By Lekan Fatodu
Many Nigerians, both home and abroad, especially the development advocates, have waited anxiously to understand the direction of their country on the United Nation’s newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In September 2015, the world’s reputable intergovernmental body rose from its 70th general assembly to announce the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and also popularly referred to as the Global Goals.
The SDGs, which have been largely described as ambitious, contain 17 goals and 179 targets for global development and have long been worked on to effectively replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which had eight (8) goals and reached its end in 2015.
After the open declaration, the 193 UN member-states, including Nigeria, that agreed on the plan are expected to commence action in their respective countries and continents in order to make the goals more popular globally and accelerate its actualisation by 2030.
Expectedly, there are greater expectations on the side of Nigeria considering her recognisable position on the continent of Africa. As such it is believed that Nigeria would equally lead efforts that would stimulate stronger commitment and enthusiasm in other parts of Africa towards the attainment of the critical development action.
There are obvious reasons why Nigeria is looked upon to take leadership in this noble endeavour. These include the recent ranking of Nigeria as the biggest economy in Africa; the narrative that the country has the highest number of the ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI) in Africa, which was corroborated by the latest Forbes magazine’s global ranking of the world’s rich; the long existing reality about Nigeria being Africa’s largest exporter of crude oil and our sheer population size, which admittedly can potentially stimulate thriving commerce and trade.
But all of the foregoing have also been reported to be meaningless in the face of the gripping poverty that pervades the land. This appalling situation is validated by the World Bank Statistics that revealed that 62 percent of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, meaning these citizens are surviving on less than $1.25 per day! So the argument out there is that any economic growth that has insignificant or no bearing on the lives of people is not classifiable as a model for development, not alone the sustainable form.
Hence, Nigeria appears to have only been in motion without any significant forward movement in her bid to confront her socio-economic challenges. Indeed, the unfortunate reality should prompt the government to organise itself properly, highlight its development priorities and renew its commitment on strategies and frameworks that will foster sustainable development.
Meanwhile, the appointment of the former deputy governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, as the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on SDGs may indicate the preparedness of Buhari’s presidency to explore the contents of the goals and deliver good governance to Nigerians through the valuable instructions and aspirations of the SDGs. The engagement of a woman who has championed so vigorously and excellently the issue of poverty, health, and inequality amongst other social concerns during her term as the deputy governor of Nigeria’s economic hub, Lagos state, to advise and lead Nigeria’s efforts towards the attainment of the SDGs is a notable statement of intent.
Obviously, delivering the lofty agenda will pose a new challenge for Orelope-Adefulire and the Buhari government, but I am sure it will not be anything too difficult to conquer if thoughts and processes are well laid for action. Actually Orelope-Adefulire’s ability and determination to identify the goals according to their relevance to Nigeria’s situation and mobilise all stakeholders to join hands in achieving it will make a massive and positive impact on the government’s efforts and this could be a game-changer for the government whose economic policy is yet to take shape and be fully understood by all.
That said, considering the situation of Nigeria, not a few citizens have underlined poverty eradication as significant to Nigeria’s journey to greatness, while others have suggested that education, health, infrastructure and climate change should be our priorities for sustainable development.
And talking about shareholders collaboration, as the UN itself has passionately appealed to the global private sector for activate engagement in driving and achieving the development goals, it will enhance the work of Orelope-Adefulire to know that a large section of Nigeria’s private sector is not only willing and ready now to support the realization of sustainable development for the country, but also for Africa. Marine Platforms, headed by Mr. Taofik Adegbite and Sahara Group led by Mr. Tonye Cole are amongst the corporate champions who have keyed the agenda of the SDGs into their organisations’ corporate social responsibility (CRS).
Similarly, notable political economists like Prof. Pat Utomi have also spoken copiously on the role of the private sector in economic advancement and particularly on UN’s sustainable development aspirations. These, I am convinced, are positive reactions and valuable inputs and contributions that are not only favourable to Nigeria but also Africa. And I believe the SSA to the President on SDGs will not only make important notes but also move to effectively take advantage of the voluntarily inspiring commitments from the private sector to deepen the government’s efforts in providing practicable answers to our difficult socio-economic questions.
With this, Nigeria, and the world at large, would see the seriousness and resolution of the new government in delivering on its change agenda.