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NLC, TUC Now Heavily Partisan, Can’t Represent Workers – Onanuga



Bayo Onanuga

The Director of Media and Publicity for the dissolved All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, in this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS, bares his mind on how the ex-Lagos State governor plans to tackle Nigeria’s debt burden and fuel subsidy removal, among other issues

There was outrage, especially from critics and opposition parties, over the casual manner the Senate approved Buhari’s N22.7tn extra-budgetary spending. Although the government is a continuum, won’t this create a problem for the incoming administration?

This is your own opinion. We don’t have the details yet. Asiwaju is also not in the saddle yet. When he gets on board, he will look into all those things. Don’t forget this is an APC government. We are also the APC. So whatever the Senate has approved, we believe, must have been done in good faith. The Tinubu administration will take it up from there.

What about his plan to tackle the nation’s huge debt burden?

Well, what I know is that the president-elect has addressed this issue of debt at various fora in the run-up to the election. Asiwaju, as a ‘finance’ man, believes very strongly that the debt issue can be largely resolved. He had spoken about denominating some of our debt in naira. He had spoken about cutting waste in governance to free up resources so that we can give ourselves some financial relief. I believe his administration will be able to find a way to lessen the burden. When he spoke in January at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, he said it clearly that he is not unduly bothered by the ballooning budget deficit, which rose from N2.41tn in 2016 to N11.34tn in the current budget. As he told the summit, fiscal deficits are not necessarily bad, as it is an inherent part of modern governance. He said the most powerful and wealthiest governments run deficits, as do the poorest nations.

The real issue, he said, is whether deficit spending is productive or not. In his words, unproductive deficit spending is a compound negative, especially if backed by excessive borrowing of foreign currency.

So, I expect his administration to fashion out policies to tackle what some Nigerians consider as the debt burden.

Will Tinubu publicly declare his assets just as his predecessor, Buhari and Osinbajo did?

Why not? It is a tradition. He will do it. Asiwaju will declare his assets. His Vice President will also do the same. Already, the Code of Conduct Bureau has asked the incoming elected officials to declare their assets before May 29. Tinubu will certainly comply with the law.

The call for assets declaration must have obviously stemmed from controversies trailing the United Kingdom property bought by Seyi Tinubu. What’s your assessment of the situation?

This is an old story. The last time I read about it, they mentioned Oyetola. Today, they have extended the narration to Seyi. It is an old story that people keep recycling all over. I think it was first published by Premium Times sometime last year or so. Again, the story has found its way back into the news. Maybe tomorrow, they may come out with another story that the property is owned by another person. They were aiming at the President-elect. But they didn’t find any smoking gun as the story clearly indicated he was not involved in the acquisition of the property.

Is Obi proving to be a problem to the camp of the president-elect?

Honestly, I can’t understand Peter Obi and his supporters. The way they have taken the election and its aftermath smacks of desperation. After going to court, Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, and the supporters that some writers have likened to a headless mob, have been throwing all manners of stones at the President-elect, impugning the integrity of the poll, assassinating his character. They have lobbed insults and lies against INEC officials, claiming they wanted to reclaim a so-called mandate, which they never got in the first instance. They are so loud and reckless about it, you wonder whether Obi came a close second. He was a distant third and did not even lead in plural votes or the spread.

The latest joke is the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, aligning with some highly compromised civil society groups, saying they are going to serve as the watchdog for the judiciary. In fact, the NLC declared that they are going to have a ‘Register of Shame’ for judges who make pronouncements they don’t like about the election. I don’t understand all that. That’s uncalled for. Of course, the NLC can’t do that. The congress is already a party in the election, being a member of the Labour Party. How can you claim that you want to be a watchdog for something that you are already a part of? The NLC and TUC are already heavily partisan and therefore have lost all moral rights to be a judge in the post-election legal fights. Looking at the future, I don’t even know how the NLC and TUC can now claim to represent all Nigerian workers having fully embraced the Labour Party.

Is Tinubu not worried about the burden of having to deal with petrol subsidy removal?

I cannot talk about his move or any approach now. What I can say is that he will take them one after the other. The President-elect and the defeated candidates of the opposition – the PDP and Labour Party – all agreed that the fuel subsidy must go. But I expect them to backpedal or claim they didn’t say so again. In politics, anything is possible. But during the campaign, all of them clearly said it when asked what they were going to do about the lingering fuel subsidy. All the major parties agreed that the subsidy had been abused and must be allowed to go. Asiwaju also affirmed that it must go. How it is going to be done is a matter of approach. But when he gets to that bridge, he will cross it.

The subsidy has become a real problem for our people and is messing up the treasury. The major beneficiaries of this subsidy are mostly the smugglers, not the Nigerian people. In recent times, we have seen the Nigeria Customs Service doubting the volume of petrol the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd claims is being consumed by Nigerians.

Unless we are a nation of fools, we cannot continue to subsidise petrol consumers in Cameroon, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Niger, and Chad, all because we are maintaining a regime of subsidy. We can’t continue to play Santa Claus to smugglers and our neighbours.

You will recall that in 2015, the World Bank asked the President, Major General, Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), to remove the subsidy. At a stage, the Buhari government removed it only for the government to reverse itself when the price of crude went up, impacting the landing cost of imported fuel. The Tinubu government must take a decision as quickly as possible. We cannot continue to run away from taking that decision in the overall interest of Nigerians and the economy.

What will Tinubu’s cabinet look like? Will there be some members of the opposition and Nigerians in Diaspora involved in his government?

I think Nigerians should wait for his cabinet list, which will be unfolded after May 29. He is at present consulting all the APC stakeholders.

We have seen a list of Tinubu’s alleged ministers and heads of agencies circulating on online platforms and social media in the last three weeks. How authentic is that list?

Those are just social media stories. We should just wait. Some of these positions being touted would be occupied by people who are going to work with him. Let us just wait for May 29. I am sure after the inauguration, Tinubu will release the names officially.

Buhari disclosed a few weeks ago that the opposition lost to Tinubu because they were riding on the tide of random poll results and over-confidence. But critics believed Tinubu was just fortunate to be aided by some factors. What exactly will you say won him the presidency?

I will say God. You may not find this in political science books. But honestly, I will say there is the invaluable hand of God in his victory. It was God that split the PDP into three, while the APC remained a solid party, going into the election.

All the odds were stacked against him and his party. The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, his ill-advised, ill-timed, uneconomic currency swap and currency scarcity, had turned the Nigerian people against the APC and Tinubu. Then in many parts of the country, there was fuel scarcity. The candidate of the ruling party was not expected to survive the twin negative factors. But he survived as the public managed to believe that both the currency and fuel scarcities were contrived to put him at a disadvantage and make Atiku win.

That, however, did not happen. I think many Nigerians supported Asiwaju because of his track record as the former governor of Lagos. They are expecting that by voting for him, he will replicate the Lagos achievements nationally.

In my view, I think Tinubu’s track record fetched him many votes, except in the South-East where Peter Obi shut the door against him, by playing the ethnic card.

This, however, did not prevent Asiwaju from having the best national spread among the three main candidates. Where he did not come first, he came second in many states. If you compare that to Atiku who is always coming third in some places, the difference is clear. While Tinubu was able to have 25 per cent in about 29 states, Atiku only made it in 21 states. Peter Obi, on the other hand, was far behind. I think he got it in 15 states.

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I Will Not Interfere In Ondo Assembly Affairs – Akeredolu




• Leadership positions privilege, not right, Fayemi tells Ekiti lawmakers-elect
• Says selection prerogative of party

Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has assured the incoming members of the 10th House of Assembly of non-interference in their legislative affairs by his administration.

Akeredolu emphasised that his administration upholds and respects the principle of separation of powers among the three arms of government, as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).

The governor gave the promise, yesterday, during a two-day induction programme for the 26 lawmakers-elect in Owo, ahead of their June inauguration.

He, therefore, urged the incoming Assembly members to legislate effectively and promote good governance and development for the benefit of citizens, with the expectation that the legislature will operate independently.

MEANWHILE, the immediate past Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has cautioned the newly-elected members of Ekiti State House of Assembly not to see the position of principal officers as a right but a privilege.

He said it is the prerogative of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to decide the presiding officers of the Assembly.

Fayemi, who spoke during the retreat organised for the outgoing and lawmakers-elect, held at the Ikogosi Warm Resort in Ekiti West Local Council of the state, declared that the lawmakers can’t lobby or contest for positions.

Akeredolu, while urging the lawmakers-elect to see themselves as trustees of the entire state, said the decision of their constituents to elect them as representatives is a big testimony of the confidence reposed in them.

The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Lucky Ayedatiwa, described the legislature as the engine room of democracy, adding that when the legislature is removed, what is left is autocracy.

He noted that his administration had a robust relationship with the outgoing Ninth Assembly and urged the incoming 10th Assembly to do the same for continued development.

Earlier, the Speaker of the House, Bamidele Oleyelogun, who declared the event open, said the essence of the programme was to broaden the mind of the elected legislators on the legislative agenda, the procedures, and processes, as well as to remind them of the primary needs of their people.

Oleyelogun noted that the programme is the process of introducing members-elect to the legislative terrain, emphasising that any knowledge acquired at the end of the programme will go a long way in determining their performances as legislators.


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I Am In Partnership With Yari To Produce Next Senate President, Deputy – Kalu




Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu, has confirmed a partnership with former Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State to produce next president and deputy of the 10th Red Chamber. 
In an interview with journalists in Abuja, the erstwhile governor of Abia State said sponsors and supporters were on ground, adding that details of the partnership would be unveiled soon.

“We won’t disappoint Nigerians. We are capable of representing ourselves. Yari-Kalu or Kalu-Yari won’t disappoint Nigerians. We will give Nigerians what they require, and the Nigerian people won’t be disappointed,” he promised.

Kalu said the move was to ensure that only the most popular candidate emerge leader of the next Senate.

The ranking lawmaker, who declared that he would not step down for anybody, said the partnership would consult exhaustively.
Checks, however, revealed that Kalu might have settled to be deputy to Yari.

Prodded on candidate for the Senate presidency, the Abia lawmaker responded: “It’s what we don’t know now. This is why it is coming out in the coming days. We are not greedy about it. We are going to face realities. We are going to get a support base. It is not going to be problem. The most important thing is to have an independent legislature that will represent the interest of Nigerians, and represent also, the interest of our colleagues.”

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Wike No Longer Our Member – PDP NEC



A member of the Peoples Democratic Party’s National Executive Committee, Timothy Osadolor, says the immediate-past governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is no longer a member of the party, given his conduct before, during and after the 2023 general elections.

Osadolor, who gave the hint in a telephone conversation with The PUNCH on Tuesday, noted that the leadership of the party had decided to isolate Wike and render him inconsequential in the affairs of the PDP.

According to him, Wike’s recent public outings wherein he appeared to be leaning towards the All Progressives Congress, give him away as a man in perpetual craving for the spotlight at all times and regardless of the cost to his image as an opposition political leader.

He said, “The PDP has ignored Wike because the man is no longer himself. There are more ways to deal with people apart from sanctioning them. You can keep someone in isolation. He (Wike) can boast that he is the one that stayed away but is it not better to stay away than come to party activities and nobody wants to associate with you? He has been given a cold treatment because he went to court to procure a judgment that says he cannot be suspended but there is no judgment that says he cannot be avoided. That is what the PDP has been doing to him and technically, if Wike wants to say the truth, he will tell you that he is no longer a member of the PDP. No PDP leader or member behaves the way he does.”

But in a swift reaction, a chieftain of the PDP and immediate past Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chris Finebone, said Wike remained a bona fide member of the opposition party.
Describing Osadolor’s comments as wishful thinking, Finebone said he does not have any power to speak for the party.

He stated, “We can’t identify who he represents, but I think it is wishful thinking. It is wishful thinking and the man who is said to have said that is inconsequential as far as we are concerned.

“And so, whatever he has said is of no effect. His Excellency, the former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, is 110 per cent a member of PDP and nothing has changed. And nothing can change it.”

On the accusation that Wike has been hobnobbing with Tinubu, he said it was petty and frivolous.

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