Former governor of Lagos State and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, yesterday said that to restructure Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari must lay emphasis on populist governance, agriculture, education, infrastructure and industrialisation.
Speaking at the combined 15th-20th convocation ceremony of the University of Abuja, where an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) was conferred on him, Tinubu said Nigeria’s future depended on the will and courage of Buhari’s government to turn challenges into opportunities.
According to him, “Nigeria stands in the corridor between greatness and failure, between progress and collapse, between hope and despair. Our fate depends on whether we summon the courage to take the bold steps and move in the direction. We must turn our present challenges into opportunities for the re-engineering of our nation’s economic challenges. The University and our educational system have a role to play here.”
He further pointed out that Nigeria needs some fundamental restructuring both politically and economically, emphasising that the restructuring should not be the “constant tinkering and patch-patch” Nigerian government often resorts to.
Speaking on the role of agriculture in the restructuring process, he said it remained a key pillar in the country’s development and that Nigeria must return to the days when it had surplus and exported food.
“Now we import too much food for our own good and security. Our small farmers sink under the reality of rising costs and too little income from the crops they raise.
“Moreover, we annually lose arable land to desert encroachment. I believe the current administration under President Buhari has set its priorities right in this regard. Our farmers will once be proud again. We believe farmers need to earn a sufficient enough income that will bring prosperity back to their families. They must be encouraged and supported,” Tinubu added.
The former governor said Nigeria must also improve its capacity to provide jobs for its growing urban population.
On how the APC Government would be lifting 20 per cent of Nigerians out of poverty, Tinubu stated that, “as a progressive government we have as one of our top priorities the lifting of 20 per cent of Nigerians out of poverty within the first four years of our administration.
“To happen, the state must be a catalyst for job creation and economic development that touches all the people, not just a narrow growth that benefits a small number. We shall do this by implementing a national industrial policy linked to a national infrastructural plan and a national employment strategy.”
Emphasising the importance of education in the process, he said, “our position is that we make a special effort to draw all children to school, particularly the poor. We cannot afford to allow poverty to keep children out of the classroom. If so we are suborning a life of ignorance and poverty for millions of our young ones.”
He said Nigeria faces multiple challenges but assured that APC Government could combat them and that the government has demonstrated the courage and determination to change a non-performing government through a democratic election.
“This electoral success has brought new challenges. These challenges are numerous and we must brace up and confront them. We dare not rest on the satisfaction of electoral victory alone. We must continue to strive toward democratic governance that can usher in a progressive era of broad prosperity, development, democracy and human dignity for our people. This is our preoccupation, our desire,” he said.
It was reported that former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi and Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, were also conferred with honorary doctorate degrees.
Apart from the honourees, 25,878 students were awarded various degrees at the convocation ceremony. Earlier, representative of President Muhammadu Buhari, Hajiya Hindattu Abdullahi, the Director, Tertiary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, enjoined the institution to take research seriously as it was key to economic development.
He said it was pertinent to emphasise on the quality of teaching and research in Nigeria’s universities as it affected the quality of graduates from our universities.
“I therefore urge Nigerian universities to ensure that the quality of the graduates produced compares with graduates produced from other universities globally. Research should not be relegated to the background in our universities; rather universities should ensure that the education impacted is strongly influenced by research,’’ Buhari, who is the university Visitor, added. Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Michael Adikwu, giving a breakdown of the graduating students, said they comprise 20,461 undergraduate students and 4,261 postgraduate students spanning the 2009/2010 to 2014/2015 sessions.
“Eight undergraduate student graduands bagged first class honours; 2,324 bagged second class upper division; 11,180 bagged second class lower division; 6,647 bagged third class while 836 bagged pass.
“Of the total of 4,261 postgraduate graduands, 331 are graduating with Doctorate degrees, 2,233 with Masters’ degree and a total of 1,697 are Postgraduate Diploma graduands,” he stated.
Adikwu explained that UniAbuja was graduating five sets of students at the event because of the crises that engulfed the system over the last few years, adding that normalcy had been restored to academic activities on campus through the intervention of the National Universities Commission and the Ministry of Education.
The highlight of the event was the investiture of Alhaji Shehu Idris, the Emir of Zazzau, as Chancellor of the institution.