FORMER Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday, dissected Nigeria's economy and declared that the country was operating a voodoo economic policy that is pauperising the citizenry and urged urgent economic surgery to save the polity.
For instance, Tinubu wondered why the Federal Government is maintaining a foreign reserve of $46 billion with one or two per cent interest and shouldering a load of $42 billion domestic debt, which it services with 16 per cent interest.
"This is voodoo economy," he said, adding, "they are operating it because they don't know what to do. It is choking the private sector.
"We must in this country do away with the idea of 'it is better save the money and spend the people.' Rather I will say we should adopt the policy of 'it is better to save the people and spend the fund.'
"We must reform our philosophy about economic development. First, we must reform the financial sector so that it becomes an effective artery that sends funds to the heart of the real sector. The Federal Government must formulate a national industrial policy that would focus on developing labour-intensive industries."
Tinubu spoke at Victoria Island, Lagos at the presentation of the book, 'Financialism: Water from an empty well,' he co-authored with former Consul General of United States of America to Nigeria, Mr. Brian Browne.
Chaired by former Finance Minister, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, the book presentation was turned into a political rally of sorts by governors of the newly merged All Progressive Congress, APC, and other politicians, who opposed capitalism and asked the electorate to hand power at the centre to APC leaders to enable them re-direct the ship of state for better berthing.
The governors include Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo).
The governors of Ekiti, Borno, Yobe, Nasarawa and Zamfara sent representatives.
Other notable persons at which speaker after speaker eulogised Tinubu and Browne for making out time to write the book in spite of their tight schedules, include Jim Ovia (the chief launcher), Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, Chief Bisi Akande, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former IGP, Musiliu Smith, Obong Victor Attah, Malam Balarabe Musa, and Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.
There were also, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Rev. Tunji Adebiyi, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Senator Gbenga Kaka, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Senator Remi Tinubu, Chief Annie Okonkwo, Hon. Abike Dabiri, Hon. Lanre Odubote, Dr. Lekan Pitan, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Hon. Niyi Afuye (who represented Ekiti State governor), Alhaji Kassim Imam (who represented northern APC governors), Mrs. Kemi Nelson, Anthony Adefuye, Femi Falana and Prof. Osaghae Eghosa, who reviewed the book.
We need sound management not capitalism --Aregbesola, Amosun
Speaking at the event, Aregbesola said Tinubu preaches capitalism but practises humanism as espoused by the book.
He kicked against capitalisms, which he argued had failed.
"Capitalism is money or whatever you use to get a man to surrender his money and labour for peanuts," he said and urged Nigerian leaders to focus on how they would translate their huge resources into real wealth for Nigerians.
Governor Amosun urged support for attempts to de-emphasise Nigeria's monolithic economy and translate the country's money and resources into wealth.
He lamented that the country was not paying adequate attention to agriculture, infrastructure, and education, among others.
Poverty is not act of God -- Oshiomhole
On his part, Oshiomhole also opposed capitalism, noting that there was a lot of contradictions in the country such as a teacher being incapable of affording his children's school fees, a carpenter building the best furniture without owning one and a labourer labouring all his life for the country and yet finds it difficult to get his pension after retirement.
"There is so much contradiction in our polity. Poverty is not an act of God, it is the result of socio-economic history and with proper management, we will consign it to the back page of history," he said.
There's hope for Nigeria -- Okorocha
In like manner, Okorocha said in spite of the contradictions, there was hope for the country because "Nigeria is not a poor nation. Management of resources is the only thing wrong."
Nigerian masses need answers to their problems - Idika Kalu
Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, attributed the country's problem to poor management of resources.
He stated that almost all reforms that the ruling class had embarked on in the last 50 years did not yield result due to disorganisation and an inability to re-invest the proceeds from the oil boom and agricultural pyramids accordingly.
He said: "We have gone through one crisis after another over the past 50 years. We saw how we started, we brought in broad-based agricultural economy, and we saw how we managed that under very low technologies to save and to make progress across this nation, in the West, in the North, South and East.
"I thought we should have leveraged on that to invest more in the real sector, in order to achieve improved production, improved quality, improved services, improvement in the rural areas, improved infrastructure, power, name it. We didn't do it.
"We went on to try a lot of political reforms, but one threat to all these reforms was the inability to organise the political leadership to focus on the needs of the people without which we cannot move forward as a great country.
We must spend money to save the people --Tinubu
Reading his speech entitled, 'Speaking for the people: The need to restructure the economy; How long shall we attempt to draw water from an empty well?', Tinubu said he and Browne wrote the book to save Nigeria's political economy from the danger unleashed on the globe by the 2008 financial meltdown.
Lamenting that a worse form of capitalism, which he termed financialism was crippling the economy, he canvassed progressive capitalism to save the economy.
He said: "In Nigeria today, with our lack of vital infrastructure, the absence of a concrete industrial policy and with the paucity of long-term funding to fuel the real sector, we ask the economy to do the impossible. It's like attempting to draw water from an empty well.
"Financialism has crippled the developed economies so much so that they remain deep in serial financial crises. If a financialist modeling of the economy turns developed economies into hollow images of themselves, what shall it wreak in our economy that has never developed or got industrialised?
The economic surgery Nigeria needs -- Tinubu
"We must reform our economy. To do this, we must first reform our philosophy about the economic development.
What I advocate is not starry-eyed socialism. I seek clear-eyed yet progressive capitalism. Here are just a handful of key things we must do:
*We must reform the financial sector so that it becomes an effective artery that sends funds to the heart of the real sector once again.
*The national government must formulate a national industrial policy that focuses on developing labour intensive industries.
"This is not textbook capitalism but we do not live in a textbook. This is how the United States developed under Alexander Hamilton's "American System" and how modern China reached spectacular growth.
*We must restructure our educational system to prepare our youth for the present challenges of this economy and not educate them in a manner more appropriate for another land.
*We need to overhaul our agricultural system and put in place a price support mechanism so that those who toil the land and who feed us do not go continuously poorer the more they toil.
"We must establish commodity exchange boards exclusively for farmers which will go a long way to support them and provide agricultural pricing support mechanisms and consequently enhance food security.
"The challenge before our nation today is how to protect millions who toil the land, ensure they make reasonable returns and boost agricultural production.
"Instead of stealing from our children and stealing the pension fund of the retired; this government must answer the moral call of providing one meal per day for our school children up to high school level. Feeding our children will improve nutritional in-take and work better for their educational development.
"Ultimately, it will eliminate child abuse and take the children off our streets.
"The demand for farm products to feed the pupils will be a catalyst to generate demand, create wealth, elevate production of agricultural goods and fuel associated industrial growth. The establishment of these activity and small scale agro-industries will generate significant employment in our rural areas.
"We need to provide primary health care, taking it upon ourselves to fight malaria so that our children can develop properly and our labour force becomes more productive.
"In the final analysis, our development rests with us. Foreign investment is welcome but will not lead us to prosperity."