Bola Tinubu: My Experience As A Presidential Aspirant
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor and leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) clocks 70 today. In a special commemorative interview, he speaks with TheNEWS/PMNEWS on his consultative journeys across Nigeria, the feedback he has received. He speaks on the opposition PDP that wasted 16 years of opportunity to reshape Nigeria. He also releases snippets of his plans for Nigeria if given the chance to serve as president.
After you told President Buhari about your presidential ambition, you have been going around the country for consultations about your intentions to contest the presidency in 2023. What did you tell President Buhari and what was his response?
Well, I discussed my ambition with the president that I would like to step into his shoe but not step on his toes. He had no objection. He said we are in a democracy, that I am entitled to aspire and that I should go out to let the public know instead of dilly-dallying, trying to dodge the media, as he had seen on several occasions.
I didn’t know he was paying attention to that. But I told him that I was dodging the media because I had not told him. He then said ‘‘go ahead.’’ I believe that I have his blessings. It was after our discussion that I made my ambition known to the public.
Apart from the president’s response, what kind of feedback have you been getting so far from other stakeholders and the public generally?
I have not enunciated my policy yet, but as I travel around the country, I have been explaining my determination, my capacity to govern, the ability to serve this nation that has a lot of challenges right now but that also has abundant resources both human and material.
The feedback is good. The types of people I have been consulting are not those who will bluntly look at you in the face and say ‘‘get out of here.’’ They accorded me the necessary respect and audience.
I am deeply touched by the encouragement of Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona and other Obas. I cannot forget for the rest of my life what the 95-year-old Owa of Idanre, Oba Frederick Adegunle Aroloye, JP, OFR Gbolagunte Arubiefin IV did. He waited from 11’o’clock in the morning till 5 pm just to welcome me. That’s touching.
It was an emotional thing for me, and it strengthened my commitment to serve, to do well and to put human beings at the centre and priority of my administration if I am allowed to govern.
But some people – within the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the other parties have also signified their interest to contest the 2023 presidency. Why do you think you are the best?
I have a track record.
I have governed a state that is a microcosm of this country – Lagos State. I have navigated it from a brink of collapse. Some of you saw Lagos for what it was – the second or dirtiest capital city of a state in the world, you all wrote or read about it – the international classification of Lagos then.
But I faced the challenges squarely, tapped the best of human resources to think along with me, develop a blueprint and from the blueprint we developed a ten-point agenda as a must for Lagos to excel. And we’ve religiously adhered to that and Lagos has excelled – from N600 million a month in internal revenue, sometimes, less than N2 billion from FAAC to N45 billion a month in internally generated revenue.
If I were governing an independent Nigeria with sovereign wealth, I think I can bring the nation to excel very well with the human and capital resources that we are endowed with.
We have spent enough time talking about our potential, now is the time to realise our potential. The time is now and we don’t want to wait. The world is leaving us behind. We have talents – great talents in this country, we have men and women of vision and capacity to manage the affairs of our country.
I have demonstrated my capacity, my gift. I did it and you all, one way or the other, witnessed it. I still have the vision, the focus of a mission that can make Nigeria a better country for all of us.
Do you expect a very serious opposition to your ambition within your party?
As a democrat, you focus on your lane. You can’t win a relay race thinking about the baton alone. Go on your lane, maintain your lane, be focused, develop your can-do attitude and, straight ahead, go and win the race. So, I am not worried about some names being bandied around. I am not. If you concentrate on that you will be distracted from focusing, thinking on how to be a winning candidate. Winning is very, very important in a political race, that’s my focus.
Some critics have argued that except Nigeria is restructured, it might be difficult turning around the country now. Do you share such their views?
Nigeria is structured, in the form of six geopolitical zones as done by the military.
We adopted that Constitution, we adopted democracy. First of all, stabilize democratic governance, let’s have the stability, cater for the welfare of our people as a whole , as a nation. You just focus on that first and foremost. Don’t think of divisions, think of unity, stability.
Why should we concentrate on division and not things that will bring us together as a nation? That is the way I think. That is what I believe. It was reflected in my cabinet when I was the governor of Lagos State. I don’t care where you are from for as long as you can do the job. I give you the opportunity. You cannot? Get out of my cabinet.
My cabinet reflected the entire country. Prosperity and development in diversity are sweeter than blindly focusing on tribalism and language of differences and things like that. Our diversity should be used for opportunity and prosperity. Don’t engage in divisions, stay focused on what the nation needs