So it was an enthralling event as several Vice presidential candidates, including Yemi Osinbajo of the All Progressives Congress and Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party debated today at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
Present for the debate were Khadija Abdullahi-Iya, the vice presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Ganiyu Galadima of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and Umma Getso of the Young Progressives Congress.
The debate was anchored by Imoni Amarere
Obi said “On the issue of unemployment, which is worsening, we can see that millions of our children are out of school. You can see from a study that there is a straight link between SMEs and growing your economy, and we’re not supporting our own SMEs very well.
“If you look at what China has been able to do with SMEs, SMEs in China is contributing to 60 per cent of their GDP. And 60 per cent of China’s GDP is 7.2tn (dollars), which is 18 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP.
“China today, using the same SMEs, is guaranteeing 10 million jobs annually. Half of this year alone, China has produced 7.2 million jobs, which is over 40 per cent of their target. Within the same period, Nigeria lost four million jobs.”
Obi said, “That is why we have issues of insecurity, instability and all sorts of things we are witnessing today. We now live in a country where we have the highest number of poor people in any nation — 87 million and growing six per cent every minute.
“Our country today has the highest number of school children in the world. Our HDI (human development index) has dropped from 152 to 157. Our global competitive index has dropped from 124 to 127.
“In terrorism, we have moved from seven to number three just behind Iran and Afghanistan. Our inequality has worsened. Our misery index has worsened. Stress index now places us at 148 of 149. These are hinged on two things from studies and that is on education and unemployment.”
Obi said, “It is not that you cannot fight corruption but you can fight it more aggressively while addressing economic issues. For example, in 2015, unemployment was 24 percent. Today, it is 40 per cent. In 2015, we attracted $21bn in Foreign Direct Investment but we attracted only $12bn last year. Our GDP was $500bn in 2015 while per capita was $2, 500 today it is under $1, 900.
On fuel subsidy
Obi said, “If you look at our stock market, we have lost over N2tn in one year. So, that is not a policy. You’re just fighting corruption, you are not creating jobs. You cannot shut down your shop and be chasing criminals.”
“What we are subsiding today is inefficiency. If you get it right, the prices still come down. There is no way a country can have a budget of N340bn for health, which translates to N5 a day for (each of) its citizens, and then pay a trillion for subsidy.
“There is no way you can have an education budget, which is the most critical component of the development at over N400bn and you’re paying subsidy of a trillion. It is a waste. You need to reverse it because you’re not dealing with the engine that will drive your economy tomorrow.”
Osinbajo said ‘If you allow criminals to steal all the inventory in the shop, there will be no shop. That’s the problem. And what has happened in Nigeria in the past 16 years is what the World Bank told us; that the major cause of our poverty is corruption.
“That is what we’ve been told. So, let me say there is no way we can minimise. You can’t minimise corruption; if you minimise it, we run the risk of completely — in fact, the argument is lost.
“We cannot do what we want to do unless we are able to minimise corruption or eradicate it completely, which is what we’re trying to do.”
On fuel subsidy;
Osinbajo said, “the NNPC is the sole importer of petroleum. So, it is from the balance sheet of the NNPC that the subsidy is being taken. Now, let me say that if today, you are to remove subsidy, petrol price could go as high as N220 per litre or higher. There is no country in the world, not even the wealthiest ones that don’t run some type of subsidy or the other.”
On the economy
Osinbajo said, “I think the common denominator between the two countries you mentioned is the strong infrastructure. Our nation in the past 16 years has suffered a major infrastructure deficit. So, we don’t have rails, roads. When we came into power in 2015, power was 4,000MW in 16 years.
“So, you need strong infrastructure. No one can argue about it. The second thing is you cannot have a strong economy if you allow the type of grand corruption that has taken place in Nigeria in the last 16 years.”
On social investment programme
Osinbajo said “Under the N-Power scheme, we are employing 500,000 graduates, who are in every single local government of the country.
“At the same time, we have the homegrown school feeding programme under which 9.2 million children are fed every single day in 26 states of Nigeria,’’ he said.