THE SIXTH BOLA TINUBU COLLOQUIUM
Held on the 29th of March, 2014, the sixth Bola Tinubu colloquium was tagged “The Summit of The Common Man”. The colloquium held at the Eko Hotel and Suites with dignitaries and political weights in attendance to celebrate his 62nd birthday. This edition was different as the common man was the center of the symposium as he has been neglected for too long. According to the organizers, “there are 20.3 million unemployed youth. 75% of Nigerians have no access to primary healthcare. 10.8 million Children of primary school age are out of school, 24.4 million Nigerians would be homeless by 2015 and 55,000 women die annually”. These numbers are alarming and something needs to be done to reduce it to the barest minimum.
Historical clips of Bola Tinubu signaled the beginning of the program. It was followed by the national anthem and the opening prayer. The chairman of the event was The Most Reverend Ephraim Ademowo. He described Asiwaju as an uncommon man. He said Tinubu is a “Consummate and tested politician, a master strategist and a libertarian per excellence. He is kind to a fault”. The speakers at the event went beyond the dignitaries and invited guests but had the common man telling the stories of their plights to the audience. Speaking on their plight were Mallam Nasir Bala, Mr. Ron Mbatogu, Chief Eric Dooh, Mrs. Elizabeth Unah, Mallam Musa Ali, Adamu Baba, Mallam Yusuf Audu and Sopriye Victor.
The first speaker, Mallam Nasir Bala of Risan Agro Allied Farms said he and many farmers around still have challenges accessing loans from the banks on the state of agro allied business in Nigeria, he said the country has over 84 million hectare of arable land which just 42% of it being utilized for farming. Nigeria, he notes spends over N630 billion importing agricultural products. Farming provides employment opportunities to about 70% of the population. These farmers do not have access to loans and face storage and transportation challenges.
Mr. Mgbatogu, a 68 year old pensioner lamented on being paid less than what can sustain him. He canvassed for the introduction of social welfare programs for senior citizens. He called on the government to do more in assisting the common man to be a better person. Chief Dooh, a fisherman at 45 years and from Goi community in Gokana LGA of Rivers state lost his fishing business to oil spill and is now unemployed. He expressed his frustration at the state of his area and the lack of clean drinking water caused by the oil spill to streams and rivers. He asked the government to do something about those areas to help them live a healthy life.
Elizabeth Unah, a 41 year old widow from Ebonyi state lost her husband in an inferno in 2000. Now a single mother taking care of her six children alone, they survive on the proceeds from her sales as a fruit seller. This is barely enough for them to get by with and as such she borrows money from her neighbors to feed and pay school fees. She implored the government to initiate a widow’s forum that caters to the needs of its registered members. Adamu Baba implored the government to do something about the looming danger that the Boko Haram poses to Nigeria while Sopriye Victor, a second class honors holder in Chemical engineering urged the government to create more job opportunities for the Youth.
Lagos state governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola willed the common man to realize they are the major stakeholders in the country. As stakeholders they should be treated better considering the taxes that they invest in the running of the country. He said “But the common man has not realized he is the biggest investor in the country”. Considering the job that has to be done to lighten the burden of the common man, he noted that whoever was elected as president would have a tough job to do and it is up to the common man to choose who he thinks will make a significant change in his plight. In his words; “But the common man must decide who he wants to give the top job to. He must do so with his vote by electing those who have demonstrated that, given half a change, they would deliver”. He asked the common man not vote on sentiments in the coming general election but to vote for competence “You must pay critical attention to the people you vote for. I know that we have employed somebody for the top job in this country but when we asked him about his qualifications and experience, he said he had no shoes. You must decide whether you want someone who spends most of his time in church or mosque, or the man who is ready to spend his time on the job.”
The celebrant used the opportunity of the colloquium to berate the present administration which he described as useless. He described them as this because according to him, the administration has done nothing to alleviate the plight of the common man but rather have been busy looting funds; funds that when asked about, the whereabouts were not specified or it would be avoided. He said “The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is so shameless that the number of years they have governed is meaningless to them but the number of votes they can steal matters to them most. They can’t account for the $20 billion, they keep dodging the question over the missing oil money, there is no story on the stolen money; they should account for the money”. In his speech he alleged that the PDP were bent on doing anything to steal the votes in the coming general election as such, the electorate should be careful on whom they cast their votes on. He urged the electorate not to vote for a government that refused to provide stable electricity.
“The change is for you to vote and defend it. We must break the shackles of poverty. How can we continue to vote for a government that refused to give us petrol and which removed subsidy on petroleum products. Are we sadistic? Do we enjoy being punished?”
He concluded that the present administration needs to be overthrown to make way for a better administration that would benefit the country, an administration that would be competent and on their toes to make the life of the common man better.