Festus Keyamo Minister of State for Labour and Employment, is also the spokesman of Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council. In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, he reveals some plans Bola Ahmed Tinubu has for Nigerians if elected, why he said “Emilokan”, and why APC ignored Wike’s allegation, among other issues.
The campaign is about to take off, what are those things Tinubu campaign team will be telling Nigerians?
The full agenda and the details in terms of the micro issues, they are all contained in our manifesto of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that will be released anytime from now. We are putting finishing touches to that manifesto. The manifesto has always been ready. So, let me first of all clear that up. It has always been ready. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been ready to govern this country many years ago.
So, he has always had this document that is like to be his vision for the country. However, because of changing circumstances, because of the dynamics of the economy, because of dynamics of world politics now, we just have to tweak it a bit to also bring it up to date with present realities. That is exactly what we are doing and that document would be released anytime from now.
Can you tell me some these issues contained in the document?
Without going into the micro issue, the vision of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is to ensure that the templates of progressivism, which is the major fulcrum of the APC, progressivism, which is a clear and simple definition: a government that pays more attention to the lives of the very poor and the middle class; a government that believes more in intervention in the lives of the very poor, middle class, rather than the other people who would prefer a free market economy and whatever happens to the poor is their business in the free market economy, that is the basis of progressivism and so, all the policies of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be tilted towards that.
Secondly, the thrust of infrastructure that President Muhammadu Buhari, virtually spent his energies on infrastructure will also be one of the cornerstones of the policy of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, because in the promotion of infrastructure, then you can create more jobs. Not only in terms of direct employment, whereby people will be employed to build this infrastructure, but to also make it easier for people to carry on their economic activities, that is the secondary effect of it.
For instance, we make good roads for farmers to bring out their goods from the villages to the urban centre, sell them, go back to their villages and live a good life. You can also stop the rural urban migration, where the urban areas are becoming too crowded. People can remain in the rural areas and live a good life where they have the same type of infrastructure that you have in the urban areas and so it makes for all round development. So, Asiwaju Tinubu, like I said, without going into the details, is also going to continue the infrastructural revolution, roads, rails, bridges and towers. One other thrust again will be agriculture, because in our quest to diversify the economy, the first bus stop is agriculture.
That is also one of our major resources in this country. In terms of foreign earning, in terms of creating jobs again. If you look at the recent GDP, our recent GDP that went up about 3.1per cent, making it 3.25 per cent or thereabout, which is a massive improvement from what we read before. Look at the components of that GDP, Agriculture contributed about 24 per cent to that GDP, education was now 16 per cent and that is a massive leap in terms of agricultural inputs to our GDP. We also need to tell you that that is not even our target. Agriculture should be bringing in not less than 50 per cent in the country’s economy, but previous governments paid less attention to agriculture, if not even for the problems of the farmer herders crisis that we faced, it should have gone beyond that. But even in the farmers herders crises we were able to push it up to that point, where our approach made the biggest input to the GDP.
So, that’s the summary apart from all other issues that would be contained in that manifesto, will be the thrust of Asiwaju’s vision. That is why you hear people talking about ‘Agbado’. I like the ring of that. The other people think they are mocking the President and we laugh when we hear them call our incoming President ‘Agbado President.” The last president that was associated with farming and ‘agbado’ and all that, is Obasanjo which is 1979, remember Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). After that, no other president had taken that order from the former President but because Asiwaju was also a farmer, he was pro-farming and, you know OFN was a big booster then before oil also came in and people began to grow lazy, they left the farm and left the farms.
Buhari is one of the Presidents that pushed many people back to the farms again. Now, with the fertilizer initiative, with the rice mills that came back again, with the banning of imported rice and all of that, people were forced to go back because they knew that they could earn a lot from rice production. So, people went back to the farm. So, the agbado president, will also revive something close to the Operation Feed the Nation if not more than that. That will be contained in our manifesto.
Your party, APC promised to restructure this country but we have not seen that happen since 2015?
We believe that there would be some kind of restructuring, but in terms of the contents, the extent and the scope of the restructuring, we should wait for the manifesto. But, just to let you know, like we have been saying and people have not been listening over the years that it is also a function of the National Assembly to also ensure that it happens. It is not something that an executive president can do with an executive green biro.
But, don’t forget that within his scope of powers even when there was liturgy on the part of the Nationals Assembly, give credit to Buhari that he pushed for it in some many, many ways. He signed the executive order trying to grant autonomy to local governments. Not only the local government in terms of the administration, but even in terms of the state assemblies and the judiciary, too. What more could you have done as President to say within the scope of my powers and when it got to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court struck it down. They said it was beyond his powers, that shows the anxiety of the President trying to make it happen at all costs.
Restructuring does not happen overnight, but let us have this kind of phased restructuring to say look, the autonomy of certain government institutions of government, or levels of government should begin to function optimally let us see how it will work. People talk about unemployment and security and all that. It’s because of our failure to restructure, that is, they say Buhari has failed in security, Buhari has failed in employment, they forget that it is a function of three tiers of government. Local governments should employ, state governments should employ.
They have the capacity to employ. So, if you look at unemployment figures all over the country, some states carry very heavy figures, both APC and PDP states, they carry heavy figures but when people wake up, they doesn’t question governor Wike or Sowolu, they will just say unemployment, Buhari is destroying this country. It is unfortunate but that is how much we have been brainwashed.
While it is true that the president that heads federal government should be the Commander-in-Chief, people keep insisting and we have also insisted that for the Commander-in-Chief to function, other tiers of government have their own component with the full security architecture. What is that component? You are giving security votes. Why are you giving security votes? There are state governors who don’t go to the Villa but they handle security in their states. They don’t bother. They don’t even blame the federal government. They just handled it because they have security votes. What are your components? What is your duty in that security architecture? The security votes you’re given is to first of all use it to douse tension within your state. You call major non-state actors, bring them in, use those votes to bring them in. Not to put all the burden on the local government. It is only when they go out of hand that you call in the federal government but you as a state governor must have played a role up to a certain point.
Some people are shouting farmers, herders, what have you done with your security votes to bring them in all these while? Have you used the security votes within your power to say let me provide a place for you. Part of this security vote, I will rent here, carry your cows here, you said no, you chopped the money and then you are shouting at the federal government. And then, there is information gathering. You pay non-state actors for information. And then, when you need the heavy metal to crush them, you can call on the federal government, the Tucanos will come in. Where the state government does not have access to is the final power to deploy the hard metal. But, they have powers over all others. But, they go about as if they have nothing to do about this. So, failure of security at times is failure of the different tiers of government and what they should have done.
What is Tinubu’s plan to secure this country?
If you see the way Asiwaju handled security in Lagos, you will know that he has that kind of vision, capacity, and competence to repeat it on a national scale.
I have heard you making reference to Lagos all the time, Nigeria is far bigger than Lagos state?
We keep talking about this issue of Lagos and our people are trying to deride us. Is it only the issue of Lagos? One, Lagos is an APC government so when you are trying to deride us from talking about the records of APC, you are being unfair to us.
Obi can only boast about his record in Anambra, we should boast about Asiwaju’s record in Lagos because Lagos is not a PDP government. So, whatever we have achieved in Lagos, was done under APC or it is the parties that transmitted. It is the same personnel for the parties that are transmitted into the APC. So, we should be proud of our records in Lagos because the PDP has never won Lagos from 1999 till now.
The second one is that Lagos is a microcosm of Nigeria. If you can handle the complexity of Lagos, keep religious and tribal tension down for 23 years now. Everybody is welcome to Lagos to manage themselves there. Give credit to those who have done that. At times, the things you value most in life are not appreciated until you lose them. In those days when they were telling us about terrorism, we were laughing. We used to hear it in Iraq and all those places, saying how can people just wake up and start bombing everywhere and that it won’t happen in Nigeria. That was because we didn’t understand what peace meant. But, now it has come to us. Ten years, Boko Haram has been fighting. So, when at times you see peace, you take it for granted, and some people should not take for granted what has happened in Lagos over the years.
When the federal government exited Lagos in 1990, that was when Lagos began to collapse. After the Awka coup when they moved to Abuja all of a sudden, there was less attention to Lagos. When the federal government left between 1990 and 1999, it began to collapse. But when Asiwaju came, he tried to revive Lagos. So, this revolution started at that time but, to be honest Asiwaju took it to greater heights and his blueprints continues to work today for Lagos. So, he can do that on a national scale.
Rivers state governor Nysome Wike recently alleged that some persons in the Villa were working for PDP presidential candidate and no one has responded to that?
We have not responded because they should face their problems first. You can not throw bomb into our midst. If we respond, we will now start looking at ourselves suspiciously. Let them face their problem. It is just like somebody comes and says, in your house, one of your children is a witch, wants to kill you and maybe it’s a lie. All your six children, you will now be suspecting them. Your home will not be at peace again. Meanwhile, it was your enemy that told you that. Your enemy should remain in his lane. So, Wike should remain in his lane. He should not throw bombs into us. We are confident there is nobody supporting him.