National leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Saturday, tripped at the 2021 Sardauna Memorial Lecture in Kaduna, where he was chairman of the occasion.
Tinubu, who nearly fell, took time to address some of the country’s economic challenges in his speech.
That was as Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, said the president had made remarkable progress in addressing the challenge of insecurity, building an inclusive economy, and fighting corruption.
In his presentation, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum (NSGF) and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, who was the guest lecturer, listed some underlying factors in the high cost of governance in Nigeria to include insecurity and insurgency. Lalong said identity politics had compounded the problem of insecurity.
Tinubu stumbled as he arrived the hall for the lecture and nearly fell but for the timely intervention of a security aide. He said though Nigeria had exited recession, the economy remained weak. The former governor advised the federal government to spend more money to create jobs in order to lift the citizens out of poverty.
He disagreed with those kicking against government spending, saying it depends on what the money is spent on. Even though recession has ended, “We must admit the economy remains weak with too much unemployment and resources left idle,” he said.
The APC leader said the private sector was too weak to give the country’s economy the much-needed impetus, adding that in the absence of a capable private sector, the federal government must step in to fill the void.
He spoke on the topic, “Reduction of the Cost of Governance for Inclusive Growth and Youth Development in Northern Nigeria In a Post-COVID-19 era.”
Tinubu said, “Fiscal wisdom, but not necessarily austerity, is required for an economy like ours in a time like this, to ensure equitable wealth redistribution and meaningful use of resources.
“The years have shown that the private sector is much too weak to spur the growth we need. If the private sector could manage this feat, it would have already done so. Where the private sector is too weak or unable, the government must fill the void.
“This means the government must not be afraid to embark on an activist fiscal policy to create jobs, build infrastructure, and develop our industrial sector as well as continue to improve agriculture. This means the government must spend money but spend it on those things that bring the requisite economic returns for the nation.”
The APC leader commended President Muhammadu Buhari for steering the country through the COVID-19 pandemic in such a way that the negative effect on the people and economy had not been as harsh as it was thought.
According to him, the development of any populous nation has always been dependent on the ability of the government to allocate sufficient funds to projects and programmes that can create and encourage enduring growth and employment. He said the thinking that government expenditure was inherently unproductive and harmful to the overall economy should be rejected.
Tinubu stated, “Take a look at the world, those nations that recovered most quickly from the 2009 economic crisis and now from COVID-19 are those nations that are most engaged in government stimulus spending to revive their flagging economies.
“This was not by accident. It is due to purposeful policy and the deeper understanding of the nature of money and the role of a national government in saving a flagging economy. Thus, America recently embarked on a US$1.9 trillion stimulus to buoy the economy.
“It was not said that this government spending would erode jobs but that it would create them. Thus, we should not be so against government spending. If it is for the right purposes, it can do essential things that the private sector cannot. What we should be against is wasteful government spending.”
He said only the government had the resources to build vital infrastructure, such as irrigation and water projects that would help agriculture, arrest desertification, and provide jobs. He also warned that the country might remain undeveloped if the role of government was restricted by the erroneous assumption that spending was intrinsically unproductive.
Tinubu said Nigerian leaders should study more critically how other populous nations, like the UK, US, Germany and China, charted their courses during their formative years.
“You will see that they did not adhere to small government or the purportedly free market,” he stated, adding, “Government engaged in massive spending on infrastructure and education while also engaging in policies that protected industrial development and key aspects of the agricultural sector.
“Only when they matured and held advantages over other nations did the UK and US begin to champion free markets and small government.”
Tinubu noted the remarkable contribution of the late Premier of the defunct Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, to nation building. The former governor said concerning Bello,
“He laboured tirelessly and with great tact and intelligence. Working together with other shining lights, such as the late sage Papa Obafemi Awolowo and the esteemed Nnamdi Azikiwe, this great Sardauna of Sokoto helped establish Nigeria as one indivisible and independent nation.
“He was one of the chief architects and builders laying the foundation for the nation destined to be the leader of Africa and a model for the black race.”
In his goodwill message, Gambari, who represented Buhari, said collaboration with all the tiers of government was required to tackle the problems facing the country, as the federal government alone could not do it.
He called on Nigerians to emulate the virtues of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, for the country to make progress.
The chief of staff stated, “President Buhari has made huge strides in addressing the challenges facing our country in terms of security, building an inclusive economy, and, of course, the fight against corruption.
“Our ability to collectively address the challenges facing our country today will go along way in unlocking the huge potentiality of the country and the starting point is leadership by example lived by one of our founding fathers himself, Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna himself.
“We must not continue for decades to draw attention to the virtues of the late Sardauna, we must practise them – inclusiveness, commitment to quality education, training particularly for girls, and the opportunities for women to develop to their full capacity.
“This leadership by example, is one in which Mr. President is leading from the front. So as leaders of our country, there need to be better and improved coordination and collaboration at all levels of government – federal, state, and local governments.
“We must not assume that the problems of our country should and can be solved by President Buhari alone or his administration.
“Yes, he will continue to lead by example, but state governors, local government leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders, civil society groups and even the media have the responsibility to work collectively and put the interest of our country first and foremost.”
Gambari said Nigerians “must not forget the virtue of selfless service, which was inherent in all that was done by the late Sardauna. We have no choice if, indeed, we are committed to the welfare, prosperity, peace and security of our people.
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and John Shiklam in Kaduna