After 34 days rest overseas, Tinubu affirms readiness for task ahead
• Allow me eat amala, rest, and see you tomorrow – Tinubu tells supporters
• Obi: With several problems in Nigeria, no serious leader will go to rest
Though it was not another political campaign, the surging crowd was enough to prove otherwise. At exactly 4.17p.m., when the doors of the private jet that brought the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, swung open, an elated Tinubu emerged with his two arms raised to acknowledge greetings from the relieved supporters.
Betraying neither signs of ill-health nor fatigue, the President-elect yesterday returned to Nigeria after overseas vacation that lasted five weeks. The waiting audience of supporters went into frenzy with exultant joy that dispelled earlier suspense and tension caused by the President-elect’s failure to arrive by 2:00 p.m., as earlier announced by the secretary of the recently-dissolved Presidential Campaign Council, James Faleke.
The Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, alongside other top members of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), including the party’s erstwhile national secretary, Waziri Bulama, were on hand to welcome Tinubu.
Due to strict airport security restrictions, only few supporters, who were earlier accredited to join in the welcoming party were allowed into the international wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The President-elect appealed to his overwhelming supporters to allow him rest upon his return to the country. Addressing the elated crowd, Tinubu said he would be taking some rest tonight (Monday), and will then see them all tomorrow (Tuesday).
The President-elect also said that after a long time, he would like to eat some amala, a Yoruba delicacy.
“I’m happy to be back. I have rested, I’m refreshed and I’m ready for the task ahead. Forget about what the rumour mill may have told you. I’m strong, very strong.”
Asked about his plans for the country, he said he had been consulting and planning with a view to putting together a strong team, so he could hit the ground running once he assumes office on May 29.
“I am extremely excited to be back home after my trip to Europe. I am hale and hearty. I am preparing for inauguration on May 29, and consulting with those who will be part of the new government,” he said.
The President-elect was accompanied by his wife, Senator Remi Tinubu, and son, Seyi Tinubu. Among those at the airport to receive him were House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as Governors Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Abubakar Sani-Bello (Niger), and former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff.
Also at the airport were former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu; APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Abubakar Kyari, Deputy National Chairman (South), Emma Enekwu; and APC National Woman Leader, Dr. Betta Edu.
Recall that the President-elect travelled out of the country on March 21, a day after the first and second runners-up of the presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, filed petitions challenging his return as winner of the February 25 poll.
The sudden departure of the President-elect from the country fuelled speculations that he travelled out to attend to his failing health, even as his Special Assistant on Media, Tunde Rahman, explained in a statement that Tinubu decided to take a deserved break after an energy sapping electioneering.
Rahman added that after taking some rest in Paris and London, “the President-elect would be going to Saudi Arabia for Umrah (Lesser Hajj).” Further speculations of ill-health began to swell in the country, when contrary to Rahman’s explanations, Tinubu was not seen anywhere around Mecca for the Lesser Hajj.
The growing tension was, however, doused on Sunday, April 23, when Faleke, in a tweet, announced: “My dear brothers and sisters of this unique family, I wish to inform and request of us all that anyone in Abuja and Nasarawa is invited to join in receiving our people’s President-elect and First Lady tomorrow by 2:00p.m.”
On his return, Tinubu is expected to meet with members of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) to resolve issues surrounding the zoning of the leadership of the National Assembly as well as distribution of appointive offices among party faithful .
“The President-elect is also expected to receive some briefing on arrangements for the forthcoming inauguration and activities of the transition committee,” Faleke explained in an interaction with journalists.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State, Joseph Hayab, while reacting to Tinubu’s return, urged Nigerians to stop being pessimistic about the President-elect’s state of health or his capacity to address the humongous challenges confronting the country.
Specifically, Hayab called on Christian faithful to commit the President-elect into the hands of God so that he can hit the ground running, to first address the issue of insecurity, which the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, failed to address, despite the promises.
Hayab said the onus is on Tinubu himself to show seriousness and determination to prove his skeptics wrong by first addressing those obvious issues that have drawn the country back under the current leader.
He said: “Tinubu should come with strategies that will give Nigerians hope. He should prove skeptics wrong that he is not a religious bigot as many people perceived him due to the Muslim/Muslim mandate. I am personally praying for him not for any ulterior motives, but because this country cannot afford to have another leader who lacks the capacity to perform or take us out of the present predicament.”
A former Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, said he has no iota of doubt about the capacity of Tinubu to turn the country around, just as he added that his return would bring a solution to the controversies surrounding the election of the zoning and leadership of the National Assembly.
“You can see him bubbling. If he didn’t travel, he would have been weighed down by pressure from those looking for appointments,” he said. Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Obi, said yesterday in Awka that he had no reason to take a rest after the 2023 presidential campaigns and the election that followed, arguing that those who had to rest had their reason for doing so.
Addressing reporters after visiting the Muslim community in Awka Central Mosque to celebrate the Eid-El Fitri with them in Anambra State, Obi said the kind of problems facing Nigeria did not warrant that her leaders should rest as there are many issues that require consistent attention.
He said: “People who want to rest can go and rest. Me, I am not resting because I have to be visiting schools and hospitals and be interacting with people.
“No serious leader will go and rest in Nigeria. We will continue to visit as many people as we can, and also support them in the best way we can.” He told the Muslim community that his visit had nothing to do with politics because the campaigns had ended.
According to him, it is not only when one is seeking political office that he should visit people, adding that no matter what people do in politics, but Nigerians must also remain one.
He added: “I am a Christian and you are Muslims, but we are all Nigerians. Politics can also not divide us. I have never seen any road that is built and is only for Muslims to drive on, or seen any market where only Christians buy bread cheaper than Muslims. If you know such a market, please tell me, let me go and buy.
“If you go to Dubai, the land on which one of the biggest churches is built was donated by the ruler of Dubai who is a Moslem. In England too, a mosque was donated by the Queen, who is the head of the Church of England.
“We are one and we are created by the same God. We should therefore not allow religion or politics to divide us. Nigeria will continue to be one irrespective of political affiliation.
“When I told people that I will start fighting poverty from the north, some people said that the North is not poorer than South and that since I’m from the South, I should start here. But the truth is that I know that the vast land which we would use to solve the problem of poverty in Nigeria is in the North.”