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Tinubu to Buhari: Revisit privatisation process

…warns against tax increment, unjustified electricity charges

March 28, 2019

National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, on Thursday, handed down what could be described as a blueprint to the leader of his party, President Muhammadu Buhari on how to move Nigeria to the ‘Next Level’, a slogan derived from his second term electioneering campaign.

Tinubu, who spoke at the 11th Colloquium marking his 67th Birthday at a colourful event in Abuja, cautioned that whatever the administration intended to do must be done in such a way and manner that takes Nigerians away from penury and empower them economically.

Tinubu, whose speech was entitled, “Work for the people that the people may work for themselves”, pointed out that in a bid to achieve the desired economic boom for Nigeria, the government must resist the temptation to blindly follow the economic path of other nations.

At the ceremony presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on behalf of President Buhari, Tinubu also warned against the planned increment of taxes by the government, saying it would worsen the poverty lives of the common people.

The former Lagos governor suggested that the government could widen its tax nets rather than raising taxes in order not to exacerbate the plight of the people.

After assessing the economic models and performance of many leading countries and highlighting the challenges associated with them, Tinubu counselled Buhari that a conscious effort must be made to build the Nigerian economy to work better for Nigerians as he assumes his second term in office.

What Buhari must do in Next Level

Tinubu said: “Our pursuit of the Next Level cannot be achieved by blindly following the economic path of other nations. That would be tantamount to race to live in a building just as its long-term occupants were frantically rushing out, screaming that the edifice was mean and crumbling. If we are smart, we dare not enter.

“Instead, we must construct our Next Level on a progressive ideology and vision that will take our people out of penury, diversify our economy more aggressively, and empower and retrain our youth.

To be the great nation we purport to be, we must reform and retool our economy according to our definition of what is best for our own people. We cannot assign that duty to anyone else.

“Here, I must ask for a little liberty to amend the fine title of this colloquium: “Work for the people.” We must do more than simply work for the people. The government must “work for the people in a way that enables them to better work for themselves.

“We must amend our basic ideas about the economy. We must divorce ourselves from our fixation with GDP rates and similar statistics. These things were initially intended to be indicators, suggestive measurements. However, we have misinterpreted these road maps by treating them as if they were the destination itself.

“This has caused us to distort the organic relationship between the people and the economy.

This dominant train of thought has made the people servants to the dictates of abstract economic theories. In a more effective system, the economy would be fashioned to serve the concrete needs and legitimate aspirations of the people.

“Our economy must be redefined to be an efficient yet moral social construct with the primary goal of optimizing the long-term welfare of the people through the sustained, productive and full employment of labour, land, capital and natural resources.

“In the current global context, the best translation of laissez-faire economics is “let’s stay poor” economics. To believe that we are at our best when everyone focuses solely on maximizing their own position is to believe that one hundred hands can clutch at the same naira note but no one will get scratched.

“To pull the nation from poverty, the government must play a decisive role. It must at times direct and even develop markets and opportunities. This is nothing novel. I am only restating what the established economies did when they were young and assumed their trajectories toward growth.

Yet, how do we organize ourselves to meet this task?

While praising Buhari for taking bold steps to improve the economy, he nonetheless pleaded with him to dedicate his second term to change the very structure of our economy for the better.

Provision of Infrastructure

Tinubu also identified the provision of infrastructure as the single most important sector which the government must pay priority attention to, saying the provision of stable power would speed up development across the land.

He stated, “Affordable and reliable power will drive the industrialization that shall provide jobs in our cities and produce needed goods for all our people. In a more poetic rendering, it will take our people out of the dark ages and bring the nation into the light of a better day.

“I believe the second Buhari administration will work to increase electricity generation, transmission and distribution by more than 50 per cent within the next four years.

“We require serious and bold reforms to achieve this. What is happening to our gas pipelines? Whatever we have to invest now for our future is a task that must be done boldly. The PDP administration shared out generation, distribution and transmission to their friends and cronies without very deep and thoughtful research and evaluation. It has now become pork chops. This privatisation must be revisited. Put experts together for a more constructive reform to improve generation, transmission and distribution by any means necessary. We cannot afford to be too legalistic about this.

“Also, we should push to end the practice of billing people for electricity they never received. This practice is a vestige of the past that should not accompany us into the future. A person should be charged accurately and only for the power that they use.

“Government should continue to aggressively implement its national infrastructure plan. We must commit ourselves to a national highway system linking our major cities and towns, our centres of commerce, with each other. This will save lives, spur commerce, cut costs and bring Nigerians closer together.

How to tackle incessant flooding

“Water catchment and retention systems in strategic locations should also be introduced to end the destructive cycles of flood and drought affecting many areas.

“In working to transform the face of our economy, the government must also enact policies that encourage industrialization and modern agricultural practices. We must applaud President Buhari for the historic innovations made in the agricultural sector. We must further encourage him to do even more. Government-funded social security for the aged and government-backed affordable housing and mortgage facilities are things we must continue to explore in an aggressive manner.

“In the end, our future is uncertain until we enter it and make of it what we will. We can either let the future happen to us or summon the courage to make the future belong to us as other nations have done. I don’t think we really have a choice in the matter. We must take the people to the next level. It is a promise made and thus a promise that must be kept.

“Our goal is nothing less than enabling people to enjoy lives free of penury and lack. We seek to constitute a nation where all have basic sustenance and sufficient food on their tables, a sturdy and sheltering roof over their heads and the fair chance and means to sustain and further enrich their lives as they see fit. Let it be that all may live in social contentment and tranquillity with his neighbour as well as with himself. This is what we mean by the Next Level.

“I want to thank President Buhari for sharing this special day with me. The pressure of affairs facing the leader of a nation is such that you could have easily found reasons why you could not participate. Instead, you chose to be here and to even give me the compound honour of accepting to be the Chairman of this occasion.

“Mr. President, you have gone far these past few years in laying a good foundation for the economic recovery of the country. We shall go farther still so that Nigeria truly reaches the next level with you leading the way,” Tinubu said.

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