Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, yesterday, said the 2023 presidential election should be determined by voters freely making their choice rather than the domineering intimidation of a troublesome few.
Tinubu, who stated this at the Chatham House, London, where he went to speak, however, kicked against all forms of electoral violence and intimidation ahead of the 2023 elections.
But Tinubu’s Chatham House experience was almost marred by protests led by a former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri, who claimed Tinubu was unfit to be Nigeria’s president, citing many reasons, including his alleged shady past.
At the same time, the Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation, yesterday, mocked Tinubu over what it described as his pathetic display of vacuity at the Chatham House, adding that answering questions through proxies was a national disgrace.
This is as a senior minister in the government, who pleaded anonymity, yesterday, warned that rule by proxies or surrogates, was dangerous for the health of the country, stressing that the nation could not afford to return to a system, where unelected persons would tell the nation what to do and what not to do.
Also, a noted lawyer and Arise News analyst, Frank Tietie, yesterday, contended that, such a disposition was both dangerous and unacceptable, because in the long run, it could lead to infighting and cause crisis in the presidency and by implication, stoke instability in the administration.
However, addressing a cross-section of audience, Tinubu, who said having spent most of his career in the political opposition, he had long fought against electoral malpractice and any attempts to extinguish the legitimate choice of voters, while assuring them that he would continue to do so.
Although Tinubu struggled with his responses during the question and answer session, he practically conceded nearly all the questions posed to him to members of his team, who in turn answered for him, citing what he described as the spirit of “teamship”.
Some of those who stood in his place, to address the questions, included the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai; the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade; his former Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake and his former finance counterpart, Wale Edun.
While the APC candidate tried to do a recap of some of the answers after some of team members had done justice to them, he did not directly take on the questions, including the one, which frontally questioned his personality as a man of controversial profile.
But the former Lagos State governor, who spoke on the topic: “Nigeria’s 2023 elections: Security and economic development and its foreign policy imperatives”, in a statement in London, signed by Mr. Tunde Rahman, was of the opinion that the sovereign will of the people always decided the path of the nation.
He said Nigeria would epitomise values of democracy during elections anywhere in Africa, by ensuring that democratic ideals were followed and all forms of electoral violence rejected, allowing only the will of the people to prevail.
His words: “Every election, wherever it is held, is important to the people or entity directly concerned. It is also important to the global democracy community as well. Equally, there are also countries whose elections, on account of their weight and influence, carry wider implications way beyond their immediate geographical boundaries. Nigeria is one of such countries.
“I stand firmly against all forms of electoral violence and intimidation. Having spent most of my career in the political opposition, I have long fought against electoral malpractice and any attempts to extinguish the legitimate choice of voters. I will continue to do so.
“And I urge all my fellow contestants in this election to do the same. Let the sovereign will of the people decide the path of our nation. And let this election be determined by voters making their choice freely rather than the domineering intimidation of the troublesome few.
“For one, as Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest economy, it is generally acknowledged that the fortunes of the African continent and indeed the Black race is tied directly to the health of Nigeria.
“Also the Nigerian elections of 2023 are coming up at a time, when the country’s immediate geographical neighbourhood of West and Central Africa is undergoing serious political turmoil that has manifested itself in the incursion of the military to power in a number of countries.
“In spite of the legitimate concerns being expressed by observers, Nigerians are resolutely committed to democracy, regardless of their political differences,” he said, explaining further that Nigeria shared direct land borders with four sister African countries with whose peoples Nigerians also shared historical and cultural affinities.
This, he claimed, effectively meant that the relationship between Nigeria and its immediate neighbours was much more than just a geographical expression.
According to him, “To be fully secure at home, Nigeria has always believed it must be herbrothers’ keeper. It was out of this understanding that Africa’s premier regional economic community, ECOWAS, was established in 1975.
“Uniquely, ECOWAS had embedded in its mandate, the promotion of regional economic integration as a good in its own right and in addition undertook sub-regional peace and security.
“I am convinced, as I am sure most of us are, that the broad principles that enabled successive Nigerian governments to interface development and security, and establish an organic link between national security and economic development with regional peace and prosperity is both impeccable and remains relevant. It is an approach which I commit myself to upholding and advancing.”
The presidential candidate promised to tackle the security situation head-on, so that Nigeria could also effectively provide security support for its neighbouring nations.
He reiterated that effective energy generation and distribution would help build the economy of the nation, promising to improve the framework already in place to boost the generation and distribution of energy across the country, adding also that the nation under his watch would place emphasis on the use of technology to improve the agricultural sector for better production and contribution to the nation’s economy.
He promised to engage the private sector to better drive economic development across the country.
It was the second time that the APC candidate delivered a speech at the forum, having first done so in 2011.
He was, however, accompanied to the event by key party and campaign council leaders, including Governors Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Mohammed Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Deputy Director General of Campaign Council, Hadiza Bala Usman, and former Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, among others.
Meanwhile, Omokri, who many believed was supporting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, but some contended was playing double game, was seen wielding several placards along with his group, describing the APC candidate in unprintable terms.
“Tinubu will never forget the protest we just pulled off at Chatham House. He was disgraced and could not get out of his car. He had to run away,” Omokri said after the protest.
But the Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation, in a statement by one of its spokespersons, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “Nigerians including supporters of the APC Presidential Candidate were thoroughly embarrassed to watch Asiwaju Tinubu, who earlier showboated with a scripted speech went blank on the world stage in tragic display of emptiness and inability to personally address questions that were put to him on economy, security and other challenges facing our nation.
“Our Campaign finds it very appalling that a candidate aspiring to be the president of a nation as complex as Nigeria exhibited an embarrassing inability to coordinate his own thought process to the extent that he could not personally think through issues and address them but had to direct questions put to him including those on his health and policies to others to answer.
“Asiwaju Tinubu has confirmed to Nigerians and the world that he has no business contesting the 2023 Presidential election; that he is grossly incompetent, completely unprepared for leadership and intends to transfer the onerous task of leading our nation to proxies and a cabal that did not seek votes from Nigerians.
“Of course, Nigerians cannot afford to have president, who cannot take responsibility to lead but intend to shift burden to others apparently to find scapegoats to blame for his inevitable failures.
“The APC Presidential Candidate ended up becoming a butt of international joke as he could not provide any lead on the critical issues of economy, security, youth development and foreign policies, despite notes passed to him at the event by his handlers.
“Nigerians can recall that the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign had earlier cautioned Asiwaju Tinubu and his handlers not to embarrass our nation by exhibiting his constant gaffes on the International Stage at Chatham House.
“Our Campaign counsels Asiwaju Tinubu’s handlers to stop embarrassing him by always pushing him to make public appearances, even when they are aware of his many incompetence. What Nigerians expect is for the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign to apologise to the nation and stop embarrassing their principal with poorly scripted appearances.”