In this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS, the Tinubu Campaign Organisation's Director of Media and Communications, Bayo Onanuga, discusses the chances of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the 2023 election.
Why was Bola Tinubu absent from the canceled APC presidential aspirants meeting in Abuja?
It is not a meeting of the APC presidential campaign council, nor is it a meeting of the party itself. The candidate and his running mate had no idea. It was someone's initiative, and it may not have been well communicated. You can also question the absence of other presidential candidates.
A number of disgruntled aspirants and party leaders have claimed that Tinubu is putting people on his presidential campaign team who did not work for his ticket. What are your thoughts on that?
That is not correct. Take a look at where we're sitting. Tein Jack-office Rich's was here. He is one of the 27 state governorship seats he donated to the Tinubu/Shettima campaign. This is just one of them. Gov. Yahaya Bello also made available his well-furnished office in Wuse for the campaign. Many of them have given up their positions in support of the presidential candidate. Remember that Tinubu's first act after winning the primary was to pay visits to other candidates in order to bring them together.
So, what went wrong in the case of Amaechi and a few other disgruntled presidential candidates?
There was no mishap. They are still attending the same party. You should also ask the aspirants. As far as I know, nothing went wrong.
If you insist that nothing went wrong, how do you explain Amaechi's recent claim that delegates who voted for your principal at the last APC Convention were bribed?
Amaechi did not say that. They took his words out of context. What he said was twisted by the media. He also clarified that this was not what he was referring to. Today's media contains a great deal of deception. Amaechi himself clarified that he had been quoted out of context.
In four weeks, the political campaign will begin. Is your principal prepared for the expected mudslinging and image-smearing attack on him and his running mate?
Our campaign will not be based on slinging mud. We will continue to address issues. We're not going to start throwing temper tantrums at our opponents. It will solely focus on how we intend to improve things in Nigeria. Nigeria is not entirely blameless. Despite challenges in some areas, we have made significant progress in many. Our candidates are coming to improve on those difficulties.
Of course, new challenges will arise, but we are not abandoning our country. We believe that some progress has been made in the last seven years under Buhari's administration.
Do you believe the protracted ASUU crisis will have an impact on your campaign?
Who is to blame for the ASUU crisis? Buhari took over the ASUU crisis. In fact, the agreement that precipitated the strike was reached during the PDP administration. They agreed to it solely to appease ASUU, possibly in order to secure their votes, but Buhari has attempted to implement many of the provisions in the agreement because the government is a continuum. He has attempted to put it into action, but ASUU keeps shifting the goalposts. The government is still not giving up. They've been talking to them and convincing them of the advantages of what the government can do to improve university education.
Given ASUU's desire to extend the strike, the government has decided to meet with them and assuage their concerns. Perhaps they are acting for political reasons.
So far, ASUU has demonstrated that it is unreasonable. How can a union decide to go on strike for an extended period of time? Because of the ASUU strike, our children, who are supposed to spend four years, end up spending six or seven years. I believe ASUU's leadership is callous, bringing our education to its knees for the sake of more money.
People should contact ASUU. "It's not that we don't want to give you more money," the government has stated. We have a certain amount of money. We need to spend money on so many things, and we can't just give it all to the universities. ASUU has also been reminded that each state or federal university is autonomous in its own right. At that level, it has a governing council. Why can't they try to find a solution to some of the issues?
Will Tinubu be affected by the ASUU strike ahead of the political campaign season and his presidential bid in 2023?
Our people, we believe, are reasonable. The issues have been set aside. Everyone is aware of what is going on, and they are well aware that they cannot pin anything on our candidate. As I previously stated, Buhari inherited this problem as a result of a contentious agreement signed six years before he took office. Can the PDP blame Tinubu for a problem they created and couldn't solve for six years?
How will you respond to the court case filed by Emeka Nwajiuba, former Minister of State for Education, seeking Tinubu's disqualification because he was the only APC aspirant who provided evidence of how he raised his nomination form?
Nwajuba took to court who? He allegedly sued Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar. If the case is before the court, let it be decided by the court. It is subjudice. Let the court decide, is my simple response. Furthermore, the individual in question did not attend the convention. He withdrew, so he has no locus standi.
Have you noticed that Atiku is gaining ground in the North lately? With Senator Ibrahim Shekarau's defection, this has fueled fears that the North will betray Tinubu in the run-up to the 2023 election.
I'm not sure why some people have preconceived notions about the North. Don't make them into something they aren't. This is the same North that challenged Tofa under the NRC in 1993, but late MKO (Abiola) from Ogun State beat him in Kano and other northern states, excluding Adamawa.
To say the North is behind Atiku is a pipe dream. Remember that Bola Tinubu is more than just Bola Tinubu. He is the APC's Bola Tinubu. The APC is present in all of the states. The North is stronger than the South, and Tinubu is their candidate. We believe they will stick with him and vote for him. Atiku is from Adamawa and may receive sympathy votes, but not enough to dethrone Bola Tinubu. We are not scared.
What about Peter Obi's Obidient Movement's resurgence?
Peter Obi is merely a creation of social media. With the election only five months away, we believe he will fade away.
Are you also aware that Obi appears to have the support of Obasanjo, whom many thought was quietly spearheading his campaign?
Obasanjo has stated that he will not support any candidate. So don't say anything he doesn't say. All aspirants have gone to him as an elder statesman to seek his blessing, not even support. Tinubu followed in the footsteps of Peter Obi.
Tinubu also visited Ibrahim Babangida prior to the presidential primary. This is exactly what they all do. Tinubu went to see Jonathan a few days ago. They are elder statesmen who have moved on from partisan politics, and Obasanjo is no exception. He has not endorsed any candidate because he is everyone's father.
What is your candidate doing to appease disgruntled party members, particularly in the South-South and South East, who felt left behind in his campaign?
I recommend that you wait until our campaign council is formed. Everyone is present, and all interests are being met.
When the list is published, you will know that everyone is on board. We have a strategic committee that includes people from all over the country. The candidate has instructed those compiling the list that everyone must be on board. We have over 20 directorates, and each one will reflect the country's diversity.