NLC, TUC now heavily partisan, unable to speak for workers – Onanuga

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In this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS, Bayo Onanuga, the director of media and publicity for the disbanded All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, discusses how the former governor of Lagos State intends to deal with the removal of fuel subsidies as well as other issues, including Nigeria’s debt burden.

Outrage was expressed, especially from Buhari’s detractors and the opposition parties, over how casually the Senate approved his N22.7 trillion in extra-budgetary spending. Despite the fact that the government is a continuous system, won’t this present a challenge for the incoming administration?


Your own judgment informs this. The information is not yet available. Additionally, Asiwaju has not yet mounted. He’ll research everything once he boards the ship. Remember that the APC is in power here. We are the APC, too. Therefore, whatever the Senate approved must have been done in good faith, in our opinion. From there, it will be handled by the Tinubu administration.

How is his strategy for reducing the massive debt load facing the country?

I do know that the president-elect brought up the topic of debt in various forums in the lead-up to the election. Asiwaju, a man of “finance,” is adamant that the debt problem can be largely solved. He had mentioned converting a portion of our debt to naira. He had discussed eliminating waste in government to free up funds so that we could relieve ourselves financially. I am confident that his administration will be able to reduce the burden. He made it clear during his January speech to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group that the growing budget deficit, which increased from N2.41 trillion in 2016 to N11.34 trillion in the current budget, does not particularly bother him. Fiscal deficits are a necessary component of contemporary governance, he explained to the summit, so they are not necessarily bad. He asserted that both the richest and most powerful countries have deficits.

The real question, according to him, is whether or not deficit spending is beneficial. He stated that unproductive deficit spending is a compound negative, particularly if it is backed by an excessive amount of foreign currency borrowing.

So, I anticipate that his administration will develop strategies to address what some Nigerians view as the country’s heavy debt load.

Will Tinubu disclose his assets publicly, as did his predecessors Buhari and Osinbajo?

What’s the reason? It is a custom. He’ll carry out the plan. Asiwaju will reveal his wealth. Likewise, his vice president will act. Incoming elected officials have already been asked by the Code of Conduct Bureau to declare their assets by May 29. Tinubu is certain to follow the law.

The need for an asset declaration was undoubtedly prompted by the controversy surrounding Seyi Tinubu’s purchase of a property in the United Kingdom. How would you rate the current circumstances?

This is a well-known tale. The last time I read about it, Oyetola was brought up. As of right now, Seyi is included in the narration. People keep repeating the same old tale everywhere. I believe Premium Times published it for the first time around a year ago. The incident has reappeared in the news once more. They might release a new claim about the property’s ownership the following day. They were going after the new president. The story made it abundantly clear that he had nothing to do with the property’s acquisition, so they were unable to find any smoking guns.

Is Obi posing a challenge to the president-elect’s team?

On the whole, I find it difficult to understand Peter Obi and his supporters. Their response to the election and its fallout reeks of desperation. After going to court, Obi and his running mate Datti Baba-Ahmed have been attacking the President-elect with all manner of insults, questioning the validity of the election, and assassinating his character. Their supporters have been compared by some writers to a headless mob. With the excuse that they wanted to reclaim a so-called mandate that they never received in the first place, they have hurled insults and lies at INEC officials. They are acting so loudly and carelessly about it that you wonder if Obi was a close second. He did not even take the lead in the plurality or the spread, placing him a distant third.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, who have allied themselves with some seriously corrupt civil society organizations, have recently made light of the situation by declaring that they will act as the judiciary’s watchdog. The NLC even said they would have a “Register of Shame” for judges who make statements they don’t agree with regarding the election. All of that baffles me. That is unacceptable. Naturally, the NLC is unable to do that. Being a part of the Labour Party, the Congress is already registered as a party in the election. How can you say that something you are already a part of is something for which you want to be a watchdog? The NLC and TUC already have a strong partisan bent, so they have no moral standing to preside over the post-election legal battles. I’m not even sure how the NLC and TUC can now assert to speak for all Nigerian workers after fully embracing the Labour Party in the future.

Is Tinubu not concerned about the hassle of handling the end of the fuel subsidy?

I’m unable to discuss his action or any strategy right now. What I can tell you is that he will take them one by one. The incumbent president and the opposition’s defeated candidates from the PDP and Labour Party all agreed that the fuel subsidy had to be eliminated. However, I anticipate them to retract their statement or refute it. Everything is conceivable in politics. But when asked what they planned to do about the persistent fuel subsidy during the campaign, everyone made it very clear. All of the major parties concurred that the subsidy had been misused and needed to be eliminated. It must be removed, Asiwaju added. The method used will depend on the situation. But he will cross that bridge once he arrives at it.

The subsidy is now a serious issue for our citizens and is ruining the treasury. Smugglers, not Nigerian citizens, are the primary recipients of this subsidy. Recently, the Nigerian Customs Service has questioned the amount of gasoline that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd. claims is consumed by Nigerians.

We cannot continue to provide subsidies for fuel to people in Cameroon, the Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Niger, and Chad just because we are keeping the subsidy system in place, unless we are a nation of fools. We can’t keep acting like Santa to smugglers and our neighbors.

You may recall that the World Bank contacted President Muhammadu Buhari (ret.) in 2015 and requested that the subsidy be terminated. When the price of crude increased and had an impact on the landing cost of imported fuel, the Buhari government temporarily removed it before changing its mind. The Tinubu administration needs to decide right away. In order to best serve Nigerians as a whole and the economy, we cannot keep avoiding making that choice.

How will Tinubu’s cabinet be organized? Will he include some opposition figures and Nigerians living abroad in his administration?

I believe Nigerians should hold off until they learn his cabinet list, which will be revealed after May 29. He is currently consulting all parties involved in the APC.

In the past three weeks, a list of Tinubu’s purported ministers and agency heads has been circulating on online forums and social media. Which list is more reliable?

Those are only online news stories. Simply wait, I say. People who are going to work with him would hold some of the positions being advertised. Just hold off until May 29. After the inauguration, I’m confident Tinubu will formally announce the names.

A few weeks ago, Buhari revealed that the opposition lost to Tinubu because they relied too heavily on arbitrary poll results and their own overconfidence. However, detractors argued that Tinubu was merely fortunate to receive assistance from a few factors. What specifically will you claim helped him win the election?

I’ll say “God.” This might not be covered in books on political science. But I’ll be honest and say that God had a significant hand in his success. The PDP was divided into three by God, but the APC went into the election as a stable party.

The cards were all stacked against him and his group. The Nigerian people had turned against the APC and Tinubu as a result of Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele’s poorly timed, uneconomic currency swap and currency scarcity. After that, fuel became scarce in many areas of the nation. The two adverse factors made it unlikely that the ruling party’s candidate would prevail. He managed to survive, though, thanks to the public’s perception that the currency and fuel shortages were manufactured to disadvantage him and give Atiku the victory.

But it didn’t happen like that. Because of Asiwaju’s record as the former governor of Lagos, I believe that many Nigerians supported him. By supporting him, they hope he will achieve what Lagos did on a national scale.

My opinion is that Tinubu’s record helped him win a lot of votes, with the exception of the South-East, where Peter Obi turned off voters by using the ethnicity card to defeat him.
Asiwaju still had the best national spread among the three leading candidates despite this. Where he did not place first, he did in many states place second. The difference is obvious when compared to Atiku, who consistently places third in some polls. Atiku only succeeded in 21 states, compared to Tinubu’s 25 percent success in about 29 states. While Peter Obi lagged behind significantly. He probably obtained it in 15 states.



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