The political romance between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which has been rekindled by the 2019 presidential election, waxed stronger yesterday when both men in separate speeches assured Nigerians that the country was being rescued from the wreckage of past administrations.
Buhari, who is in Lagos for a two-day official visit, spoke at the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium held in Nigeria’s commercial capital to mark the APC leader’s 66th birthday.
Buhari at the event, restated his commitment to implementing people-oriented programmes, saying: “Our goal is to bring everybody together for mutually beneficial ethnic, economic, social, religion, political and cultural relationships.
“We are determined to invest in people because we depend on people to govern.”
Buhari, who also commissioned the Ikeja Bus Terminal in Lagos designed to handle 200,000 passengers daily, said his administration would continue to invest in social programmes, including school feeding and agriculture.
He said: “We have set Nigeria on an irreversible path of growth and development. We are resolute to uplift our people and make Nigeria a better place.”
The president described Tinubu as his friend saying, he was happy to be in Lagos “to celebrate the birthday of my friend and political partner”.
According to him, Tinubu is a well-known political strategist who has elevated politics above self.
He said: “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.
“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 the law and for the betterment of the people.
“We seek to replace corruption with correctness, insecurity with safety, and poverty with prosperity.”
The president called on Nigerians to join him to celebrate “Asiwaju”, a man whom he said was widely known as a political strategist, a caregiver and a man with a vision.
Also speaking at the colloquium attended by several APC governors, party stalwarts, officials from the federal and Lagos State governments and captains of industry, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said the administration would not stop talking about the corruption perpetrated by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wondering why the party does not want people to “talk about the monumental corruption it inflicted on Nigeria”.
According to him, “Upon all I had seen in government in the past three years, the corruption of the five years of the Jonathan government is what destroyed the Nigerian economy.”
He insisted that the money withdrawn from the treasury before the election could have been used to develop infrastructure across the country.
Osinbajo said there was no country in the world that would allow its resources to be plundered in the way Nigeria’s resources were looted and shared and was still expected to be economically viable.
“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 because 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.
“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 expenditure to the three major Ministries of Power, Works and Housing – then they were three separate ministries – in total, was N99 billion. Transportation got N14 billion and agriculture N15 billion.
“Now let us compare that with capital releases to the same ministries in 2017 when oil prices were between $50 and $60 per barrel – N415 billion for power, works and housing, N80 billion for transportation and N65 billion for agriculture, totalling N560 billion at a time when we were earning at least 50 per cent less,” he pointed out.
Osinbajo said it was possible to get this much money to spend on developmental projects because the present government was not stealing public funds.
The vice-president thanked the president for giving him a free hand in the government’s social investment programme, noting that when the APC began its campaign in 2014, the party was determined to change the dominant narrative of Nigeria.
“We were determined to change the narrative on the country which is rich in natural resources and even richer in human capital but was being destroyed daily by the grand corruption and impunity through the looting of public resources.
“We saw a nation where a few had privatised the commonwealth while the majority of the people remained extremely poor. On one of our campaign trips to Zamfara State, Mr. President said look at the eyes of these people; of course, we saw poverty and desperation in their eyes.
“Then he said, ‘They expect us to fix the problem of their poverty as soon as we get into office’.”
This, he said, informed the decision to put N500 billion into the social investment programme. “We have seen today the empirical evidence of that success story,” he added.
Osinbajo also said that when the government enforced the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), it discovered that there was a lot of money in the system.
He also expressed regret that the PDP government that refused to budget for infrastructure development suddenly released and spent N100 billion in cash during the 2015 election, promising that the Buhari administration would continue to defend the rights of the poor people.
Osinbajo also said that those who benefited from corruption were fighting back, but vowed: “This government will not give up. We will continue to fight corruption.”
He restated that $3 billion was lost to the Strategic Alliance Agreement between a local oil and gas firm, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the upstream subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), noting that the $3 billion was the equivalent of the money spent by this government on road construction across the country.
Supporting the position of the vice-president that the administration must continue to expose the magnitude of corruption under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government, Tinubu said the APC-led administration must continue to talk about corruption.
He said: “They 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, did you expect us to join you in the act and encourage such acts. We are not just talking about the needs of Nigerians.
“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. So, who are we? How many years of democracy have we practised?
“We did not say that Nigerians would 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.”
Tinubu acknowledged that the task of running the country in the last three years has not been easy but enjoined Nigerians not to accept the apology tendered by the PDP for their past mistakes.
“It is not an easy task at all, but 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, so do not look at me. Just steal your own.’ But we have a nation to rescue. We have hope to build Nigeria. We have the lead. We have the people to invest in,” he said.
While acknowledging the challenges the APC has had to contend with, Tinubu said: “Life is not without challenges. As a political party, we showed everyone our logo… Our logo with a united Nigeria, we focused on the fight against terrorism, corruption and the promotion of the economic revival of the country.
“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 tentacles of corrupt officials.”
He thanked Nigerians for their patience with the APC saying that there was a clear understanding in the difference between the APC and PDP, saying: “We are like night and day.”
Tinubu said he was happy that the president had changed the course of the ship of the country that was heading in the wrong direction.
“He has changed it from the wrong direction to steer the ship back before the final crash. 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 and we are redirecting Nigeria,” he said,
He urged the president to continue with the war against corruption and appealed to the banking sector to make credit available to the people.
According to him, “Once credit is available, this will play a role in stemming corruption. If we have good credit packages, people will not need to pay N4 million at once for a car.
“Credit must be made available digitally. We can provide soft credit for this economy. We should encourage people with low incomes and extend hope that will stimulate this economy.”
While thanking dignitaries at the event, Tinubu urged Nigerians to move on without the PDP.
He also called on the people not to vote for them because the party had yet to account for its 16 years of misrule.
In his welcome address, Lagos State governor Akinwumi Ambode showered encomiums on Tinubu and praised the president for his commitment to the progress of Lagos.
He said: “I am grateful to the president for his immense support for Lagos. We have flagged off the Lekki deep seaport project and the completion of the Ikeja Bus Terminal. It is important to invest in people because creating impactful programmes for our people is my priority.
“As we celebrate Tinubu, if you look around, you will see that there are only very few people that can match his unquestionable thirst to invest in people.
“His era as governor showed the depth of his governance capacity. That is why he is acknowledged for his role in the emergence of our great party.”
But in reaction to Tinubu’s remarks at the colloquium, the PDP asked him to stop playing God and assuming that Nigerians do not know what they want.
The main opposition party reminded the former Lagos governor that Nigerians have the faculty and freedom to determine the leadership that best suits their desires without any body’s control.
The party also advised Tinubu not to allow himself to be used for a second time, warning that he still bears a gross part of the blame for the enthronement of what the party termed as “this incompetent, divisive, nepotic and inherently corrupt administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which has brought the nation to its knees in three years”.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday, said Tinubu’s speech at his colloquium, rather than causing damage for the PDP, ended up amplifying the admittance of failure of Buhari and the APC administration.
The opposition party said without listening to the prompting of any politician, Nigerians across board had taken the liberty of accepting PDP’s apology, which was made patriotically and in the overall interest of national healing, reconciliation, unity and cohesion.
“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 has 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,” PDP said.
The party said what was more “pathetic” was the fact that the APC leader presented the PDP programmes as if he was introducing novel ideas on the economy.
“This clearly stood with our position that the APC government is incompetent and lacking in ideas on how to move the nation forward.
“While we congratulate the Lagos Governor Emeritus on his birthday, the PDP considers it needful to forewarn him to study the current ambience of Nigerian politics as it relates to the failures of the Buhari presidency and the fact that the citizens have since rejected this presidency and the APC, so that Asiwaju will not find himself swimming against the tide,” it said.