By Bola Ahmed Tinubu
|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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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?
6. 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.
7. 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.
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.
8. 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 kidnappings. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. To capture unemployed graduates the Youth Corp 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 Youth Corp 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.
12. 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 program 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.
BECOMING A FULL DEMOCRACY
13. Now, we know that by themselves, elections do not constitute democracy. Yet, a nation cannot be a democracy without genuine elections.
If Nigeria is to mature as a democracy, we must improve our electoral system. Today, those who control the system manipulate elections with such impunity that they now see misconduct without sanction as a normal way of life.
Look at the recent controversy surrounding election of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) chairman. Thirty-five state governors assembled to vote for the chairmanship. They did this among themselves by secret ballot. One contestant earned 19 votes. The other attracted 16. In a place where honesty matters, the result would be clear and undisputed.
But not in today’s Nigeria under the current leadership. The chap who earned fewer votes was declared the winner by those who backed him. In Nigeria, the tenets of basic arithmetic have little application concerning elections. Votes do not count, they are concocted.
Elections are not necessarily won by the candidate with the highest votes. Elections are won by the candidate of the powerful and mighty. Consequently, a group comprising all the nations’ governors could not even conduct a simple 35-person election without a disputed outcome.
14. This little episode would be laughable if it were an isolated incident. However, it is emblematic of a larger, more troubling pattern that portends calamity if not arrested. With this recent experience, I fear the length those in power would go and the means they would employ to manipulate results when the battleground is the entire nation and the stakes are the general elections in 2015.The NGF debacle symbolizes a disdain for democracy and the popular will. If we are to save Nigeria, we must rescue the electoral process from its abusers.
In the main, elections during the current Fourth Republic have been substandard. They remind us that though democratic governance is inherently civilian, civilian government is not necessarily democratic.
15. Our system is constructed to preserve the unjust gains of electoral misconduct and presents steep evidentiary and other legal challenges to those whose mandates have been pilfered by rigging and the strange arithmetic of vote counting in Nigeria. We have had too many false winners who were true losers.
Another very grievous example of this perversion is the 180-day limit in judicial intervention in disputed election outcome. This fails to meet the grund norms of the rule of law. In this case, the right of the citizen is abridged through the backdoor. I Insist, this is an unconstitutional amendment. It is illegal for only 2/3rd of the National Parliament to pass such an amendment, affecting the rigths of an individual. The constitution to which we subscribe and equally that of developed democracies we emulate requires four-fifth of the Nation’s Parliament to pass such amendment. What we have should be thrown out or challenged in court.
The Electoral Reform Committee chaired by former Chief Justice Uwais was established to end our unique electoral anomaly. The panel recommended a blue print for sanitizing our electoral system. Some of the key points include the need for INEC budgetary and administrative independence. INEC must emerge from under the clutch of the presidency. Under the current situation, the President can intimidate and steamroll INEC.
Again, one of the most important recommendations of the Uwais Committee was that of employing modern technology for registration and voting. This is to improve the integrity of our elections. We must embrace that technology now. We need a fully bio-metric voter registration and balloting system.
Let me repeat – we need a fully biometric voter registration and balloting system.
16. The lack of a functional Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) System accounts for much of the abuse of the current process. The debate over BVR goes to the fundamental quality of our elections. With BVR we have a chance at honest elections. Without it, we are doomed to repeat past failures.
This system was applied in Ghana. It worked. Other African countries – Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Tanzania – used biometric registers and validation system for their general elections. It worked. If Nigeria truly is the leader and giant of Africa, let us act like it.
If smaller nations can take this step to assume the continental lead in the quality and integrity of their electoral processes, let us regain the leadership role by taking the necessary step to embrace this system as well.
17. The objective of the data capture and finger printing is to eliminate multiple voting. However, INEC’s present system negates this. Why take fingerprints, capture biometric data and then discard the information on the all-important voting day by resorting to manual accreditation? Unless INEC embraces biometric verification and revalidation during the exercise, our elections will remain more an exercise in deception and subterfuge than in democracy and probity.
WHY THE STRUGGLE?
18. I am a Nigerian patriot and a Nigerian progressive. These are not facile labels to be easily used and discarded. I consider both as badges of honor. Proudly, I wear each of them. As progressives, we fight for free and fair elections to accomplish a purpose much loftier than the elections themselves.
We do not seek fair elections so that our members may enter office and behave the same way as the ruling party. We seek not to remove the ruling party from power so that we might imitate them. We seek their removal because we intend to provide a strongly more progressive, forward looking, visionary leadership.
They are the prison guards of an unjust status quo holding the people captive. We have nothing less in mind than to change the face of our political economy for the benefit of our people and our country, Nigeria.
19. It had been said that Nigerian politicians all believe in the same thing: themselves.
This has never been true. Today its falsity is even more glaring. When the current administration sought to abolish the fuel subsidy under cover of darkness last year, we opposed it by offering an approach that would increase government spending in favour of the people. We insisted that if it must be done, such funds must be dedicated to programmes of vital social services in proportion to the amount of the subsidy removed.
We seek fiscal federalism where state and local governments are more empowered to spur development at the grassroots level. Those in power use unconstitutional means, such as the illegal Excess Crude Account and the Sovereign Wealth Fund, to retain central government control over funds belonging to the States. They also weaken the states by imposing a variety of unfunded federal mandates that stress and strain already tight state budgets. By these measures, they make States more subservient to central government. Also, the people are punished through the denial of needed resources to improve the quality of life.
The official youth unemployment rate approaches a frightening 60 percent, while the rate of graduate unemployment hovers around 30 and 35 per cent. No scenario can be more frightening. However, the present government is promoting statistical growth without evidence of its corresponding impact on the people. If this is growth, we want no part of it.
20. On provision of energy, billions have been spent on power, but the Power Holding Company of Nigeria remains powerless. Meanwhile, the people grope in darkness. Industries are collapsing and manufacturing base goes into extinction. Again, this government praises its artificial solutions to real actual problems. For them, this is enough. For the people, it is a bleak house. My Goodness, if this is growth, we want no part of it!
21. This government promised peace and security but under its unwatchful eye, insecurity has grown. Boko Haram has turned large tracts of northern Nigeria into no man’s land with live and property under severe threat and economic activities have come to a standstill. Yet, this government has not seen the correlation between poverty, injustice and the rule of law. Nigerians have become increasingly divided as a people because government continues to take faulty steps. They have ignored the cause and gone after the symptoms. Yet, the government has the responsibility to end foreign or homegrown terrorism. On this, we are ready to partner with government to end this scourge.
The current administration should apply a consistent policy of targeted law enforcement operations in conjunction with an active program of economic development, negotiations and potential amnesty for penitent Boko Haram members. Instead, the nation has been treated to series of government inaction, indiscriminate use of force, and now a state of emergency. The Jonathan government set up a special Committee on Boko Haram and Security matters but sadly before they could perform, he declared State of Emergency in three Northern states: Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. This is symptomatic of a confused leadership. If there is security in this jumbled policy, neither I nor the majority of Nigerians can find it!
On the State emergency declared, we told our National Assembly members to support it so long as it operates without affecting the democratic structure and without the federal government dipping its hands into the treasury of the States concerned.
Before the end of the State of Emergency, we hope government will enumerate the number of victims including orphans, and the number of churches, mosques and properties of economic value destroyed. Government must them move to compensate the victims.
22. There is a great philosophical gulf separating the current government from us progressives. This current Nigerian government is a retrogressive one. Much of what they claim as growth is but the harsh redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. The bottom gets squeezed while the top expands. They are serving us the salad of corruption. They consume our today and squander the nation’stomorrow. For 14 years, the PDP led government cannot turn anything around. A new leadership is required to put a stop to this.
In more visual terms, the economy is being reconstructed as an oasis for a small few and a stark desert for the many. This government pretends to endorse the same budget-cutting austerity policies that now rend much of Europe. We are not Europe, we are a 3rd World economy. That these policies have failed in European nations with higher standards of living than Nigeria gives our leaders no concern. They rather follow the herd over the cliff than save the nation by standing alone and exercising independent thinking and charting a new economic path.
It seems our leaders have an abiding faith in the capacity of our people to endure every form of indignity and poverty. They assume that Nigerians are sadistic and enjoy being punished. This is not true. The leaders purport to be democratic but they operate as if in a discriminatory system where there are few escape valves.
Our people live in dire straits. But this government would rather waste the money than spend it on the public benefit. They do not believe the people are worth it. The money is more important. They claim to be hoarding it for that mythical rainy day, when most Nigerians are drowning in poverty. If that is not troubled waters, I don’t know what new calamity will make this government ever recognize the need to build the new bridges needed for the people to cross over into prosperity.
I have said this before and I shall say it again. These leaders would rather save the money and spend the people. We progressives would rather spend the money to save the people.
23. In essence, that is what this political struggle is about. Do the people want a government that values its accounting ledgers more than the people’s welfare or a government that prudently uses its resources to stimulate economic growth, that will touch every life in every village, city and hamlet of our nation?
In our approach to the political economy, we do not rely on textbook answers because we do not live in textbooks. We live in the real world and thus seek answers from real world experiences.
Here is a real world fact: No large nation has ever attained sustained growth without government running budget deficits to build the required infrastructure and without other government policies promoting development of the key industries that would become the spine of national development.
24. Here is another such fact: No populous nation ever attains prosperity solely by extracting its raw material to exchange them for the finished goods of other large nations. We must industrialize and diversify our economy so that it provides more employment and that employment creates a virtuous cycle by spurring greater demand that spurs even greater production and employment. This is not theory. It is the pragmatic way to recover from the present depression.
Unless we do this, the retrogressive elite will continue to sing about how well Nigeria is doing while the rest of the nation becomes engulfed in the tidewaters of consuming poverty.
It is for this reason — to save the nation from the stranglehold of permanent poverty and poor governance — that the members of the progressive opposition political parties have decided to put aside personal ambition (including my own ambition) to form a new party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. We do this because Nigeria has entered a critical state of economic depression.
Because of the unfair nature of our electoral processes and of the gross imbalance of our political economy, the people have been props in a drama for which they should have been the main characters. We must change this.
We must move Nigeria from the place where the whims and narrow wishes of a self-centered reactionary elite dictate the fate of over 150 million people. Let Nigeria enter the place where the people take center stage and their elected leaders cease misbehaving like a modern-day aristocracy and get on with the task of national development in earnest.
First, we need to sanitize the electoral system. Material reform is needed. Unless reform comes, the next election will be abysmal and the people’s will shall not prevail. And that would be dangerous. Let the next election be a fair and open contest between the PDP power and our progressive vision for change.
On our side, we will take our chances with a free and fair election. For we shall offer the people an innovative program consisting of a national industrial policy that includes radical infrastructural development and employment targets. It includes revival of agriculture through commodity exchange boards, education reform and of the modernization of essential social services including primary health care, especially for women and children to reduce maternal and infant mortality.
These and other people-oriented measures we pledge. We look forward to a public comparison of our plans to those of the past 14 years under the current government. This is what democracy is about. Let the people inspect each party’s wares then vote for the package that suits them. In an honest and transparent manner.
A truly free and fair election is what the Progressives ask for. One man. One vote. If we get this, we shall win because we seek to provide a new leadership that will lead Nigeria to a better place and future. A country where no responsible mother is forced to send her children to bed without food, where no son watches his mother pass away because he can’t afford basic medical care and where every child can taste of a quality education that allows them to dream of being doctors, scientists, farmers, business people, nation builders, and even dream of being the president of our land.
A Nigeria where everyday brain drain is converted to brain gain. This is the Nigeria we seek. This is the Nigeria that shall come to pass.
I thank you for listening.
Text of a paper delivered by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Leader, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) at the Grand Ballroom, Westminster Hall, House of Parliament, London, as part of the conference convened by the British Africa Diaspora Conference, June 10, 2013.