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How APC leaders rehearsed comeback schemes at Tinubu’s colloquium

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Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu delivers a speech during a rally organized to celebrate his 66th birthday in Lagos, on March 29, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS


It was advertised as a colloquium in honour of one of its prominent leaders, but at the end of the day, it appeared a dry rehearsal by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for its second outing in the 2019 general election.

Apart from the fact that the President, Muhammadu Buhari, attended the occasion in person, it was a gathering of who is who in Nigeria nay, Southwest politics. That might have been why leaders of APC used the occasion of 66th birthday anniversary and 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium, which held at the Eko Convention Center, Victoria Island, Lagos, to analyse governance in Lagos State, as well as, Tinubu’s contribution to the development of the place and his foot soldiers.

Dignitaries on the occasion included incumbent and former governors of APC states, members of the National Assembly and traditional rulers, including Governors Abdualfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Senator Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Godwin Obaseki (Edo); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); Senators Barnabas Gemade, Ben Bruce, Andy Uba, Borofice; former governors Segun Osoba; Adebayo Alao Akala; Oba Rilwanu Akiolu among so many others.

But, as the speakers took turns to contribute on the subject matter, greater airtime and volume were dedicated to deflecting attacks from and directing barbs at the opposition. Briefly the 10th Bola Tinubu colloquium was all about a politician, his politics and imminent succession politics of 2019.

Pointers to the likely political undertone of the ceremony emerged when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, declared a public holiday and lined up some official functions, particularly the commissioning of a bus terminus, for President Muhammadu Buhari, who was invited to chair the occasion.

The fact that President Buhari came to the event sans the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, despite the fact that other of his close allies, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the celebrant and host governor, Akinwunmi Ambode attended with their spouses, shows the political undertone of the ceremony.

In his remarks, the President, who called Tinubu his friend and political ally, said: “I call on Nigerians to join me to celebrate Asiwaju, a man who is widely known as a political strategist and I have come to see him as a man who cares about people and is a fountain of ideas for the economy and for the common man and woman. He is a true democrat and we appreciate his contribution for Nigeria’s capital progress.”

Aisha, having voted against a repeat of the journey that saw APC in power, might have excused herself from swimming against the tide of changing circumstances and public opinion.

Perception is everything
The leaders of APC who came to Lagos to felicitate with one of theirs seem to believe that the same communication tools they employed in 2015 could still help them sway public opinion and change prevailing negative perception about governance in the past three years.

Although the theme of this year’s edition of the colloquium is “Investing in People,” each of the speakers, including President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the celebrant, took turns to lambast the opposition and contrasting theirs with the immediate past administration of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In his remarks, President Buhari glossed over the initial hiccups of his administration explaining that when “we came in as APC leaders, we put our heads together, thinking and believing in ourselves that we can change Nigeria for good. We believed in ourselves and our country.”The President praised the contributions of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to national development, adding that his working relationship with Vice President Osinbajo, has been very fruitful and cordial. He added that after listening to the Vice President’s speech, he felt there was nothing more to add.

It was obvious that the President was relieved by Osinbajo’s tirades on the preceding administration wherein the Vice President regurgitated his claims that the preceding PDP Federal Government engaged in hurried, but reckless looting of the treasury at the twilight of their tenure. Contrasting the APC administration with the one they succeeded, Osinbajo said: “We as a party and our government must show the difference between us. We must stop that corruption. When you fight corruption the way we do, it will fight back, especially when you listen to the voice of the people. You must ensure that we defend their rights. Those who squandered the resources of this country must pay for it.”

While declaring that the country was getting better everyday, the Vice President said the Buhari administration has chosen the path of the people, adding that all those that looted the treasury must be made to account for it.He explained that if the administration had waited for the economy to pick up many would have involved in illegal things. “We intended to invest in agriculture, seven million Nigerians are engaged in agriculture. If we don’t kill corruption it would kill the country. This an existential problem for Nigeria.”

Osinbajo said the corruption of the previous 16 years destroyed the country, contending that “every time we talk about it our opponent says don’t talk about it. But we must let our people know, we must not afford to go the same way again.On his part, perhaps as the Generalissimo of APC, when Tinubu mounted the stage, he went direct to the point. His was to poke his fingers at the opposition, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and his fangled third force movement; whom he alluded to as “somebody who is writing letter these days, a letter of politics, bad belle letters.”

Tinubu said when opposition says do not talk about the destruction of the past sixteen years, it sounds as a thief who does not want his thievery to be discussed, but that rather people should steal their own.Dismissing the alleged plans by the opposition to take over power, Tinubu declared: “Forget about those parties, they won’t come back.” And sounding dismissively about the socio-economic challenges in the country in the past three years, Tinubu explained, “no nation is without challenges, even America is facing challenges under President Donald Trump.”

He deflected the counter accusation from the opposition that the ruling party invested corrupt money in electing President Buhari, saying: “We didn’t say we will not be challenged. But, we need to report to Nigerians that they looted, wasted our resources. They did not do what they promised, the market gave you the maximum returns on oil.”

Thanking Nigerians for “being patient with us,” Tinubu noted that there is a “difference between us and them, like night and day.” He expressed happiness that the ship of state is being stayed, adding that theirs is a voice of hope.He taunted the PDP further for its offer of apology to Nigerians, saying: “Don’t take their apology, they lied, they falsified, changed figures. For 16 years, gave us fake figures, then they said, don’t talk about it.

“We are on a mission to rescue, we have a good leader to emulate. We are people to invest in that what we must do. You don’t have to paint a house of N10m same day with cash. We are going to work on the person, plan to stimulate growth and the economy.”The celebrant argued that every thinking Nigerian will know that Nigeria has challenges, but also what we are doing about it. “We must make a promise to Nigerians that hope is back. We will bring Nigerians to the right path prosperity and banish poverty,” he added.

Lagos, yesterday, today and forward march
Osinbajo, who led discussion on ‘Linking the Philosophy To Governance and Commitment’, eulogized the celebrant, explaining that Tinubu laid the foundation of what Lagos State is enjoying by way of seamless development.The Vice President, who served then as Attorney General, gave an insight into how the government functioned under Tinubu, stressing that he was delighted to have gathered useful experience in politics under the former governor.

In an anecdote, Osinbajo recalled how the current controversial Land Use Charge was conceived and successfully implemented under the Tinubu administration, despite opposition to it. He said: “Some of us believed that it should not be introduced at all, others believed it should be introduced. We were having a meeting in a small room, Asiwaju, Yemi Cardoso, Wale Edun, some others and myself and the argument got so heated that Asiwaju asked us if we were the ones the people elected. He stormed out of the room.”

Osinbajo added that later when the governor came back and met them still in the room, the discussion continued explaining that “in the end, we developed that law and it has become part of the success story in Lagos. This showed that Asiwaju is one leader who allows people to develop ideas.” Osinbajo explained.

Earlier while welcoming the guests to the colloquium, Governor Ambode lauded the Tinubu years, remarking that the period spanning 1999 to 2007 exposed the depth of his governance capacity, “which has over the years sustained his relevance in the nation’s polity.” The governor recalled that after his years in office, Tinubu “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.”
  
To Ambode, there was no better birthday present that his friends and well wishers could give to the celebrant than epitomized in the theme of the 10th colloquium, stressing that Tinubu’s legacy was built around his capacity to invest in people.Stressing that the colloquium was not just a talk shop, but a platform for the generation of ideas on the need to invest in people, the governor declared that the “ultimate objective and expectation is for the forum to avail policy makers at all levels of government new ideas and perspectives and to enrich the process of policy formulation, design and implementation.”

He said: “Whether it is called human capital development or people-centric investment, the meaning is clear enough and its importance is undeniable.  For us on the political landscape, it may well be the greatest governance challenge.  Creating highly impactful programs and policies for our people is my simple understanding of good governance.  At the end of the day, the level of investment on our people will determine our future sustenance as a Nation always.

“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.”

When the celebrant rendered his responses, it was obvious that as a politician, whose greatest investment in the power game is APC, the declining socio-economic well meaning of the people did not escape his attention.Tinubu informed the chairman of the occasion, President Buhari, that he alongside other members of the party would articulate plans and programmes to lift the country from poverty to prosperity.

Of course the former Lagos governor had in his written speech assured that “after 66 years, I am not about to change my walk or change my talk at this point. There is something we must examine more closely. The song of western-appointed experts that we must target certain levels of expenditure on various programs to reach sustainable growth.

“Few people dare question the veracity of this claim, the soundness of this song. However, the question of cause and effect casts a long shadow over the entire procession. Is it true that sustaining certain levels of expenditure will bring economic development? Or is the deeper, more fundamental truth that economic development will generate heightened levels of social expenditure?

“Economic history points to the latter explanation as the most viable road to durable national improvement. We must define our path to development correctly if we are to have any chance of following that path faithfully. Yes, our society must invest sufficiently in lessening the most brutal aspects of poverty. We cannot allow people to be broken by the poverty unattended,” he submitted.The APC moving spirit noted, “the great escape from poverty comes not by making poverty more livable. Our escape comes by burying poverty under an edifice of wealth creation and equitable distribution of said wealth.”

He said it would be the height of cruelty to tell a man dying of thirst that he must wait until we build him a perfect well before we can give him all the water he will ever want. “He needs but a cup to drink. But he needs it here and now. Waiting is not a viable option. Thus, we must hurry the cup unto him. Only once that is done, do we work on constructing a well, so that he may never again fall prey to such a danger.

“It is at this point that we must draw a different conceptual distinction than the one normally drawn between physical capital and human capital investment. I posit that we profit more by drawing a conceptual distinction between the type of social investment that helps us manage or mitigate poverty as compared to that investment, which leads to economic growth that reduces if not eliminates poverty at its very root.”

Tinubu pointed out that although poverty mitigating investment may soften the harshest blows of penury, it does not offer great escape from it. “For example, every human being has a right to health care. Giving such care is a moral duty of any compassionate government. Yet, however healthy that person may become as a result, this does not mean his economic situation will necessarily improve because of better health,” he added.

Turning to the host governor and his protégé, Ambode, Tinubu commended his efforts at expanding the frontiers of economic development in Lagos. Assuring the governor of his continued support, Asiwaju said: “You have been exceptionally committed to the progress and economic development of Lagos state and I can only say thank you. The act of many good jobs is more work and after beautiful challenges is more success.”

As Tinubu spoke, President Buhari was in rapt attention admiring Asiwaju as he brought the Jagaban in him to full play. However, there was no mistaking the fact that as a party, APC is well aware of challenges that lay ahead. Is Buhari counting on Tinubu to raise his hands once more at the next battle? Yes, but the challenge this time around is that only the President will do the explaining of what informed his acts of omissions or commission in the past three years, when the come comes to become.


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