By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Chief Henry Ajomale is one of the key members of the Tinunu political structure birthed in Lagos at the advent of the present democratic dispensation in 1999.
In this interview, the former commissioner for special duties and immediate past chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state reminiscences on the vision that culminated in the development of Lagos State as a model, declaring that Nigeria would witness a phenomenal growth under the incoming administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu if given the necessary support.
All is now set for the inauguration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What are your expectations?
I believe Asiwaju is a man of destiny, he is ordained by God to lead this country. I believe that since he is the chosen man he will do better than his previous predecessors. I believe that in the next four years, he is going to daze some of the opposition in this country so that they won’t have any choice, but to start singing another song. I know that he takes this job seriously and he has been preparing for it for so long. I don’t expect him to disappoint Nigerians because he sees himself as the last hope of this country. If he fails to succeed, that will be the end of Nigeria. I pray that the opposition will not tear Nigeria apart. God in His infinite mercy will make him succeed. That is what we have been praying for and will continue to pray for. He is a man the majority of Nigerians have been waiting for and that is why they voted for him.
Then, are you not worried about the deluge of petitions filed by the opposition before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to upturn his victory?
There have always been petitions against the winner. From 1999 to date, which of the winners they did not write petitions against? There is none except former President Goodluck Jonathan who said his ambition did not worth the blood of a single Nigerian. He is the only gentleman I have seen in this country. Even as a sitting president, he lost and he gave up. Apart from him, there have always been petitions after every election cycle. But what has been the result of their petitions? At the end of the day, the minority will have their say, but the majority will have their way. To me, it is the same normal thing as going to court after an election, hoping that they can bamboozle the judges to do their bidding. The opposition parties themselves know that they lost the election, but they could not concede defeat because of their supporters. If Nigerians say they don’t want you, you can’t force yourself on them. If it is easy to rig with the new technology (BVAS), why didn’t you rig to win? For the Labour Party that is alleging that APC was rigged, what happened in the Southeast? Peter Obi won in Lagos. But in the Southeast, he scored 97 per cent including the APC-controlled states. And when it came to the gubernatorial election, we recovered back our victory. If they say it is tribalism, who played tribalism more? To me, it is their fundamental right to go to court to seek redress, but they must have their facts and figures right and allow the judiciary to do its job. What they have been doing is to intimidate the judiciary. But justice is not done by force. Every day they go for a hearing, their supporters will storm the court. If other political parties are bringing their support like that, is there not going to be chaos? Why should they believe that they have a monopoly on tranny? No one has a monopoly on thuggery. If they are sure that they have a genuine case, they don’t need all this because they cannot intimidate the judiciary. I have not seen anywhere in the world where the court will broadcast the proceedings of an election petition. It has never happened anywhere before.
The developmental agenda that sustains Lagos State as a model has been linked to Asiwaju’s vision as a governor. Given the complexity of Nigeria’s situation, do you think it will be possible for him to replicate the same idea and guarantee sustenance after leaving the office?
Let us trust him first and wait for the result of his four-year tenure. I served under him for two terms and I know how his mind works. The most important thing is that Asiwaju has a nose for identifying talents that can work with him. If they allow him to select his team, then he will succeed. But if they turn it into politics, then it will be a great mistake. He should be allowed to select his team from all over Nigeria.
Some people have always claimed that Nigeria is now more divided than at any other time in its recent past. How would you expect him to address the challenge of mutual suspicion and forge ahead with unity among the various ethnic nationalities?
Those who want to divide the country are the ones dividing it. You will see, after the inauguration, the tension will go down. Asiwaju knows what he is supposed to do to bring the tension down. He is not the president now. So, there is a limit to what he can say. When he becomes the president, he will know what to do to bring the tension down.
The proposed removal of subsidies is one of the campaign agenda of the President-elect. Do you think Nigerians are prepared for such tough measures under the current level of poverty?
I like somebody telling me the truth so that I will know how what I am facing. We have no choice than facing the reality of life. If he is not bold enough to roll out a plan for the removal of subsidy, we won’t get anywhere. Somebody must be bold enough to do it and that is why he has told us that he would remove subsidy for the betterment of the people. This subsidy issue cannot go on forever because it only benefits a few people. Dangote has already set in motion the process for the removal with his refinery. Also, in some of the places they have found oil in the North, they are allocating refineries side by side with the oil fields. They don’t have to pipe the crude oil too far again which makes good sense. From the refineries, loading will be done and fuel distributed all over the country. All these will complement the government-owned refineries. Once we can refine the fuel we consume, there will be no more need for subsidy. And once they remove it, you will realize that the subsidy is a scam. It is the people who have been living fat on it for so long that do not want to see it removed. Once we stop importing fuel, who is going to claim subsidies again? Once fuel is available, Nigerians don’t care at what price. In the beginning, it may be tough, but sooner or later people will adjust.
Asiwaju is one of the advocates of restructuring. Do you see it happening under his presidency?
I believe there will be restructuring. He is a strong believer in restructuring and he has not hidden it. As much as I know him, he is a believer in restructuring. But you cannot ask him now because there is a mirage of problems before him. He has to take them one by one. The first thing he has to face now is the removal of subsidies and raising the economic bar so that Nigeria can start exporting. We must also take the war to the Boko Haram terrorists. Once there is peace in the country, everybody will go back to the farm. There is going to be a boom in production within the next two years.
Once we can curb the fighting going on here and there and allow people to go to the farm, production will be high. Benue and Plateau are the food baskets of Nigeria, especially yam. Those alone can feed Nigeria with yam. There is also Abakaliki rice. The farmers there can also go back to the farm. So, in the next two years, food scarcity will be a forgotten thing once Asiwaju is installed as the president. We will see a change in this country sooner or later you will be able to go outside of this country and beat your chest to say that I am a Nigerian.