Akpabio tells Tinubu, Shettima home truths


…Keep your part of covenant, do what Nigerians expect, he says

…Deplores resort to World Bank loans

By Tunde Opalana

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, yesterday looked the Executive straight in the eye and delivered some home truths to them.

He told President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima to rise up to the challenges confronting the country by keeping their part of the social contract with Nigerians, after they convinced the latter during the electioneering campaign leading up to the 25 February 2023 presidential poll, to vote for them based on certain promises.

Also, Akpabio took a hard look at the administration’s romance with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other Western financial institutions, where the administration routinely runs to for loans, to instead look inwards and deploy home-grown solutions to resolve the country’s dire fiscal challenges.

He admonished the duo not to place the destiny of the country in the hands of global imperial financial institutions but to put on their thinking caps and work out strategies to pull the nation’s economy out of the woods.

Akpabio said these yesterday in his remark titled ‘Let’s take the flood when it serves’ at the opening ceremony of a retreat on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms for members of the 10th Senate, at Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.

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Vice President Shettima was present at the event.

While promising the readiness of the Senate to continue to walk and work with the Executive until the country’s hope is renewed and Nigeria turns a new chapter in her national story, Akpabio reminded Tinubu and Shettima that in the course of the electioneering campaigns, they sought to cut a covenant with Nigerians.

His words: “You stated what you hoped to do for Nigerians in an 85-page document which sought to renew our collective hope. Nigerians kept their part of that covenant by electing you. Now it is up to you to keep your part of the covenant by doing what Nigerians are expecting, what Nigerians voted you to do.

“As the voices and ears of our people, appreciative that they listened to you and voted for you, supportive of rights of Nigerians to the goodies in that document, we have come to deliberate on that document and to ensure that we do not work at cross-purposes with the Executive arm.

”Because every action of man is based on a cost/benefit consideration, Nigerians weighed the benefits against the cost, and decided to vote for our President. Party differences must give way to national interest, and we, Distinguished Senators, must come together and ensure that the expectations and hopes of our people are not betrayed.”

He urged the President and Vice President to device home-grown solution to Nigeria’s economic challenges without subjecting the nation to the whims and caprices of international bodies.

Akpabio said: “I believe that our destiny is not in the hands or the fine prints of the World Bank. The bank may mean well, and can be of help to us, but they have not worn our shoes and they do not know where it pinches. It is our walk not their own, so while they talk the talk, let us walk the walk. We wear the shoes and we know where it pinches. Every major national development was based on a road map designed by citizens of the respective countries.

“The Frenchmen Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rosseau were the brains behind the French Revolution. Kim Dae-jung changed the fortunes of South Korea. Lenin transformed Tsarist Russia and turned it into a superpower. These people and more succeeded because they had plans and their countrymen and women followed their plans.

“Let us follow the plan before us. The founding fathers of our nation, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello etc had and followed a plan of development, and Nigeria, in their days, occupied a place of pride in the comity of nations. Since then, we have not had the kind of elaborate plan put forward by Mr. President and which targets growth in critical sectors of our economy and seeks to remove wastages in our economic cycle.

“Let us provide the launching pad for this audacious plan and acquit ourselves as patriots and worthy representatives of our people.”

The Senate President said policies of the Federal Government had sometimes been misunderstood by some Nigerians who do not understand that such are generally designed for long-term benefits.

He explained: “But we know that today’s pain shall lead to tomorrow’s gain. Out of the clouds of despair shall come showers of blessing. For example, the stock market is said to have jumped to N1.51 trillion as a consequence of the announcement to unify foreign exchange rates. Tax reforms, experts believe, could yield a N20 trillion tax gap in a nation with a tax-to-GDP ratio of 10.86%.

“There are several other benefits of the Renewed Hope program and the eight-point agenda of the present administration. These benefits we must know in the course of this retreat. When we do, gather this knowledge, this retreat will lead to a great leap for our country as we would accelerate legislation to renew the hope of our people.

“Your Excellency, very distinguished Senators, I believe that we are at an auspicious moment in our history. The kind of moment Shakespeare meant when he said ‘there is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries’.

“On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures. We are cast on such a tide today and we must take the flood and set our sails right so that history will never forget us, and posterity will say that ‘this was the Senate’s finest hour’.

“Let us remember what the President said, ‘Our Renewed Hope Action Plan outlines goals for greater economic growth in our cities and rural communities. We are committed to an economy of double-digit GDP growth, greater food security and one with a strengthened manufacturing base, as well as an active digital economy where young people will have ample space to fulfill their dreams and aspirations’.”

Also addressing the gathering, President Tinubu urged the National Assembly to work with the Executive in strengthening and growing the nation’s economy. He assured of his commitment to do all within his powers to engender better life for all Nigerians.

The President, represented by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun stated this while declaring open the retreat.

He noted that it was unacceptable to him that 63% of the Nigerian population representing 84 million, formed the multidimensionally poor, saying that he would ensure that the three per cent progress made in developing the economy would be sustained.

According to him, “I cannot do this alone; there has to be team network and of course legislators. The Senators have a key role to play.”

The president also tasked the National Assembly to be committed as they are known for and ensure that the budget is considered, passed and signed before 31 December, 2023.

In his welcome remarks, organizer of the retreat and Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof. Abubarkar Sulaiman, said the retreat would strengthen measures to deepen Legislature–Executive relationships and address issues of insecurity, which have hampered meaningful development in the country.

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