Oluwaseun Faleye, lawyer and All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain; spoke with reporters in Lagos on why the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will have an edge over other flagbearers during the election. Excerpts by EMMANUEL OLADESU.
How are the campaigns across the country going for your Candidate in terms of driving the message of the renewed hope?
I imagine for the candidate that it is not easy to be all over the country but I am sure it is fulfilling for him and his team, dedicated men and women making things happen behind the scene. The logistics has to be right, making travel plans and all of that but essentially, we are buoyed by the message of hope that Asiwaju is delivering to people at these campaigns and very happy at the reception that he is getting across the country from Kano, to Lagos, to Benin, to Jos, to Enugu, to Minna and all of the parts of the country that he has been to. The reception of our renewed hope at every place he has been must have made the difficult task of organizing the campaigns and rallies much more bearable and fulfilling for everyone involved.
What qualities do you think Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has that other contestants do not have that makes him stand out and will possibly make him the winner?
There are so many qualities that he has that set him apart from other candidates vying for the same post.
First is his deep knowledge of the issues that we face as a country and his unyielding commitment to deal with them. I am not sure any of the other candidates have that level of commitment to resolving our security and economy issues to be honest. Second is his compassion. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a very compassionate leader and the Nigeria of today need nothing more than a strong, committed and compassionate leader to lead her in a fair and equitable manner.
But very key is his great determination and can-do spirit that he has exemplified all through his life in private and public service. I believe these qualities set him apart from others. Indeed, his experience in establishing much needed public institutions that has now been replicated all over the States in Nigeria, delivering life changing public infrastructure in Lagos under a financially challenged circumstances given that Lagos State funds were withheld by ex-President Obasanjo at that time as well as his ability to marshal intelligent men and women of expertise to action as a formidable team to tackle our developmental challenges certainly set him apart from other contestants.
You and your friends recently held a Business Lunch with Asiwaju Tinubu in Lagos. What was that about and what did you seek to achieve at the meeting with the candidate?
To us the conveners, it was an intellectual engagement between the business community and the political stakeholders in Nigeria, setting the stage for what should be a sustainable collaboration between the public and the private sectors for collective benefit in the form of accelerated growth of the Nigerian economy.
Represented at the event were dynamic individuals playing leading roles in key economic sectors such as the healthcare, insurance, legal, mining and solid minerals, construction and housing, entertainment, technology space, finance, education, oil and gas, power and energy, infrastructural development and finance, sports, creative industry amongst others. And it was in recognition of their rich background in economic activities in different sectors that we invited them to come and give their practical insights to the candidate on policies that will move their respective sectors forward and unleash the economic potentials of Nigeria. For the participants and invited guests, it was to provide useful insights, inputs and feedback gained from their practical experiences to better enrich the APC Action Plans under Asiwaju’s leadership.
And for the candidate it was a listening session, to receive well-intentioned and well-informed feedback from those operating the engine room of our economy such that policy formulation and regulations becomes all-inclusive and undertaken with extensive collaboration of key stakeholders. In response to some of the participants’ comments, Asiwaju made a lot of bold policy statements such as his commitment to remove oil subsidy and use the funds saved from the removal on social programmes and providing infrastructure, to his commitment to increasing our gas utilization and monetization by targeting the African and European markets with his plan to continue building the necessary evacuation infrastructure to these markets, as well as his commitment to increase our power generation, transmission and distribution capacity including his commitments to public private partnership to delivering public infrastructure. He made a lot of policy commitments that Nigerians can hold on to, so, we are happy about that.
By and large, we achieved our objectives as we brought the business community to share innovative and novel ideas with the leading frontline candidate that will be sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come May 2023 with the support of the mass of Nigerians and it is important to note that this sort of engagements will be continued leading to the election and sustained during the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Given the importance of power to businesses and productivity, can you tell us how Tinubu will solve the protracted challenge of power in Nigeria?
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has indicated that he will make sure that Nigerians have the energy requirement to excel in their different endeavors and that is a bold policy statement. And he intends to do this by continuing with the huge investment that has gone into improving our transmission lines to making sure that all of the power that is currently being generated is getting to our homes. If you are observant, you will see the various transmission components that are required as part of the deal struck with Germany and Siemens to improve our transmission and distribution capacities being transported to various locations across the country. I have seen a couple of them on our roads and we will begin to see the benefit in more power to our homes very soon.
Asiwaju has also promised to continue the reforms that will keep improving the power sector so that is a very good thing.
He promised that there shall be no more estimated billings which means that Nigerians will only pay for the power they consume which is very important and you know how impactful that is to the ordinary Nigerians.
Also important are his plans to support domestic manufacturing of meters, cables and other crucial elements in delivering power so that Nigerians can also take advantage of the opportunities in the power sector and create more direct and indirect job opportunities within and outside the sector.
Another great initiative of the APC and Asiwaju’s Action Plan is also to deepen reforms and bring forth policy framework to grow the renewable energy sector, looking at alternative sources such as solar panels to bring power to millions of Nigerians who are outside the national grid. Of course, also worthy of mention are his plans to reinvigorate the rural electrification programmes of this present administration and he has given his commitment to mobilize both public and private capital for the delivery of electricity to our rural communities.
Asiwaju is promising to restructure our economy, grow the GDP by 10% by 2027, and cut the unemployment rate by half within 4 years. Where is this growth going to come from? How does he intend to achieve these promises?
It is important to bring clarity to these issues so that Nigerians can make better and informed decisions.
Asiwaju’s economic plan is to restructure our national economic model by leading us towards a production and export-led growth rather than be an import dependent nation. This economic model restructuring is hinged on enhancing our national productivity by increasing our agro-allied activities, encouraging and increasing local manufacturing and industrial revolution as a substitution for the things we import, particularly the everyday items that we use as a people. Asiwaju also intend to intensify Nigeria’s grand national infrastructural campaign to reconstruct and expand the numbers of our highways, railways, airways, supply portable water and renovate our old dams and new ones that will provide irrigation for agriculture and power generation.
We see a nexus between our national economic growth and increased agro-allied productivity, the enablement of agro-allied value adding local manufacturing as well as our national infrastructural campaign focusing not only on major highways but also prioritized rural roads that will serve as conduit of agricultural produce from farm to market and food processing factories.
The combined efforts of increasing our agro-allied productivity, enabling and increasing local manufacturing and undertaking a national infrastructural campaign will be a panacea for his job creation endeavours such that our unemployed population including the very youthful ones will begin to see and take opportunities in agro-allied businesses. The mandate to increase our arable land for cultivation from the present 35% to 65% will come with increased productivity in the sector and that will also be a catalyst for job creation.
The local manufacturing entities will be employers of labour and the national infrastructural campaign will be done on the back of the labour of our youthful population so you can begin to see where the jobs will come from when he said he will half the youth unemployment numbers in four years.
These objectives are achievable with the right strategies that Asiwaju has put before Nigerians. Certainly, all of these activities will ultimately translate into growth in real GDP terms and that is also why we believe that Nigeria will see growth under the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
We can delve deeper into the benefits that will come from his deeply thought-out policies on Transportation, Housing, Power, Oil and Gas and the digital economy which will unleash the economic potentials of Nigeria and show Nigerians that the achievement of his objectives is not built on pipe dreams but on concrete and deeply held believes and action plans.
Talking about Housing, every successive government in Nigeria has promised mass housing for all Nigerians but that seems to be only promises without manifestation. What are Asiwaju’s Housing policies that people can hold on to as housing is a critical measure of well-being for people.
You are right. The issue of housing is very emotive for Nigerians and rightly so. Shelter is an important consideration for everyone, as a matter of fact, it should form part of fundamental human right and Government must do its part not only in providing housing but in enabling people to own their homes. You may also be right that Governments have always promised one defining policy or the other regarding housing but it is important to note that under President Buhari’s Government, the Federal Ministry of Housing has embarked and still embarking on a National Housing Programme with affordability and acceptability as key guiding principles in almost every State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. This is a good step in the right direction and worthy of multiplying.
With respect to Asiwaju’s housing policy, it is as more a housing policy and a social correction tool and I will explain the social correction aspect of it in great details later.
First to the policy as it relates to housing, his objective is to foster mortgage and consumer credit as well as enhance home ownership by Nigerians. So, Asiwaju has said he will look at all the federal agencies responsible for home ownership and bring them under one body that is big enough to execute the mandate to grant low interest rate mortgages directly to the people, guarantee qualified mortgages issued by banks, and purchase mortgages from private banks.
The mandate to guarantee and repurchase mortgages will incentivize banks to give mortgage and will also deepen secondary mortgage market because banks then know that they can always sell their mortgage portfolio to a robust federal agency that is equipped to afford it and this allows them to now issue more mortgage to other Nigerians thereby keeping the housing mortgage industry stimulated.
And there are securitization mechanisms to make this happen once the right policy framework is provided.
It is also the general consensus that further reforms to the Lands Use Act will stimulate home ownership in Nigeria. Envisaged reforms that will streamline and rationalize land conveyance processes, lower transaction costs, eliminate delays and promote efficiency in allocation and use of land will accelerate the growth of the housing industry and increase home ownership with attendant lower cost. Asiwaju is committed to working with all the State Governments under his administration to initiate and bring about these reforms.
Another of his Action Plans is to provide credits and incentives to housing developers such that a significant portion of their housing projects are dedicated to affordable housing as it is done in other climes that we look to emulate.
He has promised to provide the pathway for the poorest amongst us to get into the housing ladder and also encourage other components of our federation to embrace legislation that would make it possible to eliminate payment of yearly and multiple years of rent in advance.
At the core of Asiwaju’s housing and consumer credit and lending reform is the social correction tool anchored on the believe that the practice of home acquisition as well as other consumer products on a cash and carry basis fuels the level of corruption that we have in Nigeria and it is only by fostering a sustainable and inclusive mortgage and consumer lending system that the penchant for corruption can be reduced in Nigeria.
Another crucial matter for consideration is the state of our national security. You will agree with me that all of these lofty plans with respect to the economy, agriculture and all of that cannot be achieved if our security is parlous. Nigerians are worried about the state of our security and we believe it is important to speak to their concern. Do you think Asiwaju Tinubu has done enough to allay their fears?
The general consensus is that security is the bedrock of any prosperous and democratic society and that knowledge is not lost on our candidate. He has stated it clearly that the safety, freedom and prosperity of all Nigerians shall be his highest priorities at all times. His commitment in that regard is not hollow.
His commitment is borne out of his past experience. We know he sanitized the security situation in Lagos during his tenure as Governor using creative policies and interventions to tame violent crimes.
He has promised very radical changes to our security architecture and this is very key because as a country we must redefine our military doctrines and practices using both kinetic and non-kinetic means to respond to our security challenges.
First is the plan to bolster our security forces that will take cognizance of the number of our security and law enforcement personnel vis-a-vis our population. We believe that the number of our military personnel is low compared to our national population. It is grossly below the globally accepted standard and increasing the number of our personnel as well as enhancing their welfare and salaries will not only bridge that gap but will also bring about more jobs.
Asiwaju has promised to set up and train specialist units to be known as Anti-Terrorist Battalions to combat terrorisms, kidnapping, banditry and other violent crimes. This specialized unit will be highly trained and incentivized to undertake this important work. He will also continue the heavy investment to upgrade our tactical communication and logistic support as well as upgrade our weaponry systems which are key to give the sort of aerial and technological advantage needed to suppress insurgents and bandits.
Of most importance however is the counter-insurgency measures which are designed to win the hearts and minds of Nigerians through targeted economic assistance and economic activities that gives hope and will reduce the number of Nigerians that join violent and extreme groups out of despair. Asiwaju believes that if we are able to defeat poverty, we would have gone far in defeating extreme ideologies that gives rise to terrorism and violent crimes.
For businesses, Asiwaju’s plan to set up critical national infrastructure protection plan is most important because it seeks to protect those infrastructure that are critical to businesses realizing their potentials. The critical infrastructure protection plan will provide measures using technology, that will eliminate attacks on national critical infrastructure like pipelines, power stations, transmission and distribution networks, rail transportation, sea and airport and other telecommunication assets that are critical to our day-to-day business activities.
There are robust national security initiatives that time will perhaps not let us dwell on, that when implemented under Asiwaju will bring down our heightened state of insecurity. Measures such as devolution of law enforcement powers to the lower levels of our communities, enhancing the capabilities of our customs and immigration services to monitor our borders as well as establishment of forest guards will go a long way in dealing with our security challenges and give us the enabling environment to thrive economically.
What in your view are the underlying reasons for the insecurity we see in the country and banditry particularly in the Northern Nigeria. Are they driven by economic challenges or are they political in nature?
Insecurity in any given society is mostly driven by lack of economic opportunities. And that is why Asiwaju’s plans to address some of our security challenges by enhancing our economic opportunities are commendable. Without a doubt, a much more inclusive economic environment will enable people to earn decent income and they will be less inclined to take actions that are disruptive to peace.
In the north, the security challenges we face in that part of the country will be addressed in my view by few fundamental actions. First is for us to recognize the driver of these conflicts.
They are first security challenges exacerbated by climate change that has degraded the environment and made the sort of sustenance farming that these communities are used to much more difficult all through the Sahel region to the Northern part of this country. This is what fuels economic migration that gives rise to conflict and dislocation in our community.
Second is the issue of civil strives that arose in countries such as Libya and Mali that also fueled non-state actors’ migration towards that part of our country and brought about arms proliferation.
The third consideration is akin to resource fueled conflict. We feel that the security situation in the North East and North West and generally in the North is amplified by the exploration of our mineral resources that abound in these states by unlicensed operators and non-state actors.
The solutions are therefore threefold. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has stated that he will complete the Great Green Wall of the North to mitigate the effects of desertification and deforestation that compounds economic migration and leads to instability. The Great Green Wall of Nigeria is part of a wider African Union led initiative to address desertification, land degradation, promote climate change adaption and resilience strategies and improve food security in the Sahara and Sahel regions. And under the initiative in Nigeria the focus will be on states such as Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara consisting about 35% of Nigeria total land area with implication for over 50 million people to begin to develop resilient and adaptation measures, promote sustainable livelihood opportunities for communities and rehabilitate over 22,500sqkm of degraded land for agricultural purposes. These initiatives will create jobs, increase economic opportunities and ultimately work to reduce the state of insecurity in those areas.
The second intervention that Asiwaju has put forward in his manifesto is to strengthen the ability of our Immigration services to patrol and monitor our borders using aerial and ground based technology as well as mobile patrol units. But most importantly is his resolve to intensify, as a regional leader, the sort of positive international collaboration with key neighboring countries that will ensure that the sorts of internal conflicts in those countries that tend to spill over and affect our national security are reduced to the barest minimum.
Another intervention as espoused by Asiwaju is in the area of combating unlicensed and unregulated exploration of our mineral resources. As I have said earlier, these illegal practices fuel conflict and insecurity with non-state actors trying to get control of our mineral resources using violent means. Asiwaju government will institute a much more regulated framework for mining our mineral resources, working with local artisan and craftsmen to learn and earn income. A much more regulated solid minerals space will create jobs for members of the host communities.
You will agree that women are the bedrock of any society given the transformative roles they play in the fabric of the society. Please tell us a little bit about your candidate’s plan for women. Are there any affirmative policies towards empowering Nigerian women?
Asiwaju Tinubu is all about social inclusion and empowerment of women. He has promised to work with the lawmakers to promote female employment in government offices, and increase women participation in government to over 35%.
Women led businesses will be incentivized by concessionary loans and schemes. Women will be accorded high priority on the social programs to empower them.
Asiwaju’s government will fight domestic violence and abuse. A practical example of this is in Lagos State with the only State in the Federation with a Department dedicated to fighting domestic abuse. He will strengthen social services and support victims of domestic violence. Prosecution of domestic violent cases will be paramount under his justice sector reforms that will be undertaken. His government will expand the use of specialist police units to investigate and handle cases of domestic violence cases.
It is also useful to note that commercial banks will be encouraged to support women owned businesses nationwide through the use of concessionary loans and incentive schemes.
What are the plans to bring down the number of children, particularly girls, that are out of schools all across the country.
Asiwaju acknowledges that education is fundamental in the fight against poverty and deprivation and he has committed to providing the leadership and action to urge governments at all levels to initiate programme that will ensure school aged girls get a fair chance at education and stay longer in school.
More females will be encouraged to study STEM subjects that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths through scholarships. More attention will be paid to fighting domestic violence and abuse as those are contributory factors in keeping children out of schools.
Asiwaju will create a task force to address the challenge and intensify school feeding initiatives and other social programmes that will seek to keep at-risk children in schools.
We know Asiwaju Tinubu has said education will be fundamental rights for Nigerians, what are his plans regarding primary education which is the most important level of education for early learning.
Indeed, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said education will be a natural, fundamental and constitutional right for all Nigerians and that is important because it then means that all the policies for the sector will come under real urgency and focus. The main objectives under the education policy are to ensure abundance of qualified and capable teachers, creating safe and conducive learning environment for students and teachers alike, and improving our educational outcomes such that it becomes fit for our purpose as a nation.
So, Asiwaju will bring his leadership to bear on these issues because as you are aware, primary education is under the purview of Local and State Governments and the majority of the primary and secondary schools that will make an impact are under these tiers of government so beyond the national primary education framework that Asiwaju will champion, the implementation of the framework will be done by Local and State Government and this is why it is equally important to elect APC candidates down the ballot for effective implementation.
The plans are therefore to improve the quality of our educational infrastructure by eradicating overcrowding, and equip schools with the cutting-edge facilities for modern day learning. The safety of pupils in our places of learning will also be guaranteed.
Asiwaju is also committed to improving the quality of learning by revamping the curriculum to tailor them to our educational requirements as a people and increase teachers training. The plan is for us to have comparable learning and teaching experiences across the country irrespective of your location.
A phenomenon that we are dealing with which the Private sector is also grappling is what is now known as the “Japa Syndrome”. How does your Party and its candidate intend to deal with this issue as it constitutes a brain drain of our country.
The Japa syndrome is an unwelcome phenomenon. We acknowledge that it is a problem but it is important to note the causes so we are able to appreciate the solutions as contained in our initiatives and Action Plans.
You would agree with me that the underlying reason for the majority of Nigerians leaving is basically to seek a better life in another country. Whether they get this better life and at what cost is a different question but the underlying reasons why the choose to leave are not unknown to us. They are japaing because of perceived insecurity, lack of social safety nets and the state of our social infrastructure particularly in healthcare and education. Some of them leave not only for themselves but sometimes for the sake of their children. And this has been a generational thing. You would recall that from time immemorial, Nigerians have always sought greener pastures in developed countries. It happened in the 70s, it happened in the 80s, it happened in the 90s and it is happening now.
But the phenomenon is not irreversible. It is easily reversible with purposeful leadership with the right policy framework in place. If you look at our policies in respect of security, economy, education, healthcare, agriculture, creative industry, infrastructure and sport they are intentionally designed to create jobs and opportunities for the people, particularly the youths and working class that are subject of this japa syndrome. I do believe that if Nigerians are given the right opportunities, they will be more inclined to stay in Nigeria to earn a living and raise their families and that is the choice we must give them, the choice of prosperity, the choice of opportunities and hope. These choices are what an Asiwaju’s government will prioritize through the plethora of novel inventions contained in his Action Plans. We therefore have no fear that once the right policies are implemented the phenomenon will be a thing of the past.
We know that this present Government of Buhari has done a lot of social policy programmes, Nigerians will like to know whether the social policy programmes will continue under his administration.
Asiwaju has reiterated his commitment to continue and deepen some of the social welfare programmes such as National Social Investment Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer, Homegrown School Feeding and N-Power. All very successful and impactful programmes. These programmes will be deepened under Asiwaju and new programmes will be initiated.
Remember that Asiwaju has said that savings from oil subsidy removal will go to social welfare programmes. There will be more, such as unconditional income support for elderly, extremely poor and disabled persons.
All of these social welfare programmes are designed to incentivize the less privilege to make informed decisions about sending their children to school and making life changing decisions.
Talking about electing other APC Candidates down the ballot, would you say the APC led administration in States have done enough to justify the trust of the people for another term in office?
Without a doubt there has been challenges in governance given the global economic outlook generally but from the perspective of the Governors, at least the one that I have been privy to observe in Lagos I would say they have done considerably well. We also hear commendable news about the performances of other APC Governors in Borno, Kaduna and other APC States in the delivery public infrastructure and services.
In Lagos for instance, we have seen unprecedented investment in social infrastructure such as healthcare with increased investment in maternal and child healthcare infrastructure, in the area of education with visible investments in school infrastructure and teachers’ training and welfare. We also see the full commitment being devoted to enhancing mass transportation in Lagos through massive investment in rail network to ease the movement of people and goods across the metropolis. The State just announced the award of a concession to build the 4th Mainland Bridge. These are and will be life impacting infrastructural development which should be applauded by all.
In my view, the Lagos example of dedicated leadership overtime starting from the time of Bola Ahmed Tinubu leading to the present Governor Babajide Sanwoolu is a great example of how men and women committed to a common developmental agenda can bring about incremental development to a society and it is important that we transmit that mindset to the Federal level under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Lastly, all of these initiatives will cost money. With the state of our finances where will the money for all these laudable initiatives come from? How will we fund the programmes on security, national infrastructural campaign, housing, education and healthcare that he has put before Nigerians?
First and foremost is the need for us to understand the mental constraints that our budgetary methodology has put us by basing our annual budget mainly on projected oil revenues rather than on our projected growth aspirations. Asiwaju intends to change this budgetary methodology where our projected growth level will drive our budgetary process and estimates. While it is useful to ask where the money will come from, the real question we should ask ourselves is what level of growth do we desire as a people and once we have determined that we will then ensure that we fund those projects and programmes that will bring about that growth whilst still keeping an eye on inflationary trends, bogus borrowing and excessive taxation. It is indeed a radical re-imagination of our economic model as put forward by Asiwaju.
Having said this, it is important to educate Nigerians about the sources of government funds to embark on projects. Public finances are either from taxes or debts. There are no other sources of funding for government’s expenditures except of course where Government gets creative and enable public private partnership to deliver certain infrastructures.
Funding for his initiatives will come from increased revenue that will arise from the tax reforms and other measures that will optimize government revenue. You have to always remember that Asiwaju through creative initiatives and technology started the unprecedented growth of Lagos’s revenue profile and similar measures will be used to shore up our finances, close loopholes, enhance the efficiency of tax collection and bring more people into the tax net without increasing tax rates. We need and we shall get more people to pay their fair share of taxes and what the Government of Asiwaju will do is to give people a greater sense of transparency and responsibility in relation to their taxes by engendering the sustainability of the social contract.
The Government of Asiwaju is also committed to fighting corruption, inefficiency and waste in Government. By streamlining the amount that government spends on itself, eliminating waste and inefficiency and ensuring that government fund is used for public good, funds will be more available to tackle socially impactful projects. Remember also that some of the money to be saved from the removal of fuel subsidy will go into these social initiatives.
We are clear on the strategies regarding taxes as I mentioned earlier. As to the debt, Asiwaju is going to limit the foreign debt obligations to protect our exchange rate, guard against inflation, and preserve our foreign currency reserve. His administration will only take on debt to finance projects that will generate cash flows to repay the debts and promote economic growths.
I can sit down here with you and speak at length at how these initiatives will be funded but what is clear in our mind is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will bring to bear his experience and determination in managing public finance to fund our security expansion as espoused, rehabilitate our economy, increase our infrastructural stock and expand our social safety net for inclusive growth.