Posted by By CHRISTIAN ITA on
Former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has rejected the notion that the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua is slow.
•Speaks on Atiku, OGD
Former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has rejected the notion that the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua is slow.
Rather, Tinubu said the former Katsina State governor was being bugged down by the defective structures he inherited from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as well as a maze of bureaucratic bottlenecks.
It was his view that Yar’Adua was deliberately being careful so as not to be trapped by this unnecessary web of bureaucracy.
While expressing belief that the President would device a way of beating the trap of bureaucracy, he said: “The Yar'Adua that I know is a methodical person. He is not impulsive. He is a sincere human being, not hypocritical, a careful listener, very scientific in his approach.”
Disagreeing with those who hold the opinion that the President is slow, Tinubu contended that “on the contrary, I want to believe that perhaps the structures he inherited are rather defective. Look at the energy sector, for instance. There are too many layers of regulation such that if you are not careful and smart, this web of unnecessary bureaucracy traps you. That is what is slowing action down.”
Speaking on reports that suggest a frost in his relationship with former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar over the politics of the Action Congress (AC), Tinubu said there was no such thing.
Explaining that his relationship with Atiku went beyond politics, the former Lagos State helmsman said disagreeing politically with the Turakin Adamawa does not affect their relationship.
According to him, the reports of a fall-out with Atiku “are being promoted by idle minds that believe that is the only way they can be relevant. In any case, the relationship between Atiku and I goes beyond politics. We are like brothers.”
Continuing, he said: “As human beings, we are bound to have disagreements, politically. But that is not to say we have personal animosity towards each other. Yes, people have the right to disagree on some issues. But you disagree to agree. We disagree to strengthen our agreement the more.”
He also spoke on life after office, the seeming face-off between him and Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel on one hand and that between him and Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola on the other.
You’ve been out of power in Lagos for six months now. How has it been since some people say it could be quite traumatic?
To me it is not traumatic. I feel fulfilled and very successful as an administrator who had served the mandate of the people. Successful not because of the brick and mortal alone but also steel and metal. What I have been able to achieve in re-engineering the government and the system of governance in the state is clear for people to see. No matter what your achievement is in the area of brick and mortal – how many roads, houses and bridges you built – you are not completely successful unless you develop steel and metal. I have won elections three times.
When I came in, we defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 2003, we defeated PDP. In 2007, we defeated PDP roundly. In fact, the margin of victory was far higher and I have a capable man (Governor Babatunde Fashola) who has taken over the administration of this state. He is doing an excellent job in terms of coordination, performance and repositioning the state. He has an agenda for the rapid development and modernisation of the state. He is doing a fantastic job. People can see for themselves if I am successful or not. Out of power, you can see that I am relaxing. I am happy and feel fulfilled.
Often times we hear stories about successors and predecessors falling out. Since you left government is it that you’ve not had problems with Governor Fashola and have you not been interfering with his job?
When he seeks my advice I give it to him. You will be an insane person to say you cannot draw from the wisdom of you predecessor. Don’t forget that I worked with him before and if I don’t have the level of confidence, respect and trust for his integrity and entire character I would not have worked for him. I did. What would be the basis of conflict? I’m not struggling to become a governor again. I won’t. I am looking for the next level and whatever that one brings could be a successful retirement. That also is another level. I will definitely continue to do politics. He is doing a good job. Recently, he announced the best budget that you can think for this state, which is a launching pad.
He inherited a successful administration with a well-trained public service. He has the mandate of the people, not necessarily my mandate but only my endorsement. And his performance rating is excellent so far. He is well focused. He has the intellectual capacity and the integrity to govern the state and take it to the next level. So, people might be expecting that conflict. They could even try and stoke it. They wouldn’t have it because we are in harmony. I’ve the confidence, in fact, it is my prayer that he does better than me. That will be a source of pride to me. The prayer of a dad is that his offspring should be greater than him. That is my prayer for Governor Fashola. This is the only way Lagosians and Nigerians in general would be very proud of me. When I made the recommendation or endorsed him to be the governor of the state people responded positively and voted for our party. They voted him into power with an unimaginable margin of victory. I should be happy for that. I should support and encourage him whenever it’s necessary to succeed many times over. That is what I am going to do.
Recently, many states conducted elections into local councils and the report was discouraging because of alleged rigging despite the pledge by President Yar’Adua to reform the electoral process following the rigging that attended the 2007 general election. What does this portend?
Oh! It is rather unfortunate that they had to conduct the elections when many of them have cases at the tribunal. This is an attempt to consolidate. It is an abuse of power. Not knowing what the result of the tribunal would be, they are trying to install their puppets at the local government level through irregular elections. It is not acceptable to Nigerians. We have demonstrated the commitment and discipline necessary for good governance and good political environment. We have not even paid attention to the Electoral Reform Panel and what it will bring. To me, the local government elections conducted in some states were a farce.
People are calling for outright cancellation. Do you support such calls?
If government changes and you feel it’s illegal you probably should go to court and challenge the election. If not, the future would tell. We may reshape Nigeria from the electoral tribunals and the political reform panel because the political landscape of the country needs to be reshaped to make it democratic. Anyway, they were in control of the various local governments before conducting the elections because they appointed executive secretaries or administrators. You can see that is unconstitutional because of the requirement of the constitution at the local government which says it should be governed by democratically elected executive chairmen. They did not follow the proper democratic procedure and the values expected from it. They are wrong. This is why legitimacy or illegitimacy of their elections is still a question being looked at at various tribunals.
The other thorny issue is that of census. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo released the figures last year you had contested it. Are you still standing by those strong views today?
I am still contesting the figure and I believe Lagos State Government will still pursue it until the figure is corrected. We counted 18 million people not to mention the number that would have been left over or omitted. That is a matter of fact. And he (Olusegun Obasanjo) just allocated a figure to the state. Let’s have a good statistical data, a planning data. A nation is a failure if it cannot plan for its population. How do you take care of people’s health? How do you provide water they drink? How do you plan the transportation system?
How do you plan for the school? How do you evaluate demographic migration of the people? Once you have this faulty start, your plans are doomed. You have no plan. So, it is a farce to say you have economic plans based on faulty data and erroneous census figure. What Obasanjo’s administration did was a farce, a mere allocation. This is not acceptable. The Yar’Adua administration will do this country good by jettisoning the census figure. That is no census figure. What happened to the national identity card? Where can we have a correct database? Our statistics are wrong, even our infant mortality rate is wrong. Various diseases and research development programmes relating to human beings cannot be properly evaluated, analysed and planned for or against if you don’t have a reliable census data.
You have been a staunch advocate of fiscal federalism. Now that we are in the process of drawing a new roadmap in form of a review of the Constitution, what are your feelings?
Can Nigeria and Nigerians know how much money we are realizing from crude oil or how much money we have? What is the daily production? How much is going out? How much do we realize per day? How much is being distributed? When you have a convoluted accounting system that allows for perpetration of irregularity and abuse of office and power you are deceiving yourself as a nation. The functions of the Accountant General of the Federation should be separated. He should be accountable to the Revenue Allocation Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission or the National Assembly where you have the Budget and Planning Administration.
It is not for NNPC to account for this and fail to account for that. Where is the entire revenue realized? It is from the disposal of the asset of this country. Who is accounting for the various privatization monies? Who is accounting for it? The same accountant that accounts for Federal Government’s allocation is also accounting for the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That is terrible. Now, we don’t have a new revenue allocation formula. What is in use is over 20 years old. You are allocating based on faulty data and some processes are being undermined at the state level. You then give room for another illegality called excess crude revenue. It is illegal and unknown to any principle of accounting and practice and is not known to the constitution. It has also been declared illegal by the Supreme Court. It is a military arrangement and part of the dictatorship of the Obasanjo era. He has not accounted for the entire money made from crude oil sales and other financial activities during his administration. And you find the Federal Government which should not dabble into agriculture and education; a Federal Government which should not have anything to do with primary health care other than policies, programme and even giving grants to the states, taking the lion’s share of the revenue of the states. In history, no Head of State had access to as much revenue as Obasanjo.
But today, his eight-year rule has taken us 25 years backward. His visionless leadership wasted eight years of our nation’s life. He spent the eight years blackmailing, intimidating, tormenting and bullying so many people; perverting the constitution through illegal impeachment. Where are we? We are in a mess and we are still talking about constitutional amendment and electoral reform. If he had done a good job of the eight years we won’t be talking about these again.
I congratulate the new administration on being able to put together men of great integrity headed by a retired chief justice of the Supreme Court to look into the electoral problems. That is most encouraging and they must set Nigeria on a part of recovery. There must be a charter of democratic principles, practice and values from this electoral reform. I believe we can do with only two political parties recognized and funded by law. The Independent National Electoral Commission or electoral body should report to the National Judicial Council, which should be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. Without political transparency there can be no economic prosperity. Year after year, people are left behind in policy making and are frustrated. They wallow in abject poverty. How many of our children have access to good school, portable water and good environment today? We have to be concerned.
Talking about President Umar Yar'Adua, what would you suggest he should he do in the New Year?
I think the time has come for the President to carry out what he said earlier about declaring emergency in the energy sector. Energy is so critical to the take-off of the economy. He should be focused. He should be a man of action not words. For instance, when his predecessor came into power in 1999, he promised the nation that in another two years, power would become more stable. But eight years afterwards, the power situation was worse than he (Obasanjo) met it. Two years before his second term expired, he went on a jamboree of starting independent power projects without clear-cut vision and plans. They said the megawatts generated by the end of 2007 would be 10,000. Of course, he was more concerned about buying turbines. People like Andrew Young had a good business buying up turbines everywhere. Before you knew it, the whole ports were filled with turbines, turbines and turbines without a clear vision of what to do with them.
The power situation Obasanjo bequeathed to the nation was worse than he inherited after spending hundreds of billions of naira. Yar'Adua should be focused. If you are talking about power, it is not about generation alone. You have to talk about transmission. So, as we are talking about increasing the generation capacity, we should also be bothered about evacuation, transmission. These are the issues. It is not about going on turbines- buying spree in order to help your foreign friends. Again, you have to look at the issue of roads. If you say you are going to get international funding to fix the major roads across the country, what happens in the interim? To start with, you will spend months in negotiating with the moneylenders. That may take another eighteen months. That is, to source the fund to start with. What time do you then have to start fixing the roads? Meanwhile, the hardship people are facing is worsening. Shouldn't we device a more creative way of looking at the issue so that, in the short time, the people do not suffer unnecessarily?
So, have you been in touch with your friend, the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo?
(General laughter) Well, there is no quarrel between us. There is nothing personal about our differences. He remains an elder who is a farmer. I happen to be a city boy who prefers to be in the city. We both left power on May 29, 2007 which is what I always said. I had said we both must leave office on May 29, 2007. By the grace of Allah, it came to pass. We don't have cause to be holding meetings. He belongs to PDP. I belong to AC. They boasted that they were bringing tsunami to Lagos to sweep us away in 2003. We survived all that by the grace of Allah. They changed the word to “capture” in 2007. But we defeated them again soundly. To God be the glory.
From the advert war being waged on the pages of newspapers in the last two weeks, the impression we get is that you and Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State are at war?
I am not aware of any war. Don't mind whatever our supporters may be saying or the insinuations, the truth is that our relationship remains cordial. I, for instance, am far too preoccupied with thinking of ways by which we can bring development to the society, to add value to the institution of governance, to be involved in such mundane issues.
Recently, Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola took a swipe at you over who should be considered as the new Yoruba leader...?
Again, I won't dignify that with a response. I discuss issues not personalities. My concern is on how we can advance the society? I would rather spend my time reflecting, doing critical debate on how to help the society grow than be involved in such idle talk. Please, let us move to another question.
How about the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar? There are reports of division in AC. That you and your presidential candidate don't see eye to eye again?
Again, that is not true. Such reports are being promoted by idle minds that believe that is the only way they can be relevant. In any case, the relationship between Atiku and I goes beyond politics. We are like brothers. As human beings, we are bound to have disagreements, politically. But that is not to say we have personal animosity towards each other. Yes, people have the right to disagree on some issues. But you disagree to agree. We disagree to strengthen our agreement the more. Disagreement is meant to make you come closer because it gives you the opportunity of knowing each other the more. So, to answer your question directly, it is not true that we in AC are divided.
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