Peter Obi – the presidential flag-bearer of the Labour Party – recently attended the Lagos Business School’s 2022 Alumni Conference held in Lagos during which he gave a detailed speech on the current state of the Nigerian economy and what his plans are for it should he be elected president next year.
Obi also addressed the issue of insecurity, once again assuring Nigerians that he would deal decisively with the menace that has plagued the country for years and continues to threaten its peace.
Here are 28 of the critical statements Obi made at the Lagos Business School Alumni Conference 2022.
1. I am aware that many are called to serve; and many are aspiring to this position. However, in the fullness of time and based on our leadership needs, I pray and hope that I will be given the opportunity to lead Nigeria at a critical juncture in her history.
My desire is borne out of a deep conviction that Nigerians deserve far better than they have been served by their leaders. Currently, Nigeria works for a small minority of people; Nigeria must work for ALL Nigerians.
2. First and foremost, all Nigerians must be able to dwell securely, and in safety wherever they live. This is the first duty of government, but sadly, it is one where there has been blatant failure.
To have hundreds of Nigerians killed or maimed by terrorists, and millions of people displaced as a result of the destruction of their villages and farmlands is unacceptable. To have Nigerians abducted by bandits and forced to spend weeks, months and even years in the bush with their abductors is also unacceptable.
3. To have almost 20 million of our children out of school and roaming the streets is utterly unacceptable. Nigerian lives matter. Nigerian lives must not be wasted.
4. To have corruption eat so deeply into the fabric of our public life, such that over 80% of our common wealth is devoured by a small minority while most of our people are left to scrounge and scavenge for a living is totally unacceptable.
5. To have N1000 exchange for one dollar is completely unacceptable. Nigeria cannot be a Banana Republic. We’re too gifted, too smart for that to happen to us.
With the staggering amount of natural and human resources that our country has been endowed with, we have no business at all being in this pitiable, sorry state: we occupy the lowest rungs of the ladder in practically every index of development – the statistics are appalling!- ; therefore, our young people, seeing no future for themselves here, are fleeing the country in droves.
The burden of endemic corruption is borne by the citizens; they are denied the high living standards which the wealth of their country should have given them through the provision of public infrastructure and services.
Today, Nigeria is badly in need of a reformative leadership.
Bad leadership has hurt us deeply and diminished our national potentials and dreams.
6. The desire to take back Nigeria is nearly unanimous. We may be used to the old order; but we cannot vote for the continuity of corruption, recklessness, impunity and poverty.
We can no longer gamble with our fate and future. I am running for president, because I’m qualified; have the capacity, credibility, commitment, stamina and track record and Nigerians can trust me.
7. The overall goal of the Obi-Datti administration, therefore, shall be to streamline governance, make it more responsive, transformative, effective, less transactional, and therefore efficient and cost-effective.
My desire is to begin, with all Nigerians who share this same conviction, to turn things around so that we will bring to an end the incongruity of Nigerian citizens fleeing their richly endowed country or living in it in penury or in fear.
8. Our plan for a better Nigeria is categorized into a seven-point strategy.
– Securing Nigeria, ending banditry and insurgency, and uniting our dear nation to manage our diversity such that no one is left behind.
– Production-centred growth for food security and export – Moving Nigeria from consumption to production.
– Restructuring the polity through effective legal and institutional reforms to fight corruption and enthrone rule of law and all-inclusive and effective government.
– Leapfrogging Nigeria from an oil-dependent economy to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with massive investment in new technologies.
– Expanding physical infrastructure – with focus on critical sectors like power, multi-modal transportation, gas pipeline, etc. – through efficient public-private partnership (PPP) reforms (unleashing growth-enabling entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations).
– Youth engagement and human capital development that improves quality of life of workers and families, and productivity – enhancing education that empowers labour competitiveness.
9. We must return to the dreams of our founding fathers to create an egalitarian society. Devolution of powers or restructuring is a process, not a one-off event. Yes, if we have a real federation, the federating units will enjoy discernible autonomy.
Resources will also be shared equitably. A higher derivation paid to oil or solid minerals producing states will not be tantamount to other states not receiving federal allocations that should keep them viable.
10. We must transcend the rhetoric that bedevils a robust debate on some of these national questions. Every ethnicity and religion will be equally protected within a United Nigeria.
11. Cost of Governance is too high. The current scope is not sustainable. Lack of political will and lack of synergy between the Executive and Legislative arms has resulted in a costly inertia in tackling our oversized government.
The result is persisting turf fights and competition among several overlapping agencies, and the resultant wastages. Cost-cutting measures must start with rationalization and harmonization.
12. Deprivation, political polarization and policy inertia combine to exacerbate insecurity. The herders-farmers crisis has been poorly handled. The conflict has exacerbated because it has become an existential problem.
The herders-farmers conflicts have existed for a long time, but they have expanded in scope, national coverage and aggressiveness in the past decade. A combinational approach of modernized husbandry and poverty alleviation policies ought to address the related challenges.
The relevant security institutions and agencies exist. The supporting national security enabling documents and strategies also exist. We will tweak the security architecture, which will entail reform of the security sector and governance.
13. We will restructure, re-equip and reorient the Nigerian Police. This will include three-level policing- Federal, state and community. We will pursue legislation on the establishment of state police based on community policing.
We will raise the population to police officer ratio to a higher level.
We will deploy properly manned, equipped and technologically driven security system with emphasis on re-focusing the military on external threats, border protection, illegal migration and porosity; and the police on internal security threats, law enforcement; and upholding the rule of law.
We will integrate the activities of the National Intelligence and Security Agencies by establishing a central reporting intelligence loop under the authority the Minister of National and Homeland Security; establish a National Command and Control Coordination Centre for the efficient management of actionable intelligence, resource allocation and force deployment.
14. My administration will not embark on drafting a new economic plan, but I will set up a small national working committee of policy, planning and economic experts to distill critical lessons from and key elements of Economic Empowerment Development Strategies since 1999.
The goal will be to use the vitally pertinent provisions of these plans by previous administrations to kick start our national economic revival, overcome Nigeria’s sub-optimal performance relative to its set growth targets, and seek to achieve and supersede the target annual average economic growth rate of 4.7percent set in the 2021-2025 plan.
15. Thinking through 2023 and beyond, we must think seriously about a leadership that is imbued with competence, capacity, credibility and commitment. Accordingly, we will pursue intangible assets of good governance, rule of law, security of lives and properties; we will ensure that we have these assets in place and stress asset optimization.
We must look beyond total dependence oil. We will reduce the subsidy cost by over 50% with concomitant measures and counter-balance policies and programmes to cushion the impact of the removal of oil subsidy.
We will support modular refineries and local refining for domestic use and priced strictly in Naira.
16. I am not against loans per se; but as part of our fiscal consolidation, we must stop borrowing for consumption. All loans must be invested in regenerative projects. We must operate within available resources and strive for a balanced national budget as cost saving measures.
We shall pursue a drastic reduction in cost of governance and corruption by following due process.
We will improve ease of doing business to attract FDI to jumpstart industrialization and when borrowing is unavoidable, it will be strictly for production. Moreover, as a nation, we must look beyond oil. Whatever oil we still have will be refined domestically.
Ending the leakages including the subsidy regime and improving our tax regime should do the magic of debt reduction.
17. As a nation, Nigeria must look beyond oil. We therefore intend to leapfrog Nigeria from oil to the Fourth Industrial Revolution by expanding physical infrastructure through market-driven reforms that will unleash growth-enabling entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations.
Although agriculture remains Nigeria’s largest and most important sector and employs 60% of Nigerians, and contributes an average of 24% to the nation’s GDP, presently Nigeria is incapable of feeding her population fully; talk less of exporting agricultural produce.
Expensive food importation has become the norm.
18. I am an avid proponent of agriculture, especially as we have so much arable land in Nigeria. In fact, Africa as a whole has 65% of arable land. So, there are lots of economic opportunities in agriculture.
There is an innovative project which the African Development Bank has spearheaded called Special Agricultural Processing Zones. The ADB is supporting African countries, including Nigeria, to roll out these zones. They are game changers for Nigerian agriculture.
The first thing to tackle is food inflation. Once we tackle insecurity and farmers return to farms, our food production will go up and inflation will go down through reduced food prices. When you remove subsidy, our fiscal imbalance will reduce and subsequently increase.
19. Despite marginal increase in mechanized farming, most Nigerians are engaged in subsistence farming. Relatedly, over the past several decades Nigeria’s agricultural trade deficit has widened despite various government’s policies and interventions aimed at national food self-sufficiency.
We will orchestrate programmes and projects on agriculture, supported with adequate investment that would lead to enhanced national agricultural output.
This will also include crop and farm protection facilities for out croppers and rural farmers who presently affected negatively by increasing incidents of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism in various parts of the country.
We will also set target for national food and agricultural output, with guaranteed government buyback options, with the aim to creating food security, protecting local producers, reducing Nigeria’s food import, while stimulating growth of the industry and creating sustainable sectoral employment.
20. We are challenged by high youth unemployment, which stands at 33.3%; 54% for the youth; and 20 million out-of-school-children. We must give this country back to the Nigerian youths. Half of our 200 million people are below the age of 30.
Harnessing our national youth strength and demographic dividends intelligently, must start with curbing the high youth unemployment and creating funding access to enable our youths become entrepreneurs and drivers of our Small and Medium Scale enterprises(SMEs).
21. We will work to bring down the unemployment rate to fewer than 20 percent over the next four years, if elected. Part of our objectives on the economy will be focused on supporting job creation given its impact on the economy as well as poverty alleviation.
First, our focus will be on agriculture and production-centered growth for food security and export, with more emphasis on exporting finished products instead of commodities and raw materials. This relates mainly food and textiles.
Nigeria has over 84 million hectares of arable land. Nigeria has over 84 million hectares of arable land. And barely 40% of our arable land is cultivated today. Nigeria’s arable land is her new oil and gold.
We will incentivize the resuscitation of the moribund cotton and textile industries; and full exploration of the cattle economy value chain, notably the $75b global hides and skin economy.
Nigeria’s share of the global industry is envisaged to generate over $1bn by 2025.
22. Second, pursuant to Goal 9 of the SDGs our administration will from its inception, continue to encourage investment in infrastructure – energy, transport, irrigation, and telecoms—to grow these and other sectors.
We are eager to quickly close the infrastructure gap between now and 2030. We will expand the frontiers of financial inclusion to ensure that SMEs have greater access to credit to grow.
We will work with financial institutions to improve their ability to identify credit worthy borrowers; and support inventory financing, which will help to unlock finance for SMEs dealing with high account receivables.
We will enforce the legal framework protecting foreign investors and their indigenous partners. This is the only way to tamper monopoly and capital flight.
23. To restore investor confidence, we will explore ways of cushioning the forex demands by mainstreaming those components of Diaspora remittances that remain opaque and informal.
With proper policy and planning, we can expect to boost and leapfrog the current $20 billion in remittances to $40b to $60b annually. That will translate to about 14% of our total GDP.
We will remove import and forex restrictions and insist on a single forex market. The current system penalizes exporters who bring in forex by forcing them to sell at a rate that they are unable to source for forex when they need to purchase forex.
This multiple exchange rate regime encourages capital flight and deters investment, which has further worsened Nigeria’s forex situation.
Despite the exigency and convenience the two-tier foreign exchange regime offers, it has become an albatross. Hence that arrangement will be critically reviewed, adjusted or even eliminated.
There is a nexus between our debt –to-GDP ratio and our tax-to-GDP ratio, which this year has decreased by 1.3 percentage points, from 7.3% to 6.0%. Comparatively, our tax to GDP ratio is one of the lowest in the world, with some peer countries doing 15% to 25% percent.
Our bane in this connection, is our over reliance on oil, excessive borrowings and fiscal indiscipline. A simplified but enhanced tax collection regime should address the prevailing challenges.
24. Twenty million out of school children is a dire national crisis.
As part of our Marshall Plan for Education, we will foster nationwide Federal intervention in education at all levels and partnership with State Governments and international organizations in order to improve access to affordable and quality education at all levels; We will introduce a mandatory “No Child left Behind” educational policy, mindful that Nigeria’s inadequate investment in the social sectors such as health, education and housing, has resulted in large number out-of-school children, huge unmet housing needs as well high youth unemployment.
We must fund education more robustly and holistically by tweaking the operational modalities of UBEC and TETFund. In funding education, we will pursue the global best practices and standards within available resource.
A 14% budgetary funding for education is within the realm of possibility in the medium and long term.
TETFund resources must be re-directed to funding of the Universities and other higher institutions robustly with a view to ending the perennial strikes by University Staff and workers.
25. We will prioritize a structured approach to developing the digital skills of our young population to give them the competitive advantage to receive offshore jobs in the new gig economy, while also improving the efficiency and productivity level of our economy.
26. Through an all of Government approach, we will take clear steps to progressively increase allocation to health as recommended in the Abuja declaration. This will decrease the number of emigrating doctors and hopefully improve doctor-patient ratio.
We will invest in data and technology systems that will trigger efficiency in health systems governance, logistics, disease prevention and control, epidemic prediction, mitigation and response, and human and financial resource tracking and optimisation.
We will expand local production use and export of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and other healthcare consumables, as part of our strategy to promote quality, make efficiency gains, expand production and broaden the contribution of the health industry to GDP.
27. Naturally, our gender policy will include strong proviso against gender-based violence. As governor of Anambra State, my administration achieved close to a 60-40 gender balance in appointive and elective positions.
The national target has hovered around 30-35%.
We intend to progressively aim for between 35-40%, with aggressive gender mainstreaming action plan and rigid benchmarks.
28. The Nigeria Maritime sector is robust and ought to grow stronger. We are blessed with several deep seaports. However, for some inexplicable reason, we tend to cluster our import and export activities around the Lagos Ports, thus creating avoidable bottlenecks.
We should decongest Lagos Ports via a deliberate policy of incentivizing end-destination priorities. This will also curtail on-land heavy haulage transshipments that take a tool on our road infrastructure.