2023 Elections: Bola Tinubu’s leaked manifesto shows a still vague plan for the tech sector

David Afolayan
…we thought it important to examine BAT’s ideas event before they become mainstream, owing to the strength of his candidacy and party
Bola Tinubu
Bola Tinubu

Sometime last week, all doubts regarding the rumoured presidential ambition of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), ahead of the 2023 general elections, became clear as a manifesto traced to his political camp became public. The document named “7 Point Agenda: The Rebirth Manifesto” detailed the former Lagos state governor’s plans for the country if he is elected.

The part of the document we saw showed that the focus of Asiwaju Tinubu if elected, include seven key areas: leadership, technology, security, infrastructure, homegrown business, education and true federalism. As a media keenly interested in policy development, its impact on the space and the thought process of policymakers, we thought it important to examine BAT’s ideas even before they become mainstream, owing to the strength of his candidacy and party.

This is in line with our culture of examining the manifestos of political leaders and political aspirants. Recall that we reviewed in the past the #LetsGetNigeriaWorkingAgain policy document by Atiku Abubakar’s, the “BIG Vision”  by Kingsley Moghalu, Mrs Oby Ezikwesili‘s manifesto document as well as that of the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari.

Traditionally, candidates from the PDP and the APC command much more media attention. So, the focus on BAT is not unfounded. He is a major force in the ruling political party in Nigeria.

Now to the details…

2023 Elections: Bola Tinubu’s leaked manifesto shows a vague plan for the tech sector
A sneak of the manifesto…

The summary received only indicated a summary of the BAT team’s idea on technology thus: Technology- Leverage modern technology for digital transformation and economic growth. To be honest, that appears cursory and not indicative enough. But, I believe that the detailed outline when released should be quite insightful.

Short and far-reaching, the objectives would have conveyed perfectly good intentions because they include intentions for capacity building, enterprise development and public sector management. But, the devil really is in the details. How would they be achieved?

Because what has become evident is that the political class may sometimes provide generalised solutions when the problems are very specific. For instance, a former major presidential aspirant promised to “promote the role of technology in governance“. As lofty as this sounds, it will fail woefully for a number of reasons. First, the role of the executive government is not to “promote” but enforce. The second reason is that technology isn’t exactly missing in governance in Nigeria. The problem is the objectives for which it is adopted and often the human interference.

With the knowledge that the team’s think-tank will be in the process of developing a strategic document for Asiwaju’s full campaign if elected, we will suggest key areas he should consider if the tech space must be one of the 7 pillars of development. These include:

#ENDSARS and youths harassment:

Police brutality is one of the long-staying problems of Nigeria. It doesn’t seem to have been solved even after the series of intense protests that rocked the country a little more than a year ago. On the contrary, it has thrown up pertinent questions that remain unanswered.  Nigerian youths took to the streets to protest the ills and brutality of men of the Nigerian police force.

#EndSARS: How FG's Clamp down Efforts Could Alter Course of Future Protests in Nigeria
#EndSARS

The protesters made five demands:

  • Immediate release of all detained protesters
  • Justice for all deceased victims
  • Investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days)
  • Psychological evaluation and retention of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed
  • An increase in police salary.

As of now, none of these demands has been met by the government across all levels. For a start, any aspirant seeking to win the hearts of the youths must commit to meeting the demands as basics for future engagements.

Tech engagement and regulation:

Today, the typical fashion of the government of Nigeria and its agencies is to ban whatever they do not agree with or do not seem to understand.

Just 2 weeks ago, a federal high court sitting in Abuja had to intervene for some Banks to allow citizens who took part in the #ENDSARS protest to have access to their bank accounts about a year after the protest. According to the court, banks cannot “block accounts of their customers without permissible jurisdiction that allows for such”.

Bitcoin

This is similar to the clampdown of accounts of people dealing in cryptocurrency by banks under the auspices of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Victims include individuals and companies. Recall that the CBN had on August 17, closed accounts of some fintech companies such as Risevest Technologies and Bamboo Systems Technology Limited for 180 days over alleged forex infractions.

Moves such as this have made a number of Nigerian companies relocate their entire operations outside the shore of the country. For instance, a fintech company, Patricia announced that it has relocated its operations to the Republic of Estonia and its headquarters will now be domiciled in the Northeastern European country four months ago.

This is besides the massive brain and talent drain happening daily because young people are trying to escape a system that fails to protect them and seems to derive jobs from killing enterprises.

The focus for the tech ecosystem should detail a deliberate effort to constructively engage innovators and tech industry players and have their input in policymaking. It will indicate a deliberate intent not to criminalise industry and to punish attempts to stifle growth.

Twitter ban

Twitter, a global social media platform was suspended in Nigeria after a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari was removed from the platform because it violated the company’s “abusive behaviour” policy.

The ban has been met with public outcry from Nigerians, foreign envoys, human rights organizations and other institutions. It has also been widely condemned as a violation of section 39 (1) of Nigeria’s constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which Nigeria has ratified and domesticated into national law.

#TwitterBan: Twitter has reached out for dialogue- Nigerian Minister of Communications
#TwitterBan

Subsequently, the Federal Government of Nigeria has a set of conditions that Twitter must meet if it must resume operations in Nigeria.

The conditions are as follows:

  • Twitter must pay attention to national security isues and enforce cohesion
  • The platform must be registered as a business in the country
  • It must establish a physical presence and representation in Nigeria
  • It must subject itself to fair taxation
  • It must put in place rapid dispute resolution and ensure local content

As of today, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, says the dialogue between Twitter and the Federal Government of Nigeria to lift the ban on Twitter is in progress although a few conditions are yet to be met.

Resolved or not, the issue of the ban will be a major conversation point in the next elections, any candidate seeking the support of the people, especially the youths, will have to speak about this and how to avoid a future occurrence.

Talent development

There has been an unending cry for the fusion of STEM subjects in the Nigerian education system, With a 70:30 ratio of applied technology skills to non-technology subjects, we need a policy that could see the younger generation pass through a reconfigured system that is better equipped to understand trends and acquire knowledge of the ever-evolving digital world.

Techquest and IHS Nigeria Set to Train 60 Teachers and 4500 Students in ICT Skills

So, there is the need for a system that will design and implement a fundamental overhaul of Nigeria’s educational system to cut the system’s propensity to produce graduates with little or no employable skills.

Funding

According to a 2020 Businessday report, the startup failure rate in Nigeria stood at 61%. In essence, only 39% of startups in Nigeria survive. Across Africa, startup failure rates range from 75% in Ethiopia and 74% in Ghana to 58.3% in Senegal and 60% in Somalia. Kenya has one of the lowest startup failure rates with 58.7%.

As much as we celebrate the significant funding successes in the Nigerian tech space, the truth is the sweet story is not sufficient. According to a WeForum report, only 8% of African startups make it to the Series B stage of funding as of 2019. This is a huge drop from 17% in 2014. In fact, a report indicates that 34% of startups fail for a lack of funds that could take their ideas beyond the dream stage.

We will Begin to Witness Local VCs Raise Larger Funds - Dayo Koleowo, Partner at Microtraction

At the moment, a significant portion of the funding rounds is made by foreign investors and venture platforms. There is, therefore, a need for the government to actively complement the process by setting aside funds to invest in innovative ideas as well as encourage private institutions to do the same safely.

Similarly, the banking institutions should be empowered to give on-digit loans to medium and small businesses with training and accompanying technology solutions for sales, accounting and analytics. This way the government will reduce the risk of loss although it won’t likely lose. Businesses will pay taxes or employ people who will. The workers will also be entitled to pensions and be more likely to be civically responsible.

We hear from reliable sources that Asiwaju Tinubu has a funding programme that will give many entrepreneurs a lifeline but the details are yet unclear.

In sum

The 2023 elections will be different from all the elections before it. This is not because the political parties are larger or with many contending forces. It is because the citizens are more enlightened, have access to social communication tools and are ready to take a hold of their futures.

The people have seen the power of civil movements like the #ENDSARS and witnessed the pains of repression. They know what they want and have an idea of what it is not. The demand will be direct and the answers must be too.

The campaigns that will get their attention and command their support have to be precise and kind to them. Remember the job of the leadership is not to “encourage” but “ensure”.



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