The Tinubu Campaign Organisation’s Director of Media and Communications, Bayo Onanuga, in this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS, discusses chances of the All Progressive Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the 2023 election
Why was Bola Tinubu absent from the aborted meeting of the APC presidential aspirants in Abuja?
It is not a meeting of the APC presidential campaign council, and it is not a meeting of the party itself. The candidate and his running mate were not even aware of it. It was someone’s initiative, and maybe it was not well communicated. You can also ask other presidential candidates why they didn’t turn up.
A number of disgruntled aspirants and party chieftains have alleged that Tinubu is selecting people who didn’t work for his ticket into his presidential campaign team at their expense. What is your comment on that?
That is not true. Look at where we are seated, for instance. This was the office of Tein Jack-Rich. He is one of the presidential aspirants who donated his 27 state offices for the Tinubu/Shettima campaign. This is just one of them. Gov. Yahaya Bello also gave out his office in Wuse, which is well furnished, for the campaign. A lot of them have donated their offices in support of the presidential candidate. Remember that the first thing Tinubu did after winning the primary was to visit other aspirants in order to bring them together.
So what went wrong in the case of Amaechi and a few aggrieved presidential aspirants?
Nothing went wrong. They are still at the same party together. You need to ask the aspirants too. As far as I know, nothing went wrong.
If you insist nothing went wrong, how would you explain Amaechi’s recent outburst that delegates who voted for your principal at the last APC Convention were financially induced?
That wasn’t what Amaechi said. They took what he said out of context. The media twisted what he said. He also clarified that it wasn’t what he was talking about. There is a lot of mischief in the media today. Amaechi himself made clarifications and said that he was quoted out of context.
The political campaign begins in four weeks. Is your principal prepared for the anticipated mudslinging and image-smearing attack that would be launched at him and his running mate?
Our campaign will not be about mudslinging. We are going to keep addressing issues. We won’t go around throwing tantrums at our opponents. It will solely be about how we are going to improve things in Nigeria. Nigeria is not a totally bad case. We have recorded progress in many areas despite having challenges in some other areas. Our candidates are coming to improve on those challenges.
Of course, new challenges will emerge, but we are not writing off our country. We believe that some progress has been made in the last seven years under the Buhari administration. That is our position.
Don’t you think the protracted ASUU crisis can affect your campaign?
Who created the ASUU crisis? Buhari inherited the ASUU crisis. In fact, the agreement that caused the strike was done under the PDP administration. They agreed to it just to pacify ASUU, perhaps to get their votes, but Buhari has tried to implement many of the provisions in the agreement because the government is a continuum. He has tried to implement it, but ASUU keeps shifting the goalpost. The government is still not folding its hands. They have been talking to them and making them see the benefits of what the government can do to improve university education.
Looking at ASUU’s position to extend the strike, the government has decided to meet them and assuage their worries. Maybe they are doing it for political reasons.
ASUU has so far shown that it is unreasonable. How can a union resolve to embark on a protracted strike? Our children, who are supposed to spend four years, end up spending six or seven years solely because of the ASUU strike. I think the leadership of ASUU is callous, bringing our education to its knees because they want more money.
People should talk to ASUU. The government has said, “It is not that we don’t want to give you more money. We have X amount of money. There are so many things we need to spend money on, and we can’t just give everything to the universities. ASUU has also been reminded that every state or federal university has its own autonomy. It has a governing council at that level. Why can’t they try to find a way to solve some of the problems?
Won’t the ASUU strike have implications for Tinubu ahead of the political campaign season and his 2023 presidential ambition?
We believe that our people are reasonable. The issues have been tabled. Everybody knows what is happening, and they know they can’t hang anything on our candidate. As I said earlier, this problem was inherited by Buhari due to a controversial agreement signed six years before he came into power. Can the PDP blame the problem they created themselves and couldn’t resolve for six years on Tinubu?
How will you react to the court case filed by former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, calling for Tinubu’s disqualification on the grounds that he was the only APC aspirant who provided evidence of how he raised his nomination form?
Who did Nwajuba take to court? I understand he sued Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar. If the matter is before the court, let’s leave it to the court to decide. It is subjudice. My response is simply to let the court decide. Besides, the man in question didn’t attend the convention. He withdrew, so he has no locus standi.
Have you observed that Atiku seems to be gaining ground in the North lately? This has fuelled fears that the North may betray Tinubu in the run-up to the 2023 election, especially with Senator Ibrahim Shekarau’s defection.
I don’t know why some people have stereotypes about the North. Don’t cast them in the image that they are not. This is the same North as in 1993, when the son of the soil, Tofa, under the NRC, challenged him, but late MKO (Abiola) from Ogun State beat him in Kano and other northern states, excluding Adamawa.
To say the North is supporting Atiku is to daydream. Don’t forget that Bola Tinubu is not just Bola Tinubu. He is Bola Tinubu of the APC. The APC is on the ground in all the states. We are stronger in the North than even in the South, and Tinubu is their candidate. We believe that they are going to stick with him and vote for him. Atiku is from Adamawa and may get some sympathy votes, but it won’t be enough to upstage Bola Tinubu. We are not afraid.
What about the resurgence of Peter Obi and his Obidient Movement?
Peter Obi is just a social media creation. Our belief is that with the election about five months away, he will fade out.
Are you also aware that Obi seems to be enjoying the support of Obasanjo, whom many believed he was subtly spearheading his campaign?
Obasanjo has said he is not supporting any candidate. So don’t put words in his mouth. As an elder statesman, all aspirants have been going to him to seek his blessing, not even support. Peter Obi went there, and Tinubu did the same thing.
Before the presidential primary, Tinubu also went to see Ibrahim Babangida. This is what they all do. A few days back, Tinubu went to see Jonathan. They are elder statesmen who are now beyond partisan politics, and Obasanjo is not different. He has not endorsed any candidate because he is a father to everybody.
What is your candidate doing to appease disgruntled party members, particularly in the South-South and South East, who felt left out of his campaign train?
I suggest you wait for the composition of our campaign council. Everybody is there, and all interests are being taken care of.
By the time the list is released, you will know that everybody is on board. We have a strategic committee that includes representatives from all parts of the country. The candidate has given those who are compiling the list the instruction that everybody must be on board. We have over 20 directorates, and each one will reflect the diversity of the country.