By Kayode Fasua

Socio-political activist, Dr. Marindoti Oludare, in this interview with Kayode Fasua, assesses the performance of President Bola Tinubu in one year, against the backdrop of the campaigns he championed for the President while in the race last year. Thirty-five- year- old Oludare, a US-based medic, apart from being the Convener of Social Rehabilitation Gruppe (SRG), also recently got appointed as the Director of Contacts and Engagements for Lucky Aiyedatiwa Campaign Organisation Foot Soldiers Independent Council (LACO-FSIC). He speaks on the way forward for Nigeria. Excerpts:

You were around for the presidential campaigns of President Bola Tinubu, with vigorous inputs in the media. Would you say you feel fulfilled for the efforts?

On a large scale, I’ll say I’m fulfilled by my efforts. My assessment and consequent strategies were on point. I had assessed that President BAT (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) was surely not going to win a majority of the youth vote, but I was sure the President could not win the election without the youth vote. The majority of the APC supporters were being bullied and had their voices muzzled on social media and across most discourses at the time. So I decided to be an effigy of the ire of the President’s detractors, thereby creating a rallying point for his youth supporters. I knew I was smart enough to argue the point beyond dispute, so I engaged and gave a formidable opposition to the social media noise, from rebuking Dino Melaye when he made fun of the president on several occasions, to helping articulate some of his policies, to pulverizing David Udenyin live on TV when he tried to feed the country fibs during the post-election court cases. I also got involved in the Lagos election when I sank GRV’s (Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour’s) chances of getting to the Lagos Government House after I discovered and released his now infamous “I don’t think in Yoruba. ” I spotted that gaffe on 09Mar2023 when GRV made the comment but I strategically delayed my attack until 16Mar2023 to deprive him of any attempt at damage control. I never got a -Thank you- from anyone for my efforts, but I’m glad because I did it for Nigeria. I believe Nigeria is worth those sleepless nights: living in two time zones and every stress and sweat that I had put in it.

How would you rate the president’s performance in the last one year?

I will say the President has honestly done what is needed for the country. It took great courage and effort but a great deal of work lies ahead still. Nigeria was a house with gaping structural problems at the core of its foundation. President Tinubu had to get down and dirty in attacking those foundational problems, hence nobody should ask why we aren’t seeing the skyscrapers yet. That is because until the foundational problems have been fixed, there’s no skyscraper that will stand on that broken structure.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has already jumped to criticise President Bola Tinubu for doing things he failed to do. Since the former President is talking, let’s put things into perspective. When it comes to IGR growth, creditworthiness, or infrastructural development in Lagos; Bola Tinubu’s detractors often say because Fashola, Ambode, and Sanwo-Olu all performed better than Bola Tinubu on these indices, that means Bola Tinubu did nothing special in Lagos as its progress was bound to happen on its own. What those detractors failed to see was the solid foundation built by Bola Tinubu that ensured subsequent building blocks could be added to the Lagos architecture. This foundation is what made the geometric growth under subsequent administrations possible.

On the other hand, the majority of Nigerians will look at various economic indices and say former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure was the most prosperous in the history of our 4th republic; what they fail to recognise is the weak foundation left by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo that ensured subsequent administrations could not match, let alone surpass his performance in office. Posterity will judge both leaders and when both men are gone, we will speak of their profile in courage. Historians will give an account of how an accountant had more courage and bigger cojones than a soldier.

The Nigerian economy seems in the doldrums with the free fall of the Naira and low purchasing power. What is the way out of the quagmire?

Thanks for your choice of words; you just said quagmire, meaning mud. The only way out of the mud is through that mud. Nigeria was in the mud that Bola Tinubu did not create of which he is now responsible, hence we all have to follow his lead and walk through it with him until we reach solid ground. Regarding the two critical albeit controversial decisions to end subsidy and unify the exchange rate, those were life-saving decisions. Nigeria was in a hole, we needed to stop digging. That’s the first rule of the hole. The second rule is when you stop digging, you’re still in a hole so climb out. Nigeria is currently in the second phase of that rule, where we’re trying to climb out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves for six decades.

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Tinubu’s policies did not cause the trouble, Tinubu is saving us Nigerians from the trouble. Perspective is key. Dangote got about 9 billion dollars at the official rate towards the completion of his refinery. That is a rate the common man does not have access to. Had Dangote gone to the parallel market like every common man, his naira would have only gotten him about 5.45 billion dollars, which means the Nigerian government gave Dangote 3.55 billion dollars that the common man wouldn’t have access to. Just to emphasise the significance of this, 3.55 billion dollars is enough to pay 150,000 naira monthly to 1.5 million Nigerians for a whole year. That is the amount the Nigerian government gave to just one man for one of his ventures. Now imagine how much all the Nigerian elite are benefitting. I agree that the people will feel the impact more because if a man with 9000 naira gives you 3500 out of it, the impact on his bottom line is greater than when a man with 9 million dollars gives you 3.5 million out of it. Though both gave out the same percentages, one has a 5.5 million dollar buffer while the other is left to scramble with just 5500 naira. What matters is what the government does with the extra money they are getting. I must say though that the communication of the Bola Tinubu’s administration leaves much to be desired and I still vehemently disagree with the administration on how they’re handling the food crisis.

We can recall that you also stood for the governor of your home state, Ondo, in the testy days of attempts to impeach him as deputy governor. What is your relationship with Aiyedatiwa who has eventually become the governor, following the death of his boss, former Governor Rotimi Akeredolu?

I will say my relationship with Governor Aiyedatiwa is distant but cordial. I became the Director, Contact and Engagement of his campaign organisation during the primary but I’m yet to have the opportunity to interact in any direct way with him. Gov Aiyedatiwa is a man I would love to learn from. His poise and resolve is admirable. He was roundly underestimated but he over-performed and out-maneuvered his detractors. His reign was written in the stars, and his opponents failed to see the “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin”(handwriting on the wall). Even in the primaries, the people came out en masse to support him. Aiyedatiwa transformed from a little-known deputy governor to a governor with a cult following in Ondo State. The people love him and he is delivering.

Aiyedatiwa is now on the ballot as the governorship candidate of the ruling APC in the November 16 election. What are his chances?

Governor Aiyedatiwa will be elected Governor of Ondo State come November 16 2023. I am confident of that. Like I said, he is ordained by God to be governor, going against him at this moment is like swimming against the tide, you will get swept away. Anyone with half a brain will know to go with the Aiyedatiwa flow at this moment in time. But on the substance of things, Governor Aiyedatiwa is delivering on the promises of good governance. His God-given poise and calm demeanour is quite endearing so he is loved by all and sundry. All who met him marvel at how down to earth he is. Humility is a rare but attractive trait in politics. His ability to remain even-keeled during this period goes to show the manner of man he is. When it comes to Governor Aiyedatiwa, I have zero concerns. Not to be blasphemous but if Jesus Christ of Nazareth and the great prophet (SAW) got on the ballot paper for the opposition come November, Governor Aiyedatiwa will still win.

How best can the Aiyedatiwa administration transform lives in Ondo State in the face of daunting economic challenges facing Nigeria?

Ondo State is a land blessed with milk and honey, gas, and crude oil too, should we include bitumen, never fail to mention cocoa, and never forget rubber, etc. However, all these natural resources are not enough to turn Ondo State into an economic powerhouse in Nigeria and the world at large. If you tapped all the proven crude oil reserves in Nigeria within a day, sold them for $100 per barrel, and shared that money amongst 200 million Nigerians, each of us would only get about $10,000 and that’s it. No more oil for us to share. The state of Texas produces more than four times the total crude production of Nigeria, oil extracting and mining is not among the top six sectors contributing to the Texas Gross State Product. This is because nations and states are not rich in proportion to their natural resources but a highly trained, educated, and productive citizen will make their nation/state wealthy.

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Governor Aiyedatiwa understands this and this is why he has started making the moves he is making. Employing teachers, ensures that the future Ondo State citizens are equipped with what it takes to compete in tomorrow’s economy. He is working strongly on human capital development and ensuring they have the infrastructural backing that enables their potential. He is working on ensuring quality educational and qualitative healthcare delivery in the state. He is already doing all the right things, he just has to be given the mandate to continue what he already started and Ondo State will compete with Lagos for the strongest economy within the next 10 years.

Your constituency, the youth, has been complaining of being marginalised in Nigeria’s leadership structure. How do you think young Nigerians can up their game and get fully involved?

I know the ruling elite will want to point to a few officers and say those are youths, in an attempt to dispute this sentiment but that sentiment exists and it is real. There is a degree of Ephebiphobia in our society and that has gravely affected the progress of the youth. A majority of Nigerian youth is disenchanted with the status quo; we have a majority of people in their 40s and 50s who are middle-aged men but still feel like youths because of their life experiences. They’ve never had a connection with any career, they’ve been condemned to a lifetime of unemployment and their only self-honed skill is panhandling for survival. Nobody wants to depend on another man for their basic needs.

This was the reason why Peter Obi was able to cash in on the despair of the youth during the last election and he ran away with their support. Anybody in the ruling class who is alive to their responsibilities and hopes to prevent the youth from making the same mistake needs to engage them and show them the way. The president and his team need to carry the youth along. Check our population distribution, people aged 18-40 account for approximately 67% of the voting population. They need to bring in more young people into the administration. I don’t approve of creating a ministry of youth, I feel it is condescending to us in my own opinion. If 70% of our population is below the age of 30, then youth should be at the core of every aspect of government.

Can you mention three living Nigerians whom you can classify as your political role models?

If you never mentioned “living” I would have picked exclusively from my state. Number 1 is Pa Reuben Fasoranti: the man is a sage; he is the conscience of Ondo State, with utmost integrity and unparalleled service to his people both in his public and private life.

Second is, HRM Oba Olu Falae: he is a consummate intellectual, as an 85-year-old, he is still as young and spry as he ever was when I saw him last year. He tried to rescue Nigeria in ’86 (when he gained the moniker Mr SAP) but never had the political backing from the then-military regime. I believe Nigeria would have been a better place by now had the outcome of the 1999 election been different.

The last would have to be President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I see him as someone with the intellectual ability of Obafemi Awolowo albeit with a better vision and ability to bring his vision to life. Awolowo was influenced by his British experience so he was a democratic socialist, Bola Tinubu was influenced by his American experience so he is a liberal capitalist.

I have met my first two role models and they know me personally, I adore them. The last I am yet to meet and look forward to the opportunity to meet with him.

Credit: The Nation