there, the Anambra people said don’t bother, come to Abuja to address us, that’s why he didn’t visit Anambra. You shouldn’t forget also that the delegates’ arrangement changed. It was going to be that all past and present elected reps and senators, among others, were delegates but later they said no and were limited to elected delegates from the local councils. So, the number of people coming for the election was reduced. You can see that just about 2,000 delegates voted, whereas before close to 10,000 delegates were going to vote. It is because of the schedule at that time, he was in the South-south; he visited Delta, Edo and Akwa Ibom.
What are the issues that will determine the outcome of the 2023 presidential election?
The election will be decided on so many grounds. In some places, it will be decided by the candidates’ ethnic affiliations. In some places it will be determined by the candidates’ programmes, in some cases, it will be decided by what Nigerians perceive to be the candidate’s capacity and credentials to be able to make some change from 2023.
I think because our own candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu comes from the APC, which is the ruling party, we are confident of emerging victorious. Also, because of what President Buhari has been able to achieve on many fronts, despite all the challenges that we have, we know there are challenges but when you weigh the challenges and what he has done on many fronts, you can excuse these government’s weaknesses and look at its strength.
We believe that the positives will rub on our candidate and we are going to campaign based on the positives of this government and we are going to admit that even though there are challenges, the incoming administration will address them because government is a continuum. People should not forget that in 2015, there was a major security challenge in the Northeastern part of the county, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, Boko Haram occupied the territories but that’s no longer the case. The United Nations Secretary-General came to Nigeria and he commended what he saw in the Northeast. Maiduguri area was a no-go area but he saw a different city. That is a sign of positive movement under this government.
In recent times, we have also seen the efforts by the entire armed forces to ensure that we have security and that life and property are secured. For instance, on the most dangerous Abuja-Kaduna road, people are now travelling without security breaches on that road. I am not saying there are no security issues, but it is exaggerated. The media sometimes, the way we use hyperbole to describe a single security incident may not actually correlate with reality. So, there are challenges, but like I said Buhari has done a lot of security-wise that will rub on our candidate.
But as a campaign team, the second plank of our campaign is the record of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor of Lagos State. If you put Tinubu and Peter Obi side by side, Tinubu is not Obi’s mate when you look at Tinubu’s eight years as Lagos governor and Obi’s eight years as Anambra State governor.
After Obi ended his second term, a major national newspaper remarked that despite Obi’s eight years, Awka, the state capital remained largely an underdeveloped capital and he left it the same way he met it. It was only his successor, Obiano who developed the state capital and later improved it with an airport. Obi didn’t do all that to attract investment to that state, and remarkably when Obi was governor and he used the state money to invest in NEXT Supermarket with branches in Abuja and Portharcourt, he didn’t consider having a branch of the martin Awka.
What we keep telling those following him is that this man did not drop from heaven; he’s been a state governor, what are his records? You must follow a person based on his records, the so-called Obidients, are just following him blindly?
As for Atiku Abubakar, he was elected a governor but he never served for one day until he became Vice President of this country. What were his records? Obasanjo gave him the responsibility to supervise the privatisation programme and what was his record? In Obasanjo’s book “My Watch”, he defined Atiku with many unedifying words. Recently, he said his greatest regret was picking Atiku Abubakar as his running mate and Vice-President.
So, the way Obasanjo painted Atiku’s records as a public official, he’s not someone who has anything to show, or records to point to unlike Bola Tinubu who was governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007, and he did a lot of things, turned the fortunes of Lagos around.
Don’t forget that ahead of this coming election, and currently, in Nigeria, one of the major challenges we are facing today is the revenue problem. Who can best help Nigeria to solve this problem, generating revenues, blocking all leakages and ensuring that our revenue data keeps going up? We have seen how various agencies don’t remit what is due to the government but with Tinubu in the saddle, this unbearable trend will change, considering how he was able to turn around the economy of Lagos State by improving the state’s internally generated revenue that today is unmatched in Nigeria.
Nigerians have become more sensitive about the health of their leaders after their experiences of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Buhari’s incessant medical trips abroad. How do you intend to manage their apprehensions about the health of Tinubu?
Our candidate has no health problem. Look, he’s 70 years old, he had a knee problem and he went for an operation. He didn’t go to attend to cancer or any other health problem. He had successful knee surgery and he’s back on his feat. If you have seen him in recent times when he goes to the mosque, he’s standing instead of sitting down, so, he’s fit like any other human being. Any one from age 50, even 40 you can’t compare with a 60-year-old. All the chemicals in the body start breaking down. As to whether his knee issue will affect his job as President of Nigeria, I say no. What is required of whoever wants to rule Nigeria is somebody who can think; a deep thinker and like I said Tinubu has done this before as governor of Lagos State and he will do it again.
Let me give you an example, when he was governor, there was this ocean surge, in fact, almost threatening to destroy the entire Victoria Island and the Federal Government in response, instead of looking for an enduring solution, they chose to be pouring sand inside the Atlantic, spending billions of Naira and of course, the Atlantic would come consuming the sands.
So, anytime there is heavy rain Victoria Island will be flooded. Tinubu put his thinking cap that there must be a lasting solution and he got the solution that instead of just pouring sand there’s another route. His government did not only solve that problem, his solution led to the founding of a new city that they call Atlantic City out of the ocean. Some would say that could be a miracle of science because that’s a city that is even bigger than Victoria Island itself. America’s biggest consulate worth $400m is being built in that city and many corporate buildings are springing up. That’s a product of Tinubu’s ingenuity.
By the time he came as governor, traffic was horrible. He introduced LASTMA, not only to solve the traffic problem; he looked at LASTMA as an avenue to create jobs. Over 40,000 people were employed.
People who are new in Lagos will not remember that period when hills of refuse obstructed Lagos roads and LAWMA had to join in the efforts to remove the refuse from Lagos roads and that led to massive jobs for the unemployed people. It is like what he has been saying about security; that to secure Nigeria you have to expand the number of security personnel, not just improving security but also creating jobs. The same thing he did in revenue generation in Lagos.
When he came, Lagos’s revenue was so low to do anything meaningful and the wage bill was more than the revenue being generated. He found a way to block the leakages, for the first time in Nigeria he brought in Oracle from the United States and what did Oracle do? Biometrics of all the workers and the first month after the biometric was done Lagos found out that the wage bill went down by N350 million. That helped to remove ghost workers from the payroll. Those things he did were copied by other states in the country.