Says “Poverty in Nigeria is self-induced”

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Lasun Yusuf, recently paid a private visit to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital where he later spoke with some journalists on the state of the nation. He insisted, among other things, that all hands must be on deck to end recession in Nigeria. ON plans by some aggrieved members of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC to form a mega party ahead of next election and whether the move is a threat to the APC Mega party or whatever party you call it, the best thing in a democracy is opportunity for opposition. When you don’t have viral opposition bad governance continues. As APC government, we are doing our best, and I think as at now, our best is sufficient for Nigerians to know that we mean business. For instance, so many things have been revealed in the last one and a half years and Nigerians are more aware about what government does today than in the past. Bills and representation
in secrecy but today if we talk about NNPC people know what goes on there. If you talk about FIRS, EFCC, people now know more of government than what they used to in the past. As a party, we have opened up government, people know what National Assembly does as one arm of government, from budget to making bills and representation; people now know more of National Assembly. So, whether it is mega party or minor party or majority party, we are not threatened at all and don’t forget that in politics it takes time before you take a root. If anybody is aggrieved about what is going on in the party, he should follow what they used to preach to us, that is, explore the internal mechanism of the party to get solutions to such grievances. So, aggrieved  people should come back to the party. Internal mechanism But if anybody feels cheated and feels the best for him is to leave and go and form a mega party, then all of us are politicians we are going to face ourselves. We have done it in recent past in Edo, we knew what we did in Ondo and Ekiti and Osun is coming in 2018. All of us have come of age, no politician can threaten anybody again in Nigeria. We are all politicians, democracy is for everybody and political party is like an open market. Open entry, free exit. If you are dissatisfied with a political party then you can go and form your own party. As far as I’m concerned, APC has done well in taking care of Nigerians. A political party doesn’t belong to some sort of people alone, it belongs to everybody and if your interests are not being taken care of, then you opt out and if you think that your interest can still be taken care of then you stay. I’m not aware but people are talking about mega party and we are waiting for them. 2017 is here, what is your message for Nigerians? We are all aware that Nigeria’s economy has gone down because of many factors. Apart from human factors, there are also some natural occurrences too and because for a long time, Nigeria did not plan for certain things to happen. 2016 was tough, we were not able to implement the 2016 budget, particularly the practical part of the budget and also the new government has been talking about the diversification of the economy and of course it’s not something that can happen overnight. Diversification of  the economy When you consider all these factors, that means in 2017 we have to do a follow up to what we have been doing. Things have been difficult in the economy and I don’t want to talk too much about oil.  Like I always tell people our economy should be able to do well at the productive stage, it is when you are able to do well at the productive stage that you can build on it up to the manufacturing stage. When you do well at the manufacturing and productive stages, then you can now talk of the service sector of the economy. In Nigeria today, we talk about service and telecommunication, internet, foreign exchange, all these belong to developed economy. What we should concern ourselves with, as Nigerians, is the productive sector of the economy vis-à-vis the manufacturing sector. What is the productive sector? We talk about raw materials, exploitation and exploration of mineral resources, not oil alone. Adding value to these things is the basis of any economy. In 2017, we are still going to follow slightly the same pattern of 2016 because if you talk about diversification, it doesn’t happen overnight. If you go into agriculture for instance, there are two broad-based crops –  arable crops and cash crops. For any cash crop, it takes up to four to five years before you begin to harvest, so you don’t diversify and expect quick result, it takes a reasonable long time. Investing in infrastructure There is not going to be marked difference in 2017 from what we had in 2016. What the government can only improve on is to block all the loopholes, make sure that the level of ghost workers are minimized to save more money and invest. When we talk about investing in infrastructure, the way they do it in other countries is different from the way they do it in Nigeria. Most of our roads are supposed to be reconstructed which should stimulate the economy instead of being responsible for the majority of the capital flight. In developed countries, construction is supposed to stimulate the economy by giving jobs to local contractors but in Nigeria when we talk about road construction we are talking about giving contracts to foreign companies and as such, we have capital flight. I wish local contractors are encouraged. As at today Nigeria is doing N2 trillion local contracts. If you want to go into construction of roads and houses, you have to patronize local contractors to stimulate the economy. These are areas I think government should look into in 2017 and of course as a deputy speaker, we have always been telling the executive that the most important thing in an economy is to be able to retain whatever money you have in the system at least 80 per cent, that is the only way the economy can be stimulated. Natural phenomena Government is becoming tighter, cleaner and neater. So, the era of business as usual is gradually going in Nigeria because the executive is bringing sanity into the system and that is part of development too. When business is not being done as usual again, that means government can focus largely on development. What is the way out of recession and worsening poverty in the country,  particularly under this administration? Poverty is a natural phenomena, no matter how you try, some people will be poor and no mater how stringent the condition is, some people will be rich. What a government should try to do at every point in time is to improve on the lives of the people or the masses by providing security for them. The present poverty that is permeating through the length and breadth of Nigeria is self-induced. People don’t want to create wealth before they earn a living and this is important. I am not saying that government has been doing what it is supposed to be doing, government has a lot to do but people should be fully engaged. If you talk about education, there is no country anywhere in the world that can employ 10 per cent of the workforce. What that means is that almost 80 per cent of people who go to work on daily basis are employed by private sector and the private sector is your driver, your cook, your gardener. Abroad, those are what they called jobs. These are the things we must look at, create such environment and provide jobs. Some think these jobs are menial but they are not. In developed countries, if they say that they have two or three jobs, its either they go to the airport to be luggage pusher, security guard elsewhere, and so on. You have to be fully engaged in something. In Nigeria, the idea of employment is somebody who has gone to school and is employed in an office. My appeal to people is that while government is trying to alleviate poverty, the people must be conscious of the fact that they must find a way to horn their own skills and to be skilful in certain things. I have seen a lot as an engineer, those who enjoy the economy are the artisans, welders, bricklayers, carpenters and the rest of them because these are the people who are always fully engaged and at all times. Nobody is praying that anybody should be poor, nobody likes a poor environment but the fact still remains that people should understand that the so called jobs we are talking about is not with government, it is with all of us. We must be able to use our hands to do certain things. Government alone cannot eradicate poverty, it is difficult for any government to do that. What any government can do is to provide the enabling environment which is even difficult to provide now. If the government wants to award contract, let it be given to local contractors, so that you can retain the money within the economy. Enabling environment If you look at the indices of why the environment is always poor, it is because you did not add value to what you are doing or that you are not able to retain your money within the economy and the system. What is your message to the people of Osun in  2017? They have my sympathy, I know workers there have not been earning their regular salaries, and when they do, it is only in Osun that I hear people are earning half salaries. I am not so familiar with it now, I have been out of that system for about one and a half years, I cannot specifically say certain things but I know that people have not been earning their full salaries, and when such salaries come, they come in trickles. My message, first and foremost, is to workers, that they should know that things are going to get better and that it’s a lesson for all of us that when an economy is struggling, paid employment is the one that suffers most. Those who have to change the face of the economy are likely to use the money that is supposed to be used in paying salaries. So, they have my sympathy. I want to again generally touch on the people of Osun, I know that they are resilient, I know they are hard working but they should have hope that things are going to get better. Frantic  efforts Some of us, in our own little ways, are making frantic efforts to go back home to invest and empower people to make sure that things get better. On crushing of Boko Haram by Nigerian soldiers in the Sambisa forest I give kudos to the Nigeria military because it was a war. I know lives were lost and I pray that those lives, may their souls rest in peace. And those who actually fought the war, we thank them for keeping Nigeria together. And it’s a message to Boko Haram and other burgeoning terrorist groups that they should know that terrorism is no longer fashionable and that a country can only develop in the atmosphere of peace. People don’t know this, the North is down economically because of this development, and it is even part of why we have problem with our economy. In the past when you mention, Kaduna, Jos, Kano, they are centres of big economic activities but when terrorism came, the economy of those places started going down and the effect of that with militancy in the Niger Delta among others are our present problems. So, the defeat of Boko Haram is a good omen and we are only pleading with those who are involved to please lay down their arms because Nigeria can only develop in an atmosphere of peace.

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