Director General of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Foundation (BAT Foundation), Hon. Ipoola Ahmed Omisore, wants youths to step out and take front position in Nigerian political terrain. Omisore, a former lawmaker, also said Nigerian unity and consistent democracy make her 61st Independence anniversary worth celebrating. He speaks on issues on interest in this interview with Oladipupo Awo jobi. Excerpts…
Could you give some insight into what Bola Ahmed Tinubu Foundation is about?
I am the Director General of the foundation. The foundation is meant to put under one umbrella the welfare and extension of hands of goodwill to Nigerians, which Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been known for over the years. He has been showing welfare and philanthropy in many ways, but it has always been a spur of the moment affair. The organisation wants to bring under one umbrella all his activities in terms of extending his hands of fellowship to individuals and organisations generally. We are actually non-political. When you mention Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it is easy for people to say that it is about politics, but it is not. Most Nigerians feel it’s politics, but it is not. It is meant to be an organisation that will even extend beyond Tinubu and it will continue after his demise many years to come.
Some people are saying that Tinubu should declare for the presidency in 2023, do you support that and how widespread is BAT Foundation?
Certainly BAT Foundation is not meant to put Tinubu in office, it is meant to polish his image. Over the years, Tinubu has been helping individuals and giving people scholarship awards and he has been doing other welfare activities, which were unorganised. The BAT Foundation is a supermarket and an umbrella body for all his goodness. When we reach out to people in disaster and those in need of scholarship and those in need of good health, we are promoting the ideals of the foundation. Nevertheless, when you polish your principal, you are positioning him for acceptance by the public. So, the line between the organisation and political organisations is a thin one. But, certainly, we are not a campaign organisation.
Do you think Asiwaju Bola Tinubu should declare for presidency in 2023 based on these values that you have said, especially as people said he has produced many leaders?
Already, Nigerians are yearning for a man like him. So, if he chooses to come out, which we hope he would, it is okay. He has paid his dues and he has been a senator, two-term Governor, a father figure, a resource person builder, what else. If he has anything to cap it all, it is certainly the presidency. But trust our principal, he is a very calculative man, he has never for one day come out to say he is contesting. He is someone that believes that when we get to the bridge, we will cross it. We know him, he has not personally told anybody that he is contesting, but you can see Nigerians; the North, the East, the West and the whole South, they are looking for him. Even the opposition without him coming out, they are trying to seek him.
People look at his health and some are saying he shouldn’t even think of being the president of Nigeria at the moment. What is your view about this?
Well, it is human to be sick and his sickness is not life threatening; if it is not the heart, the liver, the kidney and not anything that could take one’s life, then it is okay. He is being treated abroad and it is sure that he will bounce back and when he bounces back those who are saying what they like would retract them. It is even better for him to hibernate now so that by the time action comes and he wants to, you can be sure he will crisscross Nigeria. Even when he didn’t contest he was crisscrossing for others. So, why won’t he do that now? Many people want him dead, and those who don’t want the best man to come out for presidency would-be wishing such. But good Nigerians, who know what he can do, want him to come back. Presidency is about brilliance, it is about the brain and what you can do. When he comes back and he is fit, the Chief Obafemi Awolowo we lost in 1979 and 1983, would come back. We have seen those who built Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we have seen those who built Malaysia and Asian Tiger countries, not those that can run very well, but those that can think very well. So, for me, I am not speaking for him, but if he chooses to, we will catch up the lost ground in Nigeria.
But, some people are saying that Tinubu should push forward the incumbent Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who they say has the intelligence, experience and energy as the presidency would be zoned to the South in 2023 if he does not have the capacity, what do you say to this?
Tinubu is someone nobody can think for. He is a man of ideas. He does not hold onto things actually. In 2007, he ought to go to the Senate after leaving office as governor for two terms, but he gave it to Senator Ganiu Solomon (GOS). Some of his colleagues are still struggling for offices, but he kept his cool. 2007 to 2021 is a long time. When the time comes, whether he is going to be the king or the kingmaker, you can be sure that the handwriting of former governor Tinubu would come upon Nigeria.
Do you think those who are rooting for Osinbajo are right?
Those who are rooting for Professor Yemi Osinbajo don’t own him; Tinubu was the one that brought him out. If he wants to donate him to Nigeria as he did in 2015, nobody will teach him. Tinubu is a very proactive man and he is not somebody that will say do or die. He has never been one. But you can be sure that presidency in 2023 would be the handwriting of Tinubu; either he writes somebody’s name or he writes his name. Osinbajo is our own. He is the donation of Tinubu to Nigeria. Anytime he wants to give him to Nigeria, we will know. But Tinubu has a card to play that can save and transform Nigeria.
What do you think Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would do differently if he becomes the president because he supported President Muhammadu Buhari to get there and it is still the government of the APC?
When people say that Tinubu put Buhari there, it is not correct, we all put him there. I have my own belief about Buhari before 2015. I saw him as a saviour, a messiah, a man that would rejuvenate Nigerians and a general that would calm insecurity. Man proposes, but God disposes. Tinubu is not God, we are not God. I’m sure Tinubu is not regretting his action, he has allowed the man to express himself. But Nigerians like praising past presidents, people are now praising former President Goodluck Jonathan, I know they might even praise Buhari later. They used to abuse former president Shehu Shagari, they are now praising him. Same goes for the late Gen. Sani Abacha, who was a military Head of State. Nigerians are restless people, but what I know is that Tinubu would do it differently. He is a man who builds human resources, a man who has no enemy, a bridge builder, and who has friends all over Nigeria. He is very cerebral, he met the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Lagos State at N600 million monthly and increased it to N12.5 Billion monthly. He created LASTMA, 37 additional Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), when he knew Lagos State could not cope with 20 local governments. He brought development to Lagos State, he was able to fight the Federal Government and turned the table against the ruling party. He recovered lost ground as his party lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and even Ekiti States and he personally recovered them.
What do you think the government should do about insecurity and the economy urgently?
The president should listen and rejig. When you have a team manager that doesn’t reshuffle, that team will tire out, and weaklings will bring down the team. Now, our President has started that, he has just removed the minister of agriculture and that of energy. So you can see that he is waking up. In a relay race, the last lap matters, Buhari will still do much before he leaves office in 2023. I still believe that he will do better. Insecurity has been there for long. He has been buying fighter jets now unlike what used to happen to defence money in the past governments. They used to share security money and our troops used to run away from the battle front, but now they are fighting. Buhari might be seen in different ways by the people, but that is the first president Nigerians would say is not a thief. Definitely the economy is bad, a lot of things are bad. But for me, a man like Buhari will still do much in two years.
Your party promised restructuring and constitutional review, but that has not been done yet. We see what is happening in Lagos State and Rivers States on VAT, what is your advice to the Federal Government on these?
I can assure you that you can take a cow to the river, but you cannot force it to drink water. Tinubu will restructure Nigeria if he gets there. You can see that when Atiku was campaigning for presidency in 2019, he promised restructuring in the South, but when he got to the North he didn’t talk about it. So, it is very difficult for the North to decentralise power. When you go to Sokoto, their motto is “Born To Rule,” as Lagos State is “Center of Excellence.” APC still believes in restructuring, but they are personal beliefs. Restructuring is still on the cards, insecurity would be taken care of, government is a continuum; you take the baton and pass it. A lot of things that former President Olusegun Obasanjo did as president, the late president Shehu Musa Yar’Adua didn’t do them, former President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t do them. Individual flair will still have a part to play on party position, but I can tell you that restructuring is on the cards.