Tinubu’s committed to better Nigeria – Ikeotuonye

The political and socio-economic atmosphere in the country is seemingly harsh. Despite the challenges, a group of young, patriotic and zealous professional Nigerians believe that with concerted and selfless effort, the country will bounce back. Recently, the group, Young Professionals For Tinubu (YP4T), held a media briefing, where its chairman, John Ikeotuonye, addressed challenges facing the country, as well as, other critical national issues. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR writes.

Tell us about the Young Professionals For Tinubu… what’s the vision and why are you supporting President Bola Tinubu?
YP4T is a group of young professionals from different walks of life. Our ideology transcends the politics of class or creed, believing that we’re all one and must work together to make impact in our society for a better Nigeria. We’re ordinary people, striving to achieve the extra ordinary through social responsibility and governance.

Our support for His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, is in line with our ideology. In him, we have identified a man who has impacted his community, his constituency, his region; and now a nation. By his track record, we’re able to recognise in him the skill of discovering talents and encouraging them. Tell me, have we ever had more participants from the private sector in government, than now. Have we ever seen more youthfulness in government before now; and he’s just starting. I can tell you for free that his government is the one that will point Nigeria in the right direction.

This government begins our journey of recovery. The ‘not too young to run’ mantra will surely see the light of day during and after this administration because of Tinubu. And we at YP4T recognised that early enough to support the mandate. Most importantly, he is the man with the capacity needed to drag Nigeria out of this doldrums.

Many believe the incessant attacks on farmers and communities are reasons for food scarcity in the country. What should the government do to curb this menace?
It is not just believe, it is the reality. Benue our food basket is not having it easy; ao, are other places in the North. Who goes to farm again? If the source is shut down, what do you expect. But we thank Mr. President, that the bandits are being tackled head on. But the citizens must also help. The states have to also sit up and not leave everything to the government. Until production in our farms resume full scale things will continue to get worse. But this government is equal to the task.

President Tinubu seems resolute in reviving the socio-economic life of the country. How optimistic are you that he can bring the smiles back again on faces of Nigerians?
Like His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR says all the time, “I asked for this job”. He has a track record. The blueprint being executed by Lagos up to now were put together by him. He is even more experienced now. Few people understand this country like he does. Few have contacts across board like he does and very few have his experience. He has been in the Legislature and Executive, hence he understands how they work.

But more than all these is a deep and desperate desire to salvage this country and leave a mark in the annals of our history. So, yes I am hopeful and confident that he will put a smile on the faces of Nigerians. But I do not delude myself that it will be done overnight and even his Excellency has not lied to Nigerians like most politicians do.

But it is going to be well with Nigeria again and Tinubu is the man to lead that recovery. But Nigerians must come out to help. The elections are over. Nigeria is our country. If this government fails (God forbid) we all fail, another four years of our lives lost. Let us not join politicians who for their selfish ends want the government to fail.

How does YP4T hope to contribute and support this government, to make Nigeria better?
YP4T just like so many other groups around the country and even in diaspora will continue to do the little we can, and hope that someday we’ll be able to do more for our country. We give palliatives here and there to indigent people in the society; we support sports at the grassroots level. Most importantly, in our various constituencies, we’re doing what we can, and trying to co-opt more of our kinds to do, because charity they say begins at home.

The job of sensitisation is very important. And people need to know, Nigerians have been misled for a long time by the political class. Here we have a President who puts so many things ahead of partisan politics. We have a president who is willing to give opportunity to talents to prove themselves. I’m calling on young Nigerians home and abroad, this is the government that will hear us, this is the government that will empower us. YP4T will continue pushing every positive of our dear country, and relentlessly, we’ll support the mandate of President Tinubu.

As a coordinator of a support group for President Bola Tinubu, how would you rate him considering the present harsh economic realities?
The first way to rate a man in the midst of harsh conditions is his comportment and readiness to take responsibility. His Excellency has not been in office long enough for us to start enjoying the full benefits of his effort.

Ten months in a two term of four years tenure, cannot be enough yardstick to measure and pass judgment on performance and capacity. But you can see that he is not passing the buck. You can see that he tackled the issue of petrol subsidy, which we’ll soon see the benefits, and those propagandists who do not understand the economics of withdrawal, will bury their heads in shame. He is meeting with international allies. The few ministries and departments where there have been scandals, he has been swift to address them. So I will rate him despite and in spite of the harsh conditions, I will rate him very highly.

The removal of oil subsidy and the floating of the naira seem to have backfired, what is your take on this?
Backfired? No. Do you see the pain that goes with birthing a child? Or pouring disinfectant in an open wound. Removal of subsidy was an issue every presidential candidate and indeed every well meaning Nigerian subscribed to. It was a matter of the guts to do it. He demonstrated the guts and what we are feeling is the birth pang. Yes people will complain and of course, opposition will take advantage, but in a short while we will see the benefits.

We see many groups coming up with programmes to help the downtrodden, is your group doing anything in that regard?
Yes we are, but on that, we’re not big on publicity. There’s a saying that ‘when you’re going for charity, do not take the cameras along’ So, we like to under promise and over deliver, to make the people feel very comfortable. We also support sports at the grass-root level. Again, we empower young start ups too.

We have seen massive increase in mass kidnapping of school kids in Kaduna lately, has the government not failed in securing lives and properties?
My heart really goes out to those who have lost their lives or loved ones and also the victims of kidnap. Their lives will never be the same. So we must address this issue with sensitivity and not play the usual politics with it. Over the years, these bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen, over the years due to negligence, politicisation and tribalising the issue have amassed arms, territories and connection. So, it will not be an overnight victory. But from reports we get, you can see we are making progress. But yes, we can, and will do better. But if there is anyone that can do it, it is Mr. President.

We have had politicians giving out ridiculous items to people in their constituencies, in what way do you think empowerment can be effective?
You have heard the saying “give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you have fed him for life”. What is going on is that many are just playing politics. Since the people have been impoverished it is okay to give them some fish. But it is more important to teach them. That is why the administration of His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not only pushing out palliatives which are temporary, but working on more sustainable human capital development and encouraging farming.

Scholarship schemes are being worked out so that our people will be properly educated. Education is key. Our people must not be distracted by the bait dropped by politicians in the name of palliative. This government is poised to create a level playing field for all. To get back our middle class. We just need to be patient. I can’t say that enough.

Nigeria is currently facing several issues, particularly, the economy. What’s your view and how did we get to this level?
LET us start by stating that economic downturn is not peculiar to Nigeria, so, we must understand that. It is a global trend. Also, Nigerians must come to terms with the fact that to build up there must first be a breaking down. We must remember that President Bola Tinubu has remained stoic in accepting responsibility for the state of the nation, as leader, he did not put things in this state. It is the failure of past governments that got us here and it will not be solved overnight. However, the President has the capacity, but with the support of Nigerians. Nigeria is like a train with failed brakes. While the brakes are being fixed, the train keeps moving and covering more ground. To the passengers, it feels like nothing is being done as long as they see the train moving. Doesn’t mean work of repairs is not on-going. That is how it is with Nigeria. Serious work is going on but we can’t see the effect yet but very soon, it will be seen. Nigerians just need a little patience.

The value of naira keeps depreciating against the dollar and other foreign currencies. What do you think the Federal Government can do to save the naira?
The problem of foreign currencies is multi-faceted. One major part is sheer sabotage. Are you not surprised that though the economy is so bad, banks that hardly lend money are having humongous turnovers and flying private jets? A lot of foreign organisations are also putting false value on Naira versus foreign currencies, therefore, causing a stampede for the forex. But a major cause is the fact that we are not producing. Farming, which would have been a major contributor in the export sector has suffered due to many years of insecurity. That would have brought some balance. But the government is addressing these problems head on. The BDCs are being more properly regulated now. The president was in Niger State the other day to inaugurate a major move in farming, promising support for other states that will follow suit. We have to remember that it is not only the federal government that we should hold responsible. All the efforts are reflected in the gradual improvement in the value of the Naira. But like I have always said; one step at a time. Patience.

Nigerians have been groaning under the poor economic conditions and the high costs of foods. Yet, we continue to read about foods being smuggled to foreign countries?
Remember that there is politics. There is opposition. So, the things you read you must take with a pinch of salt. Smuggling of food across borders did not start today, hence cannot suddenly become the cause of our problem. The problem is that production fell due to insecurity which the government is tackling. This is not to say this government is not tackling smuggling. In fact it is being tackled. But let us not allow ‘opposition’, who by the way, brought us to this bus stop, push a narrative that sounds like it is the fault of this government. No, this government is not playing the blame game, but the opposition should not be allowed to take advantage of the pains of the people to paint the government in bad colours.

How can the private sector help in reviving this dwindling economy? And what should the government do to encourage the private sector?
The private sector is the key and this government understands that, hence the private sector friendly policies. Most of the people hired are private sector professionals not politicians, as was mostly the case. The plan to move some departments of the Central Bank and Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to Lagos is part of the plan to incentivise the private sector. As we speak, the private sector is being encouraged to generate power as was seen in the Geometric Power project in Abia state. The role of the government is to generate policies. Remember that his Excellency Mr. President is a product of the private sector.

With the harsh economic realities, will you say the president who you worked for during the campaigns has the capacity to turn the country around for good?
First of all let me correct an impression. YP4T supported and voted for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we were not employed by him or acted on his command or that of his campaign handlers. We are young men convinced by his political antecedents, and of all other candidates we knew he had the most capacity. Now he is our president, so he has our full support and dedication to making Nigeria work.
Now, to answer your question, O yes. Asiwaju Tinubu was born for situations like this.

When he became governor of Lagos State in 1999, Lagos wasn’t what it is today; IGR was nothing to write home about. In fact, the Federal allocation was withheld by the Federal Government, he had to go to court. Lesser men would have been crippled. But not Asiwaju. He rolled up his sleeves, picked a formidable team and laid a foundation, which subsequent administrations built on. It is that same blue print Lagos is still implementing and which has set Lagos state ahead of others. But it did not happen overnight.

That same man is in the driver’s seat in Aso Rock. He has the capacity. He understands the politics. He didn’t stumble into Aso Rock. He had his eyes on the ball for a while now. I think this is the first time Nigeria had a president that his foray into Aso Rock was intentional not accidental. He has the capacity.

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