Arriving at the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre for Arts and Culture in Garki, Area 10, Abuja, at 4.16 pm, a former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, got down to brass tacks immediately he was invited to address the quality audience.
Without pussyfooting, he declared emphatically: “I have come here for one purpose and that is to formally declare that I, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, hereby declare my interest to contest for the president of Nigeria on the platform of APC. So help me God.”
Thereafter, he took the audience through a validation process of the reasons he had decided to take a shot at the presidency in 2023.
Read him: “The business of governing Nigeria goes beyond entertainment. There must be a basis for conversation as we march towards 2023…. If Nigeria works, entertainment would become more relevant.”
He said he was confident that he had what “it takes to preside over the affairs of Nigeria.”
Before going into the nitty gritty of his capabilities and competencies, Oshiomhole spoke about his formative years.
Read him: “I was born in a small village (Iyamho) that was not on the map of Nigeria. There were no infrastructure. At 16 and a half years of age, I moved to Kaduna. I worked in a textile factory in Kaduna. The setting up of Arewa textile factory was the vision of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
“I worked at Arewa Textile as daily casual worker. If you did not come to work, you would not get paid….”
He said he worked in a textile factory where 4000 Nigerians were employed and 85 percent were from the North, adding that he was elected into the textile union and elected over and again until he was elected to become General Secretary.
Oshiomhole said that the essence of his story was that his experience spoke of the content of ones character, and not ones place of birth.
“That was the vision that took me to Kaduna. Thanks to Ahmadu Bello who set up the textile factory.
“Therefore, we must recreate a Nigeria that exists on the basis of who we are, and not on the basis of religion or ethnicity,” he declared.
He said that as Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president for eight years, he had the opportunity to speak truth to power and to confront powers-that-be.
He also said that he had the opportunity to be governor of Edo State for eight years, during which time “we saw classrooms without roofs; we saw children sitting on the floors for learning.
“Benin city was flooded. The health care sector was out and many rural communities could not be reached.”
He said when he declared his interest to be governor of Edo as “I am doing today, I said votes must count to stop marginalisation, to stop oppression and those keeping people in their stranglehold and we liberated them.”
He continued: “We must not lament the imperfection in our country. The task before us is to have the courage to stand up to fight the injustice and ensure that social conditions are salutary to our wellbeing.”
Oshiomhole said that he would do a number of things differently to liberate Nigeria and restructure the economy in the context of APC’s change.
He advised Nigerians to stop agonising and start engaging, conversing, organising and mobilising even as he observed that the process might not be easy.
He said that “If coming to the world is not easy, the painful process of child birth, then the struggle to build up our nation cannot be an easy task.”
He said he was in the race for the presidency in 2023 to “seek to redefine and restructure the change in the light of the challenges that we have faced in recent years.”
He said new leaders must look at ways to improve the economy and the social conditions, stressing that “I am interested in the character and quality of our economic growth. Is it a growth that people are getting more jobs or a growth in which a few people are enjoying?”
He declared that his administration would get involved in job-led growth and not jobless growth.
Pointing out that job, poverty and insecurity were all interrelated, Oshiomhole explained that ” when we talk of the huge level of poverty in Nigeria and lack of jobs, then we have issues. We must create jobs to fight insecurity and poverty.”
He attempted to redirect the perception of Nigerians about the size of things, saying “I have stopped celebrating the size of my party as the largest party. I would rather want Nigeria to be described as the smartest country on the continent. We must talk of economics of scale because there are diseconomics of scale.”
The former governor of Edo State dwelled on the crisis in the education sector, asking how realistic it was in the world of today for Nigeria to pay N450,00 to a professor.
He zeroed on the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), saying many Nigerians saw ASUU as creating a problem.
Oshiomhole diasgreed. He said ASUU might have a challenge explaining its problems, “I used the salary of professor as a point of reference to those who work in the public sector. They are grossly underpaid. You are a director and you cannot direct your family well. There must be a linkage between work and reward.”
He said: “When I become president, we will ensure that the Academic calendar of our universities is maintained.”
He said while it was true that ASUU’s agitation led to the establishment of TETFund, he promised that ASUU would be inside the TETFund system to manage and follow through fund disbursement to universities and tertiary institutions.
He alluded to his years in Edo as governor when his administration took on the renovation of public schools.
He pointed out that by the time the administration was done with renovating public schools, pupils of the rich began to return to public schools.
Declaring that “we must dismantle the dynasty of the poor”, Oshiomhole said “If we do not address this at the national level, this ship will not be able to sail well.”
He harped on the point that textile industries were created in all the regions but that those industries were killed by incoherent trade, business, and industrial policies.
He said: “There must be coherence between monetary and fiscal policies.”
He insisted: “We must wear what we produce. As governor, I popularised the wearing of Khaki. The khaki was well sewn and I could meet the President in a cosy villa room and the masses on the street.”
He posited that unemployment was not created by poverty but by policies that were not clearly thought out.
He argued that “if the tyres that out vehicles use are produced here, you can imagine the number of jobs that would be created in thr country.”
He faulted the contributory pension scheme for workers, saying that “what workers have contributed in the last 5 years is zero courtesy of twin evil of devaluation and double digit inflation.”
While pointing out that the rich in the world buy houses through mortgage system, he stated that pension fund was the social capital of working people and it was being managed by people who were not workers.
He said his administration would use all the pension money to fund workers and their welfare.
He said under his presidency, the Judiciary would be well remunerated to build courage in them.
He also said that tax policies would be reviewed, pointing out that “appropriate taxes must be paid. We will tax the rich to take care of the poor. Those who make money must pay appropriate taxes.”
He also said: “If we can pay trillion of naira in subsidies, we should very well be able to pay that much on education…”
Among those present on the occasion were Hon Pius Odubu, Hon Abdul Oroh
Hon Osahon, Chief Pius Etokhane, Hon Peter Akpatason, Hon Abubakar Momoh, Hon Johnson Oguma, Osakpawan Eriyo (aka No molest), Sir Stanley Dhako, Saturday Ewulefe
Hon Gani Audu, Chief Richard Lamai, Lady Golda Osikhene, Barr Bisi Marie Idahomi, Hajia Momodu, Sir Victor Eboigbe, Rep of Ooni of Ife Prince Isola Olatunbosun, Dr Barr Abdulwasiu Fasasi from UniAbuja and Hon Henry Idahagbon.