Omisore: Bola Ahmed Tinubu Foundation (BAT) not politically modified
•The Foundation Will Outlive Tinubu
Ahmed Ipoola Omisore is the Director General, Bola Ahmed Tinubu Foundation (BAT), an organisation specifically founded to assist in human capacity building as well as giving back to the society. By its organizational structure, BAT coordinates all philanthropic programmes of the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (1999-2007). In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE, Omisore explained that BAT does not have anything to do with politics of the founder. Two officials of the foundation – Mobolaji Sanusi and Biodun Ajiboye, Publicity Chief and Consultant respectively were also present at the interview session.
What are the imperatives of BAT?
The foundation is a philanthropic body designed to coordinate all philanthropic gestures of Tinubu. Its office is at No 15 Adeyemo Alakija Ikeja GRA.
The organizational theme of the Foundation is, ‘Breaking the Shackles of Poverty.’ No doubt, there is poverty in the country and the former governor of Lagos State has always been on the forefront of dispensing humanitarian gestures. He did it as a politician, as a governor of Lagos and he has continued. But, he never put up an umbrella body that could warehouse his gestures.
This foundation was established to project all he has done to enable him do more, while ensuring that the society is better for it.
How do you marry that with the public perception that BAT was set up to oil the wheel of Tinubu’s 2023 presidential aspiration?
It may interest you to know that the foundation was registered long ago. And, when it comes to being kind and giving, nobody will doubt Tinubu’s readiness to help those in need.
It is the professional packaging of the foundation that you are just seeing. The organisation has always been there. We are here to create a society, where empathy and humanity are a variable plan for sustaining the unity of the country.
It means reaching out to all parts of the country in the area of humanitarian service and doing what he has been doing. We all know the long list of Tinubu’s philosophical achievements. I am here as Director General of the foundation to put more impetus into the whole thing.
You sound as if you are the pioneer DG?
Yes, I am. That is why in our mission statement he said we are out to empower and transform lives of Nigerians and to make our country a better society. His determination is to break the shackles of poverty by helping people attain good leadership culture.
It is not about giving material things alone, the foundation also helps develop human skills. When you empower somebody, you are making the person a better and quality resource for the society. For instance, you can see how many leaders Tinubu has trained. And today, many of them are in leadership positions. They can point at Tinubu as their mentor. This is not limited to politics; he has trained and helped people in different endeavours. He has helped to establish weak people in many aspects so that they can achieve their optimum potentials. The foundation is all about humanity.
In specific terms, what can you say the foundation has done?
As I said, the building is new, but the institution, BAT foundation, is not. It is a thing he has been doing long ago. Everybody knows him for his philanthropic endeavour. Recently, the foundation donated a bus to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State chapter, because we know that capacity building is needed in the media. Professional journalists are part of Tinubu’s constituency, he being a publisher himself. We reached out to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, orphanages and widows. The foundation has done a lot of things outside politics.
How do you tackle the challenge of selecting beneficiaries?
There is no political party consideration in our selection process. The foundation is for all Nigerians. Nigerians who are in need of help are free to come. Talk of orphanages, we reach out to organisations. We write the organisations in charge of orphanages and widows. That’s what we do. Most of these organisations already have a data bank; even if you want a million people in need of help they will give you. That’s the best place, because those organisations are everywhere in the country. They have the lists and contacts of indigent people.
Nigerians would want to know how BAT is different from Tinubu’s 2023 presidential ambition?
The brand, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not new. It has been there for long and known as a philanthropist and it has nothing to do with the 2023 elections. Tinubu has been doing good to people for long and there is a litany and long list of his contributions to individuals’ development.
Don’t forget he has a bank of people he has lifted. The case of late Fatai Rollin Dollar, musician is still fresh in the minds of all. He gave him accommodation and other things I cannot mention. Politics does not stop Tinubu from doing what is good.
In terms of funding, the foundation has a board and organisations are free to donate into it. The board funds projects and several organisations are free to donate to it. We are not relying on anybody, but those who want to key into it, are not disallowed.
How do you think your professional background and experience helping your job as DG of BAT Foundation?
I have been a public relations practitioner and we have been trained on how to relate with and solve public relations problems. If Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as a product needs advice, he contacts people like us, particularly as an experienced politician and an image-maker.
Most importantly, experienced people, I am over 70 years and I have been in politics and public development. So, I know what public perception means. We are all out here to support Tinubu on his disposition towards the public. Our effort is to harness all he has been doing and to keep track of them. With me as DG, Bola Sanusi in charge of the Media and Otunba Ajiboye from Abuja as consultant, I think we have what it takes to manage the foundation.
I can tell you boldly that BAT foundation has nothing to do with politics. It is an organisation that is out to reach out to citizens. If you look at our programme, we train and equip youths in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and until of recent, we have COVID-19 awareness programme and many other things. We don’t involve ourselves in politics
But, there are insinuations that you secured the job based on your personal relationship with Tinubu…
I am a politician and was a member of House of Assembly for eight years. There is a personal link between us. He is a friend and a brother and a leader. I have a lot to give as DG of the foundation. I am a philanthropist myself and I run my own foundation, which I have managed for over 20 years. The most important thing is the ability to interpret the needs of the people and for Tinubu to react. The way this foundation is structured, it will outlive Tinubu.
Even when you look at it this way, a man of Tinubu’s status must have done a lot of things for a lot of people. We are trying to present a united front, which we are doing now. The main trust of the foundation is to create a coordinated front, because the national leader has a lot to give.
We want to try as much as possible to ensure that most of the things Tinubu will be doing will come through this foundation. I must also let you know that a lot of people have been showing interest, because he has touched many lives. Tinubu has helped people socially, politically and economically. Tinubu is seriously involved in this and I have no doubt that very soon, people will understand what we are doing beyond the precepts of politics.
When anybody hears BAT, the first thing they think is politics, but people should not just write us off. This organisation is about helping people and not politics.
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