A former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Saturday said Nigeria needed to address what he described as “deep and widespread poverty” as part of the measures to tackle insecurity, unemployment and extremism in the country.
Tinubu stated this at the 2021 annual Arewa House lecture titled, ‘Reduction of the Cost of Governance for Inclusive Growth and Youth Development in Northern Nigeria in a post-COVID-19 era’ in Kaduna State.
The event was organised by the Arewa House Centre for Documentation and Research, Ahmadu Bello University, in honour of the late premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello.
The former governor, who was also the chairman of the event, attributed the frustration and despair among the youth to chronic poverty and the breakdown of social institutions.
“Problems that are essentially of an economic origin must also have an economic solution. Enhanced security may be the necessary first step, but it cannot be the only step. We cannot resolve this problem by holding on to one-dimensional answers. We must all be dispassionate in our search for solutions.
“These challenges are multi-faceted and so the solutions must be. The issues of insecurity, unemployment and extremism have many things to do with governance. We must tackle our deep and widespread poverty.
“If we limit the government’s role under the erroneous assumption that government spending is intrinsically unproductive, then we tether ourselves to failure,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted Tinubu as saying.
He also urged the Federal Government to invest in the agro-allied sector, adding that the government must implement a national industrial policy to encourage key industries to employ Nigeria’s growing population.
“Building vital infrastructure such as irrigation and water catchment systems will help agriculture, arrest desertification and provide jobs. Another readily available area primed for investment is the agro-allied industry which, for the northern region is particularly advantageous,” he said.
The APC leader said Nigeria would do well to more critically study how other populous nations such as the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and China charted their course during their formative years.
“You will see that they did not adhere to small government or the purportedly free market. The 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. We would do well to understand this history and learn what it means for our own pursuit of development,” Tinubu added.
While cautioning against the assumption that government spending was unproductive, he said the development of any populous nation had always been dependent on the ability of the government to allocate sufficient funds to projects and programmes that created and encouraged enduring growth and employment.
The former governor said, “We must reject that mode of thinking that assumes government expenditure is inherently unproductive as well as harmful to the overall economy. It is not the fact that government expenditure is intrinsically wrong any more than one can say all private sector activity is economically positive.
“The government can be wasteful or it can be the key component to growth just as a private sector business can function profitably or spend itself into bankruptcy. The issue is not whether the government is spending money or not. The real issue is the economic utility and quality of the expenditure.”
Tinubu further said “fiscal wisdom” was required to run the Nigerian economy to an equitable distribution of wealth.
He also advised states and local governments to shape their budgets to suit their revenues.
He 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 on those things that bring the requisite economic returns for the nation.”
Tinubu added, “Just as importantly, what I advocate is something that can be applied to both the common and unique developmental challenges of the North and South so that the nation moves in unison without any group or region feeling left out or estranged from national progress. Thus, while states and local governments must shape their budgets to fit their revenues, the Federal Government can and should spend more to create more jobs for the youth in both the North and South which is key to eradicating restiveness and sundry criminality among the youth.
“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 most engaged in government stimulus spending to revive their flagging economies.”
Tinubu also extolled the virtues of the late Sarduana, describing him as one of the chief architects of the nation destined to be the leader of Africa and a model for the black race.
The former governor had earlier stumbled at the event after missing his steps shorty after he arrived at the event at about noon. He was however helped by his aides.
He left the venue after delivering his speech.
Speaking at the event, the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, described the late premier as an “institution,” and a great bridge-builder who believed in the unity and development of humanity.
Gambari said the late Saduana worked for the betterment of all, regardless of ethnic, religious or tribal inclinations.
Insecurity: Arms funds directed into individual pockets –Lalong
Also speaking, the Governor of Plateau State and Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Simon Lalong, attributed the high cost of governance to insecurity, poverty and unemployment in the North.
Lalong, who was a guest speaker at the event, added that one of the consequences of the high cost of governance in Northern Nigeria was increased insecurity in the region.
He said, “This is largely attributed to the fact that the money that would be required to purchase advanced weapons to fight insecurity is usually diverted into individual pockets due to corruption or spent on the payment of huge salaries and wages to a large number of political appointees and corrupt politicians. The capacity of the states to implement economic policies that will alleviate the people from economic crisis and create more employment opportunities is lacking because most of the resources required to do so are used to run government business rather than capital and development projects.
“One of the areas that the high cost of governance in the North has affected badly is infrastructure. For example, health services, water supply, power supply, good roads, good education have continued to remain in poor shape owing to paucity of funds for developmental capital projects in favour of recurrent expenditure.”