A Fulbright Visiting Professor, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Samuel Zalanga has called on the government to implement a complementary set of factors in development policy formulation and implementation to promote equity in the management of the polity.
He also stressed the need for a strong policy that would focus on agriculture and rural development targeted towards growth in the country.
Zalanga made this known while delivering the diaspora lecture titled ‘Comparative Regional Development: Lessons from South-east Asia for Africa’ at the Samuel Adegboyega University (SAU), Edo State recently.
According to him, policies play an important role in economic growth in spite of inadequate institutions and structural limitations rooted in the cultural, historical and geographical realities of African countries.
“Economic growth is highly enhanced when the structure of the economy allows for small economic actors the freedom to make decisions. There has to be a synergy. For the small actors, economic freedom does not mean minimal state intervention, it means smart state intervention: credit subsidies, subsidy when market prices fall and restricting food import and export.”
The Professor of Sociology, Bethel University, Minnesota, USA dismissed the notion that by merely educating people, the country could be transformed, saying that education is not enough without moral and ethical commitment from people to move the nation forward.
“There is a problem in Nigeria where we think that by merely educating the people, we can transform the country. If you look at the history of the world, it is not enough. Simply because somebody is educated, we do not know how they are going to use it. The way they are going to use their education can be shaped by their moral and ethical commitment.
“Two people with the same kind of education can decide to use it differently. One can use it to empower and enlighten others so that they can be in their drivers’ seat in life, while somebody can decide to acquire education to put people down to his own advantage. It is not enough to talk about education.
“What I do with my position is not just an intellectual issue but expertise issue. It is a moral issue. It is about the ethical and moral commitment that informs how people decide to use their education. You can have high productivity which must be shared. If productivity is going to a small group of people at the top, very soon, this will create resentment because they feel that you are benefiting quite a lot and they are not.
“We want productivity to be equitably shared. It does not mean that everybody is going to get the same thing. I don’t believe if I am teaching in a Nigerian university, I must be a vice-chancellor or a dean. No, but I can function effectively in a university just being a professor and still be comfortable. We need productivity and educated people.”
Zalanga highlighted ways through which citizens could be relevant to include having the necessary skills set, effective purchasing power, producing something that would be of value and impact the lives of people, as well as entrepreneurship.
“If you look at how civil society functions under globalisation, it can be described as a rat race or dog eat dog world where everybody is competing. Everybody is concerned about rate of return meaning how much you are going to get back in return for what you have invested. So because people’s mind sets are consumed by this, they are not going to employ anybody unless they are sure that person has certain skills set. The human capital is a value addition to a business.
“The second one is effective purchasing power. There are people who would do this for you in a capitalist society but by and large, you have to pay for your services. Under this system, people are concerned about who will buy their products. If they want to sell their products, they are interested in who has the ability to buy and they receive a lot of attention.
“Thirdly, producing something of value, if you have a system, what thing of value do you produce? It can either be a service or commodity. So one way you can be relevant in a globalised economy is to do something of relevance so that they can take you seriously. The fourth way is being an entrepreneur. In a capitalist society, entrepreneurs play a very important role because they have the creative ability to bring things together that will become something of value. We need to educate African elites on pro-poor policies and investments.”