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‘Buhari better than other presidential candidates’

By Seye Olumide
19 December 2018   |   3:21 am
As an average Nigerian, I will pitch my tent with, endorse and vote for President Buhari in next year’s presidential elections on the basis that he is the right person among all the presidential candidates that can take Nigeria...

Governor Ambode. Photo: Twitter/AkinwunmiAmbode

After his controversial elimination from the Lagos State gubernatorial poll, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has been campaigning vigorously for Buhari/Osinbajo’s second term in the 2019 presidential election. In this interview with some journalists during the reconciliation meeting with aggrieved All Progressives Party (APC) aspirants in Marina, the outgoing governor justifies his involvement in the president’s reelection campaign. Seye Olumide was there

Why do you think Buhari deserves reelection in 2019?
As an average Nigerian, I will pitch my tent with, endorse and vote for President Buhari in next year’s presidential elections on the basis that he is the right person among all the presidential candidates that can take Nigeria to the next level and the next trajectory of prosperity and progress.  
Apart from the fact that he has been president in the last three and half years, he had also been head of state during the military era. But again, if you crosscheck all other candidates, especially the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the incumbent has a higher integrity quotient.

Buhari is more passionate about Nigeria and Nigerians, especially the poor, than the PDP candidate. So, it is on the basis of integrity, on the basis of somebody who is passionate-two values are what I cherish and practice, as the governor of Lagos State-I will go for Buhari.

It is clear that President Buhari and I are like-minds and I will obviously engage Nigerians that those two values are what can bring prosperity to the country. Nigeria needs somebody that has character to create an enabling environment for progress and development.
But beyond character and integrity, you can see that in the last three and half years, we have made fundamental preparations to push this economy to its positive trajectory and that’s what the incumbent has been trying to do, but Nigerians seem not to understand. If you have cumulative 16 years of disruptive infrastructural tendencies, there is no way such deficit and decay could have been corrected in a single tenure; you have to create the environment to achieve that.
Let me give one simple example. Today, the government is reconstructing the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, which is more or less the nerve centre to the economy of this country. The deplorable state of this particular road has never been touched in the last 40 years and out of that period, PDP spent 16, but in the last three and half years, the Buhari administration has taken a bold step to rehabilitate the Apapa axis to be able to push the economy forward.

This is necessary because anything that happens around the Lagos economy will definitely have positive trajectory on the nation’s economy as a whole. So, it’s clear, if you see a government that decides and says, ‘look, even in these years of abandonment they want to take on the issue, knowing fully well that in another two to three years it would be delivered.’ So they need to monitor it; giving it back to those who abandoned it is not a good course to run.
When you look at the reconstruction of the Niger Bridge, it’s been on for the last four decades also; these are fundamental infrastructure. So it gives you more or less a very clear mind what the government of Buhari will do if he is taking on fundamental things that would push the economy forward. All we need is to support him and also make a whole lot of economic technocrats available to rally round him and take this country to the next level.
If you move away from infrastructure and you are looking at investment in agriculture, a very clear example is LAKE Rice; it was just to prove a point that we can do local production of rice and project our own revenue of which the Federal Government has been supportive. So, we just need additional one or two years to allow us do that and then importation of rice would become a thing of the past.
When you look at things that have to do with inclusive governance, you know all these TraderMoni and allowing Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to have access to interest-free loans is what you mean by inclusive governance. PDP never did that for 16 years. So, why will you now say its candidate is coming to do inclusive governance?

There are therefore clear examples why we must all rally round President Buhari and give him a second term for him to consolidate on all the things that are very dear to us; the things that would grow the GDP of Nigeria, the things that would enable the poor to have access and create more jobs and also allow the economy to move forward and in terms of what we have in fiscal and monetary rates and policy. It is important that those are the things the president just needs from Nigerians to be able to push this country forward. That’s why anytime any day he is the best option for Nigeria right now.

But how far do you think Buhari has fared in the area of security in the last three years, especially with the recent reports of attacks and skirmishes in parts of the country?
Security is the number one achievement of this present government. When Buhari came to power in 2015, the security situation in the Northeast was not what it is now. People might be politically funny by trying to create stories from nothing, but the truth is that what we had in 2015 and the relative peace we are experiencing in 2018 are entirely two different things. The 2015 security crisis was handed over by the PDP to the Buhari administration.

Against all odds the country has regained lost territories and the enemies have been pushed out. There is relative peace in the Northeast and the truth is that Lagos, of which I govern, is the most secure city in Africa right now. Is it possible for me to do it alone?

Of course, it’s through the support and assistance of the Federal Government. So, if there is anybody that is ever going to talk about security, the peace that we are enjoying and the protection of lives and property in Lagos is a reflection of Federal Government’s desire to keep Lagos safe. I am therefore urging all Nigerians to continue to stick with the ruling party and Buhari’s administration. In terms of security, within the context of what we met and what we have now, Nigeria has been peaceful under him and in order to sustain that we need to retain the incumbent in power.

Will you say the same thing about Buhari’s anti-corruption fight?
Everybody is very clear about what is going on regarding corruption in Nigeria. In any environment, when you put up a crusade that you want to fight corruption, it’s very clear that it will fight back. The fundamental reform about the way we do things is the underbelly for this anti-corruption drive.

We don’t do things the right way in this country, but President Buhari decided he would champion the anti-corruption crusade irrespective of how it fights back. Again, when you have had 16 years of corruption and we just only had three and half years of reversing it, the logic is simple; take government from him and we will automatically return to our old ways of putting this country in penury; that is the crux of this election.

The real fight in this election is either we want to reverse the anti-corruption drive, so that we do things the same useless way that we used to do them and then the economy is not growing, or we continue our anti-corruption crusade to ensure we do things appropriately so that we can be accountable to our people. 

The second option is what APC government is about and what the present government is trying to do. To want to reverse 16 years of rot, you cannot do it and stop in three and half years; it must continue and be taken to the next level so that in years to come, there would have been a lot of sanity in the system.

This is what APC and Buhari’s government are all about as against a former vice president, who is not in a good and moral position to come and champion the anti-corruption drive. These issues are very clear and Nigerians should understand what it is all about and we speak in terms of integrity, in terms of character for our president. It’s all about character, that’s what you see even in the way I govern Lagos and that’s why I align myself with President Buhari. It’s straightforward and simple.