The first Secretary to the Lagos State Government under the administration of the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Reuben Basorun, shares with SAMUEL BOLAJI his thoughts on the state of the nation, the candidacy of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the 2023 general elections and related issues
Did you play any role in the merger that became the All Progressives Congress?
Well, I ought to, because I was in the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), which was one of the big parties that formed the APC in 2013. And what we have in Lagos, which we call the GAC (Governance Advisory Council), I am a member, and at that time I was already a member. The GAC, put in the local language, is “joke be” (the sitting of elders). It’s not in the constitution of the party, but it is usual, even in any community, when you have the party, you also have the elders. The bigger version of it is the one put in the constitution called the BoT (Board of Trustees). But in Lagos, it’s the GAC.
The GAC plays a very prominent role in charting the course for the party in Lagos State. And if you hear that the GAC has approved or has decided to do something, it means all the elders have put their heads together, but not without consulting those in the grassroots. And when we make decisions, we go back to the provisions of the constitution of the party and follow it up to the implementation.
In most cases, the assumption is that the GAC is the one ruling; no. We have no such constitutional powers. The constitution of the party has provisions. But whatever we do, it’s like elders guiding the party. So, from that stance, I would say I was involved in the merger. And the merger has been a blessing.
What is the function of the GAC?
GAC stands for Governance Advisory Council. We advise on governance generally, not limited to the governor.
Do you see a new and better Nigeria emerging post-2023 elections?
Well, I envisage it and I pray that it emerges. Why do I say so? The progressives, in the true sense of it, are just coming in to take over the reins of government. You may ask: Are you saying when (the President, retired Major General) Buhari took over with the APC, the progressives have not taken over? We have, but there is progressiveness in the blood; and whoever is the arrowhead of an organisation, it flows down. With Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu coming up, some of us who were with (the late) Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo and saw his travails in those days, became happy that maybe what could not happen that time is going to happen now, because progressiveness has, as (its) major function, service to the people.
Again, I’m not saying those who have been operating since 2015 are not serving the people. They are serving the people. But the progressiveness which has not been an inbuilt thing in the arrowhead of the organisation has affected us. Progressiveness goes beyond the word as it is being used; it’s a mantra that has been built into its mass movements by its functions as it was in 1979 and ’83.
You see, if you’re governing and people are only sitting down, watching you and you have not been able to transform their thinking into believing that, ‘Oh, that’s our governor, he knows how to do it;’ ‘Oh, that’s our president, you can trust him;’ this is not to say the man there, Buhari, has not been trying, but the inbuilt spirit of progressiveness one can safely say is not part of it. The man (Bola Tinubu), that the party has now brought up, has it, and he has people surrounding him who are going to chart a new course that will bring happiness to the entire people of Nigeria.
The acceptance of the general public that this is our government, I am envisaging that when Bola Ahmed Tinubu gets there, that is what he should first pursue. The populace in the four corners of Nigeria will be able to say, ‘That is our government.’ The moment that happens, it reverberates. The action of whoever is going to lead us and those he puts around himself will make the public take that unseen contribution of faith. Once the faith is there, what is the value of money? It’s in what it can buy. If Nigeria strives through progressiveness to serve the people, to harness the human and material resources available for the benefit of the people, we shall come up.
Can you say the vision of the founding fathers of the APC is being achieved under the current President?
The vision of the founding fathers is a function of those working for the vision to be realised. To a great extent, I think the vision is being realised. We now know that corruption to everybody is a sin now. This government did not set up the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) but what the EFCC has done in this government from 2014 to date is far more than what was achieved before this government, that is, in terms of fighting corruption. It’s only in this government that you’ve heard we have discovered 20,000 ghost workers which would have cost the government an N70bn loss. So, gradually, this government is trying.
But what I believe should happen is the Federal (Government) should lead, and we’d need to use the parliament to devolve powers, devolution of powers. Certain functions should be taken from the FG. If I were in charge, there would be nothing like Federal Medical Centres, there would be nothing like Unity Secondary Schools. Instead, we should deploy that money to include the 10 per cent for education, for health, and let the other units that make up the federation – the states – have enough resources to develop better health services and better educational systems. And I don’t know what our presidential candidate is going to think if he wins the election, but I’m sure he would have assembled people giving him advice. But if I were to advise him, people would say is grandiose to say education should be free from primary school to the university level in Nigeria, but that’s what we should be doing. For health care, people from age of 60 and above should go to the hospital and get treatment for free, including drugs, operations (surgeries), and everything.
The resources are there. We have to go into other areas and stop wasting money. There are some areas where we’re losing where we should not be losing. Several attempts made to put our refineries in service have not been yielding fruitful results, and not only the refineries, but there are also other areas like the steel Industry. This government will come and say we’re going to start making our steel, that government will come and say we have made progress, but that is an area we have continued to depend on import. We should produce our own. So, all those areas where attempts have been made but with no success, which would have generated a lot of revenue for us to fund these two major sectors, education and health, if they’re looked into and genuine strenuous effort is made, we will get resources to fund education and health the way I have described.
These are things that will reflect progressiveness, and these are things that will take little time. But I want to recommend to whoever is going to take over after the elections to start planning now. To set up committees to give them advice; get data. Particularly when I talk of education, it is important now to get data on enrolment in primary schools, secondary schools, and tertiary institutions throughout Nigeria.
We’re talking about universities and ASUU. Those who are on strike don’t believe in this government. It’s very sad. I’m over 80 now, but I’ve never witnessed this in my lifetime in this country. And if this form is an opportunity, I want to appeal to them to think about tomorrow of Nigeria and call off the strike, because that is what people like us are thinking now.
What is your relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
He is the leader of our party and I have known him since 1992 when he was going to the Senate and I also was going to the Senate from Lagos East, only that someone else won my party primary but he won his party primary… He has seen some good in me; I also have seen a lot of good in him. Beyond the party, we are friends.
What are the obstacles Tinubu is up against in his 2023 presidential ambition?
Well, there is nothing a man does that he won’t have one obstacle or another. But in this particular case, I think it’s going to be a landslide victory for him because there are only two political parties. The Labour (Party), and the NNPP are coming up and some people are rushing there, but I don’t see them getting there yet. So, when I talk, I’m talking of the PDP and the APC. I do not see problems for him. Right now, the South-West has to celebrate Bola Tinubu in the sense that the way he has worked himself into the hearts of people who many of our colleagues think hate the Yoruba to the extent that they insisted on his candidature and they got him into the place. That’s the first leg. I do not see how all of them would have gotten him into that position and abandoned him during the election.
Then for us in our zone, that is the South-West, we have been talking that Chief Awolowo attempted to be president, but it eluded him, and he was a progressive. This is another progressive from the South-West wanting to be president, at least, if we vote 100, Bola Tinubu should get 90 from the zone because choosing him is a vote of confidence in the zone and we should reflect it in our votes. I believe the South-East and the South-South will also support us because the quarrel in the PDP now is some people wanted the Presidency to be zoned to the South, while some don’t. I believe those who think the Presidency should come from the South should vote for a quality candidate coming out from the South even if he’s in the opposition party. That will bring votes from those sides, and at the end of the day, he will be victorious.
Then here is a person this primary has thrown up as somebody who knows how to get what he wants. So, I believe he will know how to get to the root of the problem in Nigeria and solve it.
Some have said the ‘Emi lokan’ slogan of Tinubu presents him as someone who wants to be President, not because he has anything to offer, but because he feels entitled that it is his turn. What are your thoughts on this?
That’s a mere slogan, people should not take that one as something serious. ‘Emi loan is a slogan and part of what should be to his credit, is that he was able to coin a slogan that was pushing him to work hard to get it, and he has got it. That does not mean that he’s overambitious as some people want to put it. No.
How about his health? Do you consider him fit to carry the burden of a nation like Nigeria?
He’s now over 70. Because he’s a public figure, that is why you know about his health. Several people below his age don’t even enjoy the amount of good health he enjoys. So, I do not see anything wrong with his health…He’s going to have the facility much more than he now has to look after his health if he becomes the president, and it does not have to be abroad. The mental magnitude with which he has handled his campaign to emerge as the candidate of the APC amid all those highly qualified people is a confirmation that he has something very positive to offer upstairs. His health has not destroyed what he has upstairs. If indeed he has any health challenges, it’s not an unusual thing for someone who is 70 and above. So, he will look after himself and surround himself with younger people…Tinubu has an array of people in Nigeria that will strengthen what he already possesses to handle governance like former US president Barack Obama had.
What do you say about the controversy surrounding his certificates?
His certificate is controversial because people are lazy. We were all here in 1999 when this matter was flogged and flogged and flogged. I don’t read it when I see it in newspapers. This is a matter that was taken to court and it died, and he got the nomination for governorship and won elections as governor twice and ran the government for eight years. Why didn’t they continue to fight him when he was in government to get him removed? If there’s anything wrong, the least certificate is school cert by the constitution; they want to see whether he went to Chicago, several issues. I was in the opposition party at that period. I was in the PDP. We saw a lot of it. That has come and gone. I think lazy people, who want to give their politics some pep, are the ones spending time talking about the certificate of Bola Tinubu.
Someone who was governor for eight years and nobody was talking about certificate at the time. If there is any qualification at all, somebody who has governed for eight years… Look at the National Assembly, whenever anybody gets there who had been a member before, they simply ask him to take a bow and go. That’s common sense. If this man does not possess the required qualification, he wouldn’t have been a member of the National Assembly. But he was a senator. Everybody should have just kept quiet about the certificate, but again, people just want to be busy talking. It’s just lazy talk from idle people…
You referred to devolution of powers earlier, do you see Asiwaju Tinubu devolving powers or restructuring the country?
Government is not about one person. When he gets there, the National Assembly has to be convinced about that. This present National Assembly has tried a bit of it with a constitutional amendment, but they have not finished. They listed about 62 amendments, some of which involve devolution of powers. They’re considering what should be on the Exclusive List – for the FG, Concurrent List – for both the FG and states, and Residual List – for states. So, they will look at it. While doing that, there must be adjustment in the disbursement of Federal Allocation so that the larger part going to the federal will change and the states will take the larger share with more being available to states and local governments. You cannot devolve powers and give them more functions to perform without making adequate funds available for them.
Who do you consider a threat to Tinubu’s presidential ambition among all the candidates?
Well, maybe because I’m in the APC and I want to speak for my party, I do not see any threat. Before, I thought Atiku’s choice would mean a lot of hard work for us, but now I have confirmed the man lives in Dubai. I don’t think we should waste our time. We should use all the machinery available to us to let people know that he is not the man to rule Nigeria, and it’s going to be a plus for us in our campaign to decimate his notes. How can someone who wants to govern Nigeria be living in Dubai? We will not go to sleep, but I do not see any threat at all.
Article credit: Punch