The national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said the executive and legislature must work together and release money to address poverty and unemployment in Nigeria.
Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, also urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to immediately put a stop to austerity measures and introduce stimulus expenditure to fast track the economy.
He stated this in Kano on Monday at the 12th colloquium to mark his 69th birthday, where he also said Nigerian leaders must fine-tune their economic programmes to favour the poor.
The Asiwaju of Lagos equally advised the federal government to employ 50 million youths in the security sector to address various breaches afflicting the country.
The colloquium was themed ‘Our Common Bond, Our Common Wealth: The Imperative of National Cohesion for Growth and Prosperity’.
President Buhari, who participated in the event virtually, said Nigeria will be stronger if it remained one.
Other people who attended the colloquium virtually included Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Daily Trust reports Osinbajo was billed to be personally present in Kano for the event but had to participate virtually from Abuja because of bad weather which did not allow planes to land at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport.
The President of Liberia, George Weah, joined the programme via Zoom.
Most of those who spoke at the event, including VP Osinbajo and Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, and his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the National Chairman of APC and Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, made their remarks in line with the theme of the colloquium, saying the unity of Nigeria was sacrosanct.
But some opposition elements said the Kano meeting was not about making Nigeria better, but a get-together of politicians desperate to remain in power beyond 2023.
Tinubu passionate about economy, wealth
In his speech at the event, Tinubu said President Buhari must shift his preference from emphasis on austerity measures to releasing money that would reach the poor.
He said: “This is the time to put stimulus expenditure in place; this is no more time for austerity. This is no more time to constrain the economy, it is time to create opportunities.”
He cited the example of the recent stimulus package by the US government while taking a dig at Nigeria’s increasing unemployment rate under the present administration.
“Your own employment rate is 33% and you ask us to keep on fasting. The one we are fasting spiritually is voluntary. We have been fasting for so many years. I hope the National Assembly, I hope the president himself will not pay attention to austerity. It is only the state that must constrain itself and balance the budget,” Tinubu said.
He added that sovereignty is that of Nigeria and it is only the federal government that has the sovereign power and must use it to improve the quality of life of Nigerians.
Tinubu also called on the government to employ more youths in the security sector.
“Surprisingly, when you see the social media today, you see the minds of our youths. They are angry, but we appeal to them that we will listen to them.
“We are under-policed and we are competing with armed robbers and bandits to recruit from the youths who are unemployed. Recruit 50 million youths into the army and take away from their recruitment source. What they will eat, cassava, corn, will grow here.
“Don’t talk about illiteracy, anybody who can hold a gun, who can handle a gun, who can cock and shoot is technically competent to repair a tractor in the farm,” he said.
Justifying why they went to Kano for the colloquium, Tinubu said it was to “demonstrate to Nigerians at this critical time.”
According to him, “It is because there is a Fulani man, a herder, who gave his daughter to a farmer, a Yoruba man. Some people are agitating wrongly. Ganduje and I represent this peaceful cohesion to Nigeria, end of story.”
He also hailed Ganduje for the developmental projects going on in Kano State.
“Ganduje has been up working – sleepless. He nearly worked me to death and I almost regretted coming … Project this, project that. If you see me dozing earlier, it was because I only slept around 4 am. We have been going on different projects tour. Kano, you are lucky.
We’re stronger as one country – Buhari
In his speech, President Buhari, who lauded Tinubu for always being an advocate of unity and cohesion in Nigeria, said the lessons from the colloquium revolved around the need for leaders and citizens to ensure that justice and harmony reign.
He said: “Despite occasional inter-ethnic tensions in our national history, it seems to me that we have all agreed on one point that, notwithstanding our diversity of ethnicity, culture, language and religion – Nigerians are better together; even stronger together.
“This has been a constant factor in his (Tinubu’s) outstanding political career; from the time he served in the short-lived Senate of the Third Republic to his involvement in the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate of the late Chief MKO Abiola, to his much-acclaimed period of service as Governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007.
“The ranks of Asiwaju’s political collaborators, whether as party members, comrades in the struggle, members of his cabinet, or his advisers, assistants and political associates, have always reflected a pan-Nigeria attitude. I believe all of us here can also confirm that the same outlook of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other like-minded Nigerians eventually made possible the coalition of four political parties into what we now see as our great party, the All Progressives Congress,’’ he said.
President Buhari said the objectives of the colloquium, which sought to provide answers to national issues, further reflected the personal principles of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in promoting the unity and welfare of the country.
“I think this colloquium is a fitting reflection of the service that Asiwaju has given, not only to Lagos State but to Nigeria and Africa; as well as his continuing commitment and influence, as one of the great pillars of our party, the All Progressives Congress,” Buhari stated.
The president said his experience of working in all parts of the country showed possibilities of a strong, united nation.
“I can also relate personally to the ideals of one Nigeria. As a military officer, I have served with great comrades from all the nooks and crannies of our country. I have seen over and over again that their goodness or failings did not depend on ethnicity or religion.
“More importantly, I fought for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967 to 1970, and I saw first-hand the unspeakable horrors of war, not just on fellow soldiers on both sides, but on the civilians: innocent children, women and elderly citizens that they left behind. As we all know, the peace-building, recovery and reconstruction that followed could also not have succeeded under an atmosphere of inter-ethnic animosity.”
We can’t afford a divided Nigeria, says Osinbajo
While contributing to the debate, Vice President Osinbajo advised those calling for Nigeria to break up to have a rethink, saying by the time they dismembered the country, they would need visas to travel to places like Kano.
Osinbajo, who was the special guest of honour, said the initial plan was to hold a completely virtual event but Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State offered to host a physical event that would run alongside the virtual one on Zoom.
“For the purveyors of breaking up into small components, into small countries, perhaps they should be reminded that we would not have been able to accept Governor Ganduje’s offer to come to Kano at a short notice since we would all have needed visas to come to Kano,” Osinbajo said.
He added that Kano was a strategic location because it was the home of radical and progressive ideals.
Daily Trust reports that self-acclaimed youth leader, Sunday Adeyemo also known as Sunday Igboho, a former militant in the Niger Delta region, Asari Dokubo, were among those who recently called for secession, citing injustice in Nigeria.
We must all be born again – Ganduje
Governor Ganduje in his speech said as far as national integration was concerned, all Nigerians must become born again.
Ge admitted that the level of cohesion in Nigeria is currently at a very low point, saying if nothing is done to change the narrative, the divisive variables will pull the country down.
Daily Trust reports that this is the first time the colloquium was held outside Lagos and Abuja since it began over one decade ago.
We should explore areas that unite us – Buni
Speaking at the event, Governor Buni urged Nigerians to explore more areas that unite the country for a prosperous future.
He said: “The people gathered here today are coming from different ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds but share a common faith in the unity and future of Nigeria.
“This is a colloquium with a difference because the celebration of Tinubu’s birthday in Kano symbolises the unity in diversity we have in the country that can be strengthened for a better Nigeria.
“This gives Nigerians and the country a fresh hope for the future, a hope for prosperity and a hope for more unity in diversity,” Buni said.
Others who could not personally make it to Kano but joined the colloquium via Zoom included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and the Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.
Kano meeting purely about 2023 – PDP stalwart
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kano and one of the leaders of the Kwankwasiyya Movement, Comrade Aminu Abdussalam Gwarzo, said Monday that it was clear to everyone that Tinubu’s choice of Kano as the venue for his 12th Colloquium was “purely a political move.”
Gwarzo, who was the deputy governorship candidate for the PDP in the 2019 election in Kano, said he disagreed with Tinubu’s opinion that the colloquium was held in Kano to enhance national cohesion, saying the APC leader had ample opportunities to show that he was a true national leader but failed to take advantage of those opportunities.
“It (colloquium in Kano) has nothing to do with national cohesion and unity. When people were asked to stand up to be counted, he wasn’t there. So many things happened recently with the most recent one being the barbaric violence that erupted in Shasa, Ibadan. Being a political leader of the South West, at least as far as APC is concerned, Tinubu should have asked for restraint and seen to be active in trying to quell the looming crisis,” he said.
He added that “As someone who is aspiring to be president of this country, Tinubu should have risen to that occasion and talked positively. You don’t just come and hold your colloquium here (Kano) and think that will be a panacea for national unity.
“As far as I am concerned, it is purely a political move, more about 2023. The APC government has failed and Tinubu is not saying anything. So many lives are being lost on a daily basis, not only in the South West,” he said.