The assignment given to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu by President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is seen by some cynics as a risky political venture. However, in this interview, Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the party, Henry Ajomale, commends the President for the initiative, insisting that Tinubu has all it takes to resolve all the lingering crises.
As one of the close associates of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, how do you see his assignment to reconcile aggrieved members of the APC, especially coming at a time when the nation is getting closer to the next general election?
I believe that it is a smart move by President Muhammadu Buhari. The fear of the unknown is gripping the entire membership of the APC because there is problem everywhere. And we are not unaware that we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. I think what the president has done will go a long way to solve a lot of problems particularly with the personality of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. That is why I said it is a smart move because he has everything it takes to be able to negotiate and solve the myriad of problems confronting the party in most states. As the Chairman of state Chairmen’s Forum, I know a number of states that are having problems. And if care is not taken, we may eventually lose those states. But Asiwaju has the ability, the intellect and tenacity to be able to solve most of these problems. He has the energy; he has all it takes to do the reconciliation. That again is why I said the President is very smart in taking that decision; otherwise, we would have been in a very serious problem. There is problem going on in Kano, Kaduna, virtually in all the states. So, sitting down as if nothing is happening is not going to help us and I think the president has found out early enough. These problems are not insurmountable. If we had gone into the congress with this attitude, there would have been serious confrontation. Possibly, the congress may not even hold in some states, which will have multiple effects on the party. I think the best the president has ever done is appointing Asiwaju to see to the problems that is confronting the party on all fronts. In the National Assembly, there is problem going on there. There is confrontation between the executive and the legislature which is controlled by the party. We are supposed to be working in tandem in order to improve the living condition of the common man in the country. But instead of doing that, we are confronting each other on many fronts. Whatever the executive is doing, the National Assembly will ensure it is blocked. Even with the party, the leadership is having problem. To me, I feel what Mr. President has done is to restore sanity in the party. And he has done it early enough for us to settle down. The best move is what the president has done. I believe Asiwaju is the right person to head that reconciliation committee because he has seen it all. As far as resolution of dispute is concerned, he is an expert there. I think the president was right in identifying these problems to be able to find solution to them early enough.
You are also not unaware of the insinuation in the public domain that Tinubu has not been given his due recognition in this government. Don’t you see the assignment as a political risk for him to stick out his neck again to do what he did in 2015?
Many people don’t know Asiwaju. Once he is committed to something, he doesn’t look back. He was committed to the formation of this party. Whatever happens, he will stand by the party. Whether he was treated fairly or not is a different matter entirely. If all along the president has not recognized him, now he has realized that without this man there is little he can do. It is never too late, if attitude is changed. Beyond that, whatever Asiwaju does, it is in the interest of the common people of this country and not what he can benefit from it. If he had wanted to benefit, he would have joined those who wanted to destroy the party. But he will not do that because he was part and parcel of the formation of the party. Whether he benefits from it or not, he doesn’t see it as a personal thing. He is a patriot. He can share his blood for this country. If he decides to quit politics today, he can’t suffer because he has his connections all over the world. He can sell stone for water. He is an accountant and a reputable auditor known all over the world. For me, whatever Asiwaju is fighting for is not personal. Once he is convinced that this is the way for Nigeria, he will go for it. Whether or not his effort has been recognized, he will forgive them and ensure that Nigeria remains Nigeria. He won’t want to see the party he sweated and spent his money for destroyed. He will not allow the party to break in his presence. Whatever he does, he will not think about himself alone, but the good of this nation. That is the difference between Asiwaju and others. And this is why he will accept to do the assignment. That notion of change, he created it. I don’t think it is now that he will be part of those who are going to break the party. So, he must be involved in resolving the problems that have been on the ground before he was called in. I am sure the President must have recongised his ingenuity before he invited him. So, for me, he will accept because he doesn’t think about himself. It is a challenge to him, but he will solve the problem. He is the only person I know in APC that can solve the problem.
And do you think Nigerians will accept to vote again for the APC, knowing that the change they expected is not what they are seeing today?
When we started this change mantra, we never knew things were so bad. We were not in government, we only used information we gathered in effecting the change. But unfortunately, we found out that things were very bad. The economy was in terrible state, we went into recession and we came out of it. We had to create a new foundation to move the nation forward. Thank God, oil price is going up and there is no more bombing of pipelines. But everything needs time to mature. Nigerians were expecting miracle to happen within a year when we took over government. The government is doing its best to bring back the old glory and make life more meaningful to the common man. But we need to give time to this government. For the first time in our history, President Buhari is assigned to head anti-graft war in Africa. If the world can do that, it means this president is incorruptible. You can’t take that away from him because the bane of economy of this country is corruption. The inability of some states to pay workers’ salary is not the creation of this government. It has been there because those who were creating states did not know whether the states they created were viable or not. Everything was based on political consideration not economic viability. That is the problem we are seeing today. If it is a business concern, a lot of people would have been retrenched in order to have money for development. But this is a social responsibility which the states have to contend with. The initiative of the Federal Government to make people think of what they can do for themselves and to be employers of labour rather than job seekers needs to be encouraged. We can get there in no time, but we have to be patient with this government. All the myriad of problem cannot be solved in one or two years. It is not possible.
There is a strong feeling of alienation among different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria today because of President Buhari’s response to the issue of herdsmen/farmers’ clash. Do you think you can still present him as candidate of your party and have people to queue behind him?
I agree with you that the president should have taken an immediate action. Whether good or bad, a leader must take a decision. But when the man was in the military, they said he was too draconic in his decisions. They said he was a dictator, he was not democratic. And now that he has become a civilian president, people are saying he is too slow in taking decisions. Don’t you think there is a conflict there? The problem of herdsmen has been there, it is only that it escalated recently. And those who are supposed to give the president the situation report are not giving him the right information. They failed to tell him the real situation. They were telling him that it was a communal clash. He can’t turn himself to spirit to know. If he had used military first, innocent citizens would have died and people would criticize him for using military. That is why he decided to use the police. And when he realized that the police could not find solution to it, the military had to come in as a last resort. Some people have also accused Mr. President of taking side with the Fulani because he is a Fulani man. I don’t think that is a right comment. What they are telling us is that the president is a tribalist, he is not patriotic. They have forgotten that he is the president of all. If he is not patriotic, would he have taken all the steps he has taken? I don’t think any president anywhere in the world will want to shed the blood of innocent citizens for whatever reason.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s development effort has been applauded by many Lagosians. But people are wondering why there is a sudden resurgence of refuse heaps on the streets of Lagos in the face of the ongoing campaign for a cleaner Lagos. What informs the change of the old arrangement that has worked so well?
Don’t forget that the population of Lagos is rising every day. We have a minimum of about 3000 people coming into Lagos every day and they don’t go back. He noticed that the old system cannot cope with the exodus of people to Lagos. Therefore, if it is not going to improve on the old model, they won’t have set agenda for a cleaner Lagos. It is a question of time. Once they get it right, certainly it will prove better.