POLITICS

How I will achieve unity, peace and prosperity, by Tinubu

Tinubu

At an interaction session with Arewa Joint Committee held at Arewa House, Kaduna, yesterday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu unveiled his development agenda for Nigeri

As I said when I chaired the Sardauna Memorial Lecture, last year, I have a solemn feeling of responsibility and duty to our country every time I am here. Standing here evokes memories of a great leader and a father of this nation, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto. The contributions of the Sardauna to nation building remain a reference point for us all. He was a visionary builder of men and institutions.

The dream of Sardauna, and indeed that of our other great leaders such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and our first and only Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was for one indivisible and prosperous nation built on shared values of patriotism, equity, justice and brotherhood. It is therefore no coincidence that at independence, this vison was clearly laid out and encapsulated in our first National Anthem. It says: “Though tribes and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.” This is a strong statement which acknowledges our diversity, and, therefore, existence of different perspectives and interests, and how that should not stand on the path of our unity as brothers.

The framers of this anthem, God rest their souls, will cringe to know that 62 years after someone would come to this hallowed platform to campaign on the basis of tribe or where others come from. The dream of those forefathers, ladies and gentlemen, was for a nation “Where no man is oppressed,” a nation “with peace and plenty,” and these – unity in diversity, peace and prosperity – are the fulcrums of my mission in this contest. They also form the bulk of my address to you this afternoon, in line with the areas the organisers wanted me to address.

First, I acknowledge the primacy of security as the number one function of government. If you give me the mandate, my administration will give it all the necessary attention and consolidate on the recent investments in our security agencies and successes being recorded in this regard.

Safe environment as bedrock of prosperity

As you are aware, security is a function of resources. I am committed to mobilising all assets within our national power to secure Nigeria. We did this in Lagos through many initiatives, especially the Security Trust Fund, through which we addressed many needs of our security forces which helped to sanitise Lagos State. As you may recall, when I assumed office as governor in 1999, the situation I met was basically a case of banditry where urban gangs ruled the streets. I returned law and order, tamed what could have been a huge ethnic war and made Lagos one of the safest states in Nigeria. I will replicate that across the country.

We will address the welfare and training needs of our security personnel and strengthen our security institutions with modern technology and equipment to better position them to respond to modern challenges that we face in a fast-changing world. Under my leadership, the Nigerian military will receive a much-needed injection of trained personnel to strengthen the heroic efforts of the troops that are currently in service.

We will deal decisively with all elements threatening our peace, security and unity. I guarantee you, we will end kidnapping and banditry not only through increasing our policing footprint and capacity but also through other soft approaches that would promote inclusion and boost the economy of our local communities. I assure you, under my leadership, every inch of our national territory will be secured and defended.

In view of the anxiety around security and safety of our people, there has been an increasing call for states to be allowed to establish their own police forces. I am aware of the recent resolution of northern governors and traditional rulers on the issue of state police.

However, it is pertinent to note that the issue of state police, just like the larger debate around restructuring, is a constitutional matter that requires consensus-building. Restructuring means different things to different people. But it should be noted that my aspiration to lead this country is a testimonial for my strong belief in its unity and indivisibility. These, however, are matters that require consultation with critical stakeholders, which include the Council of State, the Legislature, the Judiciary, State Governments, Traditional Institutions, and groups like yours.

I am willing to listen to all opinions to help us arrive at a definite stand that would be in the interest of the country. We will mobilise resources to enhance the welfare of personnel and provide the right equipment and training required for them to secure us all. We will sustain ongoing efforts of increasing the boots on ground commensurate to our geography and population. These recruitments will be tailored to suit needs for specific cadre and expertise for each organ of the security architecture.

From stability to prosperity: my economic plan

Nigeria is sitting on a goldmine with abundant natural resources. With strategic investment in research and development and effective management, we will explore and exploit these resources to the fullest. There is no local government in Nigeria that has no resource or endowment that can be harnessed for greater economic development.

Our major economic challenges are underinvestment and effective management, and these are what I am bringing to the table. Our economic plan would utilise the vast natural resources we have, through strategic investment in infrastructure, which will lead to the diversification of the economy and wealth creation across the entire country. We will pay attention to modern economic drivers such as the digital economy, creative industries, sports and entertainment sectors for the benefit of our young people.

The APC Federal Government has taken several measures to build infrastructure and improve the ease of doing business across the country. This has been complemented by the efforts of some of our states to attract investments in diverse sectors of the economy.

Under my leadership, the Nigerian government will be business-friendly. We shall support private businesses in our country and attract foreign direct investment to create jobs, re-industrialise our country and accelerate economic development. Nigerian businesses in sectors like banking and cement have successfully venture out of the country to build thriving subsidiaries. We will build a strong domestic economy, expand the capacity of our domestic market to support growth and encourage export capacity in the areas of our competitive advantage. We have the endowments to be a prosperous country. I will lead a renewed push to move us from the status of a nation of potential into a country of actual accomplishments as an economic dynamo.

Power sector and industrialisation

Power, which is perhaps the greatest invention of man in the last 1000 years, is essential for human activities, in this age. I will prioritise the strengthening of our existing power reforms as a catalyst to sustainable industrialisation. Aside the ongoing power intervention from the federal government, I know that the 19 Northern States and the FCT have incorporated a special purpose vehicle to build 100MW of solar project per state to complement other power generation systems across the country. These are the kinds of initiatives I will encourage and support to revamp industrialization. We will accelerate the completion of the Mambilla hydro power project, explore and construct other sources of power in line with global best practices. We will support any willing state to develop and generate its own power as I have demonstrated in pioneering development of independent power projects in Lagos State.

Adding Value is my forte! Using my experience of building human capital, industries, and institutions, which has led to Lagos being one of the largest economies on the continent, I will reposition our existing industries and make them a competitive source of industrialisation and growth not just for the North but the entire country. It is time to fetch water from a dry well and I, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, have done it before and I will do it. We will find a way where there are no roads!

I will ensure that we take advantage of our resources to convert cotton to textile, plants to pharmaceutical products, groundnut to edible oil, cassava to ethanol and starch, etc., thereby building competitive advantage for our farmers through value addition. I will attract investments and create the enabling environment that will ensure the resurgence of our moribund industries and continue the infrastructural revolution of this administration on the railways and highways all over the country and invest in our inland waterways for safer and efficient transportation to complement this industrialization vision.

Agriculture and food security

Agriculture is of special interest to me. It is both an economic and existential issue for every country. Experience in the last seven years has shown the potentials of agriculture in solving the problem of unemployment and boosting our GDP. For example, recent investment in the rice value chain has led to the springing up of rice mills across the country with attendant wealth creation and a reduction in our import bill.

The North has greater advantage in this regard due to its large and abundant arable land. My vision is for the region to be the hub of agribusiness in sub-Saharan Africa. We will improve investment in our livestock value chain. Specifically, subsectors like the dairy industry that has the potential of adding billions of dollars into our economy will receive significant attention

In collaboration with the private sector and governments at sub-national levels, we will make available high yield seeds and inputs, invest heavily in post-harvest storage and processing facilities so that we can significantly increase the value of what we produce. To ensure optimising the full value of their produce, we will utilise commodity exchanges to guarantee return on investments, and enhanced wealth for the farmers.

We will make available funds for research and development to provide the right inputs that will ensure greater yields, and tackle climatic challenges bedevilling farmers such as flooding and desertification through enhancement of national drainage architecture and investment in shelter belts. Financing is critical to our vision for the agricultural sector. I assure you; I will attract the much-needed investment and re-engineer financing institutions to provide impactful interventions for maximal output.

Solid mineral exploration/oil and gas exploration

There is a lot of wealth beneath the land of numerous Northern States, like in many other Nigerian states. From Gold in Zamfara, to Lithium in Nasarawa, Nickle in Kaduna and Iron Ore in Kogi, among others, we are not utilising the full potentials of these resources. We will develop a blueprint that will attract local and international institutional investors for both exploration and exploitation of these resources for international trading.

My administration will continue to explore and invest in the oil and gas opportunities that exist in the Benue Trough, Chad Basin, and other prospective locations. We will also ensure the completion of the ongoing AKK project and the trans-Saharan gas pipeline. These gas projects will fast-track the industrialisation of the areas and increase revenue generation significantly for the entire country. We must see them to fruition.

Education and tackling out of school children

Education is the most effective weapon against poverty. Comparative with other countries, education in Nigeria suffers from funding deficit on account of our population and limited resources. I will provide the required leadership and mobilize investment for the development of the sector. We will work with both states and local governments to reform and retool the system. These reforms will give special attention to the welfare and training of our teachers and lecturers as necessary catalyst for the better system we desire.

My administration will review our curriculum at all levels to ensure our students are conversant with global trends in different fields and sectors where they will be able to contribute productively to our economy. We will work with stakeholders to evolve creative solutions to the funding needs of our higher education that will bring terminal end to challenges of funding and the attendant perennial industrial actions.

To ease financing for basic education and expand access, we will cut down on the counterpart fund required by states to access UBEC grants to an affordable percentage. Millions of our children are currently roaming the streets instead of being in classrooms. Unfortunately, majority of these children are in the North. This is unacceptable. I will work hard to turn around these statistics. My administration will invest heavily in infrastructure to allow for proper integration of these children into our conventional schools.

Thankfully, the current APC government has rolled out several initiatives, in partnership with development partners, to provide alternative access to education and vocation to this particular demographic. I am aware that already the Federal Government has secured funding from our development partners to support states to address the problem through the following initiatives: BESDA, funded by the World Bank, with $600m; Bilingual Education, funded by the Islamic Development Bank, with $100m; Out of School Children Programme, jointly funded by World Bank, UNICEF and Islamic Development Bank, with $500m; AGILE, funded by the World Bank, with $750m.

These initiatives amount to $2.95 billion of funding secured by the current APC government to assist a comprehensive solution to the problem of out of school children. There is another basket of UBEC funds amounting to N160billion available to support basic education across the country. I wish to assure you that we will build on this so that ours will be a country that educates every child, a country that gives every child equal opportunity to be a globally competitive citizen.

Tackling corruption from the roots

Distinguished audience, ladies and gentlemen, it is a consensus among our citizens that the socio-economic challenges we are faced with as a country are deeply rooted in the menace of corruption. We should not, and we will not give up in the effort to rid our country of this menace. My administration will support the existing anticorruption institutions and address underlining issues that make corruption to thrive.

I will put in more effort on preventive mechanisms to tackle corruption. The government, under my leadership, will enhance access to mortgages and other credit facilities that would make it easy for Nigerian workers and other citizens to acquire homes, vehicles and other essential things without the pressure of having to pay lump sum, which fuels corruption.

Conclusion

My dear friends, ladies, and gentlemen…Coming here, a friend, playing the devil’s advocate, asked rather cheekily; “Why should the North vote for you?” My answer to him was, “The entire country should support me because I am the best for the job, and there is nobody who doesn’t like the best!” I am sure you all like the best, for you and for our country.

As for the North, I believe you have no better friend in the race like me. I am not like those who only remember they are from here when it is time to ask for your votes. I have proven to be a good manager of our diversity. As Governor of Lagos State, we had instances where our peace and stability were threatened by criminal activities of militia groups; I stepped in and fought them to a standstill.

Drawing inspiration from the words of General Yakubu Gowon that “Keeping Nigeria one is a task that must be done,” I ensured Nigerians from different background or creed were not harmed. Also, my political history is full of examples of long and abiding support for the North; from the late Shehu Yaradua to Atiku Abubakar, Nuhu Ribadu and President Muhammadu Buhari, among several other allies from here.

To its credit, the North has also paid back in good measure. I am the flag bearer of our party today partly because of the decision of the Northern APC Governors who rose to the occasion by standing up for our country and unity of our people, as against primordial considerations. By so doing, they have demonstrated that indeed the North is a region that keeps its words and always promotes justice.

Lastly, permit me to reiterate that I have the competence, knowledge, and experience to provide good leadership to this country and run it very well. I am not an island. However, I have demonstrated capacity to attract and work with the best hands to build enduring legacies. While humbly soliciting your support, I assure you I will be with you shoulder to shoulder on this journey. I will ensure we make our diversity a source for prosperity and entrench these values at the heart of every Nigerian.

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