New Telegraph

Tinubu’s govt will not fail Nigerians –Umenzekwe

What is your take on the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that affirmed President Bola Tinubu’s election?

First of all, I must congratulate Nigerians for coming out en mass to vote in the general election. People now understand the importance of democracy; that’s why their participation was quite encouraging. I also congratulate the contestants; our leader and President, President Tinubu, right from the primary and all through the elections. I also commend former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He did well. But I am very proud of my brother, the candidate of Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, for making all of us to be on our toes. In as much as there were a lot of emotions that followed that election because it was the first time, our own son and our own brother participated in such a fiercely contested presidential election. The Nigerian environment was charged, I congratulate him, and I will say let him keep on trying. Having said that, you will recall that I told you before the election that Tinubu will win the poll, taking into consideration his contributions to nation building and deepening of democracy. I must also congratulate the five justices of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal for doing a thorough job. They took time to analyze whatever every person submitted during the trial period. I am not a lawyer but I don’t see anywhere they erred. Personally, I welcome the judgement but it is left to the petitioners to decide on what to do next. Whatever they decide, one thing good about the judgement is that it has helped in redesigning our democracy. It has raised a lot of consciousness within the political space as it exposed a lot of things and that is why I must congratulate the petitioners because if they have not gone to court, certain things would not have been in the public domain. We have fought enough though not a physical fight but a legal battle, so the only thing I am begging Atiku and Obi now is that they should sheath their swords and join Tinubu to rebuild whatever that has gone wrong. From the look of things, the President is going to do well. If you had listened to speech of erstwhile governor of Lagos State and immediate past Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) at the Lagos State University, he said that Tinubu’s government will usher in a generational change in governance and a new Nigeria.

Did you see the President’s victory at the tribunal coming despite the apprehension in some political quarters?

It is not because I am a member of the APC, Tinubu has paid his dues. This is a man, who put his life on line when we were trying to bring back democracy. He fought tooth and nail and he participated in bringing to an end the military regime. As a result of that, he went to exile. You know what it means for you to leave your home unprepared. He spent several years outside the shores of Nigeria, and as God would have it, he came back alive and still continued the struggle. In 1999, he contested for the governorship of Lagos State and won. He has remained the one man standing since then. He redesigned and reinvented Lagos. From there he started building his political empire by gathering the whole of SouthWest geopolitical zone together. Apart from doing that, the man started building people across the six geopolitical zones to the extent that he accommodated other tribes in Lagos. From there APC was formed, his party went into election in 2015 and won. He kept quiet, waiting for an appointed time to come out. When President Muhammadu Buhari completed his tenure, some northerners led by a former governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir e-Rufai, saw that need for power to be shifted to the South. They rallied round and made sure that APC nominated a candidate from the South and as God would have it, Tinubu clinched the presidential ticket. That was the day I concluded that he would win the election. You saw the number of people, who stepped down for him even after buying the nomination forms at N100 million. You will remember I said then that no amount of blackmail will stop Tinubu from winning the election and it came to pass. He won the election and he has equally won at the tribunal, but you can see a man with a large heart given the way he has accommodate all sections of the country despite the attacks at his person during the campaigns.

You said the petitioners should join hands with the President in building Nigeria; are you saying they should not appeal the judgement?

Like I said, I congratulate them because without going to ventilate their agitation, many people will not be satisfied. But how long are we going to continue like this? So, like I advised during the pendency of these matters at the tribunal, we should sheath our swords because the future is waiting. Remember what former President Goodluck Jonathan said, if you contest today and lose, you can contest tomorrow. And we have a role model in that sphere, Former President, Muhammadu Buhari and even Atiku Abubakar. Even in the Western world, people have contested so many times, lost but the kept contesting. As long as there is life, there is hope. So, we should allow the present government to concentrate. All this money we are spending on election tribunal and all that is a waste of resources, time and energy. Let everybody rally round President Tinubu to move Nigeria forward.

President Tinubu has formed his cabinet and governance has taken off. What do you make of the composition of the cabinet; are Nigeria’s first eleven?

Tinubu has never been a failure and I don’ think his administration will be a failure. He knows how and when to cut his onions and he consulted widely before appointing his ministers, so let us give him a chance.

You made a case for Fashola to be in the cabinet. Is it that he was looked by the President or he opted out?

I don’t know Fashola as somebody that makes mistakes. He is a perfect gentleman, a trail blazer, an achiever and a true democrat. Don’t forget that he served for 24 years and the marks he left are indelible. I can’t speak for him but all I know is that Fashola is a nation builder and he has not relented in nation building. Like he said, we need generational change in government. I know he believes in building people. I am not there, but whatever happened, whatever decision he took, I think he took it for the betterment of this country and for the future generation. As minister of Works and Housing, Fashola left an indelible mark. Looking at all the projects the Federal Government during his tenure, there is no doubt that he left a big shoe for his successor. My advice to Dave Umahi is to improve on what Fashola did. If he did 1,000 roads, and 200,000 housing units, let him double it. That is the essence of government and I know that taking into consideration what Umahi did in Ebonyi State, he is going to improve on that. So, I am not expecting anything less, let him improve on Fashola’s excellent performance.

The consequences of subsidy removal are still very much with us, government promises are met in breach to some extent and the organised labour has continued to threaten strike. Why is government slow in rolling out the palliatives it promised?

He has given out palliatives to the states although I don’t know whether they have collected the N5 billion in full. You mentioned that abour is threatening; it is normal and will put the government on its toes. Those who were given assignments by the President should be roll up their sleeves and get to in order to produce result, and when a committee is set up, you must give them chance to look at issues. The cabinet has just been formed, some of them were not part of the government before, they were just nominated and confirmed and assigned ministerial positions. This is not a 100metre race, you have to look at files and reports before you take actions. I think that is what the various committees handling these palliatives are doing and I don’t expect labour to keep quiet because if does so, members of the committees may relax. While what labour is doing is part of democracy, we must know the difference between limitations and excesses. By now, labour must have known that the government is working. If you had listened to Ajuri Ngelele, the Media Adviser to the President, government is working to meet up with its promises. The various committees are working and they are still interfacing with labour.

Some people are of the view that giving governors N5 billion is just a compensation rather than palliative for the people. What do you make of that claim?

That claim is unfounded. Do they want the President to throw the N5 billion on the streets? He must send it through a proper channel. Do you want to tell me that if something is coming to Anambra State from the president, the governor will not be aware of it? That claim of compensating the governors cannot substantiated because the governors have not denied that such money is coming. It might come in tranches, but the issue is that they are ready to accept it and do the work. When they receive the money, if they don’t do the work, then we can talk. The President cannot throw money on the streets and say scramble for it, some people must coordinate it, and the governors are in a good position to do that.

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