Campaign DG Harps On Capacity, Accessibility, Experience
The choice of former member of Nigeria’s lower chamber of National Assembly, Dr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, as the Director General of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Support Groups Management Council (ABATSGMC), has a tinge of metaphor, just as it signposts a rich political strategy.
Watching the 45-year old former representative of Kiru/Bebeji Federal Constituency of Kano State in the House of Representatives speak about Tinubu’s aspiration to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, douses the issue of age and competence in leadership selection.
Apart from his youthful energy, the Kano-born former lawmaker and Chairman of Green Forest Group Limited has the benefit of good educational background that prepared him for leadership and business.
Going by his elocution and public profile, the voluble former legislator mirrors, to a certain extent, a former United States President, Barack Obama. Against the background of how Obama came to limelight after his Democratic party convention address, it becomes safe to conclude that Jibrin’s brief speech while nominating Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for the Speakership post of the Ninth House of Representatives must have earned him the reckoning in the expansive Tinubu political family.
Whether as a compensation for his abridged stint at the Ninth National Assembly or as a potent media weapon to douse the fervour of paradigm shift in Nigeria’s leadership, Jibrin is making the best of his position as Tinubu’s chief salesman.
With a doctorate in International Relations, the Kano State-born politician knows how to connect with people with diplomatese and affected elan. Watching him make remarks or in public appearances shows the eclectic understanding of his principal, thereby making his conviction infectious.
Jibrin’s recent exposition on a national television did much to outline Tinubu’s accessibility, capacity, experience and therefore suitability for the job of Nigeria’s President.
The former lawmaker maintains that contrary to public perceptions about Tinubu’s fitness for the job of President, the former Lagos State is mentally, physically and psychologically suitable to serve the country’s 200million citizens as their chief security officer.
For instance, when reminded that Nigeria was far more complex and complicated to govern than Lagos, where Tinubu held sway as governor from 1999 through 2007, Jibrin waxed lyrical: “If you are a researcher and you want to take two places to test the capacity of a leader, vis-à-vis the ability to be able to manage Nigeria, the first that comes to mind is Lagos and Kano.
“Of course that you can move ahead downwards, talking about Kaduna, Oyo, Ibadan and the rest. So, it is clear when you look at Lagos, the population, and the diverse residents of Lagos, its sophistication and Kano of course.
“There are other places that once somebody succeed as a governor, you do not have any doubts that if given a bigger responsibility, he is going to make good of it. In any case, we have spoken so much about this issue. Everybody knows what Asiwaju has done in Lagos.
“He laid a long term blueprint and solid foundation and most importantly, not only doing that, (but also) building a chain of leaders that have continued to contribute to the progress and development, not only in Lagos, but also Nigeria as a whole.”
And laying quick emphasis on Tinubu’s accessibility to young and old, as well as approachability by the needy, high and mighty, Jibrin said he was not bothered on such scores, “because majority of Nigerians understand this.
“He is always welcomed anywhere he goes in this country. I also sympathise with those who will continue to criticise Asiwaju. In other climes or parts of the world, somebody like Asiwaju, will be put in a very special place created for statesmen and men of honour in the history of the country, because of what he has done.
“People like us, who have come out to support him, we are not just doing that just for its sake, we are doing it because we know that this man has the capacity to continue from where President Buhari stops and be able to complete all the good work and meet the aspirations of Nigerians.
“For him to have succeeded as Governor of Lagos State, it is a good basis for us to assess him and it is on a good ground he will be able to succeed in a bigger assignment.”
On the issue of Tinubu’s perceived stupendous wealth, particularly the cleanliness of its sources, Jibrin, who made a name for himself in the House of Representatives regarding budget padding, did not stammer. Rather he reeled out indices and factors that aided the prosperity of the APC leader, even after his stint as governor.
Speaking in the assuring voice of an auditor, Jibrin narrated, “It has never been a source of controversy. The only thing is that this is applicable to all of us, we also understand the psychology of the people… We talk about the aids, source of wealth, Asiwaju’s spending. It has always been in the public space.
“I find it very embarrassing that we ask about his age, when it is public knowledge. It is there every year, he is 69 years old and getting to 70. On (his) source of wealth, for somebody who has been (head) hunted, right from his schooling days; by multi-national organisations, worked in Arthur Andersen, worked for Mobil and got into politics. This man didn’t go into politics as a poor man.
“I can assure you that no Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a poor man. He went into politics as a senator of the federal republic. it is in public glare that this man has business in his DNA, both in exporting and the rest. All the people are fully aware that he was sponsoring pro-democracy singlehandedly.
“Nobody has come out with a contrary opinion to that pro-democracy activism in the mid-nineties all through. So, why are they asking from where he was getting all that money. And, over the years, here is a man who has had investment all over the world, massive share (holding) in Apple.
“I was surprised lately, while watching a football match with him, to get to know that he is shareholder in Manchester United (Football Club). So, he has been in business, and, if we put that aside, for somebody of his calibre, and the level he has attained in politics, not only in Nigeria, but all over the world, Asiwaju will have enormous goodwill. So, you can categorise his business, working life and we can categorise his massive goodwill from well wishers, that should not come to us as a surprise.”
Politics Of Zoning, Religion Versus Leadership Vision
ON what Tinubu would be bringing to the table, especially his leadership vision and the possibility of the consideration of zoning or religion coming between him and his dreams of flying the APC Presidential standard bearer, Abdulmumin Jibrin declared: “Religion is a very sensitive issue to Nigerians.”
“The last time I spoke about it,” he continued, “there were lot of people who really got the picture of where I was coming from. Let me try to choose my words very carefully and let me pre-empt you. I am not going to talk about where Asiwaju is going to choose his running mate.
“Of course, he is going to be the candidate by the grace of God. I don’t know but when we get to the bridge we would cross it. But, the point I made was, and let me re-emphasis it, that the issue of religion in our politics is very important, but when it comes to the actual election, it has always proven otherwise.
“So you could say you have to run with a Christian or Muslim, but in few instances, where these things were put to test, it didn’t prove that Nigerians actually bother about that. In recent history, I have tried to draw example from different situations from the National Assembly.
“We have had history of Muslim-Muslim and Christian-Christian. The point is that in conversations and perception, we get emotional about it, but in the few instances where you can say in actual sense those issues have been put to test, it has proven otherwise. But, it is rarely within the APC. We have good Christian northerners that can be Vice President and we have good Muslim northerners that can also be Vice President. That will be the decision of our candidate and by grace of God, the incoming President in 2023.”
Further, Jibrin talked about his support for zoning the 2023 Presidency to the South, stressing, “by supporting Asiwaju, implicitly it means I support that the Presidency in APC should be zoned to the Southern part of the country.
“I am not worried about expressing my opinion publicly, but I respect other people’s opinions clearly. Those who hold contrary opinion, I respect theirs. But, I believe that a northern Presidency should not be on the discussion table.
“I don’t think APC will try to toy around with that matter. I believe confidently that the Presidency is going to the Southern part and, when it goes there, Asiwaju stands out clearly in terms of experience, pedigree and competence and most importantly, the ability to win the election. His gap is quite huge more than anybody else.
“On the other hand, we have PDP as friends and we have this conversation. I repeat, I respect all of them that hold contrary opinion, but this is my personal opinion. The argument has always been that zoning is more of a party issue, so (for) APC it is a different ballgame.
“In PDP, the last President was from the Southern part (Goodluck Jonathan). But, the reality is that the entity that is subjected to this zoning is Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is not federal republic of APC or federal republic of PDP.
“So, I believe that it might be unfair for you to argue even within the PDP that the Presidency should come to the northern part of the country, but I am not trying to incite their members. I know that Southern leaders of PDP will have a lot of explanations to do for their people if they cede the Presidency to the northern part of the country for very obvious reasons.”
Jibrin, however, noted that if PDP eventually fields a northern candidate, it would not negatively affect Tinubu’s chances. His words: “These things didn’t start today. This gentleman (Tinubu) has invested heavily in the system. He has built network, goodwill that cuts across all the country. I have said this before, go to the northern part of the country, state by state and show me one Presidential candidate that has more support, you can even do random sampling.
“Whether the northerners or the southerners who are also in the contest can beat Tinubu. Asiwaju is a Tsunami that is coming and you can understand what we are saying. It is a movement. The Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu put it in a tidier manner, he said it is a movement. The Asiwaju Presidential aspiration or the Asiwaju Presidency is unstoppable.
“And that is why he never said he wants to be President at any point. He was Senator since 1992 and governor 1999; all of his colleagues have attempted to be President. He never said so. And you know why, because he knows the timing. So, there is no reason for anybody now to deny him in any case.”
Feedback, Field Report
AS DG of ABATSGMC, Jibrin believes that the positive feedback and field report from their campaigns give favourable picture to the Tinubu for Presidency movement.
He stated: “I am very sure that majority of Nigerians are in support of him and again I have said this any day, anytime, if you call for an election or referendum, Asiwaju is going to win. He is the second most influential person in the party and nobody can argue with that.
“President Muhammad Buhari remains the most influential and most popular in the party. Within and outside the party, including other layers, and of course, the general public, it is Asiwaju. Nobody can argue (against) that and that spreads across all over the country.
“If we take away President Buhari, no single individual can defeat Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, either in a direct or indirect election or even a referendum in any part of this country. We can put that to test, I repeat nobody can defeat Asiwaju within the APC today if we take away Buhari.
“So, it is a matter of somebody who deserves it. It is a matter of somebody whose time has come. It is a matter of somebody who is loyal to the party. I have also challenged anybody to a public debate that Asiwaju remains the frontrunner in the 2023 Presidential election, whether within the APC or generally all the parties combined.”
Challenged to summarise the major positive attributes driving his support for Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s Presidential ambition, Hon. Jibrin spoke as if by rote: “We have spoken about that over and over. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is equipped with so much experience, understands Nigeria, understands the politics of the country and its people.
“Tinubu understands the nature and the pattern of the Nigerian economy. His competence has never been in doubt to change things and improve on what happens. Repeatedly, we have checked over and over again that he has done this in Lagos, even though after leaving government, he has not held any political position, but everybody knows that he has been part and parcel of a lot of policies that have impacted positively this country and of course, the people of this country.
“Again, when you look at his capacity, his educational background as an accountant, and his working experience in multi-national organisations, and also in the last 15 years of being in the corridors of power, encouraging government, building oppositions and strengthening the institutions of government, you have no doubt that at this time in our country, this is the person that we are looking for.”
JIBRIN also outlined what he considers as the immediate programmes of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu when he becomes President, stressing that such issues as security, infrastructure, economy, education, social welfare and healthcare are usually top on governance agenda.
He explained: “These problems are like natural phenomena. Since when we were born, all these problems have been in existence. When you go back to the first republic and pick newspapers, you will even be convinced that the problems we are facing now are the same problem then. It is not only applicable to Nigeria, all over the world, it is the same thing.
“It is only that they differ from one country to other. When you go the United States, England and the rest, they are still talking about infrastructure, more of health care, more of education and the rest. To narrow the issue to Nigeria, they revolve around same issue. When we talk about the economy, people would like to see trickle down effects. I don’t want to say they want food on their table, because it can be misrepresented.
“The most important thing is that the economy has been diversified. What we need to work on, which usually takes a lot of time is to ensure that it trickles down. When you talk about infrastructure, we have done a lot in the last seven years and then, they want to see these infrastructures completed. They want to see an overhaul of the healthcare sector, affordable housing, affordable education.
“President Muhammad Buhari has done a lot and he has done a fantastic job in the last seven years. What you keep hearing everywhere you go around the country is that nobody is better than Asiwaju, because he has demonstrated that such that even his worst critics have never for once questioned his competence and capacity.
“So, Nigerians are convinced that these issues are being dealt with even though there are still challenges in that regard and they believe that with the capacity of Asiwaju and his pedigree, when he becomes President, they want assurances that he would be able to concentrate and narrow down on these issues and deal with them decisively.
“One key issue is security. Of course, everybody understands that security has become a global issue. President Buhari has done a lot, but the issue is that we are faced with a new kind of security situation. In the last couple of years, the more the government tries to proffer solution to block an emerging trend, those bandits also devising other means. Nigerians are also concerned for a President that would come and consolidate on the achievements of President Buhari in terms of security.”
Having said all that, the question that arises is how fit is Tinubu to deliver on such promises? Jibrin said he gets surprised when he reads about the fitness question on the pages of newspapers and the social media.
“But, if you relates with him on a constant basis, you would understand that Asiwaju possesses the required fitness to deal with the responsibility of the office of President, both physical fitness and mental fitness. In terms of mental fitness, Asiwaju is A1. If you know him, he is completely sound. You know what, he understands what the problems are and what he is going to do.
“Like every human being, he will fall sick and get well. Everybody does that. That is why we keep saying that the conversation should move to real issues. Why are people not saying they are worried that he cannot do the job or manage the people. Why are people not talking about all these?”