Deploying his typically creative mind, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, is introducing an entirely different campaign strategy for President Muhammadu Buhari’s election in Lagos, writes Olaseni Durojaiye
Following the kick-off of political campaigns ahead of the 2019 general election, notable politicians from the different political parties, particularly the major ones have started strategising on how to win votes and as such, reactivating their political structures across the different states in the country.
This explains why the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola returned to Lagos State, where he was a two-term governor last week to launch a 5000-member ‘PMB 2019 Ward Action Committee’.
The committee is a body of grassroots votes canvassers dedicated to the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the presidential election slated for next February. Members of the committee were drawn from all the local governments and local council development areas in the state.
The committee, observers pointed out, is akin to the grassroots-based voters’ mobilisation and votes canvassing strategy adopted by former US President Barack Obama during his first shot at the US presidential elections, which he eventually won by defeating the late Senator John McCain.
Observers are therefore of the view that the new approach adopted by Fashola through the committee just broke new grounds in voter mobilisation and vote to canvass in the polity. In fact, the conclusion is that the strategy is a game changer.
The minister, commendably stuck to issues, as many commentator and political watchers have enjoined the political gladiators to do as they go about the campaigns. Even when he attempted a comparison between his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he refrained from directly calling out the PDP and presented “verifiable proofs” to marshal his arguments.
During the launch, Fashola reeled off the achievements of the Buhari administration in the three and a half years that he’s been in office and argued that the administration has surpassed the immediate past government of Goodluck Jonathan to justify why Nigerians, particularly the South-west and Lagos should ensure his re-election for a second term in office.
Fashola, who spoke in English and Yoruba languages inter-changeably stated that the APC government of Buhari did not promise to fix all the challenges facing the country in four years and added that comparatively, the current administration has achieved more than the immediate past administration in the areas of infrastructure, power and housing.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria stressed that the Buhari administration has demonstrated a commitment to bridging the infrastructure gap in the country despite the fact that the budget for works was reduced by the National Assembly. He said despite the budget cuts, the administration showed a commitment to fund infrastructure projects creatively by creating the Presidential Infrastructure Fund (PIF) to ensure that ongoing projects are not starved of funds and also comply with project completion timelines.
He said the next general election present Nigerians with the choice of taking the country to the next level or return it to the era when projects were abandoned at will, which he said was the hallmark of PDP’s 16 years in power.
Fashola, who expressed displeasure at the turnout of voters during the last presidential election charged members of the committee to go all out in a peaceful manner to mobilise voters in the different local communities to turn out massively and vote for the president and all other candidates of the party, arguing that it was the appropriate payback for President Buhari, who has favoured the state and the South-west in his appointments and project execution.
He said in three and a half years, the current administration has constructed more roads and improved power generation and transmission in the country than the PDP government did in 16 years.
He further stated that the current administration was constructing at least one road in all the states in the country, adding that the federal government is currently constructing housing estates in 34 states of the federation.
Dignitaries at the event included a former deputy governor of Lagos State and an aide of President Buhari, Adejoke Adefulire; Chairman of the Senate committee on land transportation, Senator Gbenga Ashafa; deputy governorship candidate of APC in Lagos, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; former commissioners for Culture and Home Affairs; and Transportation in the state, Oyinlomo Danmole and Kayode Opeifa, among others.
In an apparent reference to the PDP, he insinuated that the party was a spendthrift and therefore could not be entrusted with the nation’s resources any longer. He added that there were verifiable records to show that the current administration has done more for the nation even with lesser earnings from oil sales than the previous administrations.
“There are verifiable proofs that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has done more for the country in the areas of roads construction, power generation and distribution and construction of housing estates than the previous administration.
“Yesterday (last Monday) we released N15 billion to the two contractors handling the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Even though the road is not completed yet, those who have been using the road know that their travel time spent on the road has been greatly reduced. We all know the state of the road during the 16 years of the other party. We have also mobilised contractor handling the Ikorodu-Sagamu road which has been lying fallow for many years. You have Senator Ashafa to thank for that as he made a strong and convincing case for the road to be constructed.
“Out of the 365 roads currently being built across the country, 244 were started in 2001. There is no state in Nigeria that the administration of President Buhari is not constructing at least one road each including Adamawa, the home state of their presidential candidate. As of 2018, we have constructed 497 kilometres of roads. President Buhari is not slow, his results are faster, quicker, verifiable and of superior quality,” the minister stated.
Speaking further, he said “They have shown that they are a profligate party that cannot be entrusted with the nation’s resources. Even with less revenue from oil, the APC government has achieved more than them. That is why the next election is a choice between taking Nigeria to the next level and returning to an era of abandoned projects.”
On the achievements of the current administration in the power sector, he said, “I wrote the new power policy, which lays emphasis on mini-grid. It is now working. Through the mini-grid initiative, electricity is coming to some major markets across the nation, including Ariaria Market in Abia State and Dugbe Market in Ibadan, Oyo State, among many other popular markets.
“Power generation has improved from 4000 megawatts that we met to 7000 megawatts. That is an increase of 3000 megawatts, an average of 1000 megawatts per year. We are constructing 90 sub and injector stations across the country. We have accelerated the distribution of metres by outsourcing it to distributors. We have also slated 9 federal universities for Independent Power Project.
“The previous government left 800 containers containing power transmission equipment in the port for years. We have cleared it and some of it is currently being deployed across the country.
The University of Lagos is one and that is because the University of Ibadan was pencilled for internal road construction. When we came in, the previous government abandoned,” he stated.
Justifying why the South-west zone should vote for the APC in the next presidential elections, the three-in-one minister explained that, “As a South-west indigene, I will vote for the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket, because my people stand to gain more from it. The south-west is presently occupying the position of the vice-president.
“We have three sitting ministers and many different federal appointments from the present administration, which we cannot afford to lose. You cannot compare all that with the promise of Secretary to the Federal Government, which the other party promises our region,” adding that “President Buhari is taking Nigeria to the next level. We are going to the next level.”
In a brief remark, the Senator Ashafa thanked members of the Ward Action Committee for turning out in great numbers and the organisers for putting together the event.
While noting the aptness of the new APC slogan “Next level,” he said the party was taking the country to the next level adding that the current government’s interventions in the area of road transportation, especially the railways was unprecedented.
Ashafa, who recalled the good days of the country’s rail transportation, stressed that it’s long been abandoned by the previous governments and that the government was building more in areas that it felt would positively impact the lives of Nigeria.
“The APC government led by President Buhari is determined to take the country to the next level. As the chairman of the Senate committee on land transportation, I know all of this. I have seen these projects during oversight function visits to the projects sites.
“While on oversight functions, I visited Itakpe – Warri rail project and I was impressed. This is a project that has been abandoned for many years and the Buhari administration has revived it, because of its economic and social benefits to our nation and our people. The Abuja light rail project was left uncompleted, but this government has completed it and Nigerians are now enjoying it. The Buhari administration did not turn its back on it as other administration would have done.
“You are all aware of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project. Work is ongoing on the project and it will be completed in the first quarter of next year. In addition, the Kaduna-Kano rail project is also ongoing, likewise a handful of other rail projects. So, you could see that in addition to what our honourable Minister of Works, Power and Housing has stated here, there are still more than the current administration has achieved, which we cannot allow the PDP to come and reverse,” Senator Ashafa said.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Danmole who is the Director General of PMB 2019, the parent body of the committee, thanked the members for the huge turnout and tasked them to return to their respective wards with renewed vigour to mobilise votes for the president’s reelection.