The audience was right – a group of military chiefs. So was the guest speaker, a renowned political strategist widely credited with the movement that swept the President Muhammadu Buhari administration into power – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu yesterday in Abuja gave the Federal Government a strategy to pull Nigeria out of the recession that has brought hardship on the populace. Spend your way out of it, he said.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain advised the Federal Government to constantly review the monetary policy to reflect positively on the market and ordinary Nigerians.
He is worried over inflation growing to 18 per cent and likely to rise, further impoverishing the ordinary Nigerian. The government, said Tinubu, should “spend its way out of recession”.
The APC stalwart was the guest lecturer at the National Defence College (NDC), Course 25 lecture titled: “ Strategic Leadership: My Political Experiences”.
He drew inferences from his political journey and the strategic role of the military in peace keeping and building democracy.
He said: “The monetary policy must be consistent with the environmental need of our domestic requirements. You cannot hold on too much or too tight to a policy. Let me give an example. What they call security reserve today in the bank at 27 percent, you have to be able to bring that one down, if the government has to be able to host its treasury bond at 18 percent upfront, effective rate of borrowing is at 23 percent.
“What am I doing if I have a billion, and you are ready to give me 180 million, that is 18 percent upfront, do I have to work or do anything again? So those are the factors that they have to look at quickly to ease the burden. You have to stimulate this economy, you have to spend yourself out of the recession and you cannot do that by consistently stifling the banks of the liquidity that is required. It’s their money; it’s the savers money,” he said.
Tinubu said the leadership of the APC must criticise certain policies of government when the need arises. “We have to criticise ourselves when it is necessary, speak truth to power. We are the power; we will talk the truth to ourselves.
“Where we see contradictions in the policy, we are going to talk about it. This is a democratic country and this is our government; we are not like the other party that will invent one lie to bury a lie and other mistakes; we tell you the truth. Where we are weak, must identify it as Nigerians and tell the truth. They have a monetary policy team; they must look into it. We need a constant evaluation. How does it affect the market and ordinary people as well?
“If there is no liquidity in the economy, the banks will price out the ordinary man and when you look at inflation, growing at 18 percent, we are talking of recession. The danger is there that it might get to 20 something, if you are over squeezing or you are too tight,” he said.
To Tinubu, Nigeria would benefit more if there is consistency in the policy, “ This is the bane of our political economy. We have so much talent in the nation but it has not been engaged and engineered to function in unison. Fiscal policy does not mesh with monetary policy. Trade policy undermined industrial policy, thus ease of doing business is inhibited. Overseas peacekeeping missions do not always harmonise with core foreign policy interests. A nation in progress seeks to minimise, not harvest additional contradictions, otherwise its leadership strategy is doomed to fail,” he said.
Tinubu said the decline of oil prices threatens to be a long-term phenomenon, adding that strategic objectives must be to re-engineer the economy from the bottom-up approach. “Strategic objectives during this period of economic uncertainty must be to re-engineer the economy bottom up, diversify the economic base, strengthen our industrial base, modernise infrastructure, enhance agriculture, and provide employment. And, of course, ease of doing business.
“The lower oil prices also reduced hard currency earnings. This undermined the naira, causing a steep rise in the cost of imports. The higher prices have suppressed aggregate demand, causing a decline in business activity. The challenge before us is a difficult but not impossible one. If we stick to the progressive beliefs of the APC, we shall overcome these difficulties to place the economy on surer permanent footing,” he said.
The Commandant of the College, Rear Admiral Samuel Alade, in his opening remarks, described Tinubu as a national icon and astute administrator. He said the history of the return to democracy and the struggle to build a stable democratic governance cannot be complete without the courageous role played by Tinubu.
“That is why we have invited him to give a lecture on Strategic Leadership because every country requires a well-developed leadership and there is no time Nigeria needs this more than now,” Alade said.
In his lecture, Tinubu praised the NDC, describing it as “special place where the best talent in the military may engage in fertile intellectual exchange with some of the brightest in our civilian institutions and from other nations”.
Tinubu said: “Some of the best minds in our nation are found in the military. No military can be successful over the long-term unless it has the intellectual agility to adopt its doctrines and practices to the challenges of a dynamic and chaotic world as we have today. Like any large organisation, a military overly resistant to change will find itself on the wrong end of history. It will not answer the questions an incessantly changing environment places before it.”
He praised the military for winning the war against Boko Haram but cautioned against lowering the guards. “ I commend the Nigerian military for what it has achieved against Boko Haram. You have battled and bested this evil enterprise. You have done as well as a military can in putting down this amorphous danger. I must say here, however, that we cannot lower our guard.
“We have learned cardinal lessons from the Boko Haram crisis. First, we must govern justly and for the benefit of the people to prevent the recurrence of violent extremism in the future. Widespread poverty caused by an unjust allocation of income, wealth and resources provides fertile ground for extremist ideologies that run contrary to the inclusive democracy we seek to perfect,” he said.
Tinubu said excellent strategic political leadership is based on commitment to a political vision, stressing that a leader must have a coherent objective in mind and strategy and tactics are then fashioned to work toward that vision.
“This is an essential consideration. There cannot be strategic leadership without a conscious objective. Political leadership in Nigeria generally has fallen short in this regard. Leadership has been short-sighted and fixed on narrow, immediate objectives. Because of this, leadership has been more transactional than strategic in nature. It has been more focused on the retention of power and control than on the substantive results and long-term consequences of its policies and actions,” he added.
The APC chieftain, who went down memory lane from the struggle for return to democracy to the historic victory in the 2015 election, said his vision had been the transformation of Nigeria into a robust democracy. “ My constant vision has been the transformation of this nation into a robust decentralised democracy with a diverse industrial base, to provide sufficient jobs to a growing urban population; and a sufficient agricultural base, to achieve food security and provide a decent livelihood to the rural population.”
Tinubu said nothing had been more germane to industrial growth in the last 1,000 years than constant supply of electricity. He believes in the capacity of the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, but there are complex issues that must be resolved.
“ We have enough gas to fire this country’s electricity but there are so many complex issues attached together that this government must remove. We must work harder. If the workload is too heavy, we must re-examine it. If the privatisation is given to incapable hands, we must revisit it; this cannot lock down our future,” he said.
Tinubu, who donated N10miliion to the College, said the profound lesson he learnt in public life is the need to remain faithful to an achievable, well-articulated vision and develop practical strategies and tactics to progress toward that vision.