Remarks by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State and National leader, All Progressives Congress, APC, as Guest of Honour and After Dinner Speaker at the Annual Dinner of the NG. La Scala Restaurant, Muson Center, Lagos. February 6, 2014
I am delighted and privileged to be here to rub minds with this very distinguished audience. The caliber of the people here is reflective of the bright and great minds Nigeria is blessed with. Leaders, thinkers, financial experts and skilled professionals present here today must not relent until Nigeria gets it right.
Let me start by attempting to paint a realistic picture of the state of our nation today. It is a picture we all are familiar with but which we have done little to confront and demand that things change.
As we rounded off the year 2013, the nation was engulfed by mind blowing revelations about reckless executive spending and extensive corruption particularly in the oil sector, a sector that has since become a salad of corruption.
Right before our eyes we are witnessing what perhaps is the greatest rape and plunder of our collective matrimony. That it is happening under an elected government is more saddening. The trajectory of developments revolving around massive daily oil thefts to the tune of 400,000 barrels per day, the conversion of NNPC into an ATM, the outrageous $10.8billion spent on kerosene subsidy and repair of depots and pipelines, the revelation by the Governor of Central Bank $20 billion dollars oil money is still missing and the awards of heavily inflated contracts as patronage to party loyalists and the very disarticulated economy we now operate under depicts a government spinning recklessly out of control. A government that routinely abuses power and manipulates the people.
Like I have maintained previously, the Sure-P project is a drain pipe. A slush fund for political patronage. For instance, the N253.5 billion alleged to have being spent on projects by the Federal government as at December 2013 is not reflective in the lives of ordinary Nigerians. In 2012, about N180 Billion accrued to the Federal Government in Sure-P alone.
Under the heavy weight of corruption, heavy dose of insecurity, the ticking time bomb of youth unemployment and a near total absence of institutional rationalization, Nigeria under President Jonathan clutches on like a battered engine in need of a complete overhaul. In fact, a change of engine.
The World Bank in its 2013 report says Nigeria’s unemployment rate is 22 per cent while Youth Unemployment rate is 38 per cent. Millions of Nigerians are being pauperized and continue to fall below poverty line. The AFDB, in its African Economic Outlook report of 2013 revealed that poverty has worsened since 1996 and through 11 years of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, rule. The efforts of President Jonathan’s government at combating poverty were also faulted.
The projection that Nigeria will soon emerge, at least in the next 30 years alongside three other countries as an economic giant by the British Economist, Jim O’Neil will for long be a mirage. O’Neil predicted that Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey are to become what he refers to as “MINT’. We all know that this is another Vision 2020 gimmick. A very distant hope with no chance of coming to fruition. Let us not for once, delude ourselves that this is possible. A country that is yet to export the smallest plastic product or one that generates a miserable 12 per cent of the total energy needs of the country can never be a candidate for “MINT”, “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and as we now know, Vision 2020. Our energy woes abide. The projection is that an estimated 60 million Nigerians now own power generating sets for their electricity, while the same number of people spend a staggering sum of N1.56 trillion ($13.35billion ) to fuel them annually.
When in October 2013, I delivered a lecture at the 70th anniversary of the Island Club, Lagos, I warned about the voodoo economics being perpetuated by the Jonathan government. Here, we find no correlation between statistics reeled out and impact on the standard of living of the average Nigerian. Then I said, “The self-appraised glowing performance report of the ruling government of Goodluck Jonathan’s one of the most remarkable, creative works of fiction ever written in Nigeria. The Mathematics about GDP growth, about economic empowerment, about energy provision, about employment do not add up. And here is why. Even though according to the IMF Nigeria parades the second largest economy on the sub-continent with a GDP of 270 billion U.S. dollars second to South Africa whose GDP is 375 billion, there is nothing to show for it.
The PDP government claims we have one of the world’s fastest growing economies and that our GDP expands by nearly seven percent per year. Yet, the people don’t feel this happy expansion. The official youth unemployment rate is over 40 per cent. The true rate, when joined with underemployment, may be over twice that amount. Most graduates from our tertiary institutions will not be greeted by job offers once they leave campus, but by an indefinite period of joblessness”
Yet, I am not alone in this declaration that Nigeria continues to punch below its weight. For instance, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington believes the greatest challenge to Nigeria’s development is corruption closely followed by insecurity. Let me quote Carrington. “The latest Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme better known as the UNDP was released in March this year and lists the world’s 46 lowest ranked countries. Thirty-seven of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. All of the bottom 26 is African with the single exception of Afghanistan. Out of 187 countries surveyed, oil- producing Nigeria is ranked 153, the lowest, by far, of any non-African member of OPEC. Indeed, with the exception of Angola (which ranks 5 places higher than Nigeria), all other members, including war-ravished Iraq (107), are included in the ranks of the more developed. Your neighbor, Niger, at 187 has the dubious distinction of coming in last”
Yet, the Jonathan government carries on as if oblivious of these damning revelations. In May 2013, at the launch of my book, “Financialism-Water From an Empty Well” I pointed out that several of the policy decisions by the Jonathan government were wrong footed. For example, the accumulation of money by the federal government is a misplaced objective for these times. Our driving purpose must be to channel idle human and material capacity into productive streams that furnish jobs and manufacture tangible goods bettering the living conditions of every citizen.
The Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF is wrong headed and at variance with true fiscal federalism. I believe in the national government saving money if savings is for a purpose other than itself. To say we are saving money for a rainy day while everyone is already drenched and wading through flood waters makes little sense to me. Like I have always maintained, we must shun the philosophy that says “better to save money and spend the people.” I say better to spend money and save people.
We must reform our economy. To do this, we must first reform our philosophy about economic development. What I advocate is not starry-eyed socialism. I seek clear-eyed yet progressive capitalism. Here are just a handful of key things we must do.
1. We must reform the financial sector so that it becomes an effective artery that sends funds to the heart of the real sector once again.
2. The national government must formulate a national industrial policy focuses on developing labor intensive industries. This is not textbook capitalism but we do not live in a textbook. This is how the United States developed under Alexander Hamilton’s “American System” and how modern China reached spectacular growth.
3. We must restructure our educational system to prepare our youth for the present challenges of this economy and not educate them in a manner more appropriate for another land.
4. We need to overhaul our agricultural system and put in place a price support mechanism so that those who toil the land and who feed us do not go continuously poorer the more they toil. We must re-establish commodity exchange boards exclusively for farmers which will go a long way to support them and provide agricultural security.
The challenge before our nation today is how to protect millions who toil the land, ensure they make reasonable returns and boost agricultural production.
The demand for farm products to feed the pupils will be a catalyst to generate demand, create wealth and boost industrial growth. The establishment of small scale industries will equally generate employment.
5. We need to provide primary health care, taking it upon ourselves to fight diseases including malaria, TB and more so that our children can develop properly and our labor force becomes more productive as it grows healthier.
Just as we must reform our economic sector, we must also reform our politics. The APC offers the Noah’s ark needed to steer Nigeria out of troubled waters.
I am saddened by the realization that roughly 75 percent of our people suffer in poverty. Every day is a harsh contest pitting them against hunger and want. Their life is a trail of tears.
The All Progressives Congress, APC is a party committed to improving the human condition. We must improve the way Nigerians live and relate to one another. Not all can be rich but our nation suffers too many who are poor. No one enjoys a trouble free life but too many are chained to despair. We must break the chains of their unnecessary suffering. This must be our collective gift to our humanity.
We formed the APC not to mimic or simply rival the PDP. We formed our party to forge a new course producing a better nation.
We formed this party to improve the lot and the lives of those who don’t have. We formed it to bring dignity, hope, justice and the reality of prosperity to those Nigerians who seek these things.The PDP has never been a friend of the people and each year it becomes less of one. They have turned their backs on the people. Now it is time the people turn their backs against the PDP.
The PDP claims we don’t have an ideology. We have an ideology but it is one PDP can’t understand. What the arrogant and mean don’t understand, they pretend does not exist.
But to erase any doubt, let me state the driving force and the ideological mandate of the APC is nothing less than to improve the economic and social lives of the average Nigerian through implementation of wise and progressive government policies and practices.
The current government caters to wealth and power. It believes the rich will allow crumbs to trickle down to the poor to help them from their poverty. They believe in the so called free market. But the market they constructed is not free except to the extent that it has been free to work grave injustice on the poor and working people of this land. The number of poor increases as those in power and those who have plenty take the little from those who have nothing. This is economic oppression. It is the plank of the PDP. You will find it nowhere in our platform. That is why they claim we have no ideology.
Our ideology is the opposite. We believe every able bodied person who wants to work should have a job with a living wage. Thus, we advocate a national employment policy and jobs program where government will help place people at work to build this nation from the bottom up. We believe that a nation of this size cannot prosper unless we have an active industrial sector. Thus, we advocate a national industrial policy that will enable Nigeria to make and export products that generate growth and development. We believe our commerce and transportation should be safe and efficient. Thus, we shall fashion an infrastructural master plan connecting all parts of the nation through a modernized highway system and rail network.
We do not believe in darkness and thus we shall further reform the power sector in a way that brings reliable and affordable electricity to ignite our prosperity and not just raise prices.
We believe in feeding the nation, thus we must encourage and protect the Nigerian farmer. We shall look to revive commodity exchange boards to guarantee our farmers a decent price for the yield of their labors. We believe every child should be fed and educated. Thus, we advocate a school feeding program. We believe our elderly have served the nation and it is now time the nation serves them. We shall institute a true and correct government sponsored social security program that shall secure the elderly from living their remaining years in destitution.
We believe the common man should not be harassed, beaten and imprisoned for petty crime when those in power commit massive theft. We believe people should be allowed to voice dissent and not be shot or brutalized for doing so. That is why we support strong civil liberties legislation that will allow aggrieved citizens strong remedies for government violations against their person or property.If you don’t believe these things represent a core set of beliefs, values and principles that distinguishes us from the PDP or if you care nothing for the average Nigerian, then stick with that reactionary outfit known as the PDP. If you believe in these things, then your conscience knows where it must lead you.
We have come to a moment in time when there is no time to waffle, obfuscate or prattle. Beginning from now and as we march toward the elections of 2015, the people shall decide whether they want to enshrine injustice, inequality and the rule of arbitrary might over their lives or do they want to build a finer existence where the light of fairness, prosperity and the rule of law shines on all.
One can no longer dance on both sides of the fence. Either you are resolute for justice or for injustice. Stake your claim and sign your name to it so history may record your decision and your deeds at this critical hour.
For me, I have but one life thus I have but one choice. I choose the right way. I follow the APC. I urge you all to hitch a ride on the rescue mission APC is about and rally for change and the re-building of a Nigeria that meets our dream.
And may God bless and free you, my beloved country, Nigeria.
Thank you for listening.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Views expressed are solely the author’s