I’m one of you, Tinubu tells labour leaders

Bola Tinubu

All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu has called on organised labour to pitch its tent with him in the 2023 presidential election, saying he has a track record for good governance.

Mr Tinubu stated this during a town hall meeting with labour leaders at Chida Hotel Conference Centre in Abuja on Monday where he also said he is the most qualified to lead Nigeria among the presidential candidates.

The session was attended by leaders from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) led by Ayuba Wabba and Festus Osifo respectively.

APC vice presidential candidate Senator Kashim Shettima, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives, Governors Simon Lalong (Plateau), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (Kwara) as well as secretary of Tinubu’s campaign council James Faleke also attended the interactive session.

Former NLC deputy president and director of labour directorate of the APC Presidential Campaign Council Isa Aremu set the tone for the engagement when he told the labour leaders and workers that the choice before them and Nigerians in the next election is who among the presidential candidates is truly committed, tested and trusted to protect workers and the poor and who is ready to industrialise the country to bring back decent jobs and good pay.

Mr Aremu said Tinubu is the best to deliver on the priorities of the workers.

In his speech, Tinubu said his antecedents as former Lagos State governor, during which he transformed the state and powered it to become the fifth largest economy in Africa, stand him out and make him a better candidate ahead of his competitors.

He listed the problems of unemployment, lack of credit system to allow workers own houses, poverty, challenges in the educational sector, weak industrial base of the economy as what he is coming to address as the President of Nigeria.

“Today, the questions you all must ask yourselves are these: who can be trusted to accomplish all of this? The man who has done it before, or the man whose most lasting achievement as Vice President is the corrupt sale of national assets to his friends and cronies?

“Who has the better plan? The man whose blueprint guided the emergence of Lagos State as the fifth largest economy in Africa or the man whose greatest pride is the amount of money he managed to bury in the sand while his state’s infrastructure decayed and its workers suffered endless hardship?

“The choice is yours. But permit me to now talk a little about myself and my vision.

“I have always been and will continue to be a progressive democrat. In my worldview, government has a cardinal responsibility to work not only with business but also with labour to ensure that all constituent parts of our society are afforded their fair share of rewards without taking on undue hardship,” Tinubu said.

Further speaking on what stands him out, Tinubu said just like the labour leaders, he has been in the forefront of fighting the government for good governance all his life, a move for which he was detained and eventually forced into exile.

He added: “As Organised Labour, you have been at the forefront of workers’ rights movement in Nigeria, championing economic fairness and the welfare of the average person, the weak and the forgotten.

“You have also been involved in the struggle for democracy and political rights. Your collective efforts breathe life into the democratic rights and economic ideals enshrined in our constitution.

“I can speak fondly of your impact on our nation because of my personal history on the frontlines of the social justice movement.

“I may be running for president now, but I was not always in this position. Long before I started running for the presidency, I was running away from military dictators angered by my important role in protests against them and their efforts to vanquish our democratic aspirations.

“The defining moment of my public life came during Nigeria’s struggle for democracy and my membership in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) movement.

“I have dedicated my entire being to that cause. I was detained, then was forced into exile because of my refusal to accept anything less than a government based on the proposition that the will of the people is sovereign and should reign over armed might and imposition.

“I believe that those assembled here today share the same ideals of progressive and democratic good governance. I have spent my political life advocating for the rights and interests of ordinary Nigerians as you also do. We have long been fellow travellers on the same road.  I hope that we shall continue as friends and brothers.

On his plans if elected, Tinubu said his administration would make the fiscal and monetary policies work for the workers and Nigerians so they can have a good life.

He also said he would ensure the nation is massively industrialised to give more people better-paying jobs, while also opening doors to more emerging sectors younger ones can harness.

“My Action Plan for a Better Nigeria sets out a vision of opportunity, social justice and prosperity for all. I seek a Nigeria where sufficient jobs with decent wages give people the chance to live better lives. Where the private sector thrives, we will not disrupt it. However, where the private sector cannot do it alone, my government will take the lead in lending a helping hand.

“For young Nigerians, my goal will be to open the doors wide to emerging sectors such as the digital economy, entertainment and culture, and tourism. Specific policies will empower women and young people to become more active in our nation’s leadership.

“Our industrial policy will help Nigerian businesses manufacture, create, and invent more of the goods and services we require and to export more of those products across the globe.  We will modernise and expand public infrastructure to create jobs, develop skills and spur rapid growth across all economic sectors, giving real opportunity to those who previously only dreamed of it.”

He also added that his government would protect Nigerians and their property, strengthen the national security architecture to end terror, kidnapping, banditry, and all other forms of violent extremism and bring policing and the police closer to the communities they serve.

He promised to foster a closer partnership with Organised Labour where dialogue on major policy issues and cooperation will become the order of the day.

Former NLC president and deputy director-general of the APC PCC Adams Oshiomhole noted that Tinubu’s Action Plan will bring back dead industries like Kaduna Textile that once employed over 4000 workers.

Mr Oshiomhole charged the labour movement and civil society that the basis for their support for a presidential candidate should be who among the candidates has social and economic policies that will make life better for the working families in Nigeria.

Mr Wabba presented the workers’ charter of demands which include a total war on corruption.

According to him, corruption has almost destroyed the social and economic fabric of Nigeria across the private and public sectors and a reason the country is not making desired progress.

“In Nigeria, our problem is people problem and we must have a government that will prioritise the fight against corruption. This is a key demand of Labour. We also need a government that will make social and economic justice a priority,” he said.

Responding to a question on corruption, Tinubu said his administration would have a zero-tolerance to corruption by strengthening anti-corruption agencies.

On crude out theft, he said if elected, he would ensure maximum deployment of technology to monitor, protect pipelines and block theft, while also condemning those receiving stolen crude, saying if there is no receiver, there won’t be supplier.