Tinubu made the appeal in a remark at the opening of the 2021 annual Arewa House Lectures, which he chaired on Saturday in Kaduna.
The lecture was on “Reduction of the Cost of Governance for Inclusive Growth and Youth Development in Northern Nigeria in a Post- COVID-19 era”.
He said that government must urgently think outside of the box in finding solutions to the challenges posed by unemployment.
According to him, the frustration and despair among the youth was largely caused by chronic poverty and breakdown in social institutions.
“Building vital infrastructure such as irrigation and water catchment systems will help agriculture, arrest desertification and provide jobs.
“Another readily available area primed for investment is the agro allied industry which, for the northern region is particularly advantageous,” he said.
Tinubu added that government must implement a national industrial policy to encourage key industries to begin to employ the country’s growing population.
On the herder and farmer dispute, the former Lagos State Governor said the government “must appreciate that martial security measures alone will not suffice”.
“Problems that are essentially of an economic origin must also have an economic solution.
“Enhanced security may be the necessary first step, but it cannot be the only step.
“We cannot resolve this problem by holding on to one-dimensional answers. We must all be dispassionate in our search for solutions.
“These challenges are multi-faceted and so the solutions must be.
“The issue of insecurity, unemployment and extremism has many things to do with governance, over time. We must tackle our deep and widespread poverty.
“If we limit government’s role under the erroneous assumption that government spending is intrinsically unproductive, then we tether ourselves to failure.”
He also cautioned those advocating for “small government”, advising them to learn from history.
“We would do well to more critically study how other populous nations such as the UK, US, Germany and China charted their course during their formative years.
“You will see that they did not adhere to small government or the purportedly free market.
“Government engaged in massive spending on infrastructure and education while also engaging in policies that protected industrial development and key aspects of the agricultural sector.
“Only when they matured and held advantages over other nations, did the UK and US begin to champion free markets and small government.
“We would do well to understand this history and learn what it means for our own pursuit of development,” Tinubu added.
He also cautioned against the assumption that government spending was unproductive.
“The development of any populous nation has always been dependent on the ability of government to allocate sufficient funds to projects and programs that create and encourage enduring growth and employment.
“We must reject that mode of thinking that assumes government expenditure is inherently unproductive as well as harmful to the overall economy.
“It is not the fact that government expenditure is intrinsically wrong any more than one can say all private sector activity is economically positive.
“Government can be wasteful or it can be the key component to growth just as a private sector business can function profitably or spend itself into bankruptcy.
“The issue is not whether government is spending money or not. The real issue is the economic utility and quality of the expenditure,” the Asiwaju said.
Tinubu suggested fiscal wisdom in running the nation’s economy, which he noted was weak due to the efforts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fiscal wisdom but not necessarily austerity is required for an economy like ours in a time like this, to ensure equitable wealth redistribution and meaningful use of resources.
“The years have shown that the private sector is much too weak to spur the growth we need.
“If the private sector could manage this feat, it would have already done so. Where the private sector is too weak or unable, the government must fill the void.
“This means government must not be afraid to embark on an activist fiscal policy to create jobs, build infrastructure and develop our industrial sector as well as continue to improve agriculture.
“This means government must spend money on those things that bring the requisite economic returns for the nation,” he said.
Tinubu advised states and local governments to shape their budgets to suit their revenues, as federal government spend more to create more jobs for the youth.
This, he said was to eradicate restiveness and sundry criminality among the youth.
On the effects of COVID-19 on the economy, Tinubu advised the government to provide more stimulus packages to revive the fledgling economy.
“In the midst of our local challenges came the COVID-19 pandemic, with its debilitating impact on the global and domestic economies.
“Nigeria, like many other countries, has not been spared the impact of the pandemic.
“Commendably, however, President Muhammadu Buhari has been carefully steering the country through the pandemic such that the negative impact on us and the economy has not been as harsh as it might have been.
“The economy’s relapse into recession has ended, but we must admit the economy remains weak with too much unemployment and resources left idle,” he added.
He stressed that nations that recovered most quickly from the 2009 economic crisis and now from COVID-19 were those that engaged most in government stimulus spending.