Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has been in the fore-front campaigning for the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket in the 2019 presidential election. He was cornered last week by journalists during the peace meeting held with aggrieved aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Marina, where he spoke on his involvement in the campaign to re-elect President Muhammadu Buhari. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI brings the excerpts:
The 2019 Presidential election is fast approaching and with due respect to other candidates, it looks like a two-horse race between the APC candidate and incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari and the PDP Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. You have been in the forefront of campaigning for Buhari and why he deserves a second term. Can you tell us why you think Buhari should be given another term as President?
Just to be very clear, as an average Nigerian, not necessarily as a Governor now, I will pitch my tent with, endorse and vote President Muhammadu Buhari in this forthcoming Presidential elections on the basis that having crosschecked all the presidential candidates, I believe at this auspicious time in this country, the right person that can actually take us to the next level and the next trajectory of the prosperity and progress of Nigeria is President Muhammadu Buhari and I am very clear about what I am saying.
Apart from the fact that he has been President in the last three and half years, he has also been Head of State in the military era. But again, if you cross check all the other candidates, most especially the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when you put both of them on a weigh balance, there is one that has integrity more than the other, there is one that is more passionate about Nigeria and Nigerians, most especially the poor than the other. So, if the question comes on why we are voting for Buhari, it is on the basis of integrity, on the basis of somebody who is passionate of which those two values are values that I also cherish and practice as the Governor of Lagos State. It is very clear that we are just like like-minds and I will obviously engage Nigerians that those two values are the values that can bring prosperity to Nigeria. You need a lot of character; somebody that has character is likely to create an enabling environment that can make this country to progress. But beyond character and integrity, you can see that in the last three and half years, we have made fundamental preparation to push this economy to its positive trajectory and that’s what President Muhammadu Buhari has been trying to do and Nigerians don’t understand.
If you have cumulative 16 years of disruptive infrastructural tendencies, there is no way one single tenure can allow a corrective measure of the infrastructural deficit, you have to create that environment to allow you to do that. Let me give one simple example. Today, we are having the reconstruction of the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway being taken on by President Muhammadu Buhari. This particular expressway which is more or less the nerve centre to the economy of this country has never been touched in the last 40 years. Of this 40 years, 16 years of PDP was inclusive. Within three and half years, we have been very bold and very adamant that you need to rehabilitate the Apapa axis for you to be able to push the economy of Nigeria forward because anything that happens around the Lagos economy has a positive trajectory to the nation’s economy as a whole. So, it’s very clear, if you see a government that decides that and says that, look, even in these years of abandonment, decades of abandonment, they want to take on this whole issue, knowing well that in another two to three years, it would be delivered, so they need to monitor it, giving it back to those who abandoned it is not a good course to run. When you look at the reconstruction of the Niger Bridge, it’s been on for the last four decades also, these are fundamental infrastructure. So it gives you more or less a very clear mind what this government of Buhari will do if he is taking on fundamental things that would push the economy forward. All we need is to support him and also make a whole lot of economic technocrats available to rally round him and take this country to the next level.
So, if you move away from infrastructure and you are looking at investment in agriculture, a very clear example is LAKE Rice, it was just to prove a point that we can do local production of our own rice and project our own revenue of which the FG and of which President Buhari has been critically supportive of. So, we just need additional one or two years to allow us to do that and then importation of rice would become a thing of the past.
When you look at things that have to do with inclusive governance, you know all these TraderMoni and allowing SMEs to have access to interest free loans is what you mean by inclusive governance. PDP never did that for 16 years, so why will you now say the PDP candidate is coming to do inclusive governance? There are therefore clear examples why we must all rally round President Muhammadu Buhari and give him that second term for him to be able to consolidate on all the things that are very dear to us; the things that would grow the GDP of Nigeria, the things that would enable the poor to have access and create more jobs and also allow the economy to move forward and in terms of what we have in fiscal and monetary rates and policy, it is important that those are the things that the President just needs from Nigerians to be able to push this country forward and that’s why anytime any day, the candidature of President Muhammadu Buhari is the best option for Nigeria right now.
President Buhari in 2015 campaigned on the basis of improving the security situation in Nigeria especially in the North East. How well do you feel he has fared on this front especially with the recent unpalatable reports of attacks and skirmishes in some parts of the country?
Security is the number one achievement of this present government of President Buhari. When he came into power in 2015, the security situation in the North East was not what it is now. Look, people might want to be politically funny and trying to create stories from nothing, but the truth is that what we had in 2015 and the relative peace we are experiencing in 2018 in the North East are totally two different things. This 2015 security crisis was handed over by the PDP to the Buhari administration. Against all odd the country had regained lost territories and the enemies have been pushed out. There is relative peace in the North East and the truth is that Lagos, of which I govern, is the most secured city in Africa right now. Is it possible for me to do it alone? Of course it’s through the support and assistance of President Muhammadu Buhari. So, if there is anybody that is ever going to talk about security, the peace that we are enjoying and the protection of lives and property in Lagos is a reflection of the Federal Government’s desire to keep Lagos safe. So I am going to urge all Nigerians to continue to stick with the All Progressives Congress and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, because in terms of security, within the context of what we met and what we have now, Nigeria has been peaceful and in order to sustain that, you need to keep that government in power and that’s the more reason why we should vote for Buhari in this coming election.