Fatai Olukoga, chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State was a former special adviser on education in the Babatunde Fashola administration and retired permanent secretary in the state. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke about the 2023 general election, Bola Tinubu’s presidential bid, among other issues. Excerpt:
Few weeks to the general election, what is your take on the chances of the four leading presidential candidates?
Let me start by saying that the general election would hold; all this talk that there would be trouble is not true, Nigerians are very resilient and they are determined. Now, coming to the candidates; like I used to tell you, a lot of them are doing their job, they have their constituencies and their plans. Among those who did is Tinubu; this is a payback for him; he has built talents, he has built human capitals, he has done a good job. Lagos State is an example. Atiku was a former vice president; he sold all the properties when in power, that is why we have these problems. NEPA was sold for $16 billion. What do you get out of it? You still have it in shambles and now he wants to come back and sell NNPC and the rest, if you continue selling where are we going to be? I do not support his candidacy. For Peter Obi he has no structure, although Obasanjo and the rest are supporting him, but it is just by mouth. His DG is gone; the new one he appointed is facing several issues, being a senatorial candidate in Ekiti State in Zenith Party. Has he resigned from ZP before taking up the position? I am not sure the electoral Act permits him to be in two parties. So, he has a problem and is still in limbo. Kwankwaso could be good, as far as I’m concerned he is a rural mobiliser, but all these things they are doing do not win elections, you must really get to the grassroots to get votes and win elections. How many people has Kwankwaso sponsored? How many people has Kwankwaso helped even in the North? They said he did well while as governor, but you can see where Kano State is now. Kwankwaso does not have the political clout to win the presidential election. The only person among them who have the qualities, the capacity and the human resources to do the job is Bola Tinubu. People are saying he is old, but it is all about what you have in your brain.
What is your take on Tinubu’s refusal to attend debates, and controversy surrounding his visit to the Chatham House?
Tinubu’s display at the Chatham House was a show of leadership. That is Tinubu for you, if he sees in you that you have talent and good, he would mould you and make sure you become somebody. I work with him and I end up as permanent secretary under him and later on become special adviser on education in Lagos. Tinubu is like that; he would watch you and if he found out that you are good, that is how he brought in Ambode as governor, but Ambode deviated from the norm of leadership that was given to him, that is why he messed up. Yes, Tinubu was in Chatham House; you cannot expect a leader to answer all the questions in that circumstance. Look at American politics; when the president is debating not that he does not know what he is saying, but because he has good people around him, he wants them to contribute. Tinubu has the capacity to lead us; I don’t see anything wrong with it. On the certificate, you can’t fault it. On whether he cannot go to America, he has been to America so many times. What can they say now?
Tinubu was the only governor that was probed by ICPC and at the end of it they found nothing, luckily Ribadu was the head of the agency, they did not find anything incriminating against him and you know the credibility of Ribadu, he is not a guy that can be bought over.
Talking about debate, debate is not the only way to campaign. The environment may not be conducive and good, but he has done his own debates, meeting several groups, business leaders and entrepreneurs across the country in recent months and he is still meeting others. Tinubu is continuing to hold meetings with several groups across Nigeria without resting almost every day in this New Year, he has not rested except when he went to Saudi Arabia for prayers recently. He has touched most states for campaigns, but they are still saying he is old, not healthy, yet he’s still going strong. You can hear the vice president saying that he is healthier than him; he does not have diabetic, or hypertension. He does not sleep much, if you try it for one week; there is no way you would not break down. But God has given him the strength to handle the affairs of this nation. How do you handle the affairs of a nation, you don’t do it by yourself, there has to be people that are capable, professionals in different fields.
These are people that Tinubu would use, but the buck would stop at his table.
Tinubu would not allow anybody to just go on air and talk without his approval; that was the practice when we were in government with him.
Read also: Onyeama, Chime, Nnamani, others shun Tinubu presidential rally in Enugu
There is the view that the APC government has failed to fulfil several promises in the last eight years. Don’t you think this may affect Tinubu’s chances?
I am very confident that he would win; what is happening is worldwide, even in America it is happening. Nigeria’s political situation was worsened by sixteen years of PDP administration; they sold most of our industries. Obasanjo started it, corruption started with him down the line to Jonathan’s administration, the situation worsened for years and you want them to be repaired in eight years. Also, economies all over the world are facing crisis and inflation. Even in America where you have a suitable state of affairs, recession is still going on. Even during the Covid and after it, the administration tried to put things in shape, a lot of development are taking place in the nation.
You see a lot of infrastructural development that he has done; building the second Niger Bridge which was commissioned during Obasanjo’s administration, Jonathan tried it and Buhari came to complete it.
Facilities are what make a development, when you have the facilities and it is destroyed through #ENDSARS who should take the blame?
What do you think should be areas the next administration should give priority?
Security, economy, employment and health should be given immediate attention. I have experienced Lagos State in terms of transportation and education which is number one. In terms of transportation he started the IRS, other states copied it, that is why you can go to sleep in Lagos, and everybody wants to come to Lagos. I think we should give it to someone who has experience and that is Bola Tinubu, he would do it.
You are a leader in your constituency; what are people’s views and expectations since campaign began?
We have been able to tell them the trust, show them the light for them to see. There is a lot of false propaganda going on and we need to tell them to look at this way. Some of them are now seeing the light; they understand better, it was acrimony that was out there, purposely to tarnish the image of Tinubu and his good works. So, we would let them know that we would get the votes of the people.
Opponents have criticised APC in Lagos for intimidation and manipulation of previous elections to emerge victorious. Don’t you think your party may find it difficult this time around with the new innovations?
I am not bothered that there is no party that will say that they are not involved in vote-buying and other electoral manipulations. In my community here, I know of instances where parties buy votes, but the people still resist them. They have the dividend of democracy, but BVAS is going to eliminate the manipulation and true winners in elections will emerge. I want to commend the president for making this possible.
Despite 18 presidential candidates listed by INEC, several of them are not competing. What is your take?
They would be streamlined; most of these parties are just fielding unpopular candidates for elections, and also to get money from INEC after getting the money they would disappear. I know one candidate that comes during an election period to contest, takes the money and runs back to America. America started this way until the parties were streamlined. We would get to that level where serious parties and candidates would be the ones that remain and field candidates for elections.