Premium Times, 16 October 2022: Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, gave a long speech on his plans for Nigeria at the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit on Saturday.
Mr Tinubu, who had not been speaking on his plans in public since his nomination, gave a glimpse into the plan with his speech.
The speech touched on insecurity, judicial reforms, the economy and other sectors. However, the speech was overshadowed by a gaffe when he was speaking on host Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State.
Mr Tinubu, in his usual self-confidence, assured the audience that he is going to win the presidential election and urged Governor El-rufai to abandon any plans to retire from public service after his tenure as governor.
In the process, he dropped the bombshell that Mr El-rufai has the capacity to turn a rotten situation into a bad one.
“I am openly begging Nasir El-rufai not to run away for additional degree and excuse. He is going to Cairo—PhD and everything. There are a lot of educated relics. We are not going to let you run away, your vision, creativity and resilience in turning a rotten situation into a bad one is necessary at this critical time. That is why we are here today,” he said.
While political gaffe is common in any political speech, however, the speculation on the health status of Mr Tinubu could explain the extra attention and scrutiny of his speeches. Aside from the gaffe, in the beginning, the speech was wobbling with several awkward stops in-between words, phrases and sentences. In addition, Mr Tinubu has a history of making errors in his speeches and has become a source of many jokes on social media. There is the “recruiting 50 million youths into the military”, “is it for Agbado and Ewa?” and there is the “corn, cassava and Agbado”.
Last week, his “tell them to shut up” comment during the inauguration of the women’s campaign council set tongues wagging on social media.
Mr Tinubu had asked APC women leaders to ask PDP members demanding a change of government to “shut up”. On social media, the statement was translated to “Tinubu tells Nigerians to shut up”.
Aside from gaffes, the APC candidate also has a history of making damaging comments when speaking off-script.
In 2018, during the gubernatorial election campaign in Osun State, Mr Tinubu, speaking at the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo, Jimoh Olanipekun, said he is richer than Osun State.
“I am not being abusive, and I will not look into the eyes of Kabiyesi (the King) to say this. People may be saying that Jagaban, Asiwaju has appointed someone to help him plunder Osun’s funds, and all, and I ask them: ‘How much exactly do you (Osun State) even have?’
“Kabiyesi I don’t want to say this in front of you but, Osun is not as rich as I am, that one would steal. I only want to help this state.”
Earlier this year, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, during the tussle for the APC ticket, Mr Tinubu went gun blazing against everyone in his “Emi lokan” rant.
Some of the victims of his diatribe included President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, who got the infamous title of Eleyi.
Often, his media handlers have to clarify the error and make corrections after the speeches.
Shortly after the Kaduna speech, the APC campaign council, via Bayo Onanuga, issued a statement explaining what Mr Tinubu really meant.
“The APC leader inadvertently said Governor El-Rufai “turned a rotten situation” he met on the ground in Kaduna into “a bad one” whereas he meant to say “to a great one.
“It was a mere slip, that is not unusual in life, even among leaders of nations. We recognise we are in a political season where everything is latched on for deliberate distortion and twisted mischief,” Mr Onanuga had said.
Many believe that Mr Tinubu has avoided one-on-one interviews because of the constant gaffes. As those gaffes could take away attention from the core of his speech.
Luckily for Mr Tinubu, one of his main opponents, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, who was also in Kaduna, had his own “slip of tongue”.
Mr Atiku, during an Interactive Session with Arewa Joint Committee, held on Saturday in Kaduna State, said “This is what the Northerner needs, it doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, I stand before you as a Pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”
A glimpse in absence of manifesto
The APC candidate is yet to release his manifesto for the upcoming election, although, his handlers claimed that it has been presented to the joint meeting of the PCC, the Progressive Governors’ Forum and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party.
Mr Keyamo, the spokesperson of the PCC, had after the meeting, informed journalists that the governors and the NWC approved the content of the manifesto.
Therefore, the Kaduna Speech remains the closest glimpse into what is expected under Mr Tinubu in the event he wins the election.
The larger part of the speech dwelled on the economy. It was expected considering that the gathering was an economic one and the fact that Nigeria is on a fiscal cliff.
Mr Tinubu highlighted incentives for the private sector as one of the variables for driving growth. According to him, the organised private sector can help to provide jobs across states.
Secondly, he said his government would target a double-digit growth rate by leveraging the potential of youths for economic development, adding that technology would be deployed to block leakages and achieve efficiency.
He also emphasised improving the ease of doing business policy of the present administration.
“You (youths) are the path to achieving double-digit economic growth within a couple of years. We will do this through coordinated sets of policies in our key sector.
“We will champion an efficient government that will eliminate revenue leakages across all federal government and leveraging technology which will be increasingly embedded in government operations,” he said.
Building on Buhari’s legacy
There are speculations that Mr Tinubu will distance himself from the current administration to avoid carrying the burden of this government.
However, despite the challenges, Mr Buhari remains popular in the North and Mr Tinubu is banking on traditional Buhari voters in the North-west, hence, he has to take the risk.
In his speech, Mr Tinubu highlighted some of the legacies of the current administration he is hoping to build on.
He made the analogy that “it is not that same day maize is planted that corn is harvested”.
Mr Tinubu said his government will continue the judicial reforms embarked on by the current administration by ensuring that the judiciary arm is truly autonomous financially.
“Whilst there must be active engagement between all the arms of government for the rule of law to prevail, it is critical for the judiciary to retain its autonomy and independence.
“Therefore, under my stewardship, the federal government will build on the efforts of the current administration to review, amend and/or enact the relevant laws that will engender the rule of law.
“My administration would ensure that the judiciary has true financial and administrative autonomy and strong disciplinary and integrity monitoring mechanisms.”
In this sector, Mr Tinubu did not give any specific action other than a general statement of recruiting, training and equipping the military and other security apparatus to protect the territorial integrity of the country.
He stated that “no inch of this country will be ceded to banditry and armed robbery. We will fight it to a standstill.”
“We will be committed to introducing cross-sector initiatives that will address the economic and social constraints that prevent people from advancing or opting for crime.
“Under my leadership, the government will place great emphasis on the use of a counter-insurgency doctrine and strategy by our military. We will continue to train and equip our gallant forces and security personnel with the resources, gear, and equipment that they need to hasten our inevitable march to a resounding victory against the enemies of our great nation. Where necessary, we will recruit and train more personnel to bridge any gaps in manpower,” he said.
Expected cabinet— El-rufai is the first recruit
Mr Tinubu promised to assemble some of the best talents to work with him if he is elected as president.
On Saturday, Mr Tinubu hinted that the governor of Kaduna State is very high on his list of likely recruits. Mr Tinubu, after his speech, said he will not leave the stage until he gets a commitment from the Kaduna State governor on staying in public service beyond 2023.
Mr El-rufai, who will be rounding off his second term as governor in 2023, had vowed to retire after his tenure as governor. The former minister had in May, during an interview on Channels TV, said he is physically tired of carrying on after his tenure as governor. “I am tired. I’m not tired of serving the nation. I’m just physically tired because I do take my work seriously and in the last seven to eight years, I have worked flat out. “I am not young anymore. I will be 63 next year so I prefer to look at other options to contribute to the development of my country.”
In his speech, Mr Tinubu said his host should not run to Egypt or any other country for P.hD. He stated that the country needs him here.
After his speech, Mr Tinubu reiterated that Mr El-rufai must give him a pledge to continue to serve. “I want you to make a promise, we will not let you run away from this country. I am not leaving this stage,” he said. At that point, Mr El-Rufai climbed the stage and promised to carry on.
While this speech has offered the first rare glimpse into the plan of the APC candidate, however, issues like the growing debt profile, subsidy regime, climate change and the devastating environmental impact, state policing, restructuring and others are some of the burning issues candidates are expected to elaborate on