Hon. Kehinde Bamigbetan, Chairman of Media And Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council (APC-PCC), Lagos State chapter believes that the party’s Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has the requisite experience and knowledge to be the next president of Nigeria.
Bamigbetan was a guest on “Daily Digest with Jimi Disu” on Nigeria Info FM 99.3 on Thursday January 19, 2023, where he answered questions on why Nigerians should entrust the leadership of the country on the former Lagos State Governor, saying that he would adopt the template he used to develop the state to change the fortune of the country for the better. It was a no-holds-barred session.
Do you feel that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is fit enough to carry out the job of the Nigerian President?
I am surprised that this concerns the people as some of these fears have been allayed, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is moving from one part of the country to another; from Kano to Kwara to Adamawa and he goes to the stage and he articulates himself. Energetically he is fit; whoever had those fears in the past should by now know that the man is hale and hearty. To go through this schedule shows that he is healthy. He has shown that he is very healthy.
Some of us are worried that he slips here and there, is it the exhaustion from the campaigns?
The campaign could be very terrible sometimes, you are meeting this group and that group, it can be very hectic for anyone at any age. He has to go through speeches and may be it is when you are in the vehicle that you go through those speeches, you have to be articulate and explain this and that. But the most important thing is that the message is clear. If you leave out the slips you would see that the message is very clear, he wants a better country, he thinks he can do it that he has done something similar in Lagos and that he can scale it up and do something better at the national level. Those messages are there, they are trending and a lot of people are beginning to see that it makes a lot of sense to vote him into power.
There is this controversial thing you mentioned now like what he did in Lagos State, you were his Chief Press Secretary, can we take like five or six of those things that he did as the Governor of Lagos State?
Let us take the security of Lagos, for instance, he launched the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and he got the Nigeria Police to recognise that Lagos had a peculiar problem and then ensured that the police serving in the squad could be around for a long time and they would not be posted out anyhow. He gave them allowances, vehicles to work with, and you could see across Lagos State that there were RRS vehicles everywhere and you could go out anytime. The second one is ambulance services, people now realised that you could have ambulances everywhere in case of emergence. The other one is the economic viability of the state, here he started with revenue generation. Efforts had been made in the past to increase the revenue of the state, when he came around with his financial background he was able to grow the revenue from about N600 million monthly to about N5Billion monthly before he left office and now it is higher than that. He then said let us also look at how to develop the state with 20-year development plan. He looked at transportation, which came up with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) so that more people could use public transportation so that you and I can get home in time. That has helped a lot. Also, the idea of having a free trade zone became one of the projects. He had to go to China and see how they do it there and they started it here. Today, we have about 70 companies in that environment; one of the major highlights of that experiment is the Dangote Refinery, which will soon be launched. He looked into federalism and he discovered that the state has been choked by the military and you could not even use under the bridges, you have to go to the federal government before you could use them and he went to court and won many cases. He argued that number plate production belongs to the state according to the law and the state started producing number plates. He went into the issue of the houses that the federal government built on Lagos land, and they wanted to be selling the houses to private people and he said they could not do so and now the houses belong to the Lagos State Government. He created the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), which is an agency that indicates that Lagos State has power over traffic management and he was able to do that. LASTMA provided jobs for a lot of graduates and it still does.
All these are not spectacular to me compared to what Alhaji Lateef Jakande did in four years as the governor of Lagos State, he built the state university and did free education, Tinubu is saying that he built Lagos State and all that, where do you put Jakande?
As at the time Asiwaju Bola Tinubu got into office, most of the areas in Lagos State did not have general hospitals including places such as Mushin, Shomolu, Alimosho and others, he was able to provide for them. What I am saying is that Baba Jakande himself gave his son, Deji Jakande to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to train for him. He later became a member of the Federal House of Representatives with the help of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If Jakande could see the brilliance in the young man at that time, and put his son to go and understudy him, that tells you that the man himself saw his potentials.
Don’t you think that was politics, Jakande could train his son by himself
…But the kind of politics we had that time had changed and Jakande had become like an elder statesman at that time and he felt that the man there knew what to do and he gave him his own son, which was an endorsement. It was a powerful one that no one could dispute.
Did the son get an office then?
Yes he became a member of the Federal House of Representatives.
So, I rest my case then, we know where that was coming from
…No, it was an endorsement on his part. If Baba Jakande could have so much trust in you to give you his son, then you know what it means.
You know I’m very skeptical about political moves, I know the way that works, give your son to him and open a path for him
….That shows he has confidence in him. It’s a continuous process.
I was very critical of the media organisation of your party, they started a campaign against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on corruption. But when it comes to perception there is no difference between your candidate and Atiku, whether they are true or not is another issue. I thought it was tactless for the APC media campaign team, rather than focus on what their man can do, they started throwing brick bats between themselves over an issue that could cause problem for them. I think the campaign strategy should be on what your candidate can do, do you agree with that?
The campaign has both offensive and defensive elements. The defensive element is to defend the legacy of your candidate and the offensive element is to go into other territory and reduce the public confidence in the other candidate, which has been the template. In doing that, how you go about it matters a lot. The message of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on economy, for instance, is that he would rely more on fiscal measures rather than monetary measures. While engaging the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), he spoke about the issue of fuel subsidy, for instance that he would continue with petroleum subsidy and that his government would rely more on fiscal measures to control inflation rather than monetary measures. Then he also said that agriculture would be key to his government and that he would ensure that Nigerians would produce what they eat. There is going to be reduction in import duties for companies that employ youths, and that they would enjoy subsidy. There is an 80-page manifestoes that we have put out.
What of the issue about Atiku; the perception is that they are like Siamese twins and that you gentlemen might be working for Peter Obi
…Every engagement has SWOT analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This strategy is part of this; we should not encourage a culture of silence on this because it was like the press was getting too mute about this.
Too mute about what?
About the disclosures made by the guy that made the allegations against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
But your candidate too has been mute; he has not answered so many questions
…We are saying our own, we are putting him on the spot; he should also put us on the spot. If they say the same thing about us, we will defend ourselves. Nobody would allow that kind of thing to go unexploited.
I would have wanted your candidate to be the one answering questions about the schools he went and all that, are you not worried about some of these things people say about him. He has been facing that for a long time, why is it so difficult to answer the questions?
The fact is that we need to understand that development does not take a straight line, your experience and my own are not the same. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo started free education, there was a law that if you don’t put your children in school you would go to jail. Many people actually ran into the bush with their children because they didn’t want to go to jail and they wanted their children to help them in the farm and so the children missed education. There were also correspondent colleges, where you could get adult education. You don’t put this thing on the same line.
Does it bother you?
I served this man as the Chief Press Secretary, when he was the governor of Lagos State and I saw him deliver democratic dividends to the people of the state, which matters to me much more than anything. He discovered that some parents could not pay WASSCE fees and he said that students in Lagos State secondary schools should not pay for WASSCE and that the state government would pay for them.
What kind of a man is Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is very curious, he has acquired knowledge and he is very humble, he is a typical Yoruba man. This is somebody that would be thanking you after paying you for a job you did for him.
Has he changed over the years?
He is a kind man, who likes to engage you in discussions and in debates. He would spend most of his time engaging you, he thinks outside the box most of the time.
How sensitive is he to public perceptions about him, I saw a video, where he said he doesn’t go to the social media?
Social media is quite a new phenomenon to the people of his age generally, and so catching up with this has not been easy. He is at home with prints and he is now part of the new experience.
In the past, when we depended on the print media, elections were left to the educated, but with the advent of the social media, you find a large number of people that don’t understand the issue influencing public thinking, does this bother you?
I think that the social media has democratised the information dissemination system with the principle of rights to freedom of speech, so it is good. Everybody has a right to say what he has to say, but in journalism we talk of informed commentary. You are assumed to be informed before you comment on any issue. Many people comment, but they are not informed. Our business is to encourage them to be informed and we must protect the fundamental rights of the people. Encouraging people to be informed in using the tool of that process is also part of the job of journalists.
Can you convince me why Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu should be the next president of Nigeria?
Lagos State today has been able to demonstrate the capacity of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to transform a community from what it used to be to what it is today by looking at problems and using them as leverage for development. Everybody can remember Bar Beach, the Federal Government would put rocks in the beach every year and the rocks would go later, then they become regular lines in the budget. So, the Lagos State government said that they could solve the problem and they turned it to Eko Atlantic City. That is how a person like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has turned problems into solutions. He solved a major problem. That is the template to see how Asiwaju Bola Tinubu looks at life, every problem is an opportunity to create a solution. When you look at what he has done in Lagos State in terms of responding to the needs of the people, you would understand what I am saying. I was the chairman of a local government and I know that when you get into government you need a school and health centre in each ward. He felt that for the 377 wards in Lagos State there must be a school and a health centre in each of them. Across board now, I do not think there is a ward in the state that does not have a school or a health centre. If he could apply himself to attend to the needs of a multi-ethnic setting like Lagos, today whether you are Igbo or Hausa, as far as you can demonstrate enterprise you can live and survive in Lagos State. So, with this template you would see that it is easier to scale it up.
He was said to have made many mistakes during, while campaigning such as where they said he licked the microphone, are they true or not?
We don’t bother about those irrelevances, this is somebody, who has a message to give; he comes on the rostrum and gives the message. If in that process he has a slip, we understand the pressure on him. They are part of human nature; they don’t undermine the strength of his message, or ability to deliver on the job. Whether they are true or not, the messages have been delivered and the people responded well.
Why are you people supporting somebody who does not love the country and who keeps making mistakes and you are even saying his education background does not matter, is this fair?
We are not excusing the mistakes or disputing them, I have been a student union activist and I have been on campaign trains. I know that people make mistakes. Talking about education background, I have worked with him when he was governor and I know his capacity. If what he did as the Lagos State Governor cannot convince you, then his certificate cannot because certificate is not the same thing as capacity. You see how people spoke about what his government did. Did he do well as a Governor, has he provided jobs for people, did he bring about development; those are the things that Nigerians want. They are not looking for somebody’s credentials. Go and look at the constitution, even anybody, who does not have a degree can be the president of the country. As long as you are a Nigerian, you pay your taxes, you have a responsibility to campaign for election and win or lose. It is not about the elitist consideration of whether you went to school or not. If he gets to government, how do you solve the problems of an average man? He has brought manifestoes, why don’t you deal with that and why don’t you relate with it, why don’t you interrogate the manifestoes. That is why we said we would not bother about those issues, this man is alive, he is living, he is talking and he is everywhere. Is he speaking good English Language? Somebody grew an economy from N600 million to N5 Billion and you said he should go and bring his certificate.
This idea of delegation of duties is somehow, for example at Chatham House, he delegated people to answer questions for him, what is the reason behind this?
Strategic communication involves quite a lot of tactics and when you go out as a candidate, you are not an independent candidate, but candidate of a party and you are expected to explain the manifestoes of your party. You can use the occasion to show that you are not a lone ranger, but a team player. It is that kind of concept that can lead the country out of the doldrums. When he went to Chatham House in the United Kingdom, we felt he should show his pattern. It was a demonstration of his ability to carry others along in whatever he does that he did in Chatham House.
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