Bayo Onanuga, the Director of Media and Communication for the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, in this interview, speaks on the presidential election in which the All Progressives Congress candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is contesting, the Naira swap policy and other issues
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party has alleged your principal has stashed N22.5bn to buy votes in the forthcoming general election. How true is it?
We have countered this baseless allegation before. There is nothing like that. It is not true. Let them provide evidence that we have stashed money somewhere if they have any. It is obvious that they have none and are only making baseless allegations.
That party (PDP) is known for frivolities. They just write anything they like and issue random statements. Their claim holds no water. They are just lying.
What about the claim that Kano, Lagos, and some governors in the North are the ones aiding the APC candidate to hoard the alleged N22.5bn?
Are they not our governors? There is no truth in what it is saying. The PDP is mentioning those states because it knows they are states where their candidates will lose. That is why they are raising all manner of useless and unfounded allegations.
As I said earlier, if they are convinced and have proof that we are hoarding the money in those states, let them provide the evidence for Nigerians to see.
What is your reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling?
I think the Supreme Court came down on the side of the people and the governors who are representing them because the policy of the CBN was hurting Nigerians, irrespective of their party affiliation.
Everybody was affected. People have money but are unable to cash it. What this means is that the February 10 deadline is of no effect again. That’s what the ruling is all about.
Will the Supreme Court’s decision on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s naira swap policy promote free and fair elections?
The currency change is not about a free and fair election.
To me, it is a very irrational policy that came in at the wrong time.
In fact, the fire brigade’s conduct demonstrates that the CBN and its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, do not have the people’s best interests at heart. The period given for the swap is so short.
In other countries where currency swaps are being done, they give a minimum of 12 months’ notice. Why the hurry here in Nigeria?
Look at what happened in Abeokuta, where somebody was shot dead over this issue. This is a sadistic policy that has nothing to do with elections.
What about the notion that it would curb vote-buying?
Is that one of the reasons for introducing the policy? They said it would be used to control inflation and strengthen the naira. But when you look at the economic consequences of what they have done, has it tamed inflation or improved the value of the Naira? Just as someone said, he is not an economist and doesn’t understand the effect of this policy.
Forget all these talks about curbing vote-buying. Is vote-buying conducted only through cash transactions alone? Looking at the value of our currency today, the naira is being battered in the parallel market, indicating that the policy is failing in the short term.
Let me also add that the fact that our three governors from Kogi, Zamfara, and Kaduna, which are APC states, went to court tells you that Emefiele’s policy does not enjoy the support of our party.
What do you think about the threat of 14 political parties that plan to boycott the election if the CBN Naira redesign policy is reversed?
No, those ones are jesters. They are all surrogates of the opposition. How can you take them seriously? Trust me; they are jokers from the PDP and, by extension, the Labour Party.
As of today, there are three or four political parties. These ones making noise are just paperweight parties. They know if they don’t participate in any election, nobody will miss them.
There are insinuations that the naira swap was targeted at the APC candidate and his alleged vote-buying arrangement. What are you doing about it?
The problem is not with the APC candidate. It is all about the Nigerian people. We are more concerned about the pain and anguish our people are being made to suffer. The currency swap is a CBN policy, and we are happy that the president has also intervened.
Apparently, he was not given the full details about the change and its implications. This is not the first time in the world that a currency is being changed. Why is it different in our country? What this has so far revealed is that we have an incompetent CBN governor.
In fact, in a normal country, the man ought to have been sacked for making our people pass through such a harrowing experience. People are being made to pay excessive charges to Point of Sale operators. That’s why I said it was all about the Nigerian people. How can somebody sit somewhere and conceive a programme that, rather than bringing people relief, is bringing them pain? It is a satanic policy.
He said it would bring down inflation and strengthen the Naira. Has it done that? Dollars were about N720 some weeks ago; it is now N750.
This CBN governor, in my view, should have been sacked. This is the first time in history that we have had this gap between the official and parallel rates.
What the CBN governor is doing—we don’t know whose agenda he is implementing—is totally against the Nigerian people.
As we are talking, Britain is also changing currencies. They are phasing out the queen from the currency and replacing it with that of the king. It is not causing the people any difficulty. It is being done seamlessly.
Many Nigerians were disappointed that Governor Nyesom Wike didn’t announce his preferred candidate for the presidential election as promised. Is the APC PCC disappointed too?
If you have been following his statements and addresses at every occasion he has attended, you would know that he has done that. Wike has a candidate already, and he has also instructed his followers who to support. He may not have to make a formal announcement, but Wike is supporting our candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Makinde has no option other than to support Asiwaju if he is serious about coming back for a second term.
According to reports, Tonye Cole, your party’s Rivers State governorship candidate, is hesitant to campaign for Tinubu in the state. Is he dodging your candidate?
That is not true. Tonye Cole always supports our candidate, Bola Tinubu, in Rivers State. Let us just wait until February 25 to see how things will pan out. It is less than 10 days away.
As I said earlier, only God can stop Bola Tinubu from winning the 2023 presidential election. Only that can make our victory impossible. The arithmetic is simple. Our path to victory is very clear. If you are able to hold the states you control and have support from other states, you have won already.
As things stand, he is in pole position to win. Even his critics and the opposition know this, despite all the silly things they are spewing in the media.
Have you heard that there is pressure on Kwankwaso to collapse his structure for Atiku as the North’s consensus candidate?
We don’t believe that. Kwankwaso himself has denied that he ever had such a discussion with Atiku. He is also on the ballot.
What’s your reaction to the police invitation to your embattled APC PCC New Media Director, Femi Fani-Kayode?
Well, we are concerned about the latest invitation from the police with less than 10 days to the election, when he is most needed.