by Stanley Achonu
“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.” – Sen Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
With the above quote, Bola Tinubu, one of the leaders of the emerging All Progressives Congress (APC), concluded the policy aspect of his speech to the British House of Commons and more importantly gave us a glimpse of what to expect from his party if they take over power in 2015.
Tinubu’s speech was a really good speech, a balanced mix of policy briefs and political talk. I don’t know if it was because of the audience – British African Diaspora – or the venue – Westminster Hall of the British House of Parliament – but the speech was not the usual kind we get from politicians at home.
I often complain that the opposition does not offer much in terms of alternative policies to the ruling party. Politics has been reduced to exchange of words between Oliseh Metuh, Reuben Abati, Reno Omokri and Doyin Okupe on one side and Rotimi Fasakin, Lai Mohammed, and Nasir El-Rufai on the other. All that exchange is just what it is – ego trip, on behalf of whatever interest they represent. Anyway, back to Tinubu’s speech.
Tinubu’s speech is the first opening to the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC) since the merger process started. As someone that strongly believes that policies should be of utmost importance to those genuinely interested in who takes power, the pattern of this speech should be brought home too, enough of the empty, carnival-like campaigns. Our people are also interested in how they will be governed.
In the speech, Tinubu says that they [APC] “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.”
So let me attempt to kickstart that by highlighting the important policy points in the speech.
1. On Power – APC recognizes that power is important and will be making it a top priority.
Hear Tinubu: “The immediate priorities will be sorting out the power requirements for all… 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.”
This statement is a broad generalisation of what will be done about power. My guess is that we will be hearing a lot of what Fashola did with the Lagos Island IPP. One expects that their power policy document will give detail of how they will attract more investment to the sector because it was rather ironic that for a sector which Tinubu considers to be a priority, he alloted only one sentence to solutions which the APC intends to provide in the sector. I hope the APC won’t be reversing any of the changes we have witnessed so far in the power sector though. It will be sad if the party thinks that reversing the gains made so far will be the best way to win over voters or attract investors.
2. On Trains – According to Tinubu, APC will prioritize “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.”
High speed rail is capital intensive, Tinubu knows this considering that he started the idea of BlueLine in Lagos. Also, APC must avoid overstating what they will do. Detail of their speed train plan must be made known to Nigerians, what routes they will construct, source of funding, delivery time. Otherwise, this will be considered another political statement that any of the parties can make.
3. On SMEs – Small business owners should pay attention here, APC brings you good tidings. Tinubu says that the APC “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.”
4. On Agriculture – Tinubu had a lot to say on Agriculture.
“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,” he said.
Creative plan? I guess this is a hint of what creative plan is when he said “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.”
It would be interesting to know what Nigeria’s urbane Agriculture minister thinks about this APC/Tinubu proposal to return the defunct marketing boards.
5. On National Social Security Programme – The unemployed are not left behind under the Tinubu plan. The APC intends to set up a social security system that will benefit those above 60 years without pension, the ‘poor’ and ‘vulnerable’. Tinubu said “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.” Good! Good!!
6. On NYSC – Are you ready for another round of reform? We know Youth Minister Inuwa Abdulakadir simply threw away whatever reform Bolaji Abdullahi started and is now simply interested in inciting chaos in the National Youth Council of Nigeria. So it should not surprise you that APC is bringing their own ideas to the table.
Tinubu says NYSC “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”.
Did you say something? Did you say additional overhead cost to government? Anyway, you heard right. Under an APC administration, NYSC MAY be extended to 18 months. But like he said the extra 6 months would be optional.
7. On the CO-CREATION hub: In what would surely please tech lovers, the CC hub, Lagos got a mention in Tinubu’s speech. Tinubu said that there will there be government funded CcHub Lagos styled innovation centres around the country.
He said, “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.”
8. On School Feeding: With funding from APC Federal Government and support from the states, Tinubu said primary and secondary school students will get a meal a day in school.
“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,” he said.
A model of this project is already ongoing in Osun states, where primary school students are given a meal daily.
9. On the Electoral Act: It is clear that the APC is unhappy with the 180-day limit for adjudication of electoral petitions. Tinubu called it a “perversion.” Remember how long it took Peter Obi to recover his mandate from Chris Ngige? What of Oshiomole vs Osunbor? You know how Liyel Imoke’s election was cancelled almost 2 years into his tenure? Anyway, Tinubu does not like that the new law demands that electoral matters must be speedily dispensed with. The APC would push for an amendment.
Also APC government will encourage INEC to use more technology in the conduct of elections. Highlighting two cases, Tinubu said: “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,” and “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?”
10. On Security: This is an issue that has posed the biggest challenge to APC. It would seem that the public [especially me] do not understand their opposition. Well it seems clearer now. According to Tinubu, the crux of the argument is that 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.”
So APC will use ‘targeted law enforcement’, ‘negotiation’, ‘economic development’ and ‘amnesty’. Isn’t that what this government is currently doing? Tinubu doesn’t think so, he says “instead, the nation has been treated to series of government inaction, indiscriminate use of force, and now a state of emergency.”
This, expectedly, is just a glimpse into the APC policy, but it is a good glimpse. Hopefully in the coming weeks and months, the APC would add some flesh to it and give us more of what their economic team is cooking.