National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, was a guest speaker at the Daily Trust annual dialogue. He was represented at the event by the former Lagos commissioner of finance, Olawale Edun.
Below are ten quotes from his speech:
1. The story of the kids and politics as a game:
“I had a talk with some young children a few weeks ago. One of the children raised his voice, saying the old people’s game will soon start. The statement puzzled me as I could not guess the sport he meant. I was taken even more off guard when he answered my subsequent question by exclaiming: “politics.”
“The young boy described how politics seemed but a game. He explained that people joined parties which were nothing more than teams. Partisans dress in funny clothes with peculiar symbols on them, carry banners at big rallies in stadiums just like fans at a football match. And politicians always boasting that the contest will be tough but they will beat the other side just like opposing footballers do. He concluded the only difference was victory in sports was measured by goals scored while in politics it was defined by votes gained.
“Initially, I was amused by the boy’s observations. I tried to explain the differences between politics and games. Yet after the children left, I pondered his observations in earnest. It hit me that his comparison was more accurate than I dared admit. Too many of us for too long have treated politics as a game open only to an elite, exclusive club of players. The nation and the people constituted the pitch upon which the game would be decided. This incorrect mindset has misshaped our politics and injured the nation in ways mundane and profound.”
2. Elections are just the beginning – governance is the end.
“Elections are not the climax of an epic book. They are merely the close of the book’s opening chapter. What comes afterwards – governance — is much more vital than politics, for governance determines how we shall live.
“Politics determines governance and governance defines the life we lead. Thus, politics can never be a game. It is a link in that vital process that spins either toward progress or toward the accumulation of problems and their dire consequences.”
3. On the fuel subsidy regime, which the Buhari regime initially claimed to have ended, but which has resurfaced again, here is what Tinubu had to say:
“We must reform the current fuel subsidy regime. At this stage it causes more problems than it cures. Bottlenecks of long fuel queues, erratic supply, resultant economic dislocations for consumers from lack of fuel and the corrupt practices of trade insiders undermine the good intentions upon which the subsidy is based. Currently, the subsidy does not benefit the average person. It sweetly profits the elites who manipulate the program to their own advantage. We need to allow market forces to more directly determine price. We need to open the now closed market to more suppliers. In this way, we may better harmonise supply and demand, where they do the most sustainable economic good.”
4. The APC campaigned on a promise to repair the social safety net of the country. Three years later, Tinubu said in his speech that “we must repair our social safety net.”
“Old people who have given so much to the nation are being shortchanged and forced to live in penury when they should be living in the dignity due their advanced years and their former labors.
“Mr. President won the 2015 election on a platform that included economic recovery, job creation and improved welfare for workers. In keeping with his promise, one of his first executive actions was to arrange federal funding of nearly N800b for states to pay salary arrears; also, the subsequent refund of over N800b of Paris Club excess payment came with a similar guidance to State Governors to prioritise salary arrears and payments.
These laudable initiatives notwithstanding, clearing of salary arrears is still not fully achieved although it has clearly taken on an importance not seen in prior governments. Meanwhile, the issue of longstanding mounting arrears of pension payments and retirement benefits to public sector workers remains outstanding. The total figure is estimated in trillions. This not only results in untold hardship for pensioners and their families, it denies the economy of needed stimulus and growth from the increased purchasing power resulting from payment of pensions.”
5. The government has made big progress in beating Boko Haram into retreat, said Tinubu.
“None of us should forget the looming threat Boko Haram posed and the fear it instilled in the general public just a brief time ago. It had planted its flag over Nigerian land, claiming territory bigger than several nations. It had kidnapped and killed at will, decimating towns and villages in its wake.
“The dreaded terrorist flag is nowhere to be seen and steadily people are returning to their homes, rebuilding their towns and villages in the process. Boko Haram may not be completely defeated but it shall never rise again to be the existential threat it once was. Because of this government’s policy, countless lives have been saved from the grasp of terror.”
6. On the herdsmen-farmers clashes, Tinubu said they did not start with this administration, but it is a great thing that Nigerians are crying against the killings now:
“No one should pretend that this evil just suddenly appeared from nowhere. We have been living and dying with this lethal situation for many years. In years past, there have been herdsmen attacks smaller than this. There also have been attacks larger than this.
“The current hue and cry against these killings is hopefully a sign that we are maturing as a nation. That we shall no longer countenance the wanton destruction of human lives no matter the religion, ethnicity or origin of the victims or the villains. If so, maybe this nation is coming of age and none too soon. As such, this outcry is as welcome as it is overdue. We should have been agitating in this manner 5, 10, 15 years ago. Lives would have been saved. For reasons I cannot completely fathom we have come late to the point of strong, collective outrage at this bloodletting. Yet, all in all, late is better than never in this regard.
“True patriotism requires that you love more than the concept of Nigeria. You must love the people who comprise this nation, whether they worship in a church, mosque, and shrine or not at all. Over the course of history, nations have faced crises more crimson than this. Through wise policy, many nations emerged from the thicket better situated to realize their better destiny. These nations and their people are no better than us. We can and we must do the same thing.”
7. So what must be done to solve the crisis? Here is Tinubu’s view:
“I welcome the deployment of more law enforcement and military into the troubled areas. These security measures will stem the immediate violence and loss of life. As we commend these security measures, we must not lose sight of the fact that the problem bears an economic origin. Thus, agro-economic policy initiatives must help shape the lasting solution.
“The crux of the matter is that the nomadic way of life is fast becoming obsolete. Large scale nomadic practice does not belong in this day and age. This is reality and it is inescapable. Thus, herders have no right to cling to this way of life by killing others. Government must stop their violence but also offer them a viable new way of life by moving them toward more modern, non-nomadic cattle rearing.
“Additionally, government should establish a relief and rehabilitation program for those families and communities that have been so grievously harmed. In short, to resolve this lethal problem, government must implement a multi-dimensional policy that encompasses security, agro-economic, educational and emergency relief elements. This is the art and mastery of governance that our nation and its complex problems require.”