VICE President Yemi Osinbanjo went down the memory lane yesterday to relive the role played by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in reclaiming states lost by the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after the 2007 elections.
Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari as Chairman of the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium, told the gathering how the APC stalwart hired 63 finger print experts from the United Kingdom (UK) police to help prove cases of over voting in the 2007 elections.
He said with the help of the experts who worked hard for six months, it was discovered that while it takes an average voter about five minutes to conclude his voting process, it took the PDP agents less than five seconds to thump print the ballot that were counted in their favour in 2007.
The vice president said it was the political dexterity of the former Lagos state governor that ensured that the ACN reclaimed Edo, Ekiti, Osun and Ondo states, adding that the last to be won through that process was Osun.
He praised the role played by the APC leader in the success of APC in this year’s elections, adding that the choice of the phrase “Next Level” as a campaign slogan was simply to tell Nigerians that the country was moving to the next phase of development.
He said: “We celebrate a man who has spent the last 30 years of his life in creative and catalytic public service. He is not a lawyer as many of us know, but there are few Nigerians who have provoked so many legal controversies and constitutional challenges resulting in several landmark judicial pronouncements, especially in the area of federalism and what today is loosely described as restructuring.
“Many of us know that he is not an engineer, but a lot of his vision is what is responsible for what we see today in Lagos – the BRT, the Lekki Free Trade Zone, even the Eko Atlantic Project and, of course, the reform in the tax system of Lagos State. Today, Lagos, as we know, earns more revenue, more IGR, than 31 states of Nigeria put together. That began in 2001.”
Speaking on the Next Level campaign slogan, Osinbajo said: “As you know, the expression Next Level, itself, is our political campaign slogan in this last election. And what we were saying was simply that there was a next phase to what our country has seen.
“There are many who will say that there are many things that were promised in 2015 which have not yet been realized. I think the best way of putting it is to say that our country, for the first time, is witnessing the type of leadership that is bound to lead us to where it is that we are proposed ourselves as a government.
“In my view, the honest leadership, leadership with integrity of our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, is a very important component of getting anywhere at all in all of our development plans. I said before at the last colloquium that Nigeria’s main problem is not the lack of ideas, it is not the lack of projects and programmes.
“It was most of the time, especially the leadership in the past, and corruption in particular, was the reason why we were finding it difficult to make progress.
“I explained that that’s why we earned $383 billion in four years, the highest ever in the history of our country, and yet Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was not done. The Lagos-Kano railway – and all that is being done today – was not done then. We cannot point to a single major infrastructure project that was completed in the 10-year period, despite the high earnings, including power.
“So, a government coming after so many years of waste must be a government, first that emphasises fiscal prudence, a government that emphasises integrity in public finance so that it would manage the little resources to achieve the maximum that can be achieved. And that is what President Muhammadu Buhari set out to do. As I keep saying, the President has never claimed to be an orator. He just gets things done.
“It was under President Muhammadu Buhari that three of the four refineries that we have today were built, when he was Minister of Petroleum. About 3500km of pipelines were built by him as Minister of Petroleum in a three-year period.
”So, there is a track record not of talking, but of just getting things done. And this is what we have seen in the past four years. That is why we were able to set aside money for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. And that is going on at present. That is why we opened up the first phase of the Lagos-Kano Railway that was commissioned a couple of weeks ago, the Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan phase of that project.
“The Itakpe-Warri Railway, now completed after 35 years of being on the books. The Light Rail project here in Abuja started in 2005, budget after budget, never completed was completed also at the end of 2017. We now have that light rail from the airport to Idu. Same as several other infrastructural projects. Mambila Hydro has been on the cards for 40 years. We have just put together resources to begin that project and we will complete that project.
“For us, infrastructure is critical at the Next Level. You cannot have the situation where you have the kind of power situation we have today and expect transformative progress. That is why we are focused on power and other infrastructure.
“We are focused on fixing the infrastructure in the country and we believe that if we fix the infrastructure, the roads and the rail, and especially power, we will be able to make significant progress.
“Today, our rail project starts from the Apapa Port so that we are able to clear the congestion in that port because the Lagos to Kano railway starts from the Apapa port. And we can start taking out cargo from the Apapa port using rail as an alternative means.
“The same is true of agriculture; and we just heard our partners from Brazil talking about the next phase of our agricultural development and we are committed to that project because we believe that is what will transform the agro-industrial phase of our planning and that is what will transform agriculture in this country and create additional jobs.
“It is enough to have farmers everywhere; we need the refining capacity; we need the processing capacity and that is what our partnership with the Brazilians will provide for us.
“On the reforms we are making in education and healthcare, today the emphasis is on digital literacy; the emphasis on training our teachers to be able to train the next generation of children in school.
“And we are focused on doing so using some of the methods we have described very comprehensively not just in the ERGP but in our next level document.
“So, we are focusing on STEAM, not STEM; we are focusing on training young people on digital skills, critical thinking and some other skills that are necessary for the kind of jobs that the 21st century will provide. Our focus on healthcare is on National Health Insurance because we cannot finance healthcare by the budget alone.
“Again, at the Next Level, we will expand our social investment programme; at the moment, the programme is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the African continent.”
The Managing Director, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), U.G. Mohammed, who spoke on using the power sector to propel industrial growth, said that the power sector privatisation in the country was an ambitious venture embarked upon by Nigeria, saying the mistakes made through the exercise must be acknowledged and corrected.
Mohammed also said the country still does not have the capacity to distribute all the power currently being generated, adding that his agency has stopped connecting generating companies to the national grid to avoid damaging the system.
He also disclosed that the country has not been able to complete many projects in the sector because such contracts were not awarded to be executed
The TCN managing director said that since his assumption of office as the head of TCN, he has stopped such award, and ensured that projects awarded were completed.
According to him, when he came on board, the TCN had over 800 containers at the port, many of which had been there for over 15 years. The company has so far recovered over 730 of such containers.
Mohammed advocated the recapitalisation of the Distribution Companies (DisCos) with government providing 40 percent of the equity. Such capitalization, he said, will ensure a good tariff regime, which will not be expensive.
In his welcome address, Lagos State Governor and the chief host of the event, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode praised Tinubu for spear-heading the party’s victory in the general election.
Ambode described Tinubu as “a man of high political dexterity, a dogged leader and a man of undaunted courage and expressed confidence that the APC was spreading its progressive tentacles further into the country while Nigerians are looking forward to moving to the next level.”
He said the theme of the colloquium: ”Next Level: Work for the People”, was chosen to coincide with the times when the country was on the threshold of greatness.
Those who attended the colloquium include: Prof Osinbajo and his wife Dolapo; APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole; Governors Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano); Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Ambode’s wife Abimbola; Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara); Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); Edo State Deputy Governor Phillip Shuaibu, former Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola and former APC Interim National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande.
Others include: Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan; former Sokoto State Governor Aliyu Wammako; Lagos State Governor-elect Babatunde Sanwo-Olu and his deputy Obafemi Hamzat; Senator Shehu Sani; former APC Deputy National Chairman, (South) Segun Oni; Voice of Nigeria Director-General Osita Okechukwu and Senator Smart Adeyemi, former Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio, former President of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) Samaila Isa Funtua; Vanguard Publisher Sam Amuka-Pemu; Senator Khariat Gwadabe, Senator Gbenga Ashafa; former Lagos State Information and Strategy Commissioner Dele Alade and Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hamid Ali.
The roll call also includes the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who led other royal fathers to grace the occasion; National Assembly members and members of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
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