The Director of Media and Publicity, All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, in this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS, explains why the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is fighting battles on all fronts with his critics, including the crew of Arise TV
Several APC supporters have been consistently attacking a journalist, David Hundeyin, on social media. Is there something sinister going on beyond his drug documentary on Tinubu?
No. But we know he is a Labour Party agent. He has said it himself. It is now left for the consumers of his falsehood, after declaring his motive, to believe anything he says. Everything he says is tainted and one has to be careful in consuming it. That’s the way we see it. If somebody has an obsession to pull people down, he can go to any length. In his own case, he is just consumed by his hatred for Bola Tinubu. And he is ready to do anything just to pull him down. But there is a belief that if a man is destined for certain things, there is absolutely nothing anybody can do. One will just be wasting his time.
What about Tinubu’s seemingly running battle with Arise TV? It seems to have taken another dimension lately.
Well, the truth is that Arise TV has been feasting on falsehood by broadcasting all manners of things about our candidate. In fact, when people appear on their platform, the kind of questions they ask makes you wonder if they (anchor persons) are journalists or politicians. The kinds of twists they give to issues are embarrassing. Any perceptive observer or viewer watching will wonder what it is all about. The journalism we were taught dwells on objectivity and facts. Don’t immerse yourself in-between issues because you are supposed to be a neutral observer. But in Arise TV’s case, they have embedded themselves in the stories and questions they ask. It is only people who are ignorant who will believe everything they say. Look at people like Reuben Abati, for instance.
What is the problem your campaign team has with Abati?
Was he not a politician before? He was in the PDP where he served as President (Goodluck) Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. Was he also not a running mate to the late Buruj Kasamu, a PDP governorship candidate? In fact, he should not even be there (Arise TV platform) because he has a coloured political past. Of course, everybody knows he is a PDP man and there is no way he will be an objective presenter. His other colleague, Rufai (Oseni), has also been seen in the Labour Party circle on a number of occasions. So when your antecedent shows you are biased and partisan, you have no business anchoring a TV programme. In fact, their behaviour is worse than what we see on Fox News in America.
That perhaps explains why Tinubu may not appear on Arise TV’s presidential town hall meeting. Isn’t it?
They are just wasting their time. We don’t trust their platform. We don’t believe that if we come there, they won’t go all the way to embarrass our candidate. That’s why we may not go for their programme. They have already shown that they are biased consistently and I believe that well-meaning Nigerians will appreciate our stance.
The APC campaign council spokesman, Festus Keyamo, recently challenged Peter Obi to unveil his manifesto before Tinubu can accept a debate with him. Are you in support of this?
Keyamo is our spokesman and I don’t think there is anything in what he has said. He spoke on behalf of the campaign. Whatever he says is where our campaign team stands.
Are you saying if Obi unveils his policy document today, Tinubu will agree to a debate with him?
That is not even the issue. How can someone be campaigning without a manifesto? Our own campaign was slowed down because we didn’t have a manifesto. And we agreed that unless we came up with one, we were not going to do anything. So we launched one and the campaign started. Even when we met journalists at events, we explained to them that the campaign was postponed because we didn’t have anything on the ground. That was our agenda. How can someone be running on any respectable platform and doesn’t have a manifesto? I understand that manifesto writing is not an easy task. It needs deep thinking. What we have seen is that Mr Peter Obi does not have that. If you fact-check all he has been saying, you will discover that they are superficial. He likes quoting fake statistics most of the time to justify his very shallow understanding of issues.
But Obi’s camp has defended the delay, saying he doesn’t want to ‘promise and fail’ Nigerians like the ruling party. What do you have to say to that?
The APC government has not failed. I am disappointed in the media. Let us be objective. I was in a forum one day and somebody posted an infographics of what he claimed the APC promised. The APC didn’t promise all the things he quoted. One of them said the party promised that $1 would equal N1. To hold the APC accountable, you need to go and read its manifesto, which is even on the INEC website. It is public. The manifesto the party used to come to power in 2015 is right there. I agree that the APC made some promises. This social investment is one of them too. The party said it would fight corruption. Is the government still not fighting corruption now? The APC government has also been doing certain things concerning unemployment in the country. They create new jobs, offer training facilities to young entrepreneurs and many others.
Beyond the mantra of ‘Buhari is working,’ the latest National Bureau of Statistics says 133 million Nigerians are poor. How will you defend that?
I suggest you journalists should read that report again. When the NBS, World Bank and other international institutions are talking about poverty, they keep shifting the goal post. The initial assumption is that if you are earning below one dollar a day, you are poor. Now, they have shifted it to about two dollars or more a day. What the NBS is talking about is multidimensional poverty. It also talked about improvement in the monetary side of the report. What this means is that 40 per cent of Nigerians are poor if you use money as an index. But when you apply a multidimensional aspect to it, the figure will shoot up. Don’t let us fool ourselves, Nigeria is a very poor country. If you go by all the global statistics on per capita income, ours is one of the lowest even in West Africa. So when they are talking about 133 million Nigerians are suffering from multidimensional poverty, it includes housing, access to health facilities, education, transport and others. I can even tell you categorically that the NBS underestimated it. Many Nigerians are extremely poor when you look at the poverty level state by state, especially in the ones governed by the PDP.
What have the PDP states got to do with it?
We are coming there. When we look at states, which ones led the list with the highest multidimensional poverty? Sokoto and Bayelsa, isn’t it? Which governors are running those states? Are they not from the PDP? So, the joke is on them. They should be the ones worried that the two states they are governing are sitting atop the poverty list. In fact, Sokoto has the worst. I think the PDP owes Nigerians an explanation on why the states they are governing are worse off. The truth is that this study is at the instance of the Federal Government to really know the multidimensional poverty level of the country.
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Poverty is just not having money in your pocket. It has to factor in good health, accommodation, network of transport services, good education and more. Let’s look at this thing very well. The Federal Government has already launched a plan to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty and it is tackling it. When we look at the resources available to Nigeria, every time they share money, the Federal Government takes a certain percentage and the states share the rest. Then you wonder what they are doing with all the money allocated to them.
Unfortunately, the focus all the time is on the Federal Government and not the states. You have heard from the revelation of Governor (Nyesom) Wike on how some states collected derivation money, but are not ready to help their people. Even when they collected loans, what do these states do with them? But no, it has to be all about how many jobs have been provided by the Federal Government all the time. Both the states and local governments also have a duty to provide jobs for the people. We are talking about 36 states and the FCT. Everybody has a role to play.
Let us talk about the Independent Campaign Council. Was it created as a parallel organisation to checkmate the shenanigans of certain governors in the North as alleged?
No, there is nothing like that. This campaign is being waged on many fronts. In fact, I can’t even count the number of support groups that are involved in this campaign. Although we tried to institutionalise them into some structures under the campaign, there are just so many of them that were not even added, but working hard on their own. So the duty of the ICC is just to provide some support to the structures being nurtured by our governors. What the campaign is all about is that the governors are the people in charge of campaigns in their states. Out of the 36 states, you know we have 21 governors.
So what do you have in those states? This ICC is supposed to support them. Do your own and they will back you up there. When we get the report that the governors are not doing anything, the ICC and other groups will come in to fill the vacuum. You don’t just leave everything in one basket during the campaign. Otherwise you are going to fail. You have several fronts to campaign for you. You don’t leave everything to chance.
Are the ICC members as active as the presidential campaign council?
Yes, they are active. But as I said, the ICC are just support groups whose duty is just to back up the efforts of the governors. You know what I have seen in the way Tinubu runs his campaigns right from his days as governor of Lagos State is that he doesn’t like leaving everything to chance. He prefers to cover all the quarters. Don’t leave anything to chance come every quarter. So where the governors are not able to do certain things, the support groups are always there to help them to fulfil their mandate. It is not an attempt to bring down anybody or undermine the governors. There is nothing like that. The ICC is supplementary to the campaign of the governors.
What’s your position on the controversy surrounding the claim that Tinubu used Donald Duke’s photo for his documentary?
Go and check that photograph again. Let people look at it objectively and tell us if it looks like that of a 12-year-old boy. I won’t say more than that.
Have you made any move to douse the tension or privately settle with Donald Duke?
There is no need for talks. But I can tell you that he sent a private message after the photo went viral, through a former governor to apologise to Asiwaju, saying he didn’t mean to embarrass him. That’s why I told you earlier that it was not an issue for us. We considered taking certain actions, which I cannot disclose. But we have moved on. To us, it is just a distraction.
Your campaign council unveiled a crowd funding app some days ago in Lagos. How much have you raised so far through that app?
What I heard was that about N190m was raised within 20 minutes after its launch. But it is not impossible though. If you look at the calibre of dignitaries who were there that day with some donating around N1m, N2m and more, that N190m shouldn’t be impossible to reach within minutes after the app was launched. The target is to raise about N5bn. Having said that, I wasn’t there at the event and can’t give you an accurate figure of how much was raised. The election is still less than 90 days away and we will continue to raise money until Election Day.
Criticisms are rife, especially on social media, that Tinubu’s random gaffes in some of his rallies are signs of fatigue. Can you defend this?
What people call a gaffe here is incorrect. What’s the big deal in having someone who wanted to call APC or PDP but ended up calling something else? These are minor slips and Tinubu even corrected himself on each occasion. Even younger politicians like the PDP campaign spokesperson, Daniel Bwala, did that much. There was a video of him where he was talking about the APC when he wanted to say the PDP. Dino Melaye also did the same when he urged the people of Borno to vote for the APC. And he didn’t even say it once. He repeated it several times. I have a problem when people pick a minor issue and amplify it as if it is bigger than it is. It only shows the lack of seriousness of such people. I am not left in these slips. I commit them almost every day. The man spoke about other things as well. He talked about how the PDP looted the treasury and had nothing to show after 16 years of governance. But they are more concerned about his slips. It shows Nigerians that these people are more interested in chasing shadows than substance.
Political pundits have expressed fear that the swearing-in of Ademola Adeleke as Osun State governor will put pressure on Tinubu’s campaign. Do you share the same view?
I don’t think so. The young man needs to slow down on all those things he is doing. I think he was ill-advised. The truth is that whether you are a governor or president, your power ends on your last day in office. You can’t say because you have lost an election, you stop playing your role as governor or president. One thing Adeleke should know is that Adegboyega Oyetola has done nothing wrong in making those appointments and employment he created. The challenge he has is to look for money and pay those people. But at the risk of becoming a populist, he just overturned what his predecessor did. He should not forget that one day, he too will be out of office. Will he also be happy seeing somebody reverse all he has done in office?
But for us as a party, Tinubu not afraid of Osun. We believe that the people are behind our candidate. We all know what happened at the election that brought Adeleke in. The PDP doesn’t have control of the party. It was a case of the APC fighting the APC. But we are sure that that won’t happen in the presidential election and we are not really bothered about the PDP governing the state. ,
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