Leadership, National Development And The People


By Bola Ahmed Tinubu

I am honoured to be with you in the House of Commons for this is a house of democracy. It can be said that modern representative democracy was born inside these walls. Three and one-quarter centuries ago, England underwent the Glorious Revolution.

The Glorious Revolution was a complex happening, with religious considerations playing as large a role as political factors. The Glorious Revolution permanently shifted the balance of power from the monarch to the elected representatives of the people. In this land, the primacy of the monarchy was altered.

Over the years, the power of parliament would progressively grow while that of the monarchy would recede. As long as the breath of freedom does not expire from this earth, this house shall be revered as a symbol of progress and of the battle of the rule of law and individual liberty against the menace of unchecked and arbitrary power.

Today, democracy is the standard. Democracy is the best form of governance because it counters that most dangerous human frailty: the temptation of leaders to accumulate power for the sake of accumulating more power. However, everyone claims to be democratic but not everyone is faithful to his or her word. Herein lies the rub. Illiberal governments have become adept in exploiting the visible procedural and institutional trappings of democracy without adopting the democratic spirit that gives these procedures and institutions their noble meaning.

We have governments that are democracies on paper but not in function. They are democracies in form but not in substance. We have governments that only know democracy primarily through breaching it. In short, many nations suffer authoritarian governments in democratic clothing.

Nigeria is a dysfunctional democracy. Our system stands in a dark, uncertain corridor, idling halfway between democracy and its opposite. The way things are going many people believe our best chance for genuine democracy has already escaped from us like dust blown from the hollow of our hand.

I believe democracy shall prevail in Nigeria in the long run. This belief is not derived from the present facts on the ground. If I limit myself to facts alone, my address to you would be a gloomy one. However, I believe democracy shall win because I hold an undying faith in both justice and the collective wisdom of the people.

Today, I will examine our topic, Leadership, National Development and the People through the prism of democratic culture and the rights of citizens to elect and vote out leaders at periodic intervals. What kind of legitimacy do the leaders command? What changes are required to bring about free and fair elections and the rule of law? What is the quality of the leadership now in power? What developmental philosophy is best suited to spur national development?

Under democracy, the concern about the quality of leadership takes on an added dimension. Democracy can only be sustained and improved when the electoral process is such that the people are able to choose leaders who will further nurture the democratic system.

In the absence of this reinforcing positive dynamics, democracy will weaken and sooner or later implode, if left too long unattended. If democracy is to be sustained it must also elevate the performance level of government and the corresponding rights and privileges enjoyed by the citizens. The success or performance of any leadership is often measured by the extent of national cohesion achieved and the level of national development experienced.

In the case of Nigeria, the fundamental question to ask as one of our most prominent journalists said in a recent piece is: To what extent has public policy improved the human condition?

Indeed, according to the late British economist Dudley Seers, the questions to be asked about a country’s development are the following:

What has become of poverty? What has happened to unemployment? What is the state of socio-economic inequality? “If all three have declined from high levels, then development has occurred. But if one or two of these central problems have grown worse, especially if all three have, it would be wrong to call the result “development” even if GDP has improved.

Sadly, these problems have grown worse in our land. The concept of national development has been perverted. In Nigeria and most parts of Africa, the three key drivers of development are retrogressing because of the missing link- visionary, disciplined and courageous leadership. The gap between poor and rich widens. There is grinding poverty and people have to work twice as hard each day to make ends meet. There is massive unemployment. Of what use is any leadership that does little to solve these problems?

Leadership and National development are twin engines. You need good leadership to conceive dynamic policies that will drive development at all levels. It is not rocket science, yet we pretend that our path to national development will be different from that of other countries who paid the price for good leadership, dynamic and result-oriented policies.

Here I advocate a new thinking and a new direction. Nigeria needs its equivalent of the Glorious Revolution. I use this term knowing critics will complain I advocate overthrow.

I do no such thing. I do not support the Jonathan government but I oppose anyone seeking its premature, illegal end. Let this government end at the appointed time. But let it end through the ballot box. Then I shall say good riddance.

The Glorious Nigerian Revolution of which I speak has nothing to do with force of arms. The Revolution of which I speak has two major parts. First, is the peaceful conversion of our quasi-democracy into a full-fledged one. Second, is the implementation of policies turning the political economy away from its retrogressive, elitist bearings. We seek policies pointing in a progressive direction affording the average person a chance at a dignified life. This will be through the provision of gainful employment, quality education and essential social services for those who need the helping hand of government to survive. I see no shame in believing progressive government can improve the political economy and the lives of the people.

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It is quite apparent to me that political leadership serves no useful function if it is unable to address the vital needs of the people. There is no question that the current Federal Government has thoroughly failed in that enterprise and this explains the focus of the new opposition, the APC.

As our new coalition, ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS, APC, takes form, we are convinced and determined about the direction we want to take our nation and our people. As leaders of the new party and government in waiting, we intend to pursue dynamic, time-tested and bold policies that will liberate our people by making sure our wealth works for us. Let me put forth a few.

The Central focus of our efforts in the coming years must be the implementation of the most extensive and aggressive plan to lift as many Nigerians out of poverty as possible. Our desire is to be able to move at least 20% of our people out of poverty (defined as earning less than a dollar a day) in the first 4 years of our administration.

To do so we begin from the premise that the Washington Consensus and the IMF/Post-Bretton Woods prescriptions for development have served their time and to a large extent have not delivered on their promises. There is a need for what has been described as a THIRD PATH. A Pathway between the pure market-driven, neo-liberal socio-economic policies and the various variants of the command economic models. That Third Path is particularly important for countries such as ours with an incredibly large and growing poor, poor infrastructure and weak financial and social institutions.

The results of which are the frightening social tensions, terrorist violence and kidnapping. For us that pathway is clear. It means developing our own Marshall Plan resulting in direct intervention of the State, thereby halting the pauperization of our people but simultaneously ensuring that intervention itself spins off jobs and growth. It also means working aggressively to improve infrastructure.

The immediate priorities will be sorting out the power requirements for all. One of the most important discoveries of humanity today is electricity. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s efforts to provide adequate energy have been an abysmal failure. Yet no nation can develop economically and meet the needs of its people without uninterrupted energy supply. How can any nation think of setting up refineries without constant power supply? Taking crude oil and exporting same cannot result in exponential growth for any country.

To improve energy supply, we would encourage Independent Power Plants, IPP, in designated industrial zones to reduce the horrendous power component of the cost of local manufacturing.

Secondly, the construction of Trans- State highways, such as the speed train that will connect the North, South, East and West and move people, fuel, farm produce and goods, cost-efficiently across the country.

We will emphasize and promote the growth in all sectors in the first 4 years by making small business the engine of growth. Foreign investments will ride on the back of thriving local investments, initiatives and a stable polity.

Investment in agriculture and agro-allied industry is a must for us. We firmly believe that Agriculture will provide food for subsistence and export. Most importantly, it has the potential to create millions of jobs for both the illiterate and literate population. It is from agriculture that we can fight hunger and process raw materials for the industrial sector. It appears that every government in Nigeria has realized the centrality of agriculture, the problem has always been the absence of a forthright and creative plan, focus and commitment to implementation.

Again State intervention is the key. When domestic and foreign demand is stimulated, farmers must be assured of minimum prices for their produce. A variant of the commodity boards is the model we are currently working on. The agency will be required to prioritize cash and food crops for which government will guarantee  a minimum price. This way the farmer is confident that his investment is protected.

But it is perhaps the various dimensions of our National Social Security Programme that has occupied the thoughts of our economic team most forcefully.

Just to outline the broad themes of the policy : First, we intend to establish a partly contributory National Social Security Scheme. Some categories of the poor and vulnerable will benefit with or without contribution. We believe that every Nigerian over the age of 60 who is not under a pension scheme and also qualifies as poor by a “Means Test” must be given a monthly stipend. Widows and the disabled proved by a “Means Test” to be poor must also be provided a monthly stipend whenever they are unemployed. They become disentitled when they are employed.

To capture unemployed graduates the Youth Corps scheme will be reviewed for pragmatic implementation for skills development and social services. The scheme may be extended for an optional 18 months within which the Youth Corps member is paid and trained. One year of Youth service and six months of training in entrepreneurial or other useful skills while looking for a job or starting a business. For instance, the CO-CREATION technology and Innovation Centre in Lagos where technology savvy young people are given the space and facilities to develop software and applications of different kinds is an indication of how in a few years with adequate government support we could create thousands of IT related jobs and opportunities throughout the country.

There must be matching funds between the State and Federal government towards creating business incubators for skilled graduates.

An important component of state intervention to redress poverty is the one meal a day programme for primary and secondary school pupils.

The Federal Government through supplemental funding will support states in providing Primary and Secondary school pupils with at least one meal a day. The immediate twin derivatives of this programme is the design to confront the extremely high incidence of malnutrition and other hunger-induced medical conditions amongst poor children as well as eliminating the recruiting grounds for illegal activities. Also, the programme will stimulate demand thereby boosting local businesses in poultry, bakery and juice and packing industries. This will employ millions of graduates and no-graduates. Then, we can start to talk truly about the dividends of not just democracy but of impactful leadership.

•Tinubu delivered this paper at the Grand Ballroom, Westminster Hall, House of Parliament, London as part of conference convened by the British African Diaspora on Monday, 10 June, 2013

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