By Chinelo Obogo
Jamiu Abiola, the son of the late Moshood and Kudirat Abiola was recently appointed as a member of the Directorate of Contact and Mobilisation for the campaign organisation of President Muhammadu Buhari. He is also a member of the Buhari Support Organisation and explains in this interview his reason for accepting to serve in President Buhari’s re-election campaign. He also speaks on how the campaign is funded and why the party crisis in states like Ogun and Imo wont affect Buhair’s re-election.
What made you chose to accept the offer to be a member of the Directorate of Contact and Mobilisation for the campaign organisation of President Muhammadu Buhari?
I was very honored to have been given the offer to serve on the campaign team because I strongly believe in what President Buhari stands for. I believe in his vision for this country and I know that I can contribute a lot to his campaign because I am a Nigerian born by detribalised parents who lost their lives fighting for democracy. I believe that this administration is one that can realize most of my father’s visions and objectives if he had become the president.
Do you think that he is a good product to sell to the public?
He has always been a good product; if you remember, he was the minister of petroleum and he was a also a governor in different states. We also know that during the difficult years of General Sani Abacha, he was in charge of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which carried out many infrastructural projects across the country.
Before the 2015 election, President Buhari made a lot of promises to Nigerians and the expectations were high, but more than three years later, many of those promises have not been actualized. What fresh issues is he bringing to the table this time around?
He made those promises because he was speaking as an outsider. If I tell you to come and clean my house and you promise to do it in two hours, but when you come in, you find out that my house is broken down, would it still be possible to fulfill the promise of cleaning up the house in two hours? It is not possible. The President made those promises based on what he felt was on ground in terms of the level of decadence that the country has gone through. But when he took over power, he was shocked and overwhelmed by the issues confronting him. He found out that a lot of state governments were owing salaries and they were almost collapsing and that is why the Federal Government had to bail out many states. In answering your question about 2019, he has been able to give the country direction by focusing on building infrastructure which he has done effectively. In each state, there is a housing project going on and there are many railways also being constructed. He has been able to ensure non-disruption of petroleum supply especially during the festive period, so in 2019, he would consolidate on the gains and take the country to the next level.
Does that mean that he was not well prepared to govern the country considering that he had contested three times in the past? Should he not have known the challenges facing the country by now?
The only way you can know what is on ground is if there is complete full disclosure of facts, but when you are dealing with government and facts are not disclosed, unless you are an insider, there is no way you can know everything that is on ground. Also remember that the 2015 elections were shifted for a few weeks because the other party wanted to win by all means and during that time, a lot of money was squandered and that was part of the challenges that the President met on ground. We have to put these things into consideration before we draw our conclusions. You cannot expect someone who met such level of decadence to snap his fingers and perform magic.
Before now, when projects are executed, the story is everywhere, but why is it that we never hear about projects that have been executed by this government?
I always ask this same question to a lot of journalists that I know. I ask why the media does not report the achievements of this government. I ask if there are vested interests to ensure that this government is silenced and whatever they do is ignored. There are ongoing rail projects and even the Second Niger Bridge is ongoing. Everybody knows that Nigeria is getting fossils from Morocco which we are using to produce fertilizers locally but I keep wondering why these things are not reported.
It is not true that the media is ignoring reports of infrastructure. The media cannot manufacture projects and claim that it is the government that carried it out. It is their job to fact-check any claims made by the government on projects. What verifiable projects have this administration carried out so far?
There have been cases where a story is reported but later debunked but when that report is debunked, it is not given the same prominence as the original false story. I would like a situation where the achievements of the government are given the same prominence as the criticism.
Are there any projects or infrastructure started and completed by this government besides projects that were inherited from previous administrations?
We have to bear in mind that government is a continuation. Also, do not forget that the government was lacking funds because by the time that this administration came in, the price of oil had dropped, it is just now that it is getting closer to $60 per barrel. So, if the government starts initiating a lot of new projects, where would the funds come from when it is even bailing out states? If the previous administration has paid for projects to be carried out and this government starts its own projects, the money paid before would go to waste. It is then better for the government to itemise the most important of the projects and focus on finishing them.
Does it then mean that most of the projects being undertaken by this government are projects it inherited from its predecessors?
They are not the only projects being carried out. In 2017, the Federal Government signed an agreement with Morocco that they are going to do a gas pipe line linking Nigeria to Morocco. There are lots of projects that the government is carrying out as well.
Before this government came on board, it promised to remove fuel subsidy and that is why it took the price of petrol from N90 to N145. Despite this, the government is still paying millions in subsidy. Why is this so?
The issue of subsidy is a very sensitive one and I would tell you why. Initially, there was huge subsidy scam where companies would import one cargo and say that they imported five. But when this government came on board, they decided to pay subsidy in such a way that it would be difficult for people to be making money at the background and leakages would be reduced. If the government removes subsidy entirely, the price of fuel will skyrocket.
Where is the APC getting its campaign funds from?
APC is getting its funding from farmers. The government invested a lot in agriculture and it has yielded a lot because rice importation has gone down drastically. So because these farmers do not want development to stop, they decided to fund the President’s campaign.
We know about the Anchor Borrowers Programme carried out by the Federal Government for farmers and the media did a detailed report on how the programme was not very effective in many states. How then could farmers raise such a large sum of money for the President’s campaign?
If you want to find out, you can write an open letter to the President to make inquiry about how farmers were able to raise such an amount for his campaign. The president has always said that anything the government says can be verified. Just because the government says it does not mean that it is false.
Do you think that the crisis in some APC states would affect President Buhari’s election in those states?
The President is a very good product and he would not be affected by the crisis in any state. For a very long time, we have been looking for a president that has integrity in Nigeria and we could not find it. So, I believe that the President would be immune to the issues in those states.