FACT CHECK: DID BOLA TINUBU CALL FOR REDUCTION OF NIGERIANS’ PURCHASING POWER?
By Akin Ojumu
With respect to Bola Tinubu’s presidential aspiration, my position is pretty clear. Those who’ve been following my various commentaries on this issue know very well that I’m not a fan of Bola Tinubu and his unscrupulous campaign to become the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
My opposition to Bola Tinubu’s candidacy is visceral and intense. The man is a clear and present danger to the well-being of Nigeria, if he ever becomes president. BAT is an advanced metastatic cancer rapidly growing and spreading in the Nigeria polity. If the country must survive, this deadly cancer must be treated as all advanced cancers are treated; radical excision combined with several courses of radiotherapy and multiple cycles of chemotherapy cocktail in addition to the clearing of all associated lymph nodes.
Now, there’s one thing I detest as much as Bola Tinubu’s presidential run, and that’s fake news. I cherish the truth, it’s the compass that guides us to safe shores. Without truth we’ll all be like ships lost at sea. Facts aren’t useless, they are the foundation of rational thought.
Recently, a viral video is circulating where Bola Tinubu is heard purportedly advocating for the reduction of Nigerians’ purchasing power. As much as I loathe Tinubu’s presidential ambition, that won’t stop me from correcting any misinformation about him. In the 29 second video, BAT can be heard saying:
“We reduce the purchasing power of the people, we can further slow down the economy. Let’s widen the tax net. Those who are not paying now, if it is inclusive of Oyebola Tinubu, let the net get bigger and we take in more taxes. And that’s what we must do in the country, instead of…”
If it’s true that Bola Tinubu said that, Nigerians can’t be faulted if their blood boils at what appears to be a detached rich man calling for further reduction in the purchasing power of poor Nigerians. If Bola Tinubu actually made those comments, the people would be justified if they thought he’s just another selfish bourgeoisie totally insensitive to the suffering of the poor masses.
Well, it turns out that the viral video was deceptively edited in a way that misrepresented Tinubu’s comments. The statements were made on March 28, 2019, during his speech at the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium. The unedited statements are as follows:
“The global economy faces a stiff headwind…factors not our making. It casts doubt now and its projection is slow growth. Consumer spending is slipping…And this is where I will stop and appeal to Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, and his team. Put a huge question mark on any increase on VAT, please. If we reduce the purchasing power of the people, we can further slow down the economy. Let’s widen the tax net. Those who are not paying now, if it is inclusive of Oyebola Tinubu, let the net get bigger and we take in more taxes, and that is what we must do in the country, instead of additional layer of taxes. For now, I'll stop there.”
Contrary to the viral video, Bola Tinubu didn’t advocate for a reduction of the purchasing power of Nigerians. In fact, what he called for was a stop to the proposal by President Buhari’s economic team to increase the VAT on Nigerians. Bola Tinubu felt that increasing the VAT would result in a reduction of the purchasing power of Nigerians with the unintended consequences of further economic slowdown. As an alternative, he proposed a broadening of the tax base which will get more people, especially tax dodgers like himself, to pay their taxes. Broadening the tax base, he contended, will increase tax revenue. And it is what should be done instead of placing additional tax burdens on Nigerians.
As stated earlier, I’m not a fan of Bola Tinubu and I oppose his presidential aspiration with fervor. However, the viral video suggesting he advocated for the reduction of Nigerians’ purchasing power is false.
There are valid reasons to oppose Bola Tinubu’s presidential aspiration, the statement credited to him in the viral video isn’t one of them. Bola Tinubu is unfit to become Nigeria’s president, and there are more than enough legitimate argument to successfully prosecute that case in the court of public opinion.