…Shettima: APC standard bearer and I will replicate our Lagos, Borno feats
…Nigeria’s unity, power devolution not negotiable, says PDP candidate
…LP flagbearer promises to transform Nigeria to a productive economy
Presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi yesterday rolled out their plans on the economy and insecurity, two of the most critical problems confronting the country.
They were guests at a plenary of the ongoing 62nd Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference (NBA-AGC) in Lagos.
The conference theme is Bold Transitions, while the session theme was: Democratic transitions in 21st Century Nigeria: 2023 and beyond.
Nigerians have been reeling under tough economic conditions, with inflation at over 19 per cent, an all-time high in 17 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
There have been frequent terror attacks, including kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, killings and farmer-herder clashes, among others.
But the presidential candidates sounded confident they would solve the problems if given the chance in 2023.
They also sold their plans on how to revamp the economy.
The flag bearers of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Adewole Adebayo and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peter Umeadi (former Chief Judge of Anambra State) also answered questions on their plans.
The keynote speaker, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, said Nigeria must get its leadership choice right at the poll next year.
The session, moderated by former NBA president Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), had an estimated 13,000 lawyers in attendance physically or virtually.
‘Tinubu’ll deploy mastery of financial management’
APC vice presidential candidate and former Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, who represented Tinubu, said the former Lagos State governor will deploy his “mastery of financial management capabilities” in revamping the economy.
He said he (Shettima) would use his eight-year experience tackling Boko Haram in Borno to deal with banditry and insurgency.
According to him, the strength of the country’s armed forces is abysmal relative to its challenges and compared to its peer countries.
He believes Nigeria’s troops need to be boosted to at least 960,000.
Shettima said: “I want us to juxtapose two scenarios. At the end of the unfortunate Nigerian civil war, the Nigerian Armed Forces ballooned to 250,000 combat troops.
”In 1970, Nigeria’s population was 55.9million, our GDP was $22billion, and our military spending was $660million representing 5.28 per cent of our GDP.
“I would like us to juxtapose the figures in 1970 with the figures for 2022. At the end of July, Nigeria’s population was 216.9 million.
“Our GDP was $455million and our total number of troops was 213,000. The percentage of our GDP that is spent on the military for security was only 0.5 per cent.”
He noted that Nigeria’s “peers across the world” such as Iraq, Israel and Turkey spend far higher percentages.
He argued that the Tinubu-Shettima ticket was the best combination to tackle Nigeria’s economic, security and other challenges because of their vast experience.
“I will handle the security and lead the troops while my principal (Bola Ahmed Tinubu), who is an economic wizard will handle the economy,” he said.
The former Borno State governor said his combination with Tinubu, if elected next year, will replicate the “wonders” they performed in Borno and Lagos states.
Shettima said: “Nigerians have the capability to see through the worn-out rhetoric and sophistry of pretentious politicians.
“Nigerians should follow the man wey know the road. From day one, we will hit the ground running. We’ll promptly address the issue of the economy, ecology, and security.
“We have the antecedents. I built some of the best schools in Nigeria. Go to Borno and see wonders; you will never believe that it is a state in a state of war.
“So, we are going to replicate our achievements in Lagos, Borno and some of the frontline states so that our nation will be a better place. The fundamental issue is pure leadership.”
Shettima urged Nigerians to consider the strengths of a Tinubu presidency as exemplified by the latter’s performance as Lagos governor and his skillset.
“He is a city boy, I am the golden boy,” Shettima said.
Reflecting on the poor state of the Lagos economy before 1999, he emphasised Tinubu’s successes in transforming the its finances.
“Now, Lagos is earning N51billion every month as its internally generated revenue. Lagos is the third largest economy in Africa,” he said.
Shettima said beside establishing an “excellent track record for performance”, Tinubu has also “mentored men and women who are excelling in different fields of human endeavours.”
He credited himself with excelling as a staff of Zenith Bank in Lagos and elsewhere, adding that he had also “mentored men who are excelling in different fields of human endeavour.”
On their economic plans, Shettima said an “important tool of growing the economy”, is “diversification of sources of our income”.
“Ours is a great nation in chains; chained by ineptitude, chained by corruption and chained by incapacity.
“This is why it is absolutely important to grow the economy,” he said while responding to a question by the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief ‘Folake Solanke.
Urging Nigerians to disregard ethnicity and religion, Shettima added: “I urge you all to align yourselves with the aspirations of the APC candidate fundamentally because of his competence. He has an established track record of performance.
“Lagos is now a tourist destination of choice in the West African subregion. Lagos produces 75 per cent of the tax collections in this country and we are going to recreate the Lagos experience all over the country.
“I urge you, I beseech you, I call on you to use your rational sense of judgment, make an informed judgment on who you are going to vote for in the next dispensation.
“It is absolutely essential that you vote for competence, capacity, and for a leader who can lead us to the promised land. Yes, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the man to beat.”
Atiku, referencing the country’s challenges and “negative developments in our history,” said what was important is how to tackle the problems.
He identified five key areas that require action.
Atiku said: “There are five key areas that any leadership – forget about the party – any leadership from whichever political party must confront .
“The unity of our country is very fundamental. How do we achieve the unity of our country? It’s by making sure that we give every part of this country a sense of belonging.”
He explained that despite its overwhelming victory in 1999, the PDP formed a national government inclusive of other political party members, adding that this boosted national unity.
“Then, the issue of the economy and security came in. Because we had a consensus, we had no problem dealing with the sad security challenges.
“Therefore, I believe we have had experience and it is that experience that has helped that must be brought back.
“It is only when you have this sense of belonging that we will be able to deal with the issue of security. When you deal with the issue of security, then you will now come to the economy.
“My five points that are illuminated are all interrelated from unity to security, economy to the devolution of power.”
He emphasised his belief in restructuring via power devolution.
“More resources, more power to the states,” he added.
On how to stabilise the economy, Atiku said the “multiple exchange rate,” must be “abolished.”
The PDP flag bearer said since the return of democracy in 1998/99, Nigeria has never found itself in such a critical point in its history.
“Today, we have had all the negative indices. Today, we are all disunited in the nation. We have never experienced this level of poverty.
“We have never experienced this state of insecurity. We have never experienced this level of unemployment. We have recognised all these negative development in our history.
“This is where history and experience beckon on us to make sure that we don’t get it wrong at this point otherwise if we get it wrong. I don’t know when we will ever get it right.
“I have been involved in the struggle to return this country to democracy in the time of military days.
“In fact, I can even say I was even lucky to be alive because so many of my contemporaries were killed in the struggle, but by the grace of God I have survived till this point in time,” he said.
Obi restates consumption-to-production promise Obi lamented the numerous problems facing the country.
He restated that the “only way” to stabilise the naira is for the Nigerian economy to “move from consumption to production.”
He added: “Nigeria needs an urgent transition from being a highly insecure country to a secure country, from a disunited country to a united country, from corruption to a successful country, from a country of lawlessness to a country of law and order.
“But in all these, it is important to look at where we are today for people to understand the gravity of the journey we are going to take if we are going to transit. Where are we today?”
In his view, Nigeria had qualified to be a failed state.
According to him, 80 per cent of the country’s crude was stolen.
“Even our most important source of foreign exchange revenue, oil, is today 80 per cent stolen. That shows how bad it is.
“We are the only country apart from Venezuela (we know their own is because of sanctions) that is not meeting up with its OPEC quota.
“And you wouldn’t believe the quantity that is missing. In July, our total average quota was 1.83 million barrels a day. That means that in July, we lost 77,000 barrels per day.
“If you multiple that by 20, in 31 days it will give you 22.223million barrels of oil that we lost. This is a country that needs dollars.
“If you sell the quantity of the oil that we lost in July alone at the average of $110, it will give you $2.45bilion, meaning by our exchange rate of N550, we lost N1. 344trillion .
“That is your country; that is what we lost in one month because of stealing. It is important that we know this. “Number two item to show that we are a failed state is that you are no longer in control of our economy.
“We have an economy where over 100 million people live in poverty, our unemployment rate is one of the worst in the world because we have a combined unemployment of 50 per cent.
“Out of 200 million Nigerians, 60 per cent is supposed to be working, so we are supposed to have more than 120 million persons working but today Nigerians that are working are under 50 million, so 70 million plus of Nigerians are not working, are not productive.
“When you compare this to your productivity, you will see how low it is. But what is even worse is that we are in a total physical mess because of all these.
“Between January this year and April, the total revenue of Federal Government of Nigeria is N1.6trillion
“The expenditure is N4.7trillion. If you subtract this, we have a deficit of N3.1trillion. That shows almost 200 percent is the deficit and this is the crisis we face.”
He blamed the situation on bad leadership.
“How did we come here? It is because of leadership failure over the years.
“To come out of this, we need to have a visionary, articulated and competent leadership to start turning things around,” he said.
Umeadi urged the electorate to exercise due voter diligence in the 2023 general electioneering process as a way to strengthen Nigeria’s democratic transitions.
Adebayo said one of the ways to make the naira stable is to abolish a dual system where “one person who has a friend in the Central Bank can make $30 million dollars by buying at the official rate and selling to the hard-working people” at an increased rate.
He said: “Importers and supermarket owners should not be making more money than manufacturers and farmers.”
He added that the “convergence of official and unofficial rates” must be allowed.
Among the guests at the opening were Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki; his Plateau State counterpart Simon Lalong; a spokesman for Atiku’s campaign organisation, Senator Dino Melaye; AIT founder, Raymond Dokpesi, Obi campaign director-general Doyin Okupe, among others.
Adichie advocates corruption-free justice system
Award-winning novelist Adichie advocated a fair, corruption-free judicial system, urging the NBA to leverage technology in judicial process and the administration of justice.
She lamented that Nigerians do not seem to have enough leaders to look up to in the current system.
In her view, young citizens were finding it difficult to have heroes for mentorship.
“We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore,” Adichie said.
The keynote speaker argued that it was important for everyone to speak out against injustice and tyranny even if they were called troublemakers.
She said: “A bold transition must embrace audacity and innovation. They have called me troublesome. Although, it is never enjoyable to be called troublesome.
“I never set out to provoke for its sake. But I refuse to silence myself for the fear of what I might inadvertently provoke. It has always been important to me to say what I believe, to call out injustice.
“Federal and state security dragging journalists to prison is tyranny. A journalist ill-treating his domestic staff is tyranny. The rape of young boys and girls is also tyranny.
“It is tyranny when state governments do not pay pensioners until they slump and die as broken people.
“The physical harassment of lawyers and some judges is tyranny. The use of the law by some people to oppress the poor people is tyranny.”
Adiche said Nigerians must be fair in their criticisms before peace can thrive, adding that they should become responsible before holding the leaders responsible.
She said: “As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults.
“My experience made me think there’s something dead in us, in our society; a death of self-awareness and ability for self-criticism.
“There’s a need for resurrection. We cannot avoid self-criticism but criticise the government. We cannot hide our own institutional failure while demanding transparency from the government.”
While commending the NBA for traditionally defending citizens’ rights, she lamented a decline in professionalism.
She said: “Nigerians are disillusioned because they know of the decline of professionalism in some sections of the legal profession.
“As the NBA continues to fight the abuse of power, it must also look inward not to be corrupted.
“One way is to simplify the legal procedure. We deny justice when we delay justice. Technology should also be used. It is time for the full use of technology in the administration of justice.
“Today, the word ‘disruptive’ has taken on a more positive and perhaps even a more trendy connotation. It now tends to mean innovative and original especially concerning technology and access to information. Troublesome and innovative.
“They might seem opposed to each other but I will argue that these two understandings of disruptive hang their pride on the NBA.
“Many people who have abused their positions of power in Nigeria would describe the NBA as troublesome.”
L-R: Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President-elect Yakubu Maikyau; All Progressives Congress (APC) vice presidential candidate Kashim Shettima; NBA President Olumide Akpata; Chairman, Technical Committee on Conference Planning Tobenna Erojikwe; Guest Speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar; Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki; Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate Prince Adewole Adebayo and Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi at the opening of the 2022 NBA Annual Conference in Lagos…on Monday.