16th April, 2019
By Abiodun Komolafe
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party. A Pan Africanist par excellence, Tinubu is one leader whose fidelity to the Nigeria project is legendary and investment in the people’s future is unimpeachable. These extraordinary features manifested again at the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium, organized as part of activities marking his 67th birthday.
In his closing remarks on the occasion, the Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom advised President Muhammadu Buhari to use his second term in office to improve Nigeria’s economy, in line with the party’s ‘Next Level’ campaign slogan. According to Tinubu, “Next Level is not just a trendy campaign phrase to be quickly discarded once victory has been achieved” and its pursuit “cannot be achieved by blindly following the economic path of other nations.” Instead, it must be seen in the mould of storms, which, though “born of a human folly and reckless greed”, can be “rectified by human wisdom and prudential action.” While urging Nigerians to work hard, especially, in the face of global recession from which Nigeria is not likely to be immune, the elder statesman also advised the Federal Government against increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) as doing so would be akin to reducing the purchasing power of the people. He therefore summarized Nigerians’ expectations a la‘Next Level’ as “increase in electricity generation, transmission and distribution by more than 50% within the next four years”; implementation of the national infrastructure plan, encouragement of “innovations in Agriculture and funding of social security for the aged and government-backed affordable housing and mortgage facilities.”
Well, Jagaban has spoken! So, “he who has ears, let him hear” and “he who thinks he stands, let him take heed, lest he fall.”
For a fact, Tinubu belongs to the generation of Nigerian political class, fortunate enough to have seen the two sides of the rung. Luckily, he was born on a day Harry Truman publicly declared that he would not seek re-election as America’s president; and that was five weeks after Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen of England. Asiwaju came into this world at a time almost everything about Nigeria was bright and beautiful. Very regrettably, Nigeria is now a predictable and tragic tale of decline and decay. In 1952, Nigeria’s population stood at 30,403,305. Now, it is 200,962,417. But, rather than the country to turn around the positive attributes of a virile and boisterous population and contribute to its economic growth and development, it has become an intriguing albatross; depicting an enveloping ecology of sadness, poverty and disease, for multitudes of people going hungry amidst surplus and plenty!
Agreed! The Buhari-led administration has “gone far … in laying a good foundation for Nigeria’s economic recovery.” At least, her ego should be fueled by being Africa’s 2nd happiest country, in addition to some recently-earned accolades in one or two areas of our national life. However, Nigeria’s reputation still suffers from a deep disconnect and high level of inequality, insecurity, bankruptcy of ideas, and intellectual laziness. Tragically, over-91 million Nigerians now “live on less than 1 dollar a day; with at least, six people falling into poverty every minute.” As we speak, Nigeria is 3rd in global internet crimes, 110th in the Best Countries for Business chart and least in ‘surviving on minimum wage’ report. Unless urgent steps are taken to rejig the critical sectors of the domestic national economy, more than 120 million Nigerians are projected to be living in abject poverty by 2030.
Beyond the ‘festival of noise-making’ and immature celebrations by some fantastically notorious politicians, democracy loses its vitality when it is corrupted by pretences or crass elitism. While government and governance in a democracy are the products of the people’s consent, there is an eerie feeling of de javu that democracy also has its inherent discrepancies. For instance, how long did it take Chairman Mao Zedong and Den Xiaoping of China to midwife the reforms that have now gone as far as rescuing more than 800 million Chinese from poverty? How did Lee Kuan Yew transform Singapore from “a British crown colony with a natural deep habour to a developed economy”and how did Jerry Rawling’s leadership shortfalls contribute to Ghana’s democratic ideals? How did Rwanda rise above the politicization of her ethnicity and ethnicization of her politics to become one of Africa’s economic success, despite its few natural resources and initial hostility from the international community? Was it also for nothing that the Soviet Union collapsed?I am not a fan of Donald Trump but, in a sense, the man has surpassed the economic growth index expectations of most Americans within the lean space of time he has assumed the leadership of his country as president of America.
With a particular reference to Nigeria, why has political entrepreneurship become the determinant of victory and why are our values now being traded for valuables by those in positions of privilege? How come “the other party”, derided as corruption-laden not too long ago, is now Nigeria’s most-appealing political party? In Osun, how did September 22, 2018 confer on us the celebration of a rerun as if it was an outright victory? And, if we may ask: why has Tinubu remained relevant in Nigeria’s socio-political space, years after leaving office as Governor of Lagos State?
In my view, Tinubu is canvassing a ‘Next Level’ that is tailored towards the needs of the people! What we need as Nigerians is an administrative system that looks for the less-disadvantaged in the society and moves in quickly to help them, not a political-sloganeering or, an overused cliché that fails to respect the sovereign will of the people. Asiwaju is advocating a system that puts premium on the essence of living, economic emancipation of the people on the one hand, and their inclusive political participation on the other, especially, now that voter inducement, suspicious community empowerment programmes, cash handouts and vote-trading are fast accessing their expiry dates. Interestingly, Abiola Ajimobi, RochasOkorocha and Bukola Saraki have become latest examples of how the people can revolt, and vote opposingly, once they realize that they have been corned and let down by unpredictable politicians!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, State of Osun, Nigeria