By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Monsur Olowopejo & Dirisu Yakubu
•Asiwaju is my political partner — Buhari
•Reject PDP’s apology, Tinubu tells Nigerians
•Don’t be deceived again, PDP cautions Tinubu
LAGOS—Friends and associates of former governor of Lagos State and National leader of the All Progressives Party, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, led by President Muhammadu Buhari converged on Lagos, yesterday, to celebrate what they described as his sacrificial role in politics, declaring they won’t stop talking about the alleged corruption of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The avowal came amid tributes to the former governor by his political associates at the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium held to mark the 66th birthday of the APC national leader.
The Eko Hotel and Suites, venue of the colloquium was thronged by some of the leading lights in politics and business. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, 11 governors, members of the National Assembly, ministers and leaders of the APC were present.
The business community was led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Jim Ovia, and Dr. Oba Otudeko. Conspicuously absent and not mentioned as represented were the presiding officers of the National Assembly, and the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The colloquium which was initiated by former subordinates who worked in the Tinubu administration in Lagos between 1999 and 2007 to remember his positive contribution to governance had as theme for this year, “Investing In People.”
Reflectively, the occasion was used to showcase the positive strides of the Buhari administration’s social welfare schemes; notably, the Home Grown School Feeding programme and the N-Power project which taps the skills of the unemployed for some monthly payouts.
A playlet titled “iOpen Eye” with leading thespian, Joke Silva, to demonstrate the social challenges which the social intervention programme of the government is fighting to overcome was staged just before the arrival of the President at about 11:39 a.m.
Tinubu, my political partner— Buhari
President Buhari, who described Tinubu as his friend and political partner, stepped back from wholly chorusing the problems inherited from the previous administrations. His subordinates, notably Vice-President Osinbajo, were, however, not coy about it.
Harping on his 2015 election theme, the President said: “We seek to replace corruption with correctness, insecurity with safety, and poverty with prosperity.
“We seek a change in the ways and means of our collective existence. We seek to construct a nation where people are no longer ruled by whims, but according to law and for the betterment of the people.
“I am here to be happy with you to celebrate the birthday of my friend and political partner.
“Asiwaju is a well-known political strategist who has elevated politics above self. I have come to see him as a man who cares about people, who is a fountain of ideas, for the common good of the common man and woman. He has played an appreciative contribution to Nigeria and Africa’s progress.
“Asiwaju has invested in people because he believes that tomorrow will be better than today and good will one day triumph over evil.”
We must talk about PDP’s corruption— Osinbajo
Osinbajo was, however, not so restrained in looking back saying: “Upon all I had seen in government in the past three years, the corruption of the previous five years is what destroyed the Nigerian economy.
“Every time we talk about corruption, our opponents say don’t talk about it. Just do your own. But we must talk about it. The reason why we must talk about it is that we must let our people know that we can’t afford to go this way again.
“Never again should we allow a system where people take the resources of this country and steal the resources, use the resources against the people and at the same time they want to continue to rule the people.”
The vice-president said the APC government had successfully invested N560 billion in a budget year, money which he said would otherwise have been stolen if the PDP had been in power.
“We as a party, as your government, must show the difference between us and the government and the party that impoverished our nation.
“Let me give you an example, in 2014 when oil was between $100 and $114 a barrel, the actual releases for capital for three major ministries; power, works and housing, when they were three separate ministries, in total was N99 billion. Transportation got N14 billion and agriculture N15billion.
“Now let us compare that with capital releases to the same ministries in 2017 when oil price was between $50 and $60 per barrel; N415 billion for power, works and housing, N80billion for transportation and N65billion for agriculture. Totalling N560 billion in a time when we were earning at least 50 per cent less.
“This is possible because if you do not steal the resources of the people, you can spend it,” he said.
The chief host, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, while welcoming dignitaries to the colloquium, had paid tribute to Tinubu’s vision saying: “After his gubernatorial years, he has continued to show pivotal leadership, particularly on the national stage. It is not for nothing that he is acknowledged for his defining role in the emergence of a progressive political party in Nigeria,” the Governor said.
“Look around you; there are only a few people that can match his (Tinubu) unquestionable thirst to invest in people. It goes without any gainsaying that, I join numerous others seated here or outside, that have gained in the investment Asiwaju has made on people. I am grateful for that,” Governor Ambode said.
Don’t accept PDP’s apology — Tinubu
While acknowledging the challenges the APC had to contend with, Tinubu encouraged Nigerians not to give up on the administration as he vowed that he would continue to talk about the alleged corruption of the PDP era.
“I can see what the government is doing with so little resources. But the idea and the fact that they are doing it with beneficiaries and the fact that it is demonstrated in practical terms is what we need to get our country from the hook of corrupt officials.”
Noting assertions against looking at the past, he said: “They even said that we should not talk about it. Seriously, what should we then talk about? After we came into office, we discovered the looting. After assuming office, we should then join you in the act and encourage such act?”
Asking Nigerians not to give heed to the PDP, he said: “Please forget those parties. They will not come back to power. There is no nation that is not facing challenges. Even America is facing its own. Then who are we?
“How many years of democracy have we practised? We did not say that Nigerians will not enjoy. But we have to report back to the millions of Nigerians that elected us into office that this is what we found when we assumed office.
“It is not an easy task at all. Dear Nigerians, do not take their apology. They lied. They falsified. They even changed figures. For 16 years, they made fake promises and gave us fake figures. And they said we should not talk about it. It is like saying after all they did wrong, do not look at me. Just steal your own.
“That we will not take it off the table…no matter how twisting the mind of PDP and their supporters may be. We will continue to talk about it because you wasted our resources. You did not do what you promised Nigerians, what you said you would do when you were in office. The market gave you the maximum and production was also at maximum.”
Making a contrast between the APC and the PDP, in the light of claims by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Tinubu said: “We are like night and day. I remember my grand-mother often sent me to a letter writer beside the Magistrate Court to assist her write letter. So someone is writing letter of politics as if they had not been there before.
“I do not want to agree with those letters,” he said in apparent reference to missives by President Obasanjo and assertions by some other national leaders which he described as bad belle letters.
Praising Buhari’s efforts in redirecting the direction of the economy, he nevertheless called for more urgent effort in pension reform, the mortgage sector as he offered to make himself available for the president.
‘Buhari has changed the economy’
“He has changed it (economy) from the wrong direction to steer the ship back before the final crash because it was necessary. We have started the journey. And the voyage is on the voyage of hope and the voyage that we are reclaiming Nigeria. We are retooling Nigeria. We are reinventing Nigeria. We are redirecting Nigeria.”
Advising the president and the business community to improve the credit system so that Nigerians would not be compelled to pay at once for goods and infrastructure including housing, he said: “Once you reduce the rush for cash, you reduce the propensity for corruption. If we have good credit package, people do not need to pay N4 million at once for a car. Credit must be made available digitally.
“We need to promote more credits to stimulate this economy. We do not have to pay for a house of N10 million at once.”
The PDP was quick to pick on the advice by Tinubu as reflective of what it described as the emptiness of the Buhari administration.
Do not be deceived again, PDP tells Tinubu
The party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondinyan, advised Tinubu not to allow himself to be used a second time as he still carries the burden for the enthronement of what it described as “this incompetent, divisive, nepotic and inherently corrupt administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which has brought the nation to its knees in three years.”
The PDP said Tinubu’s speech, at the colloquium, rather than doing damage to the PDP, ended up amplifying the failures of President Buhari and the APC administration.
“The PDP watched with amusement as Asiwaju Tinubu struggled with words to appease President Buhari and give him assurances that he can win a second term election in the face of mass failure both in governance and in their discredited, rejected and troubled platform.
“It was a direct admittance of failure and indictment on President Buhari’s administration, when Asiwaju pointedly told the President that the ship of the nation, under his (Buhari’s) watch, still needs to be rescued, almost three years down the line.
“It is tragic that Asiwaju had to tutor his visitor, who had no policy direction since his election in 2015, by engaging in a revision of the programmes and policies of the PDP, such as the leasing system, the mortgage and pension schemes which boosted the economy and directly impacted on the lives of Nigerians.
“More pathetic is the fact that the APC leader presented the PDP programmes as if he was introducing novel ideas in the economy. This clearly stood with our position that the APC government is incompetent and lacking in ideas of how to move the nation forward,” the statement read in part.”
Besides President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo, others present yesterday included the wife of the vice-president, Dolapo Osinbajo, Governors Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos; Rochas Okorocha, Imo; Godwin Obaseki, Edo; Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi; Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun; Mohammed Badaru, Jigawa; Umar Ganduje, Kano; Mohammed Abubakar, Bauchi; Rauf Aregbesola, Osun; Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo; Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto among others.
Also present were the immediate past governor of Lagos State and minister of works, power and housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, Senators Barnabas Gemade, Magnus Abe, Solomon Adeola, Andy Uba, Musiliu Obanikoro, Olurunnimbe Mamora, John Akpanudoedehe and Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the minister of state, budget and national planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the deputy national chairman of the APC, North, Senator Lawali Shahibu; the deputy national chairman, South, Engr. Segun Oni and the national vice-chairman, Southwest, Mr. Pius Akinyerule were also present.
The immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal, the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
The class of royalty was represented by the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akolu, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Alake of Egba Land, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo II, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Adewale Akanbi among others.