BY GBENGA OLAWEPO-HASHIM
Just when a number of patriotic Nigerians were begining to express concerns about the ethno-religious nuances of the messaging in the 2023 campaigns, the Presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, launched the eighty five page document envisioning the road map for governance if he and his running mate Kashim Shettima are elected.
The document should help to fundamentally refocus discuss on the real issues about the future of Nigeria- economic prosperity, national security, infrastructural and social development.
This for me is a welcome relief from the inane, emotive and the ephemeral, which the discussions surrounding 2023 Presidential Election has been, especially in the social media.
Immediately the document was released, I tried to get a feedback from some of my younger friends, one, a Deputy director in a Federal agency, another, a music artiste. Their reactions were the same. The one who is a public servant summarised the perspective of both of them, “Oga, eighty pages that is theory, let us talk practical things.”
The reactions of these my friends who are both graduates summarizes the prevailing anti intellectual culture in Nigeria among young people. I understand most young people do not want to read. I am usually counselled by my online advisors that any post longer than eight or ten lines runs the risk of not been read. Short hilarious or items suggesting sex or portraying nudity do better.
I picked up issues with these my friends immediately, asking “what is wrong with theory?”
I am yet to see any country in the world where the leaders promised a new society without laying a bold plan and a road map. Sometimes leaders exceed the target in the implementation of their plans and sometimes they underperform.
When we talk about the French revolution, we talk about the several Writings of French philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu. We talk about the Federalist papers of leaders of the American revolution apart from inspirational works of writers like Thomas Paine. In Russia, we talk about V.I Lenin’s New Economic Plan (NEP), that transformed Tsarist Russia uncompetitiveness in Europe into a modern state between (1918-1922). The nation on that foundation became a Super power.
In Nigeria, our Independence leaders such as Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello laid down several thousands of pages of documents on their dream for a great Nigeria, and they delivered on their plans with Nigeria becoming one of the leading countries of the third world, a step ahead in the club of Malaysia and Thailand. The superlative performance of the Nigerian independence leaders between the period of limited independence and early independence (1955 -1966), had boldly written programmes as guide to action.
It was this culture on anchoring a political vision on a solid boldly written plan, programme, and action that Kingsley Moghalu and I in our intervention in the 2019 Presidential campaigns tried to re-awaken.
Documenting a vision is a priceless practice in the scripture. “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” (Habakkuk 2:2).
What Candidate Ahmed Tinubu has done is to plainly lay down his vision.
Now to the document itself, I will only limit myself to a quick review of Tinubu’s Economic plans, some comments on National Security and my expectation on the management of Nigeria’s diversity, due to space constraints. I would be more detailed on the Economy, because whatever promises anybody is making, if you do not have a plan of how to find the money, everything else is a Joke!
Here I have seen Tinubu’s profound grasp of Political Economy in a way equal or deeper than the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo. That should be expected as the Asiwaju lives in an era of more information.
I start with his position on budgeting. Hear him: “Budgeting custom bases our annual budget and fiscal policies largely on the dollar value of projected oil receipts, not only does this practice artificially restricts the Federal Government’s fiscal latitude, it also attracts the Nation’s attention towards a single source of fiscal receipt to the detriment of others”
Continuing, candidate Tinubu offers his solution “To achieve optimal growth in the long term we must wean ourselves from this limitation. A more efficient fiscal methodology would be to base our budgeting on the projected level of government spending which optimises growth and jobs without causing unacceptable inflation.”
I cannot agree more. This is a radical departure from the Bretton woods orthodoxy that has constrained growth since 1986 when IMF and World Bank succeeded in Hijacking Economic planning in Nigeria or better put, when Nigeria stopped Economic planning.
The proposed 10% Economic growth target is achievable, and if the accompanying fiscal and monetary measures are vigorously implemented, it is supassable given the country’s current massive infrastructural deficit of 20-25 % to GDP stock has compared to infrastructural stocks of middle income economies in the range of 70% stock of GDP as well as the Nation’s high unemployment rate.
The economic plan correctly singles out the digital economy as one low hanging fruit for foreign exchange earnings as well as job creation. Nigeria potential in this regard is even underestimated in the document. Nigeria is a latent cyber power, the 7th largest Internet user country in the world with over 104.4m users, the Global outsourcing market in the digital space is over 500billion dollars. Nigeria has a big advantage, having a young, huge, fluent English speaking and writing population that is enthusiastic about coding and software development.
To be added to the digital sector as low hanging fruit for the economy will be a programme of optimization of Nigeria’s competitiveness, and efficiency in oil and gas as one of the sources of immediate cash for a growth focused economic plan.
The oil and gas sector was mentioned in passing in the Renewed Hope 2023 document because of an understandable bias for the next new economy. We just needed a few tweaking in structure and personnel as well as applicable fiscal regime in the oil and gas sector to harvest our natural advantages in the few remaining life of fossil fuel as an energy source.
Candidate Tinubu’s Tax plan is superb, that is his turf. His industrial and manufacturing agenda are inspiring. His planned return of Commodity boards is bold and welcomed. The commodities boards where technically Agric insurance platforms, their absence in the past thirty something years as a result of the pressure of the IMF for them to be scrapped has seen Nigeria lost its competitive advantage in crops like cocoa, groundnuts, oil palm, cotton etc.
In summary, the Tinubu Economic plan is core progressive policy platform that will return Nigeria to economic development, a path we traveled before in the first Republic and achieved phenomenal development.
It is the path Malaysia, China, India, have walked recording outstanding results. It is the path Samir Amin calls the path of Autocentric National development, away from the path of arrested development of the past four decades.
On the section on National Security, I have only seen basic and routine recommendations apart from the promise of an integrated database. I understand that you cannot be detailed in a published document on Security Plans, but I would have loved to see some real meat.
I have not also seen serious position on how Asiwaju intends to manage the diversity of the country at a time of great division.
Renewed Hope 2023 did not show as much depth and detail as we saw in the management of the economy in this equally important area. Perhaps this is a tactics to avoid difficult questions from his North West supporters that his campaign appears to be seriously cultivating for their potentially huge votes. I hope this will not define his government even if he wins.
He needs to pay better attention to matter of inclusiveness and political balancing. Mobilising for Economic growth will be a huge challenge in the absence of National cohesion, unity and peace.
Aside from the salient issue of not been convincing on the question of politcal balancing, key question of devolution of powers and inclusivity, the Renewed Hope 2023 document is a welcome relief in a campaign season that has been clouded by inanities and the mundane.
The former Vice President and candidate of the PDP, Waziri Abubakar Atiku(GCON), now has to show the nation his own document. In fairness to him, he presented something fairly robust in 2019 whether this will suffice now is a different matter.
Mr Obi, a major third candidate on the platform of the Labour Party whose supporters have brought energy and enthusiasm which has seen an increase in youth participation in voters registration must now step forward. The nation will like to see and scrutinise his vision for a New Nigeria.
The nation will like to see more depth from him than the short snippets from his very energetic and creative “obidients”.
The bar has been raised by the launching of ‘Renewed Hope 2023’.
Dwelling on APC candidate’s health risks, a challenge faced by the PDP candidate, will not be of any value to Obi, Sowore and the other younger candidates.
Most Nigerians will rather follow frail looking older men that are demonstrating grasp of issues and capacity rather than the younger candidates if all they can show is their physical fitness, emotive phrases, shallow monologues, a few unconvincing record of achievements and young enthusiastic followers with no coherent body of ideas.
The real debate has started, let it continue!
*Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim is a 2009 Lord Max Beloff Prize winner in Global Affairs and Presidential Candidate in the 2019 General Elections.