The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was agog yesterday as National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, held the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium to celebrate his 67 birthday anniversary, which attracted several dignities that include top government functionaries, governors, political leaders across party divides and traditional leaders.
The event, which usually aims at discussing critical issues of progress and development of the nation, focused on jobs and the economy this year with special attention that showcases President Muhammadu Buhari's administration's efforts in adding millions of jobs in the coming four years through policies and investment in agriculture, industrialization, and technology/creative sector.
While addressing the dignitaries among who were Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who represented his principal, President Buhari, Governors Gboyega Oyetola (Osun State), Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, Ooni of Ife, former Osun State Governor, Chief Bisi Akande, and others, the celebrant said he would not have been a happy man if the ruling APC had lost the last general election.
While he used the opportunity to congratulate himself, the party and its supporters across the country for defeating the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, Tinubu said, "I am excited APC defeated PDP. I will not be happy standing here and celebrating my birthday if we had lost the election. I therefore congratulate myself, too."
Speaking on government policies and how to improver the nation's economy, the former governor of Lagos State warned that the planned increased of Value Added Tax (VAT) could further slow down the economy, saying, such decision could worsen the economy.
According to him, "Consumers' spending is slipping, and this is where I will stop and appeal to the government to put a huge question mark on any increase of VAT. If we reduce the purchasing power of the people, we can further slow down the economy."The national leader, however, suggested an alternative by advising the Federal Government to widen the tax net, saying, "Those who are not paying now, if it is inclusive of Bola Tinubu, let the net get bigger and we take in more taxes and that is what we must do in the country instead of the additional layer of tax."
He noted that the country is still working out modalities to define itself politically and economically and it would therefore be out of place to add additional tax burden to the people.Speaking on the government's Next Level plan, Tinubu said, "The agenda has a much more deeper meaning than what its initiator expected."He also suggested ways through which the government could increase the capacity of electricity in the country that will attract industrialisation and create more jobs.
According to him, "It is imperative of the incumbent government to take responsibility for creating sustainable electricity within the next four years. We should manage electricity in such a way that Nigerians are charged accurately for what they consume," just as he flayed PDP administration for failing to do the needful in the power sector while it held power for 16 years.
While emphasising the need for Nigeria to key into agricultural industrialisation and human capital development in the next level agenda, he lamented the rising level of unemployment in the country at the moment, saying about 20.9 million are currently out of jobs between 2017 and 2018 according to the data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). He stressed the need for the Buhari administration to urgently build policies around creating job opportunities and human capital development in the country.
In his remark, Osinbajo recalled the relationship between him and the celebrant, which he said dated back to when he (Tinubu) was the governor of Lagos while he served as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. Osinbajo commended Tinubu for his sharp vision and economic policies which, according to him, were factors that placed Lagos as the fifth largest economy in Africa and a good example for other states to copy.
Osinbajo also recalled how himself and Tinubu worked on the legal battles of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now APC, which included the battle for the creation of additional local governments, the withheld allocation of the state by the then Federal Government, the reformation of the legal system in Lagos which he described as a huge success today and many more.
While speaking on how to use the creative industry as a job spinner in Nigeria, Executive Director of Film House Cinemas and MD Director Filmone Distribution and Production LTD, Moses Babatope, said film, entertainment, music, fashion and lifestyle are major drivers in the creative industry, which have the ability to scale up job creation. According to him, "23 million dollars was created from 45 cinemas between 2016 and 2018. It was at a period when Nigeria slipped into a recession that the cinema industry generated such revenues in six zeros. Such achievement in the sector was commendable.
In another presentation, Special Adviser on Industrialization to the African Development Bank (AFDB), Mr. Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, who spoke on Agro-industrialisation emphasized the need to raise the standard of living of Nigerians through agriculture. Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, explained government's new initiative called Made in Nigeria for Export (MINE). He said the project has set ambitious targets over the next 10 years.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu say infrastructure development is a critical component of the Next Level of the administration. The duo said this at the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium. Next Level was the campaign slogan of All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2019 presidential campaign.Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari said that fixing infrastructure was crucial to achieving socio-economic development.
"For us, infrastructure is critical at the Next Level," eh said. "We cannot have transformative development with the type of power we have today; that is why we are focused on power and other infrastructure."We are focused on fixing infrastructure in our country and we believe that if we are able to fix infrastructure in our country, the roads, 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 will be able to clear the congestion in that port because the Lagos to Kano railway begins from the Apapa port. We can start taking our cargo from the Apapa port using rail as an alternative means of transportation."
On agriculture, Osinbajo said transformation had started in the sector with the partnership between Nigeria and Brazil. According to him, reforms are being made in the education and healthcare sectors as emphasis is on digital literacy, training teachers to be able to train the next generation of children in school.
According to him, "So, we are focusing on Science Technology Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) not Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (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 21stcentury will provide."
Buhari extolled Tinubu's leadership qualities and contributions to the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria. On his part, Tinubu said that government should continue to aggressively implement its national infrastructure plan. He said Nigeria must commit to a national highway system linking its major cities and towns and centres of commerce with one another.
"In working to transform the face of our economy, government must also enact policies that encourage industrialisation and modern agricultural practices. We must applaud President Muhammadu Buhari for the historic innovations made in the agricultural sector."We must further encourage him to do even more; government funded social security for the aged and government-backed affordable housing and mortgage facilities are things we must continue to explore in an aggressive manner."