When Rev Martin Luther King asserted that men must never be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, he was not only aiming a spear at the heart of racism, but was also making a case for meritocracy, or substance over fluff. This emphasis on content and substance has influenced recruitment policies in global corporations, but more importantly, it has shaped how political candidates are engaged by the media and citizens in developed democracies.
Given this background, it is important to reframe how Tinubu’s campaign has been approached by the media and several other critics. Granted, every candidate who willingly aspires to occupy the highest office in the land must be open to criticism – sometimes unfair criticism. But while citizens are entitled to their biases, it is important that the media stays on the most important issues that affect everyday Nigerians.
For one, it is curious, if not embarrassing, that every criticism aimed at Tinubu has largely been about his person, health, family, or unproven allegations, rather than the substance of his policy proposals. It gets worse when people peddle the false narrative that Tinubu never articulates what he intends to do for the masses should he get elected. Instead of debating or challenging his ideas or policy proposal, many are majoring or the minor forgetting that if the general election were held today, the odds seem to favor Tinubu.
Tinubu has been consistent on several issues, some of which this piece will briefly address. Tinubu has been clear on tax policy, what he often describes as ‘progressive taxation.’ He is a strong advocate of eliminating multiple taxations that places an undue burden on businesses (particularly small business.) Nevertheless, he has demonstrated an intellectual commitment to doubling Nigeria’s tax to GDP ratio by improving the efficiency of tax collection. As he noted in one of his well-attended colloquiums, “I appeal to prof Yemi Osinbajo and his team to put a huge question mark on any increase in VAT. If we reduce the purchasing power of the people, we will further slow down the economy. Let’s widen the tax net instead of additional layers of taxes.”
Additionally, Tinubu has been clear on how he intends to reengineer Nigeria’s security architecture to keep citizens safe. On this, he has called for the decentralization of policing to allow for state and local policing to strengthen national security. Lagos State in the last 20 years has demonstrated that local policing can work effectively if the constitution is amended to accommodate it. With the creation of neighborhood watch, LASTMA, KAI, and several other agencies, not forgetting the government-led initiative to rally private and corporate funding to invest drastically in policing in Lagos.
He has also called for the need to expand the recruitment of security personnel in both the police and the military. Funnily, he was mocked for calling for the recruitment of 50,000 people into the force to boost National security while also creating jobs. The harsh reality is that we do not have enough policemen to maintain internal security or enough military personnel to withstand external aggression while dealing with the local insurgency. If we are to maintain our territorial integrity, then we must recruit more decent, honest and patriotic Nigerians into our security agencies.
On the economy, Tinubu has proposed a private sector-led economy balanced with effective and fair regulation to spread the wealth and reduce inequality. On health, he has proposed a National Health Insurance drive that gives 40 million Nigerians Health Insurance. And most importantly he has shown unwavering commitment to the restructuring of Nigeria.
The above is by no means exhaustive, and nor am I holding a brief for Asiwaju. My argument is simple; if we must judge a presidential candidate, let it be about his plans, proposals and experience, and character, and not about how he looks or how fast his heart beats. Let us focus on the most important issues and interrogate Tinubu on them.