Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has said that infrastructural development is a critical part of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign slogan, Next Level, arguing that Nigeria’s major problem is bad leadership of the past which cost the country major infrastructural development.
He made the remarks while speaking at the 11th colloquium of the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, as representative of President Muhammadu Buhari, blaming past governments for being wasteful in times of abundance.
“I have said it before, Nigeria’s main problem is not a lack of ideas, it’s not. Most of the time, especially with the leadership of the past, it is lack of integrity in leadership and corruption in particular and it is the reason we are finding it difficult to make any progress.
“That is why we earned $383 billion in four years – 2010 to 2014 – the highest ever in the history of our country and yet Lagos-Ibadan expressway not done, all of what is being done today not done.
“We cannot point to a single major project, a single major infrastructure project that was completed in the ten years period despite the high wealth, including power. So, a government coming after so many years of waste must be a government that first, emphasises fiscal prudence, a government that emphasises integrity in public finance so that we manage the little resources we have to achieve the maximum that can be achieved and that is what President Buhari has set out to do,” he said.
While eulogising the APC leader, he said: “We do it (the colloquium) in celebration of a man who has spent the last 30 years of his life in creative public service. Right from the days of being Lagos governor, he provided clarity of thought and rare vision in all aspects of life.
“Once in a while, I think that history gives us people who are gifted transformative leaders and I believe that our country has been gifted by this transformative leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We do it in celebration of a man who has spent the last thirty years of his life in creative and catalytic public service, as from his days as governor of Lagos State, provided… of thoughts and vision… in all aspect of governance.
“He is not a lawyer as many of us know, but there are few Nigerians who have provoked so many legal controversies and constitutional challenges resulting in several landmark judicial.., especially in the area of federalism and what today is loosely described as restructuring. Many of us know that he is, of course, not an engineer, but a lot of his vision is what is responsible for what we see today in Lagos, the BRT, the Lekki industrial zone, even the Eko Atlantic project… and of course the reform in the tax system of Lagos State. Today, Lagos as we know, earns more revenue, more IGR, than 31 states of Nigeria put together. That by itself began in 2001,” he said.
Commenting on the party’s next level mantra, he said: “Let me say a word of two about the Next Level. As you know, the expression Next Level, itself, is our political campaign slogan in this last election. And what we were saying was simply that there was a next phase to what our country has seen. There are many who will say that there many things that were promised in 2015 which have not yet been realized. I think the best way of putting is to say that our country, for the first time is witnessing the type of leadership that is bound to lead us to where it is that we are proposed ourselves as a government.
“In my view, the honest leadership, leadership with integrity of our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, is a very important component of getting anywhere at all in all of our development plans. I said before at the last colloquium that Nigeria’s main problem is not the lack of ideas, it is not the lack of projects and programmes. It was most of the time, especially the leadership in the past, and corruption in particular as the reason why we were finding it difficult to make progress.
“I explained that that’s why we earned $383billion in four years, the highest ever in the history of our country, and yet Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was not done. Lagos-Kano Railway and all that is being done today, not done. We cannot point to a single major infrastructure project that was completed in the 10-year period, despite the high earnings, including power.
“So, a government coming after so many years of waste must be a government, first that emphasizes fiscal prudence, a government that emphasizes integrity in public finance so that it would manage the little resources to achieve the maximum that can be achieved. And that is what President Muhammadu Buhari set out to do. As I keep saying, the president has never claimed to be an orator. He just gets things done.
“It was under President Buhari that three of the four refineries that we have today were built, when he was Minister of Petroleum. 3500km of pipelines were built by him as Minister of Petroleum in a three-year period. So, there is a track record not of talking but of just getting things done. And this is what we have seen in the past four years.
“That is why we were able to set aside money for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. And that is going on at present. That is why we opened up the first phase of the Lagos-Kano Railway that was commissioned a couple of weeks ago, the Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan phase of that project. The Itakpe-Warri Railway, now completed after 35 years of being on the books. The Light Rail project here in Abuja started in 2005, budget after budget, never completed was completed also at the end of 2017.
“We now have that light rail from the airport to Idu. Same as several other infrastructural projects. Mambila Hydro has been on the cards for 40 years. We have just put together resources to begin that project and we will complete that project.
“For us infrastructure is critical at the Next Level. You cannot have the situation where you have the kind of power situation we have today and expect transformative progress. That is why we are focused on power and other infrastructure. We are focused on fixing the infrastructure in the country and we believe that if we fix the infrastructure, the roads and 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 are able to clear the congestion in that port because the Lagos to Kano railway starts from the Apapa port. And we can start taking out cargo from the Apapa port using rail as an alternative means.
“For us , infrastructure is critical at the Next Level; 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 and we can start taking our cargo from the Apapa port using rail as an alternative means of transportation.
“The same is true of agriculture; and we just heard our partners from Brazil talking about the next phase of our agricultural development and we are committed to that project because we believe that is what will transform the agro-industrial phase of our planning and that is what will transform agriculture in this country and create additional jobs.
“It is enough to have farmers everywhere; we need the refining capacity; we need the processing capacity and that is what our partnership with the Brazilians will provide for us.
“On the reforms, we are making on education and healthcare, today the emphasis is on digital literacy; the emphasis on training our teachers to be able to train the next generation of children in school. And we are focused on doing so using some of the methods we have described very comprehensively not just in the ERGP but in our next level document.
“So, we are focusing on STEAM not 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 21st century will provide.
“Our focus on healthcare is on National Health Insurance because we cannot finance healthcare by the budget alone. Again, at the Next Level, we will expand our social investment programme; at the moment , the programme is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the African continent,” he said.