In this interview with Kano-based Freedom Radio monitored by our correspondent, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu speaks on his stance on fuel subsidy removal, his health status and other issues around his campaign. Excerpt:
Your Excellency, I understand you are in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, I am here in Saudi Arabia. It is a personal trip. It is a trip for spiritual rebirth. I like coming to perform the Umrah every now and then. It is an opportunity to connect with Almighty Allah. We need his guidance. Nigeria is in need of prayers and that is why we are here praying for our country, self and the society.
How is the campaign going so far?
So far, so good. We are reaching each and every Nigerian. We decided that rallies are not always enough. We need to engage all Nigerians from all parts of the country and across all sectors of our socio-economic life. We have engaged businessmen, farmers, miners, industrialists, entertainers, labour leaders, and so on.
By the engagements we are having it is clear that we are going to win this election. As the elections are coming closer the signs are clear and that is why our opponents are jittery. They have now resorted to peddling fake news and quoting some of my statements out of context just to score cheap points.
Like what, Your Excellency?
Recently I was asked about fuel subsidy removal, and I said I will ensure we end the wastage and re-channel the money to the people who truly need it. This is one position that almost all the candidates are united about. We all agreed that the subsidy regime is abused and it favours the rich more than the poor. It has to go.
I couldn’t have opposed people expressing their own position on this. I believe in consultation and guaranteed by democratic values and norms. I respect opinion of people and I would not be party to stifling dissenting views or any legitimate protest. I am a veteran of protests myself. So why should I say people should not embark on well-intentioned protest? There is no excuse for that and there is no abuse of power intended.
Some people say you are escaping from engaging directly with Nigerians, especially through media interviews…
(Cuts in) What do you mean? Are we not having interview now? I just finished talking to people through town-hall meetings and speaking directly to people. Those saying that are losers and they will lose.
There are still insinuations about your health and fitness. Are you really fit for the rigours of the Presidency?
Ah! I told you where I am now. I just finished performing the the umrah. I did the seven rounds of tawaf, I did the seven trips between safa and Marwa. Can a sick person do that? That is stale news, my brother. People who are making those insinuations have nothing else to say but lies and rubbish.
I have moved round, spoke at different platforms and stood for hours to address different audiences. Before they said I could not walk, they said I could not stand, they are shamed. Since the campaign started I have marshalled more original ideas than anyone else. I have demonstrated knowledge, experience and great capacity to be on top of issues in the country.
And this job is about ideas and issues regarding leadership of our country. I have all it takes to be the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I am asking people of the country to have confidence and respect for that, look at my background and my previous assignments. I want to serve the country and serve the country very well.