•Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN (right), his Rivers State and Imo State counterparts, Rotimi Amaechi (middle) and Rochas Okorocha (left) respectively during the 1st Quarter Progressive Governance Session of the Progressive Governors’ Forum 2015 with the theme, “March For New Nigeria”, at the Banquet Hall, Imo State Government House, Owerri, on Monday, March 23, 2015.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Monday, 23rd March, 2015 defined the concept of change as being propagated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as an act of restoring ownership of Nigeria to the Nigerian people, saying it remains the only viable means to rescue the country from imminent collapse.
Governor Fashola, who spoke at the Banquet Hall of the Imo State Government House, Owerri, Imo State venue of the First Quarter Progressive Governance Session of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, said APC’s objective in urging Nigerians to vote for a change at the centre was to demystify governance and restore ownership of the country to Nigerian citizens, who, according to him, are the Sovereign.
The Governor said in calling for change, the APC meant installing a government that would be accountable to the sovereign for its performance and responsive to the wishes and demands of the citizens adding that it would also ensure that political and civil liberties as well as the Rule of Law, rather than the culture of impunity, would be embedded in the nation’s political culture.
“APC does not believe that the Federal Executive Council should be reduced to a bazaar which merely awards contracts to leaders of ethnic militia posing as socio–cultural groups, to the detriment of constitutionally established institutions and in subversion of the procurement laws”, he said.
Cataloguing some of the reasons the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government must be voted out in the coming election, Governor Fashola, who described election as a referendum on the performance of the incumbent government and a decision whether to keep it in office or vote it out of office, declared, “The PDP-led Federal government has failed in its management of the economy and it has been untruthful about how bad the economy is”.
The Governor debunked the claim of the Federal Government that it has constructed 25,000 kilometres of road across the country in the last six years noting that aside the fact that PDP governors complain that Federal roads in their states have been neglected, there was no way a Government that has never had a capital budget of up to 40 per cent in six years would accomplish such feat.
“As far as roads are concerned, and they are critical to the economic development and prosperity of our people for the movement of people, goods and services, the record of performance offered by the Federal Government is that they have constructed 25,000 kilometres of road”, he said, adding that the Federal Government was, in effect, saying it has constructed roads that go five times the distance of Lagos to London, which is approximately 5,025 kilometres.
On Housing Governor Fashola noted that after being unable to account for $20 billion (N3.3 Trillion at N165/$1.00), losing 400,000 barrels of oil per day at $100 per barrel ($40,000,000.00) for years, the Federal Government’s solution to Housing was to borrow $300 million from the World Bank in order to provide mortgage refinancing for all Nigerians adding, “What this means, is that every Nigerian must first buy a house with a mortgage loan, and then apply for his share of the $300 million as a refinancing facility. That is the PDP model for Housing”.
Also debunking the Federal Government’s claim of creating two million jobs in the last six years, Governor Fashola, who interpreted it to mean at least over 50,000 jobs in each of the 36 States and Abuja, asked the Governors, “Simply ask yourself, how many people you know, who got those jobs. Were they part of the jobs in which people died while stampeding for employment in the Immigration service?” adding, “Why is unemployment at 24 per cent if this economy is working?
“What I know is that between only four construction companies, over 5,000 workers have been laid off in this first quarter of 2015 and in the last two weeks at least 2,400 bank staffs have been laid off”, the Governor said.
On Security, he said while thousands of Nigerians were killed violently with hundreds others kidnapped including 219 girls still missing, the Federal Government, which, according to him, was relying on alternative security, like ethnic militia to secure pipelines, has budgeted and expended close to N1 Trillion on defence and security, adding, “Yet there are unanswered questions of availability of equipment, while a new set of billionaires masquerading as security experts have emerged”.
“The answer of the PDP Federal Government and Mr. President himself is that General Buhari, who left office in 1985 did not equip the security forces. Clearly the PDP forget that Nigerians remember that they have been in office for 16 years, and President Jonathan has to account for six of those years”, he said.
He continued, “They have killed Shekau, the supposed leader of the terrorist group at least four times. During one of those killings for which they claim success, they signed a ceasefire with him; from which he quickly played his part by attacking more Nigerians. After the fourth killing, there are now instructions to capture him”.
On the ruling party’s slogan of moving forward, governor Fashola declared, “Moving the rate of exchange of the Naira to the dollar from N120 to $1.00 to N198 to $1.00 is not the way forward. Managing an economy where employers cannot keep people at work because of bad government policies is not the way forward.
Unemployment is not the way forward. Inventory of imported raw materials trapped in the port is not the way forward to economic recovery.
“The largest economy in Africa that cannot generate electricity is not the way forward. It is the opposite of development. It is the opposite of industrialization. It is the opposite of job creation”, he said, adding, “The PDP is reading the Developmental Map of Nigeria upside down. They do not know the way forward. The Nigeria ship of State is heading in the wrong way because the captain cannot navigate. This is the most important reason why PDP and the President must be voted out of power.
Expressing surprise that when the PDP Governors gathered in Lagos recently they did not comment on issues relevant to good governance, Governor Fashola declared, “Instead, they were seeking to stop the use of Card Readers which their Government approved. They forgot that they were the ones who approved the use of Permanent Voters’ Cards. They forgot that they postponed the elections because they said enough PVCs had not been issued. Now that PVCs have been issued, should we not verify and authenticate eligible voters with the Card Readers?”
On the mission of the APC, Governor Fashola, who noted that for many years he had heard complaints about PDP’s dismal management of the nation and “the understandable frustration that PDP could not be defeated because there was no formidable opposition”, said the merger of parties to form the APC was a response to that frustration.
“Our leaders have heard these frustrations. They have organized rather than agonize.
They have sacrificed their smaller parties and leadership role to deliver the first ever political merger in the history of Nigeria”, the Governor declared, adding, however, ”They will all vote for the APC, but they cannot elect the APC into Government. That is the duty of the Nigerian electorates if we must experience change, and save our country”.
He told the audience, “We recognize the issues in the Nigerian State. We keep a track on them. We have made them the issues in the election as you will have heard from our Presidential Candidate and his running mate. Our candidates have kept the Nigerian electorate focused on the issues of jobs, security, and corruption. No amount of Goodluck can help the PDP escape from these issues”.
Noting that the PDP began to unravel with the emergence of APC, he declared, “With the mismanagement of its top leadership it began to dismember, losing its most vital parts; and making history for all the wrong reasons. It is the first political party that I know that lost five Governors to the opposition without an election”.
Governor Fashola, who also noted that the PDP lost the Speaker of Parliament, and eventually its former leader and Chairman Board of Trustees, declared, “The giant is tattering and about to fall. For every goliath, there is a stone. The APC is PDP’s stone and the people of Nigeria must rise, like David, to bring this plundering goliath down”, adding, “The merger was historic. But it will be more historic if Nigerians elect that merger to office”.
“The people of Nigeria will have taken power by doing so”, the Governor said pointing out that while the APC was ready, willing and able to take on the huge tasks of regenerating the country once more, the Party was also humbled by the enormity of the challenges it has to deal with in the next few years.
Extolling the virtues of General Muhammadu Buhari as APC’s Presidential Candidate, Governor Fashola, who expressed pride at having him as the Party’s flag bearer, described the former Head of State as “a patriot who has unreservedly committed to this vision and mission as reflected in his Covenant with Nigerians and campaign promises”.
“It is not by accident that teeming millions of Nigerians are showing their support effusively for Gen. Buhari. What I have confirmed since the emergence of Gen. Buhari as our Presidential Candidate, is that Nigerians still believe in the virtues of probity, selfless leadership and commitment to the greater good in spite of the 16 years of failed PDP government and leadership that they have been unfortunately saddled with”, the Governor said.
He said the Progressive Governors’ Forum was committed to providing the platform where the party, governors and other stakeholders would continually engage, reflect on critical issues and challenges, and more importantly proffer implementable policy options to address the challenges of governance and make the forum more than a talk shop”.
The Governor thanked his colleagues for taking time off their very busy schedules to be part of the session; “especially a few days to the elections, which by all accounts could be historic and critical for the soul of our dear country”, adding, “As Progressive Governors who are committed to Good Governance, this year’s 1st Quarter Progressive Governance Session is designed to present our assessment of governance challenges in Nigeria today as well as our proposals on what needs to be done to move our country forward, post- May 29, 2015”.
“Our party, the APC has presented a year 2015 Election Manifesto, while the only known Manifesto of the PDP is dated 1999. We are committed to reinventing governance in Nigeria in order to solve our socio-economic and political challenges. We were farsighted when we established the Progressive Governors Forum, where these kinds of questions and issues have constantly been interrogated through effective research, knowledge sharing, consultations and policies, at our quarterly fora”, he said.
Also present at the session were Presidential Candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, the Governors of Rivers’ State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere and his Osun State counterpart, Mrs. Titi Laoyo-Tomori, former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige, former President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, traditional rulers and other APC party chieftains and stakeholders.