FOURTH BOLA TINUBU COLLOQUIUM

The fourth Bola Tinubu colloquium held on the 28th of March, 2012 at the Expo Centre, Eko Hotel and Suites. The theme for this edition was “Looking Back, Thinking Ahead”. The event was one of reminisce of the past achievements of Bola Tinubu in Lagos State as the state’s governor. The event was chaired by the former commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku (GCFR).

The chairman used the event to advocate for a Sovereign National Conference to tackle the issues that plague and abound in the country; Boko Haram, education deficit in the North and revenue allocation. According to him “No one can deny the fact that there are major challenges of insecurity, heightened by Boko Haram, constant call for new revenue allocation formula, decline in health and education standard. These, in my view, should be addressed at the conference on how to face the challenges.”

He said this way is the most effective way to tackle these issues. He also said that to return to true federalism which the SNC stands for, Nigeria needs to restructure the architecture of governance. He called for the creation of six federating units in place of the 36 existing states. Not that the states should be scrapped, but should be retained under the six federating units. “I do believe that rather than our current unitary system, federalism will better promote peace, stability and development in Nigeria. To return to true federalism, we need a major restructuring of our current architecture of governance. We need six federating units instead of our present 36 which not only sustains an over-dominant centre but also compels the country to spend less than 74 percent of its revenue on the cost of administration.”

He further stressed, “If the existing 36 states must be retained, they could be made developmental zones with minimal administrative structures within the respective six federating units. I do not believe that we can successfully tackle the serious challenges currently facing our country on the basis of our existing constitution and architecture of governance.”

He stated that the reason he agreed to chair the event was that Tinubu is “an effective advocate of federalism and a dedicated activist for the return of democracy and the restitution of Chief MKO Abiola’s presidential election victory in Nigeria. My second reason for agreeing to be here is the significance of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as a consistent advocate of true federalism in Nigeria. As governor of Lagos State, he undertook some key development projects which, under our existing Constitution, were federal responsibility”

To properly restructure and practice true federalism in order to tackle the challenges to the unity of the nation, Anyaoku was of the opinion that the 1999 constitution should be reviewed through a well directed national conference to redesign the country’s architecture of governance. He said “without far-reaching changes to the 1999 constitution and present governance structure, our quest for peace, stability and development will remain elusive. And to effect such changes, we need a national consensus which can only come from a dialogue among representatives mandated for that purpose by the citizens of this country”.

Maitama Sule hailed Tinubu’s leadership qualities and urged others to emulate him. He canvassed for a non-violent revolution similar to what Indira Ghandi led in India. He wondered where we as a country went from being ranked with India and Brazil in the ‘80s to being ranked below them today. On this, Sule said “We need people to embark on non-violent resistance. We simply need cultural revolution”. This he said was the only way there can be a turnaround in the challenges plaguing the country.

Wale Edun in his speech, took a look back at the achievements of Bola Tinubu, and his contribution to the development of Lagos State into becoming a mega city. He stated that what Tinubu achieved in Lagos during his 8 year tenure was as a result of collective team effort from his cabinet members. Edun talked on the issue of public financing in an emerging mega city. Taxation has to be a means of government revenue as this is a means to provide public growth and development. Most mega cities have taxation as their central means of financing and revenue generation; taxes have made up about 50% of the general revenue both at the state and the federal government level. Taxes are of paramount importance in planning and financing development. When taxation was enforced in Lagos as a means to generate revenue to develop the state, it was essentially a social contract entered into by the governor of Lagos state and the people of Lagos on the note that the taxes would be used in the development of the state to the benefit of the people. The governor did not let the people down as the achievements of taxation can be seen in the state; good roads, clean water, healthcare, a better environment. This spurred the people to continue paying their taxes. It is important to know that the state had grown its internally generated revenue from N600 million in 1999 to about N15 billion in 2011. He commended Babatunde Fashola, the governor of Lagos state who made sure to continue this contract and putting efforts to make sure more people pay their taxes annually.

It is sufficient that records will show that the rules and regulations put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria effectively closed the long term capital markets to all states in 2002. Tinubu was behind the reopening of the capital market to the public sector thus facilitating access to long term funds to all states. He was able to convince the then CBN governor to reopen the market by showing the development plans for Lagos state and how the funds will help with the development. This also showed the reason why other states should be allowed access to the long term funds and why he believed the blanket plan of the state funds was a bad deal to the Nigerian economy as a whole. He described it as “one of Asiwaju’s finest hours”.

The lesson going forward, to him, is that the battle of true federalism and physical federalism of which the celebrant has been an unflinching advocate must continue to be fought and won at every turn. The reason which Tinubu was able to win the fight to reopen the capital market was because the fight was just one of a host of encounters emanating from a principal stand of federalism. In his opinion, in the debt rating agencies, the investors should be the ones to decide when a state should be able to access the long term funds rather than being decided by federal agencies.

Governor Fashola in his speech on “Managing Change in a Post Military Era” said the state has been able to maintain the policies laid down by the Tinubu Administration as a result of the continuity in personnel and policy making. He said the state would enforce the legislation to collect taxes as it was appalling that with a population of over 20 million, only 2.5 million pay their taxes. Also speaking at the event were Leke Pitan, Yemi Osinbanjo, Rauf Aregbesola. Leke Pitan, a Commissioner during the celebrant’s administration, spoke at length on the reforms in the education and health sector since 1999. From provision of free anti malaria and ante natal drugs to building “mega” schools. Osinbanjo, who was the former Attorney-General of Lagos state, said the creation of the 37 LGA was the defining moment in the struggle for true federalism in Lagos state. Aregbesola while speaking on “Politics: The People First” called on the Action Congress of Nigeria to get rid of those not ready for the task ahead in bringing true federalism.

At the event, the book titled “Asiwaju: Leadership in Troubled Times” was presented. About N50 million was realized from the sale of the book. The proceeds from the sales would be channeled into a fund, The Bola Tinubu Institute for Good Governance.