Governance and National Development: Issues and Implications

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For the Record

By Senator Oluremi Tinubu

I am honoured to present this paper as the keynote speaker at the12th Annual Research Conference and Fair of this great Institution, UNILAG. I must commend the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rahmon Ade Bello, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics and Research), Professor OluwatoyinOgundipe; members of the Governing Board and members of the committee charged with organizing this conference.

The theme of this conference Govnance and National Development: Issues and Implications; and the sub-theme Democracy and National Development are relevant and important in the current scheme of events and the on-going conversations on the need or otherwise for restructuring. For this, I commend the organisers.

The purpose of Government is important in any discussion or attempt to analyse governance, national development, success recorded and the attendant issues and implications arising therefrom.  Thus, governance in Nigeria is premised on the ‘principles of democracy and social justice’, ensuring participation of the citizenry in government, with the Nigerian Constitution stating the ‘security and welfare of the people’ as the primary duty of government.

Today’s Nigeria is a curious tale of two worlds co-existing, each different in nature and direction and each threatened by the other.  On the one hand, Nigeria (along with few other countries in Africa) has been described as the new economic and innovation frontier, with consumer spending set to rise, the middle class expanding at very competitive rates and becoming sophisticated, college education reaching more and more of Nigeria’s youth, investment in infrastructure increasing year-on-year and, importantly, democratic ideals and practices taking roots more firmly.

On the other hand, a large section of the populace in today’s Nigeria struggles with the scourge of poverty, appalling standards of living, non-existent and decaying infrastructure, HIV and AIDS, maternal and infant mortality, terrorism, ethnic and tribal tensions and other ills symptomatic of a nation not fully at ease. The gap between our tremendous potentials as a country and our actual attainments is depressing and disheartening; for a country as endowed with human, material and natural resources as Nigeria, the level of poverty in which the vast majority of our people live is unacceptable.

The theme of this conference calls for re-evaluation and re-appraisal of the issues and implications arising from the nexus between governance and national development in Nigeria. I believe strongly that an appraisal of the existing situation, discuss and proffering solution is important in ensuring a holistic approach to creating a system that works. Thus, it is a privilege to deliver my thoughts on this subject. In this presentation, I shall attempt from governance viewpoints, to state the issues, articulate the situation and outline the options which may be subsequently adopted as solutions that will lead to this thriving ‘Nigeria’ that I alluded to.

Along with many political scientists, I agree that for a country as diverse and large as Nigeria, only the practice of true and fiscal federalism can deliver effective administrative and political governance and the afore-mentioned deliverables.

It will be noted that I have taken the liberty to use the expression ‘true federalism’ and ‘true fiscal federalism’ above. This is because, in the peculiar case of Nigeria, while our laws and constitution expressly declare the country to be a Federal State, the practical application of most of the applicable constitutional provisions and laws effectively makes Nigeria a country governed under a quasi-unitary system of government thus necessitating and justifying theclamour for ‘true federalism’ in Nigeria.

In Nigeria’s 3rd Republic, there has been a number of sordid corruption-related episodes in the States of the Federation and at the federal level that could justifiably lead to citizens’ loss of faith and confidence in the democratic process. Many citizens believe that democracy as practised in our Presidential System is lavishly expensive and over-burdening the nation’s resources.

However, one State in Nigeria has unarguably led in exemplary management of resources and people-directed policies – Lagos State.

The success story of Lagos State is traceable to the ascension to office of widely travelled professionals who are experienced in the scientific and systematic approach to governance. Lagos State has benefitted this from the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola and Governor Akinwumi Ambode. Also remarkable is the continuity of leadership, vision and purpose which has ensured continuity of policies and projects in the State

 Given my experiences and first-hand knowledge of the developmental challenges facing Nigeria, and considerable time spent reflecting on the areas in which the leaders and the people of Nigeria must necessarily co-operate in order to attain desired levels of development, I have come to realize that the mere identification of these areas of co-operation is not sufficient.  The manner of co-operation is much more important.  I am therefore pleased to share my thoughts on this significant issue with this distinguished audience.

The first is education. In the words of Ella Baker, American human rights activist, ‘Show the light and the people will find the way’. It is no wonder then that even the most developed of nations place high premium on education and on the constant review and refinement of their educational systems and curriculum.  The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, famously said, “Ask me my three main priorities for government, and I tell you: education, education, education”.  Further describing the role and value of good and quality education, he is quoted to have said, “At a good school, children gain the basic tools for life and work.  But they ought also to learn the joy of life: the exhilaration of music, the excitement of sport, the beauty of art, the magic of science.  And they learn the value of life: what it is to be responsible citizens who give something back to their community”.

Sadly, no such premium is placed on education in Nigeria and most African countries.  Granted, there are schools and universities – many of them.  But what is the state of infrastructure there?  What is the quality of the minds and brains produced there?  How often is the curriculum revised and reviewed to reflect modern realities?  How many of the citizens do not regret their inability to send their children to study in places other than Nigeria?

In his passionate and well-thought out piece titled “Failed Leadership and Jaundiced Education in Nigeria”, Nigerian theologian, teacher and poet, Father George Ehusani painted a picture of the state of education in Nigeria today. He rightly observed that “Our institutions too are a reflection of the type and quality of education that we pursue. It cannot be overstated that over the years our institutions have suffered widespread criminal neglect of infrastructure, content and administration.

Once highly regarded and respected internationally, our institutions have plummeted in reputation and self-esteem. …Everywhere one turns, the decay in structures and facilities and the fall in morale are palpable. Institutional corruption began to erode discipline badly in virtually all the processes of teaching and learning. Education in such climes became a reflection of the life of the nation where the leadership at all levels dumped much needed development in preference for self-serving governance. …Our institutional and public libraries are generally antiquated, under-stocked and underutilized. And without a good reading culture, there is no incentive to attract public support for improvements in our libraries. Likewise, very few writers turn out good books, and others who strive to be authors end up filling the void with substandard works.”

I therefore propose the declaration of a state of emergency in the educational sector.  I agree with the thoughts views expressed by Former President OlusegunObasanjo at a Lecture delivered at the 2012 Graduation Ceremonies of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka that Nigeria “cannot continue to wobble along like a stalked and wounded lion, walking to its death.  We have immense resources” but these will only become real assets “if we start now to work seriously and assiduously on how this large population will be the quality, united and purposeful workforce associated with such countries as Ghana, the US and South Korea. United Nations projections show that we are on course to be the fourth largest country, in population, by the turn of the next century. Without commensurate growth in educational access, quality, purpose and relevance, we will be ill-prepared to take advantage of this demographic opportunity which can easily turn catastrophic indeed, in the absence of real leadership”

Therefore, the leadership in Nigeria must provide a conducive environment for real and quality education.  We must also realise that government alone cannot provide all the solutions. The examples of developed economies where education is an engine for development shows that individuals, religious groups, communities, and businesses must contribute towards providing education that leverages development.

My second recommendation is to celebrate diversity and welcome differences. It has been rightly observed that ethnic allegiances run deep in Africa such that from South Africa to Kenya to Nigeria and to the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, tribalism and appeals to ethnic sentiments and loyalties are “used to climb the political ladder and to create wealth”.

 The US State Department acknowledges that the most diverse nations in Africa are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Chad.  Nigeria had her civil war, Kenya recently experienced huge, bloody and widespread violence resulting from election disputes fuelled by ethnic sentiments and “with a population of 72 million people and more than 250 ethnic groups, the Democratic Republic of Congo has perpetually been engulfed in ethnic clashes”.  Thus, William Boscom, a professor of anthropology at the University of California has been quoted as saying that while tribalism is no longer an obstacle to self-government in Africa, it “is still an obstacle to national unity”.

Thus, there must be an acknowledgement of our differences but with a view to putting in place structures and institutions that will accommodate and protect the interests and values of the co-existing ethnic nationalities.  Post-war Rwanda seems to be leading the way in this regard and it has been said that “if Africa can mimic what President Paul Kagame has done for Rwanda in appreciating tribal disparities, then our democracy and economy will be among the best in the world”

In conclusion, African leaders must reevaluate their concept of leadership. Real Leadership, as Dean Williams of the Harvard Kennedy School has explained is “not about having convictions and imposing them on the group. Nor is it about amassing followers and showing the way forward.” He further opines that it involves “mobilizing people to confront their predicament and solve their most pressing problems. The focus is not on getting people to follow but on getting people to face reality and think and act responsibly, thereby enabling their organizations and communities to address their toughest challenges and make meaningful progress.”

Today, more than ever before, Nigeria needs real leadership in all spheres of our corporate existence. However, this need is particularly pressing in the education sector where skills, attitudes, and performance abilities are acquired. No development is possible without these. And talk of transformation will only be sloganeering. Leadership by example reinforces Real Leadership.”

–Senator Tinubu (OON) delivered the speech as keynote speaker at the University of Lagos 12th Annual Research Conference and Fair.