A member of the Governance Advisory Council in the Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC) and first Secretary to the State Government in the late Lateef Jakande administration, Chief Reuben Olorunfunmi Basorun, speaks with journalists on the Bola Tinubu presidency and what Nigerians should expect from him.
Politicians are fond of making promises, and President Bola Tinubu made him during the campaigns, what should Nigerians expect from him?
Tinubu listed a 10-point agenda that he sought to achieve in his administration. He called them ‘Action Plan’. The agenda includes creating sufficient jobs with decent wages; reviving manufacturing industries and placing Nigeria back on the path of industrialisation; generating, transmitting and distributing sufficient, affordable electricity; manufacturing and marketing increased quantities of essential goods and services; exporting more to earn foreign exchange and strengthening the naira; to make affordable healthcare, education and housing accessible to all; to train and give economic opportunities to persons with disabilities; among other laudable things.
Many people still doubt his ability to deliver, are you confident he will deliver on his promises?
Tinubu has fulfilled a phenomenon Nigeria was yearning for many years back. When Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo was in the scene, he insisted that anyone who wanted to lead this country must possess some qualities. Tinubu seems to have resurrected Awolowo. The qualities Awolowo spoke of are courage, commitment and objectives.
Awolowo added that every political leader must possess the mental magnitude to lead. By mental magnitude, he meant that such a leader must possess at least a first degree in a discipline.
Then, in addition, some knowledge of economics, if that degree is not in economics, finance, sociology, psychology, law, political history, etc. He then went ahead and put succinctly: ‘Good leadership involves self-conquest; you must conquer yourself first – Tinubu conquered himself. That is the situation Tinubu has found himself in.
You seem very convinced.
Here is why I know that Tinubu will succeed. In 1983, 12 out of the 19 progressive governors held meetings several times in Lagos at the Lagos House in Marina. At the eighth meeting, among those present were Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano, etc. and they resolved in February 1983 that Nigeria must go progressive, but they could not achieve this. When the elections came, the same thing we saw in the last elections happened: religion, ethnicity, etc.
Everybody failed. But see Tinubu, he came in 2013 and said the progressives must come together and everybody came together as if they were obeying the words of Chief Awolowo. Tinubu brought the progressives and conservatives together and he succeeded by putting former President Muhammadu Buhari in government for the first term of four years as the President of Nigeria.
As Buhari won a second term, the second part of Awolowo’s prediction came to pass: the conservatives fell out, and the progressives remained. Who else should benefit from this arrangement but Tinubu? Then, the mental magnitude that Chief Awolowo recommended, this fellow (Tinubu) has a first degree in Accounting. He later became a senator in 1992; I was with him.
We were calling him ‘Serubawon.’ Then he became governor in 1999. As many people have different opinions about his achievements as governor, I have one: he did what the Israeli people did to the ocean that transverses their area to the Atlantic Ocean.
He got the Atlantic pushed to the point that he made its shores a city, which is a reality that people are commending today. I think Tinubu will do better as the leader of Nigeria.
What do you think should be the priorities?
Among his 10-point programme, the economy and security are the most important. Once the issue of insecurity is dealt with and the economy, which has several branches, is taken care of, every other thing will fall into place. If, for example, Tinubu makes an announcement, ‘Fellow Nigerians, having been sworn in, I now declare that the minimum wage, which is N30,000 per month, is now N60,000; that is a 100 per cent jump.
I want to assure you that we shall find the money to pay, and I want to assure the state governments that I will make the funds available to pay.’ 30 per cent of the increase will go to the peasants, and they will not throw it into the Lagoon. It is going to increase the wealth of the nation. As for security, that’s not a matter for the public. I’m sure he’s well-briefed and he will take the steps that maybe the immediate past President was fearful of taking. I said for anyone to face the problems of this nation, he must have courage, he must commit, and he must have objectives.
Tinubu has all three. Then, the type of election he won has shown that he is ready to carry the problems of this country. (General Ibrahim) Babangida was commenting, he said Atiku (Abubakar) won ethnicity, Peter Obi won religion, but Tinubu won Nigerians.
Nigerians voted for him all over. Even in this (Lagos) state where we so much love him, he was defeated, but he went ahead to win all over Nigeria. They said two-thirds of states, he got in 29 states, much more than two-thirds. What other spread or request have Nigerians not answered? They have answered his call to come and rule them.
Our prayer now is that God should preserve his life and give him the courage and commitment to implement the objectives he has for the country. Tinubu will succeed, there is no doubt about it.
What role will the Governance Advisory Council play in the national government?
Some members of the public have a wrong conception of the GAC. The GAC stands like the elders’ committee of the APC in Lagos State. It’s Lagos. They may want to transform it, but if he has to transform it intoa national, it has to go through the geo-political zones, but for now, it’s like an elders’ committee, giving him advice at the appropriate time. And it is still there.
So, from my end, I cannot say if there will be a role for the GAC at the national level.
APC and Tinubu’s campaign mantra was ‘Renewed Hope’, if you agree that there is a need to renew people’s hope, is it an admittance that the APC indeed dashed the hopes of Nigerians with the eight-year term of Buhari and that Tinubu is coming to renew the hope?
Well, some people use that slogan, but no hope was lost that we are renewing. There is no hope lost.
People complained about hardship during Buhari’s tenure and it seems the hardship has even worsened, do you think Tinubu will be able to ease the pain of Nigerians?
Looking at his programme, I believe he will, particularly with the background he has. When you are in charge of your government, you must have your ideas. The man (Buhari) that left now depended on the civil servants; Asiwaju is not going to depend on the civil servants.
As one of my leaders told me, if you want to move from Gate A to B, you don’t tell civil servants to tell you how to get to Gate B. ‘Mr. civil servant, I want to Gate B. I want to go by bicycle, go and arrange, I want to be there by 12noon.’ I believe Asiwaju has that quality; he will do that. That’s what we need.
Chief Awolowo also said a minimum of 50 per cent idea of what you do should be yours. Buhari was in government for eight years, what he was able to do was a function of his wherewithal, a retired soldier, etc. There is a difference between Buhari and Tinubu. Not only is Tinubu qualified in terms of education, but Tinubu has also been a fighter and a courageous man. I do not believe he will fail us.
During the electioneering, there was a high level of ethnic and religious division among Nigerians, how does your party plan to reunite Nigeria?
He should choose his cabinet by recognising the diversity of the country. The constitution says to pick at least one minister per state and the Federal Capital Territory. In doing so, I believe the President, who is very conversant with the situation in Nigeria, will do the needful in that area.
After doing that, he would have taken care of the issue of division. Even in the National Assembly now, he is already doing that, making sure that after himself and Shettima, the next person should come from Akwa Ibom State.
After taking (Tajudeen) Abbas from Kaduna State, he went to another state to take (Benjamin) Kalu. So, he is going to ensure inclusion in picking his cabinet members.
Will the GAC play any role in the composition of Tinubu’s cabinet?
To the best of my knowledge, the Governance Advisory Council for Lagos APC and the GAC will play a role in Lagos unless it changes tomorrow. So, if he wants a nominee from Lagos and the GAC decides that XYZ should be, be it.
What are some of the things Tinubu did in Lagos that you believe he will replicate as the President?
There are many. Let me start with the one he started and was stopped. He started private electricity, he was disturbed. He’s going to raise it. He wanted states to create local governments; he created them, but the National Assembly stopped it.
I believe he should go back to it. Why restrict the number of local governments? If you ask me, Tinubu will display financial wizardry. When Obasanjo refused to release allocations due to Lagos State for almost four years, the man was managing the state and all the 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas until Musa Yar’Adua came and within two months, he lifted the ban.
I don’t know whether arrears were paid, but he lifted the ban, and ever since the local governments have been collecting their allocations.
Recently, some emissaries of Tinubu visited someone considered to be his strong critic, Chief Bode George, for reconciliation. Were you surprised at this move?
I wasn’t surprised, Tinubu has won the election, and he has now been sworn in as the President. The man (Bode George) has not fled the country. Why shouldn’t we talk to him and tell him to play down? So, it was a good move. I wasn’t surprised. So, let them go ahead to plead with him. I agree with him (George), and that is how to be a good party man.
That his party is still in the tribunal, he will not begin to congratulate Bola Tinubu, I don’t think that is too much. If I were in his shoes, I would probably have done the same thing. But that he received them, discussed with them, and he has not fled the country, well, we thank God.
The GAC must have been jolted when the Labour Party defeated Tinubu in Lagos. How did you receive that?
Well, we were surprised, but thank God we woke up immediately and embarked on making the situation better, and that was reflected in the following (governorship and House of Assembly) elections. In the first election, it was 582,000 against 572,000. Labour had 582,000 votes and APC had 572,000 votes. Just about a 9,000 votes difference.
They won, but in the second election, the governor got 762,000 against LP’s 312,000. So, we worked very hard within that short period. That picture also painted a misnomer to an extent, and I want to appeal to our people who don’t come out to vote. How can we register about seven million plus eligible voters and we do not get two million votes, altogether; all the parties?
Are you worried that the opposition is coming closer to taking over Lagos from your party?
It’s not close, 762,000 to 312,000 is very wide. The first round was just 9,000. There were a lot of factors against us. But we changed it to 762,000 against 312,000.
What would you advise Nigerians to do if the Tinubu government fails to deliver on its campaign promises?
If he fails? God forbid, he will not fail. Rather, what Tinubu should do is do what Chief Awolowo did in 1955, and what Jakande did in 1979. Tinubu should announce a programme that will get everybody agog. Ah, our messiah has come! Ah, the man to save us has come!! In 1955, Awolowo announced free and compulsory education.
Secondly, he doubled the minimum wage. When Jakande won the election in 1979, he went from the inauguration venue to the air and announced that ‘education shall now be free at all levels. Health shall be free at all levels. I’m not saying Tinubu should say so, but he should look for something that when he throws it on the ground, the country will go agog.
And once he does that, you know, the multiplier effect of that is that people will support his government. Once he has done something, which is in the interest of the masses, they will believe in him.
What would be your advice to Nigerians?
Nigerians should support the new government. Give the new government time to perform, not doubting whether he can perform or not. Let them give Tinubu a chance. Let us watch before we begin to complain because we are human beings.
Many people lamented that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria worked to make your party lose, but he’s a member of your party and the generality of Nigerians suffered the hardship. What are your thoughts on that season?
The CBN governor brought hardship to this country. I worked and retired from the CBN and I know the system. How would he change money and ask us to go and deposit our money? The two must be going side by side for a particular time.
In the United Kingdom today, they have changed their money to King Charles. The Queen’s money is going to be there for a long time. Why is our own different? If Emefiele had no hidden objectives, and people were saying he had a mission to accomplish, he would have done the right thing.
Unfortunately, some people we did not expect to commend him were commending him, saying that the currency design would prevent vote-buying. Who told you? It did not.
People began to transfer money (laughs) to buy votes. If that was what it was to prevent, then he was not doing his job properly. The way I put it, he was inimical to the progress of Nigerians the way he did it.
What was your experience of such when you were in the CBN?
I took part in several currency changes. The first currency change from the British West African currency board to the British Pound took place on July 1, 1959. I was there in the central bank; I was a cashier. In 1973, when the naira came in to replace the pound, I was in Maiduguri, I was there.
I was the currency officer on 1976, July 2. I still have photographs. Nobody knew we were changing money. But somebody just came and decided to ruin the economy. He ruined so many businesses. Up till now, people go from my church to withdraw money, they say they can only withdraw N100,000.
So, we have to split the cheque and if one is not careful, you will let people who are corruptible in their minds begin to practise corruption. In big organisations, a lot of corruption will take place. So, the man should go. If I were him, I would resign. He has failed this country as a governor of the central bank.
He has disappointed everybody. But those who fight against the masses always pay for it. One (CBN) governor did it, he got blind. If you want me to give you his name, I can give you his name. You don’t fight the masses. He may have made a lot of money from all that he has been doing or satisfied some people, but he will see the end.