A national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, says Nigerians are tired of fasting, adding that the Federal Government must introduce a stimulus package rather than preaching austerity.
Tinubu said this at the 12th Bola Tinubu Colloquium held in commemoration of his 69th birthday in Kano on Monday.
Speaking at the event with the theme, ‘Our Common Bond, Our Common Wealth: The Imperative of National Cohesion for Growth and Prosperity,’ the former governor of Lagos said the United States had released a stimulus package of $1.9tn to its citizens and more was on the way, adding that such was the way to go.
He stated, “It is time to put stimulus in place. This is no time for austerity. I hope you listen carefully. This is not the time to constrain the economy. This is the time to create the opportunity.
“If you hear America spending $1.9tn and they are not looking back and they are still asking for $3tn for infrastructure and renewal and creating jobs and your own unemployment rate is 33 per cent and you ask us to keep on fasting. We are not fasting any more.
“We have been fasting for many years. I hope the National Assembly; I hope the President himself will not pay attention to austerity.”
He noted that the high rate of unemployment had made banditry and terrorism attractive to the youths.
He urged the Federal Government to recruit at least 50 million youths into the Nigerian Army to boost Nigeria’s fight against terrorism, banditry and all forms of internal and external security threats confronting the nation.
The APC leader said, “We are under-policed and we are competing with armed robbers and bandits to recruit from the youths who are unemployed – 33 per cent unemployed?” Recruit 50 million youths into the army.”
The APC chieftain, while reacting to statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics that over 23 million Nigerians are jobless, also urged the government to create jobs for youths in the agricultural value chains.
He said, “Don’t talk about illiteracy; anybody who can handle a gun, who can cock and shoot is technically competent to repair a tractor in the farm.”
The former Lagos State governor, however, saluted “very creative” youths in the country, saying, “They are angry, they are showing their anger, but we will appeal to them.”
Tinubu faults secessionists’ agitations
Reacting to the recent rise in secessionist agitation, Tinubu said he chose Kano State as the venue of colloquium to prove to Nigerians that the Yoruba and Fulani people were united.
Tinubu, who is rumoured to be nursing a Presidential ambition, also made a veiled reference to the marriage of the daughter of Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje; to the son of the late Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, which took place in Kano in 2018.
He said this showed the unity between people of different ethnic groups.
The APC leader said, “Why are we in Kano? It is to demonstrate to Nigerians at this critical time. It is because there is a Fulani man, a herder (man) who gave his daughter to a farmer, (a) Yoruba man… and some people are agitating wrongly.”
The former governor argued that if Nigeria broke into smaller countries, he would not be able to visit Kano without a visa.
Tinubu stated, “I was encouraged to spend a couple of days with my brother and in-law in Kano and demonstrate that he has not quarrelled with me, he has not seceded from Nigeria, I didn’t need a passport or visa to get to Kano; maybe others will have peace of conscience, live in peace and harmony and be loving to one another. That is what Ganduje and I are showing to Nigerians and that is the purpose of this colloquium, end of story.”
Bad weather stops Osinbajo, Sanwo-Olu, others
The event was not without hitches as many dignitaries could not grace the occasion due to bad weather.
Some of those affected include Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and the Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.
Some governors, including Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), could also not fly and were thus forced to attend the event virtually. The President of Liberia, George Weah also attended the event virtually.
Osinbajo’s Spokesman, Mr Laolu Akande, said in a tweet that Osinbajo would monitor the event virtually alongside the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)
He tweeted, “VP Osinbajo spending the day celebrating Asiwaju on his 69th birthday was on course to Kano this morning until weather conditions aborted travel plans. He’ll alongside Mr President join the 12th BAT Colloquium virtually from the Presidential Villa. Happy birthday Asiwaju.”
Reacting to the absence of some of his key allies, Tinubu described the weather condition as strange. He, however, praised lawmakers like Abiodun Faleke, who had been with him for the last three days.
He said the weather condition was a reflection of climate change and argued that climate change was the reason herdsmen were migrating to the South.
Nigerians are better together, says Buhari
Earlier, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said all Nigerians had agreed that they were better and stronger together despite what he called occasional inter-ethnic tensions.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said this virtually at the colloquium.
The President said his experience of working in all parts of the country showed possibilities of a strong, united nation.
He added, “I can also relate personally to the ideals of one Nigeria. As a military officer, I have served with great comrades from all the nooks and crannies of our country. I have seen over and over again that their goodness or failings did not depend on ethnicity or religion.”
The President said in the course of his career, he had seen the possibilities of a strong, united nation.
“More importantly, I fought for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967 to 1970, and I saw first-hand the unspeakable horrors of war, not just on fellow soldiers on both sides, but on the civilians; innocent children, women and elderly citizens that they left behind.
“As we all know, the peace-building, recovery and reconstruction that followed could also not have succeeded under an atmosphere of inter-ethnic animosity.
“We must count our blessings in Nigeria and see in them the crucial factors of peace and unity.”
Buhari also said leaders and followers must be ready to ensure that justice and harmony reign in the country, saying everybody “has a stake in the Nigeria project.”
Also, Osinbajo, who attended the event virtually, faulted those agitating for secession of parts of the country, noting that attendees of the event in Kano would have needed a visa to visit the state.
The Vice-President said, “Only a few days ago, we were set to have a completely virtual colloquium with a hub in Lagos, the customary location of the colloquium, when Governor Abdullahi Ganduje graciously offered to host the physical aspect of the hybrid colloquium.
“By this gesture, Governor Ganduje has helped us to tell two stories; this is the first time that the colloquium is being hosted outside Lagos and Abuja. And it is befitting that Kano should be that place; this city of radical and progressive ideas and ideologies, a city whose leading political lights have been left of centre, which is the dominant tendency within our great party the All Progressives Congress.
“Second, it helps us to underscore the point that this country and its people are stronger and more powerful together than apart.”
Also speaking, Sanwo-Olu said the present crop of politicians and public office holders had a lot of leadership values to learn from Tinubu.
Sanwo-Olu spoke on behalf of Governors and APC chieftains who could not physically attend the colloquium because of bad weather.
He said, “We have listened to all the great speakers today but your comments still resonate and I am sure it will resonate with all of us for a very long time. Very classic Asiwaju and you have explained to us in three to five minutes, what true federalism is. You reiterated to us what it means with peaceful coexistence among ourselves.”
Buni preaches unity
The Chairman, APC Caretaker/Extraordinary convention planning committee, Mai-Mala Buni, said citizens needed to explore more areas that unite everyone.
Buni, who is also the Yobe State governor, at the colloquium said, “The people gathered here today are coming from different ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds but share a common faith in the unity and future of Nigeria.”
Buni described Tinubu as a great leader, “a true democrat, a statesman and philanthropist with great concern for the future of Nigeria.”
He sought increased support to the Buhari administration to overcome security and other challenges facing the country.
In his welcome address Ganduje said for Nigeria to attain the desired development, its citizens must become ‘born again.’
Ganduje said, “As far as national integration is concerned, all Nigerians must become born again by turning a new leaf and doing away with the negatives tendencies that becloud sense of reason.”
‘Tinubu, an accomplished politician’
Meanwhile, the Northern Governors Forum on Monday congratulated Tinubu on the occasion of his 69th birthday.
The Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, in a message on Monday described Tinubu as an accomplished politician and seasoned administrator whose strides in the nation’s socio-political landscape had remained outstanding.
Lalong said, “Asiwaju stands tall as a politician, statesman and patriot who exemplifies vision, dexterity and versatility in the course of nation building and national dialogue.”