VP’s Remarks At The 11th Bola Ahmed Tinubu Colloquium Themed: Work For People
AT NEXT LEVEL, WE WILL INCREASE OPPORTUNITIES FOR NIGERIANS TO LIVE BETTER LIVES, SAYS VP OSINBAJO
*Adds: …We will expand N-Power, School Feeding, TraderMoni, MarketMoni, Power, others
*Speaks about Tinubu’s rare leadership and doggedness
“At the Next Level, we will, of course, expand our social investment programmes; at the moment, the programme is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the African continent. It is a very important programme for us also because of the multiplier effect on agriculture and also in the distribution of the products and also those we employ as cooks.
“The same is true of our TraderMoni programme, a component of our Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), where we are giving money to the bottom of the trading pyramid in Nigeria.
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE 11TH BOLA TINUBU COLLOQUIUM THEMED: WORK FOR PEOPLE, AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, ON THURSDAY, 28TH OF MARCH, 2019.
We are here for the 11th edition of the Bola Tinubu Colloquium. This is a yearly development gathering where we try to question and interrogate some of the difficult questions on economic and social development, not just in Nigeria, but also across the world.
We do it in celebration of a man who has spent the last thirty years of his life in creative and catalytic public service. He has from his days as Governor of Lagos State, provided clarity of thought and pioneering vision in all aspects of governance.
He is not a lawyer, but there are few Nigerians who have provoked so many legal controversies and constitutional challenges, resulting in several landmark judicial rulings, especially in the area of federalism, and what today is loosely described today as restructuring.
Many of us know, of course, that he is not an engineer, but a lot of his vision is what is responsible for what we see today in Lagos. The BRT, the Lekki Industrial Zone, even the Eko Atlantic Project, a private project which he initiated as governor of Lagos state and of course, the reform in the tax system in Lagos.
Today, Lagos earns more in Internally Generated Revenue than 31 States of Nigeria put together. That reform began in 2001with the very innovative way in which he reformed the tax system and created an independent system – the Lagos Inland Revenue Service. Several African countries and States of Nigeria have engaged the LIRS as consultants for their own reform efforts.
How about electoral reform? In 2007, when our party, then the ACN, was rigged out of the elections in Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and in Edo state, Asiwaju invited me to his residence at Bourdillion. He said to me that the only way by proving that there were multiple voting is by going through the courts, i.e. proving that a few people simply thumb printed the ballot papers, dumped them in ballot boxes and they were counted in favour of the opposition.
He then said to me that the only way we can do it is by somehow proving by forensic evidence that this is exactly what happened. I said to him that nobody has ever proved an electoral petition by forensic evidence; there is just no history of it. And I said what is, even more, is that there are over a million ballot papers, about 1.3 million ballot papers in all the States. So, how can you prove multiple voting? He said to me “Yemi, you have heard my view about this issue, just go and find a way of sorting this out.”
So I went to the UK and met with possibly the most experienced fingerprint expert in the entire United Kingdom, a gentleman called Adrian Forty, introduced to me by some of the Queen’s Counsels. When I told him the enormity of the problem, he laughed and almost fell off his chair. He said in almost 50 years of his experience as a fingerprint expert, he hasn’t done up to 4000 fingerprints, and now we asked him to do 1.3million fingerprints.
We parted that day which was a Thursday, and then he got in touch again on a Monday and said we should discuss further. Somehow, we designed a way and used a bit of technology. Most importantly, we got the number of fingerprint experts that have never been assembled before, and we hired 63 of fingerprint experts. 50 of them were from the UK Police. What was more interesting about that is getting the UK Police to support us was for Asiwaju to come all the way from Nigeria to the UK to talk to friends and people who he knew, to persuade persuading the UK authorities to allow us use UK Police.
In the end, they allowed us to use the Policemen in their spare time. We got 63 policemen working flat out for almost 6 months. We were able to put together, for the first time in the history of elections tribunal in the history of the world, we put together a solid forensic case that showed all of the places we were defeated was on account of multiple thumb printing. We also showed that for instance, you cast 20,000 votes, when we calculated the time to cast one vote, it is usually about 5 minutes but we discovered that our friends in the other political party were able to cast that number of votes in 5 seconds. All they were doing was simply thumb-printing booklets, as many as possible.
We demonstrated this in court, and one by one, we were able to get back the States that had been taken away from us. The only way that could have ever been achieved is surely not just by the vision, but by the determination of our leader at that time, the leader of the ACN. He showed the kind of leadership that was very rare and not only defining what he thought was the way forward, but also supporting it in every way and backing it to the very end.
The last State that we finally won was Osun State, after almost 3 years of battling. One of the things that we would agree about our celebrant today is his dogged attitude and his refusal to accept no for an answer.
Ashiwaju also pioneered merit in cabinet appointments in particular. I want to emphasize this because a major draw back we have, as a nation, is the way we are blindsided into thinking that we can avoid merit and expect to achieve great things. We simply cannot avoid merit.
Ashiwaju demonstrated in the years when he was governor, that political appointments, especially cabinet appointments, should be based on merit. He looked for those that he considered the best possible material at the time regardless of where they were from.
For the first time in the history of Lagos State, we had cabinet members from other parts of the country, beginning with other parts of the Southwest. Rauf Aregbesola from Osun State, I from Ogun State, Arthur Worrey from Delta, Lai Mohammed from Kwara State, Dele Alake from Ekiti State, Ben Akabueze from Anambra State.
We also had the appointments of Judges from all over the country; Justice Onyeabo and Justice Sybil Nwaka were appointed Judges of Lagos State. There is no other State elsewhere in the country except in some places in the North, where we have seen the appointment of individuals from other States. Picking people for positions no matter what part of the country they are from is an important part of our story as a country. Every once in a while, I think that history gives us one or two persons who are gifted transformative leaders. I believe that our country has been gifted with this transformative leader, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I believe very strongly that this man’s political trajectory has only just begun. He is a man who has tremendous giftings and God has great plans ahead for him.
I pray for you, Ashiwaju, that as your days so shall your strength, wisdom and favour be in Jesus Mighty name, amen!
Let me say a word or two about the Next Level. As you know, the expression Next Level itself is our political campaign slogan in this last election. And what we were saying was simply that there was a next phase to what our country has seen. There are many who will say that there were many things that were promised in 2015, which have not yet been realized. I think the best way of putting is to simply say that our country, for the first time is experiencing the type of leadership that is bound to lead us to where it is that we are purposed for ourselves as a government.
In my view, the honest leadership, leadership with the integrity of our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, is a very important component of getting anywhere at all in all of our development plans. I had said before at the last colloquium that Nigeria’s main problem is not the lack of ideas, it is not the lack of projects and programmes. It was most of the time, especially with the leadership in the past, it was a lack of integrity in leadership and corruption, in particular, was the reason why we were finding it difficult to make progress.
I explained that that’s why we earned $383billion in four years, 2010 – 2014, the highest ever in the history of our country, and yet Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was not done. Lagos-Kano Railway and all that is being done today, not done then. We cannot point to a single major infrastructure project that was completed in the 10-year period, despite the high earnings, including power.
So, a government coming after so many years of waste must be a government, first, that emphasizes fiscal prudence, a government that emphasizes integrity in public finance so that it would manage the little resources to achieve the maximum that can be achieved. And that is what President Muhammadu Buhari set out to do. As I keep saying, the president has never claimed to be an orator. He just gets things done.
It was under President Muhammadu Buhari that three of the four refineries that we have today were built when he was Minister of Petroleum Resources. 3500km of pipelines were built by him as Minister of Petroleum Resources in a three-year period. So, there is a track record, not of talking, but of just getting things done. And this is what we have seen in the past four years. That is why we were able to set aside money for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. And that is going on at present. That is why we opened up the first phase of the Lagos-Kano Railway that was commissioned a couple of weeks ago i.e the Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan phase of that project. The Itakpe-Warri Railway, now completed after 35 years of being on the books.
The Light Rail project here in Abuja started in 2005, budget after budget, never completed, but we completed it also at the end of 2017.
We now have that light rail from the airport to Idu here in Abuja, same as several other infrastructural projects. Mambila Hydro has been on the cards for 40 years. We have just put together resources to begin that project and we will complete that project.
For us, infrastructure is critical at the Next Level. You cannot have a situation where you have the kind of power situation we have today and expect transformative progress. That is why we are focused on power and other infrastructure. We are focused on fixing the infrastructure in the country and we believe that if we fix the infrastructure, the roads and the rail, and especially power, we will be able to make significant progress.
Today our rail project starts from the Apapa port so that we are able to clear the congestion in that port because the Lagos to Kano railway starts from the Apapa port. And we can start taking out cargo from the Apapa port using rail as an alternative means of transportation.
The same is true of agriculture; and we just heard our partners from Brazil talking about the next phase of our agricultural development and we are committed to that project because we believe that is what will transform the agro-industrial phase of our planning and that is what will transform agriculture in this country and create additional jobs.
It is not enough to have farmers everywhere; we need the refining capacity; we need the processing capacity and that is what our partnership with the Brazilians will provide for us.
On the reforms we are making in education and healthcare, today the emphasis is on digital literacy; the emphasis is on training our teachers to be able to train the next generation of children in school.
And we are focused on doing so using some of the methods we have described very comprehensively not just in theERGP, but in our Next Level document.
So, we are focusing on STEAM not STEM; we are focusing on training young people on digital skills, critical thinking and some other skills that are necessary for the kind of jobs that the 21st century will provide.
The same is true of healthcare, our focus on healthcare is on National Health Insurance because we cannot finance healthcare by the budget alone; compulsory National Health Insurance that will open the doors for financing healthcare for us.
Finally, we are talking again about our Social Investment Programmes (SIPs). At the Next Level, we will, of course, expand our Social Investment Programme; at the moment, the programme is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the African continent.
In our school feeding programme, we are feeding every day, 9.2 million children in public schools across 26 states. That programme is important not just from the point of view of providing nutrition for many of the young people in public schools, many of whom come from very poor parents and may not be assured of a decent meal a day. It is a very important programme for us also because of the multiplier-effect on agriculture and also in the distribution of the products and also those we employ as cooks.
The same is true of our TraderMoni programme, a component of our Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), where we are giving money to the bottom of the trading pyramid in Nigeria. It is a programme of the Bank of Industry where we give loans of N10, 000 to petty traders through their mobile phones and they get N15,000 when they pay back, then N20,000 and more up to N100,000.
The same is true of our MarketMoni which we give to traders in cooperatives. So far, we have over a million TraderMoni beneficiaries and about 500,000 MarketMoni beneficiaries and we intend to expand the scope of that.
We also intend to expand the scope of our N-Power programme which is our job scheme for young people. Young graduates coming out of school and some non-graduates. At the moment, we are engaging 500,000 of these young people and we pay them every month. Most of them have devices/tablets that contain training materials in enhancing their viability skills and also helps them to provide services to people who require them.
We intend to expand the programme; we must expand the programme because 1.7million people come out of school and are looking for jobs every single year, we are able to bridge that gap by engaging 500,000 of them as soon as they come out of school.
So, the Next Level promises to be exciting, though a bit challenging as possibly as where we are coming from. But as the President has said repeatedly, we have no other focus but the progress of this country. And we will ensure that step-by-step, we get to where it is that we promised to take the country.
I want to say to you all that the Next Level is for all of us and I urge that all of us cooperate to take us to this Next Level.
So, on behalf of the President, Muhammadu Buhari whom I represent here today, I want to wish Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, happy birthday and to thank you all for making out time to come to this event.
Thank you all.