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INTERVIEW: Nigeria’s economy would have crumbled with Atiku or Obi as president, says ex-Oyo rep

INTERVIEW: Nigeria’s economy would have crumbled with Atiku or Obi as president, says ex-Oyo rep
April 21
10:33 2024

Bosun Oladele, the national secretary of South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA’23), representated the Irepo/Olorunsogo/Orelope federal constituency of Oyo state at the national assembly from 2015 to 2019. He is also a former commissioner of information in the state.

In this interview with TheCable’s TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he spoke on developments in the country since President Bola Tinubu assumed office in 2023.


TheCable: You campaigned vigorously for Tinubu and promised Nigerians that things would be better if he won. It’s almost one year since Tinubu was sworn in, are you impressed with his performance, especially when you consider the hardship Nigerians are facing?

OLADELE: The truth must be told. President Tinubu has never minced words from his campaign to his various speeches in office. He has always said it that he wished that there could be other ways that some of these things could be done but there isn’t. A popular age-long saying is that gold will not be gold until it has passed through fire.

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If you look at it, every country that has emancipated till date had their own history and story of turbulence. The reality is that a sick person will either take medication or go through surgery in order to get well. None of these two is sweet or palatable. They all leave bitter taste in the mouth; but at the end, the sick person will get back on his feet.

I will say President Tinubu has been a leader that has walked his talk. He has spoken to every situation and has listened to the demands of Nigerians. He never disconnected himself from the reality of what is going on outside. In the area of policy formulation, drive and implementation, he has considered the opinion of people that matter. I will say that we have never had a leader in his mold before so far, so good.

The indices are clear. Apart from the fact that he keeps saying it at every point in time, most of the things that he has promised, he has been working assiduously on them. He has involved critical stakeholders in most of his policy formulation and implementation. For the first time, the CBN has been dictating the rate of forex rather than what we used to have, when you have the parallel market or BDCs dictating the race.

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When it comes to fighting the ills in the society, those things that have constituted themselves into the cog in the wheel of progress in the economy. I think he has really tried more than anyone else in this time. I can’t remember who has done it that way. I want to say at the risk of sounding immodest that Tinubu is putting Nigeria on the right path. He doesn’t waste time in addressing issues and he is never afraid of policy reversal once there is a superior argument regarding those policies. I believe those are the stuff that any good leader is made of. You don’t have to be rigid just for the sake it. You have to be rigid and be positively so. I think I’ve seen that in Tinubu.

TheCable: An international media platform recently said Nigeria is burning through foreign-exchange reserves at a rate not seen in four years, raising concerns that the central bank is depleting its dollar holdings to support the naira. If true, don’t you think that is not sustainable in the long run?

Oladele: It’s CBN’s job to defend the naira, not to attack it.

OLADELE: I beg to disagree. Whoever is giving them that kind of analysis or information upon which they based such assumption, that person is more of a trader than an economist. The CBN has churned out many policies and taken many positive actions which have really strengthened the naira. They have made it so that you can’t be throwing around dollar in our economy today. If you have more than 10,000 dollars today, you have to explain the source. That alone has put a lot of money launderers off their usual tracks. Also, sourcing for forex from unscrupulous sources have been cut off. Also, the diaspora remittances can no longer be received in dollars. This will only help the naira if you can’t get it in dollars and that is part of what we are witnessing now.

Again, his interaction with state governors has really helped. There have been speculations that immediately monthly allocations from the federal government are released to states, there is a spike in dollar rate. This led to the belief by some Nigerians that maybe some of the governors have been mopping up dollars with slush funds. I had it on good authority that the president has addressed it several times with them. To me, that is a leader that knows his onions.

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Some of the government-owned refineries are starting. In fact, the senate ad-hoc committee investigating the turnaround maintenance of Nigeria’s refineries has said the Port Harcourt Refinery will begin operation before the end of December. The private-owned one, that is the Dangote Refinery, is already working. The demand on dollar to be able to buy diesel has dropped sharply. All these policies will only gear at nothing but upward mobility of the naira.

Look at the foreign reserve that we are talking about. I was reliably informed that Nigeria has paid at least $12 billion in terms of foreign debts. If we had paid that and we had about $34 billion when this administration was coming in, as of today, we still have about $1.5 billion debit from the foreign reserve. If you juxtapose that with the $12 billion that has been paid out, are we really depleting the foreign reserve? The answer is no! So, the media platform has done nothing but to bring in trading theories and layman analysis in place of doing due diligence and research. Unfortunately, some media houses here in Nigeria have been lashing on that and parroting these laymen analyses. That is wrong.

TheCable: The value of the naira is rising, yet the prices of food items and other commodities are not coming down and still beyond the reach of the common man. Why is that so?

OLADELE: Number one, CBN’s job is to defend the naira, not to attack it. They are defending it right now in terms of policies on the table that can not only be seen but also verifiable. Two, most traders that inflated prices, they did it off the cuff without any economic basis. These were people that increased prices immediately they heard that subsidy was removed. That also affected the dollar rate too because if you want to change money, the BDCs fix arbitrary prices and that was why it kept going up. Those sharp practices kept going on until the CBN decided to cut their wings through well-tested policies that were very effective. The prices we have in terms of commodities and food items are artificial. It has nothing to do with the dollar.

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TheCable: What is your assessment of the performance of the ministers in President Tinubu’s cabinet?

OLADELE: Of course, Nigerians expect the ministers to have done better in some areas. I believe that at the end of the day, they will perform creditably well to the admiration of Nigerians. Like we have been told in the past, he doesn’t give you assignment while waiting for you to work and bring feedback. He works with you in ensuring that there is a feedback. So, definitely, he has shown good leadership and his actions show that he was prepared for governance.

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TheCable: Do you think any of the opposition presidential candidates, especially Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, would have done better if they had won the election?

Atiku, Obi cannot do better than Tinubu as president, says Oladele.

OLADELE: Never! Those two don’t have the experience required to govern a country like Nigeria. This is the first time we are having a finance expert manage the affairs of Nigeria as president. Show me what these two men have done before when they held public offices and I will also tell you that I have seen a virgin in a maternity ward before.

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Obi was a governor for eight years in Anambra state. There is no traceable impact of his administration in that state till date. Governors that spent less time running Anambra had more positive impact than Obi in terms of infrastructure, developmental projects and so on. The only thing he could point out was that he saved money. Economists would ask you what is the benefit of saving if you are not using it to grow your income or bring development to yourself or the state? Of course, he was able to bring in a personal business which is the brewery. Is that the person you want to entrust Nigeria into his hands?

When you look at his campaign, when Obi gives you statistics, they are always faulty. Many people didn’t get to know because they don’t bother to fact-check his words. Immediately we started fact-checking, we discovered Peter Obi was giving off-the-cuff statistics in order to bamboozle people and get votes in the election.

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Atiku is becoming more like Former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He keeps writing press releases on every issue, both the ones he understands and the ones he doesn’t. He just wants to impress Nigerians that he is doing the work of opposition. Meanwhile, these were issues that were not addressed when he was in government as vice-president to Obasanjo. What did they do in terms of refineries? It was the same Atiku that told us that he was going to sell our refineries to his friends if he becomes president. He is the same one criticising Tinubu for giving the 700-km Lagos-Calabar coastal highway to a supposed ally at a highly competitive price. The design of that highway, alongside the East-West road, Bagary-Sokoto, Ikere Gorge Dam in Oyo North have always been there when Atiku and Obasanjo were in power. What did Atiku do while in power? The National Shipping Line was scrapped under them. Nigeria Airways was scrapped under them. A lot of government-owned properties was scrapped or sold under them in the name of privatisation without providing any alternatives. The roads were bad and tollgates, which were meant to earn money to rehabilitate those roads, were dismantled. What was the social security schemes that they put in place for Nigerians? What did they do about power supply when they were in government?

It was under them that we used $16 billion to generate darkness. Was Atiku not part of that administration? What is he going to do better if he becomes president? So, I don’t think Atiku and Obi would have done anything better. In fact, with the kinds of challenges Asiwaju met in office, Nigeria’s economy would have crumbled if either Atiku or Obi are in charge now. Anybody can challenge me to a debate on this issue. None of them could have done anything better than what Tinubu is doing now.

TheCable: Bello Matawalle, the minister of state for defence, last week, said all appointees of President Bola Tinubu from the north must take a united stand for the success of the administration and speak for it or exit the government. Do you agree with this?

OLADELE: Asiwaju Tinubu has been a marketer of his own administration and that has reflected in most of his speeches since his assumption of office. How I wish others are constantly speaking like that and espousing the programmes and policies of the administration that are impacting on the populace positively. The truth is that we don’t get to hear much from the ministry of information. This government has done more than any other governments in recent times in Nigeria. We have a highly cerebral president in Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a man that is not only providing ingenuous ideas but also has been mothering the implementors of those ideas.

He is the one playing the role of mother hen, regarding the appointees and the success of his administration. The appointees are not speaking up for the president. Before their appointment, so many of them were always on TV, social media and other media channels, defending and projecting the president. However, immediately after they got appointment, everybody was like ‘we have gotten what we want, let us just do it the way it pleases us’.

I am very pleased with the fact that there will be assessment. Apart from the administrative assessment that will be done internally, there will be the one that will be handed down by Nigerians on the performance of each of these appointees. Again, it is not just about their performance. They have a marketable president but now they are treating him like an orphan, starting from those in ministries, agencies and departments currently to even other elected officials. The selfish role being played by everybody is on the high.

I really don’t know why anybody will want to mind his own business when you are not minding the business of the government that appointed you. At the end of the day, if the business of that government crumbles, then your business also crumbles.

Some people were hiding their heads while some of them were out there in the trenches preaching the gospel of Asiwaju Tinubu and acting as forebearers. To this day, we are not afraid to still talk about the good deeds of this current administration. Tinubu has been the president so far and it shows that in the next three years, Nigeria will be witnessing some of her best moment as a nation.

The National Orientation Agency is missing in action. That is the agency that is closer to the grassroots. They are to bring the news and developments in governance closer to the people and they have the tools to do so. They are represented in the 774 local governments across the country. You don’t light your candle and hide it. If you don’t blow your trumpet, nobody is going to do that for you.

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