Although the tradition of highlighting important national issues that touch on common existence and development was retained in the 10th Bola Ahmed Tinubu colloquium, the fact remains that this year‘s edition had political underpinnings and projections that border largely on the 2019 general election, GEORGE OKOJIE writes.
Both in their utterances and conduct the crème de la crème that converged on Lagos from all walks of life for the 66th birthday Colloquium of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu held recently in Lagos showed that the celebrator is indeed a man of the people. The colloquium, 10th in its series held at a time that Nigeria is in serious search for good and credible leadership was attended by both friends and foes, as encapsulated in the intimidating roll call that cuts across political party delineation and ethnic cleavages. A development that made observers to believe that the national leader of the APC may have been tacitly removed from the league of Nigeria leaders said to have been more interested in pursuing their own narrow and selfish interest than in promoting the welfare and generality of the people. Having succeeded in assembling a good team of brilliant minds, advisers and self -assured people to redefine the political equation in the country, the colloquium conceived to trigger discourse and broaden solution pool for the nation’s common national issues, had overtime continued to attract and bring together professionals, eggheads to celebrate on annual basis a man who strongly believes competence counts above other primordial considerations.
In 2009 the theme of the colloquium was,’ Every vote must count’ ensuring credibility in the 2011 election. In 2010 the theme was,’ This House Must Stand’ polling Nigeria back from the brink. In 2011 its theme was ‘Nigeria: ‘Why isn’t it working? How will it work?’ focusing on the economy, measuring the nation’s growth as against like countries. In 2012 its was time to ‘ Look Back Thinking Ahead’ thereby reviewing successes and failures and finding a new direction. In 2013 Asiwaju political Apostles christened the colloquium ‘Beyond Mergers: A National Movement for change a New Generation of Speakers’ creating a platform for broad based political movement and national transformation.
By 2014 the theme changed to, ‘Summit Of The Common Man to tackle the challenges of the everyday Nigerian with security , unemployment and health. In 2015 it was,’ Change How will it work?’ In 2016 the theme was Agriculture: Action, Work, Revolution,’ redefining the value chain in Nigeria and repositioning the agriculture sector to be a key economic growth driver. In 2017 the theme was, ‘Make It In Nigeria: Use what we make. Make what we use,’ to achieve self -sufficiency and promote Made-In Nigeria goods and services. As expected, in 2018 edition the colloquium planning committee after a cerebral engagement came up with an apt theme which is, “Investing in people”, deftly using the opportunity provided by the ceremony to market the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari by showcasing achievements of the administration. In full glare of the audience, some beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s social investment and school feeding programmes shared their experiences, stressing how the programmes had impacted their lives.
There were also multimedia presentations on the theme, expositions on “Social Investment and Governance-The example of NSIP” by the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme by its National Programme Coordinator, Mrs. Abimbola Adesanmi and N-Power Programme and job creation by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and Youth Employment, Afolabi Imoukhuede. There were also the Northeast Makeathon by the Special Assistant to the Vice President on Internally Displaced Persons, Brimah Mohammed and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme by a presidential adviser, Maryam Uwais. President Muhammadu Buhari drew the rain of encomium when he said, “I call on Nigerians to join me to celebrate Asiwaju, a man who is widely known as a political strategist and I have come to see him as a man who cares about people and is a fountain of ideas for the economy and for the common man and woman. He is a true democrat and we appreciate his contribution for Nigeria’s capital progress.
“Asiwaju has invested in people because he believes that tomorrow will be better than today and good will one day triumph over evil.” Dwelling on the concept of the Colloquium and its theme, ‘Investing In People’ the President said the Federal Government over the last two years had initiated programmes and policies that have made direct impact on the people, adding that the nation can only grow when government invests in its people. Also speaking, Professor Osinbajo said he was proud to have garnered experience in public service under the tutelage of Tinubu when he was Governor of Lagos State, noting that it was during that period the foundation of development currently ongoing in Lagos was laid. He particular alluded to the concept of the Land Use Charge which Tinubu’s administration initiated, saying that despite the challenges and dissenting voices, he (Tinubu) successfully defended, a move which, according to him made Lagos better for it.
“When we introduced the Land Use Charge, which was the foundation of the development we see in Lagos today, some of us believed that it should not be introduced at all, others believed it should be introduced. I remembered we were having a meeting in a small room, Asiwaju, myself, Yemi Cardoso, Wale Edun and some others and the argument got so heated that Asiwaju asked us if we were the ones the people elected. “He stormed out of the room and we did not leave, we stayed there. After some minutes, he came back into the room and asked us why we were still there. Then we continued the discussion. In the end, we developed that law and it has become part of the success story in Lagos.
This showed that Asiwaju is one leader who allows people to develop ideas,” Osinbajo explained. The Vice President who also presented a discourse on the topic, ‘Linking the Philosophy To Governance and Commitment’, also described Tinubu as a “fighter and a champion of people- oriented courses. In his submission Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode said Tinubu’s era as Governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007 showed the depth of his governance capacity, adding that he has over the years sustained his relevance in the nation’s polity. “After his gubernatorial years, he has continued to show pivotal leadership, particularly on the national stage. It is not for nothing that he is acknowledged for his defining role in the emergence of a progressive political party in Nigeria,” he said.
Ambode said there was no better birthday present that his friends and well -wishers could give to him as befitting as what the theme of this year’s colloquium epitomized, saying that Tinubu’s legacy was built around his capacity to invest in people. According to him, The theme of the colloquium whether it is called human capital development or people-centric investment, the meaning is clear enough and its importance is undeniable. ‘’For us on the political landscape, it may well be the greatest governance challenge. Creating highly impactful programs and policies for our people is my simple understanding of good governance. At the end of the day, the level of investment on our people will determine our future sustenance as a Nation always. “Look around you, there are only a few people that can match his (Tinubu) unquestionable thirst to invest in people. It goes without any gainsaying that, I join numerous others seated here or outside, that have gained in the investment Asiwaju has made on people. I am grateful for that,”
Ambode said. Obviously putting on the toga of a master planner, a practical thinker, excellent communicator and good political sales man, the celebrator Asiwaju Bola Tinubu traced the genesis of the Buhari administration to the epic battle to effect a change in the polity, stressing that Nigeria has reaped the dividends. Tinubu said, “We came as APC leaders with a lot of hope. We were discussing. We believe in ourselves and Nigeria, that we can change Nigeria. And we are still going to do it again. It came with challenges. Our logo is not honey or sugar, but broom; a united Nigeria against terrorism, corruption, insecurity and for the revival of the economy.” He disagreed with people who said the APC should stop reminding Nigerians about the corrupt activities of the Jonathan administration, saying a great lesson could be learnt from the perfidy of the former ruling party.
“They say we should not talk about corruption. What should we talk about? If we don’t talk about it, what is the lesson to all Nigerians?” he fumed. The former Lagos State Governor, who thanked Nigerians for their patience and support for the APC government, said the PDP should not return to power to continue what he called the looting of the economy. He added: “Forget those parties. They won’t come back. We did not envisage that there would be no such challenges. So, we report back to Nigerians about what we found on ground. We did not say that there would be no challenges because, even America is facing challenges. “PDP looted and wasted our resources. They misused our resources. There is a clear understanding here. There is a difference between us and them, a difference between night and day.” Harping on the importance of a re-invigorated pension scheme, Tinubu promised to prepare a technical paper for the President on the crucial matter. “The challenge of the economy is on. We should consider microcredit. We should return to the mortgage culture to reduce corruption. We need to rework the pension. I will submit a proposal on how we can stimulate the economy. We don’t have to pay for a house of N10 million in one day and with cash. We need mortgage.
This would discourage corruption. “Hope is back. We have the audacity of it. We will bring back Nigeria to the path of progress and banish poverty forever,” Tinubu said. According to him, the colloquium was not just a talk shop, but a real platform for the generation of ideas by all stakeholders on the need to invest in people, adding that the ultimate objective and expectation is for the forum to avail policy makers at all levels of government new ideas and perspectives and to enrich the process of policy formulation, design and implementation.