Senator Rilwan Adesoji Akanbi, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC and founder, Coalition Movement for Àsiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (COMBAT). Under the auspices of South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), he was one of those who canvassed vigorously for the election of Tinubu in the last general election. Akanbi represented Oyo State, South, senatorial district at the 8th National Assembly.
He spoke in this session on the politics and governance of Tinubu among other sensitive issues.
You were part of those at the forefront that passionately canvassed for votes for President Tinubu. How would you assess the state of the nation so far?
Professor Wole Soyinka has spoken that we should give this administration a year. A year is about 25 percent of the tenure. Assessing a government now could be unfair. Things are so hard; things look bad but the government said it is laying solid foundation. After a year, let us see what those policies they have put on the table will bring to the masses. You can assess a government through the welfare of the populace but doing any assessment now would be unfair because it’s still early in the day. Let us give them a year, at least, Campaign will start third year. Assessing a government now will be unfair because even the policies may not have started maturing.
Things are getting harder; shouldn’t it have been a case of Nigerians seeing evidences of things getting better?
You can only assess a government through the wellbeing of the citizens, as Í pointed out earlier. If you do that right now, through the wellbeing data, you may score the government low. The basic things of life are falling under luxurious items. The prices of food items have skyrocketed. There is no way you can score a government high if the minimum wage is N30,000 and the price of rice is N60,000. I am not giving excuse for them but I think what they met on the ground was not what they expected. The cost of rising debt, for example; if that subsidy was not removed, Nigeria would have been taken over by her debtors. There was no way they could continue that subsidy but the palliative arrangement was not well put together or was put in a hurry. Governance is not about Mr President alone. The cabinet, governors, ministers; all hands are supposed to be on deck but all hands are not on deck, some are under; some are on top. It is so unfortunate that the masses are suffering.
But the consolation is that government is not folding its arm.
What should the government be doing?
The government said they are putting policies together. The cost of production in the manufacturing industry has gone up by 40 percent. Manufacturing industries are not working to full capacity. No manufacturing company can function effectively without constant supply of electricity. You can’t solve multi-dimensional problems with one solution. It is so unfortunate. Constant electricity supply will create jobs, reduce the cost of production; artisans will be better off. If they can turn it around, it will ease a lot of things, as it will create employment. Most artisans rely on electricity as the cost of powering their equipment with generating sets and it is becoming unbearable. Constant supply of electricity can help turn around the economy. Also, insurgency is not disappearing; it is even getting worse in the last three months. As a result, farmers will abandon farms; cost of production is increasing. Insecurity is a major factor and it has a chain effect on food production. Farmers are abandoning their farms and the population is growing higher by the day.
You worked with great zeal in the emergence of President Tinubu under the platform of the South West Agenda for Àsiwaju (SWAGA), but so far, none of the arrowheads of SWAGA as we learnt has been ‘compensated’ through political appointment. What is the feeling of your SWAGA members presently?
I am sure they are feeling bad. I am a founding member and co-chairman of SWAGA. SWAGA came up after the EndSARS which targeted President Bola Tinubu. After the EndSARS, the rating of President Tinubu went low. I do not know why SWAGA is being neglected. Secondly, I, singlehandedly came up with another group known as COMBAT ( Coalition Movement for Àsiwaju Bola Ahmed Tiñúbu) in Oyo State. And Oyo State gave Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu the highest surplus in Nigeria, that is 265,000 surplus. The irony is that the people that are benefitting from Oyo State, some never worked for the victory of Àsiwaju.
That notwithstanding, we gave Asiwaju 265,000 surplus which is the highest surplus delivered to Asiwaju in all 36 states, that is 14.7 percent of the winning surplus. I do not know what we have done in Oyo State to deserve the way we are being treated. Oyo State gave the highest surplus of 265,000; the surplus made the winning possible. Every vote counts but surplus is the winning point; surplus is the winning figures and Oyo State gave the highest surplus followed by Ondo that gave 260,000. He is still the man in charge and, we believe in his capacity and capability that he will do what is right, by his time. We believe he will put things right. He is a man of his words; let us see how this year goes and how things will pan out. Luckily, a few of us are moving on. If you don’t win an election, you can’t form government.
Since his emergence, has president Tinubu personally reached out to you and your SWAGA co-founder, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, since he assumed office?
I am not complaining about individuals. I am not talking about myself or Adeyeye. At the end of the day, whatever he brings to the table is what is important. What people like me did working for Asiwaju is beyond SWAGA. I am in so many committees in Abuja, that we travel every week for committee meetings without collecting a penny from anybody. If we are stuck again with Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, we will still support Bola Tinubu. He is still the best man for the job among the three.
But the reality is that people that worked tirelessly, day and night and assisted him to win the election, primary, and post-primary should not be neglected. You can’t form a government without winning an election as I have always pointed out.
Tinubu is regarded as a master strategist. Don’t you see his choice of Adelabu and Adedeji as appointees from Oyo State as a political strategy that you are not aware of?
I am not picking on those two. I am saying that people who worked for our success have to be compensated.
So, SWAGA has not been compensated
Beyond talking about compensation, which sounds cheap, this is a matter of using today to prepare for tomorrow. If Tinubu didn’t win, would we have killed ourselves? We are glad that we did not labour in vain and that APC won the election. It is about identifying with your disciples. It may be too early to talk about neglect; either appointed or not, this is our government and we must support, advise.
Coming to your home state, some regard Governor Seyi Makinde as the present generalissimo of Oyo politics, how does that make you feel as an APC member?
He is the governor of the state; so he has the chess board on his table. I don’t know what name you want to give that, but that is the truth. Politics is so dynamic and things can change within months. Next election is close but is still far. Tables can turn anytime. Candidates have a major role to play to win election. Governor Makinde has a lot on the table as opportunities. He is sitting on Oyo State’s treasury. He controls the finances of Oyo State government. But, there is no third term.
How should the Oyo APC galvanise itself if it is to reclaim governance of the state?
Honestly, I can’t answer that question for now. At least not on the pages of newspapers.