National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, says despite exiting recession, Nigeria’s economy remains weak as a result of unemployment and idle resources.
Tinubu spoke on Saturday while delivering a speech at the 2021 Sardauna Memorial Lecture held in honour of late Ahmadu Bello, former premier of northern Nigeria, in Kaduna.
The former governor of Lagos, however, cautioned against criticising the cost of governance, adding that spending is necessary but should only be done on “things that bring the requisite economic returns for the nation”.
He said: “For a nation to know where it is going, it must first know where it is coming from. The topic is more than timely, particularly given the serious security challenges that have become one of the primary causes of despair and frustration among all Nigerians, young and old alike,” he said.
“That frustration and despair are, in large part, caused by the chronic poverty and the breakdown of social institutions, wrought by such long-standing suffering. In the midst of our local challenges came the COVID-19 pandemic with its debilitating impact on the global and domestic economies. Nigeria, like many other countries, has not been spared the impact of the pandemic.
“Commendably, however, President Muhammadu Buhari has been carefully steering the country through the pandemic such that the negative impact on us and the economy has not been as harsh as it might have been.
“The economy relapsed though into recession. It has ended but we must admit the economy remains anaemic and weak — too much unemployment and resources are left idle.
“Cost of governance is always a key factor in socioeconomic development of any nation, but it is also one side of that important coin. We must not look at the cost alone; we must weigh the cost against the benefits derived.
“We must be careful in what we say and truly mean when we talk of cost of governance. The development of any populous nation has always been dependent on the ability of government to allocate sufficient funds to projects and programmes that create and encourage enduring growth and employment.
“The years have shown that the private sector is much too weak to spur the growth we need. If the private sector could manage this feat, it would have already done so. Where the private sector is too weak or unable, the government must fill the void.
“This means government must not be afraid to embark on an active fiscal policy to create jobs, build infrastructure and develop our industrial sector as well as continue to improve agriculture. This means government must spend money but spend it on those things that bring the requisite economic returns for the nation.”
The ex-Lagos governor also said job creation remained key to end restiveness and criminality amongst Nigeria’s young population.
“While states and local government must shape their budgets to fit their revenues, the federal government can and should spend more to create more jobs for the youth in both the north and south which is key to eradicating restiveness and sundry criminality among the youth,” Tinubu opined, adding, “Urban populations are growing but urban jobs are not. Here, government must implement a national industrial policy to encourage key industries to begin to employ this growing urban work force.”
“We must reject that mode of thinking that assumes government expenditure is inherently unproductive as well as harmful to the overall economy.”
He also extolled the virtues of Tafawa Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, and Nnamdi Azikiwe, for their efforts in laying the foundation of Nigeria.