Abuja — The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Thursday in Abuja, said it would be a factual lie to claim that the war against corruption had been won by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Tinubu made the remark at the Banquet Hall of the State House when he delivered the keynote address at the launch of a book titled, "Making Steady Sustainable Progress for Nigeria's Peace and Properity," a mid-term scorecard of the administration, authored by the trio of Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and Laolu Akande, the president's media advisers.
Tinubu also said though the anti-terror war had not been won, it was not in doubt that Boko Haram had been largely decimated, recalling how the insurgents wreaked havoc on the nation and proceeded to claim a territory within the Nigerian nation.
He said never again would the sect's flag be seen in the country's territory.
Tinubu, who described corruption as a dangerous tree that needed to be axed, did not mince words when he said it would take some time to win the anti-corruption war.
Nevertheless, he was swift to add that concerted efforts must be made by the government to ensure the battle is won.
"President Buhari has set an axe to the root of this dangerous tree. I would be lying if I said the war against large-scale corruption has been won. It has not.
"It will take time and countless swings of the axe to fall such a deeply-rooted tree. But try we must. This is what the President is doing," Tinubu said.
The former governor then proceeded to lash out at former President Goodluck Jonathan whom he alleged won a gold medal in corruption and secured a red card in governance.
According to him, corruption was so rampant during the last administration that the nation's institutions were not only inflicted with the menace but corruption became an institution.
Taking a further swipe at the past administration, Tinubu said the former government turned the national treasury into a charity box while corruption grew fat and developed wings, citing how a former minister and those he described as "her rogues gallery" looted the national treasury with impunity.
"The prior government used the public treasury as a private hedge fund or a charity that limited its giving only to themselves. So much money grew feet and ran away faster than Usain Bolt ever could.
"That which could have been spent on national development was squandered in ways that would cause the devil to blush," he said.
However, Tinubu, who said that era of impunity in Nigeria had eventually been conquered, was swift to add that much still needed to be done to track down agents of corruption.
He also called for the review of salaries of civil servants, adding that people of character and competence must be appointed to office to stop corruption.
"One minister and her rogues' gallery picked the pocket of this nation for billions of dollars. While poor at governance, these people could give a master thief lessons in the sleight of hand.
"In governance, they earned a red card but in the corruption, they won the gold medal.
"It was not that our institutions had become infected by corruption. Corruption had become institutionalised. Gone are the times when a minister can pilfer billions of dollars as easy as plucking a piece of candy from the table.
"We have much to do to combat this disease. Not only must we track down the takers. In the long term, we must review the salaries of public servants and create universal credit for our people to reduce temptation.
"We must also take greater care by placing people of character, competence and goodness into key positions. When they fail, they must be removed without remorse or favour.
"Unlike its predecessor, this government has demonstrated the will to walk this path. While this might not cause much fanfare or celebration, this cleanses the institutions upon which a nation's wellbeing is founded with a future assured," the APC leader said.
On the state of the nation's economy, Tinubu said the biggest long-term challenge confronting the administration was the economy, pointing out that whereas the previous administration operated in the era of plenty, the incumbent who he said was grappling with meagre resources was duty bound to salvage the system, then proceeded to reel out the improvements made so far by Buhari's government.
"The economy remains our biggest long-term challenge. The prior government operated during times of plenty. The opposite is the case now.
"Sadly, that plenty was stolen or directed towards policies of no lasting consequence to the average Nigerian save to compel them to say another opportunity had been wasted.
"Through no fault of its own, this administration had to grapple with a rapid fall in oil prices. That fall brought recession and collapsed our exchange rate regime.
"More fundamentally, it showed that the very economic model upon which this nation operated was outmoded and flawed. Unfortunately, the past administration did nothing to re-calibrate the economy.
"With fewer resources at hand, this government is compelled to do more. It must respond to immediate needs in a way that leads to long-term economic reform.
"This will be a complex journey. This government has taken the first steps in the right direction.
"We are inching out of recession. The exchange rate has stabilised. Internationally, we are seen being as on the mend and have been recognised for making significant progress in the ease of doing business," he stated.
The former Lagos State governor who tasked the government to take cognisance of the plight of the downtrodden people of Nigeria, whom he said had been denied their pride of place for so long, said today's investments by the government are for their comfort in future.
"While we work towards this good end, we must recognise the situation of millions of our people. Wrongfully denied for so long, they suffer still. But we ask them to take heart. Don't forfeit hope.
"Understand that tomorrow will not be as the past when what was built and bought was not intended for you.
"What we are now building, is meant for you. This is your government and you will be the beneficiaries of its policies and programmes. You are no longer the forgotten. You are the hope and promise of a nation and its future.
"As this government implements its economic plans, the griping poverty you have long suffered will give way and ultimately turn into the fertile progress and prosperity that only good governance can bring. We do this with a sense of urgency!" he added.
Tinubu then proceeded to make three suggestions which he asked the government to consider, stating that no nation has ever experienced prosperity without building a huge industrial capacity.
He tasked the government to learn from countries such as the United Kingdom, which he said became prosperous because it was built on its industrial strength.
He also counselled the government not to pay lips service to the industrial revolution but to evolve it in reality and draw up infrastructure plans, invest in research and assist farmers to grow their income by returning the nation to the path of the commodity exchange board.
In his remarks, Buhari who said he could not adequately thank Nigerians for their prayers and goodwill when he was ill and had to travel to London for treatment, said the only way he could repay them was to deploy his energy to serving them.
He also promised to deploy his energy towards fighting corruption, improving security and repositioning the economy, warning that anyone caught by the long arm of the law for corruption, should be prepared to face the music.
Buhari said concerted efforts were being made to secure the release of the last set of Chibok girls, adding that the government was according topmost priority to the violence of herdsmen.
He added that Nigeria had been repositioned and had gained the respect of the international community.
"I thank the media team in its efforts in recoding recording events and our scorecard. But I cannot thank Nigerians enough for your prayers and goodwill during my health vacation.
"I can only repay you by resolving to work by putting every ounce of my energy to protect your interest.
"We have gone through your difficult times due to the global economic recession. We are coming out of the recession and government's efforts are targeted at easing economic hardship with more jobs, social security platforms for vulnerable families and the unemployed, and infrastructure progress.
"I would at the same like to assure all Nigerians of my commitment to improve security, fight corruption and restructure the economy.
"On the current issue on herdsmen/farmers clashes, kidnapping and armed robberies within the confines of our limited resources, we are giving top priority to security.
"During the year it was my great pleasure to secure the release of 102 Chibok schoolgirls. We are doing our best quietly and effectively as possible to get the rest released.
"We are working day and night with our international partners to release the remaining girls as soon as possible, women and children.
"We are all aware now that if you steal public funds and you are caught, you will face the law.
"Internationally, Nigeria is now a respected nation. I can't keep up with the invitations to visit other countries, much less other countries' leaders that want to visit us.
"A number of world leaders are expressing the desire to visit Nigeria virtually monthly.
"Our credit worthiness is sound, our first Eurobond offer was over subscribed four times," Buhari said.
Also speaking, the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said the government of Buhari had "provided exemplary leadership for the country and demonstrated the political will and solid commitment to the task of building a new Nigeria in line with the change agenda promised to the electorate".
According to him, the administration has strived to diversify the economy, create jobs and engage in social welfare programmes, in accordance with the party's manifesto.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said war against corruption had been fought by the government the way it has never been waged in the country, adding: "Corruption is no longer possible on the table. It has been driven under, with those still engaged constantly being made to watch their backs."
But in quick response to Tinubu's bashing, former President Jonathan said the facts had deserted the former Lagos State governor.
A statement issued Thursday by Jonathan's media aide Reno Omokri said: "Again my attention has been drawn to disparaging comments made by Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu against former President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration.
"First of all, the only global body for monitoring corruption is Transparency International, which releases an annual Corruption Perception Index.
"It is a fact that Nigeria made her most improvement in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index in 2014 under President Jonathan when we moved from 144th to 136th place, representing an improvement of eight points.
"Transparency International observed that the Jonathan administration's fight against the corruption in Nigeria's fertiliser procurement regime, the use of technology to remove 50,000 federal ghost workers, and the speed at which the then president fired ministers accused of corruption or conflict of interests.
"From that time till today, Nigeria has not made any improvements and has remained at 136 where Jonathan left us because Transparency International deals with facts, not opinions or media trial.
"Other than media sensationalism, there have been no convictions of financial misappropriation stemming from the Jonathan era.
"However, we do know that it is a fact that the allegedly corrupt pension thief, Abdulrasheed Maina, was dismissed and declared wanted by the Jonathan administration.
"We also now know that it is a fact that the present Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, met with Maina in Dubai. We know that Maina's family revealed in a press conference that Maina was invited back to Nigeria by the present government.
"It is also a fact that Maina was recalled, reinstated and given double promotion by the current administration.
"Moreover, we know from the Head of Service's leaked memo that President Muhammadu Buhari was aware of this entire saga.
"Perhaps Chief Bola Tinubu mistook the Usain Bolt speed at which Maina was smuggled back into the country and reinstated for the unproven claims of corruption under Jonathan.
"We also know that it is a fact that $25 billion worth of contracts were awarded at the NNPC without due process. It is also a fact that this is the highest ever such amount involved in Nigeria's history.
"Again, perhaps it is this amount that Tinubu meant when he said, 'So much money grew feet and ran away faster than Usain Bolt ever could.' Or perhaps he was referring to Babachir Lawal (former Secretary to the Government of the Federation).
"Nigerians should note that on the 7th of March 2014, then President Jonathan said: 'I am loyal to Nigeria's economy. I don't have accounts or property abroad.' Till date, nobody has been able to contradict that statement because it is true.
"Can Bola Tinubu or anybody in the APC leadership make a similar claim?"
On the issue of Boko Haram and terrorism, he noted that it was a fact that there is only one global body recognised to monitor terrorism and that is the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) which releases the annual Global Terrorism Index.
"It is a fact that between 2013 and 2014, Nigeria under President Jonathan was unfortunately listed as the fourth most terrorised nation in the world.
"However, in the latest Global Terrorism Index released yesterday (November 15, 2017) by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Nigeria has deteriorated from where Jonathan left it and is now the third most terrorised nation.
"In 2015, President Jonathan ensured that elections held in every local government in Borno State, but last month, the United Nations declared that they could no longer operate in certain local governments of Borno State. So who is fooling who?
"So if according to Transparency International, Nigeria was less corrupt under Jonathan than it is today and according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, Nigeria is more terrorised today than it was under Jonathan, it becomes clear that Bola Tinubu has no factual basis to make the claims he made," he said.