By Alex Enumah
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, yesterday said without development, it would be difficult to sustain democracy.
Fayemi spoke in Abuja at the launch of the book “Nigeria Democracy without Development: How to Fix It”, only development can drive democracy.
He in an environment where there is poverty and lack of consensus, it will be difficult to really talk about democracy.
Represented by Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, the Ekiti governor said democracy could only be sustained by people who are happy.
He said: “I think in my view, development will deliver democracy and not the other way round because in an environment where you have poverty, lack of consensus, vision for the people and nation, it is difficult to rarely talk about democracy.
“Without development, it is difficult to sustain democracy because democracy presupposes that people are interested in enforcing freedom and participation in governance through contribution of representation. But how do you do this while majority of the people are not even able to put food on their table.
“Democracy can only be sustained by people who are happy, who can foresee a future for themselves and their children’s future.
“And because of the current stability they enjoy, they want to use the instrument of democracy to sustain that.
“I hold the view that to have a democratic state, we first and foremost must succeed as developmental state because it is when we get rid of poverty, illiteracy and insurgency that you can talk of democracy.
“It is only when these human calamities are taken away from a polity of a geographical location, that is the only time you can say that democracy can work.
“Unfortunately, we believe that democracy in our country will lead to development, and that has been the state of Nigeria since independence.
Fayemi urged the Federal Government to invest more time towards solving the nation’s developmental deficit.
“That is why I believe that any government, including the current government needs to invest more time, more thinking and will bring all hands on deck so that we can solve the problem of developmental deficits,” he added.
Governor Nasiru El-Rufai in his short remarks, said it is a paradox to have democracy without significant progress.
He said, “I think it is a book that tries to explain a paradox on how you could have democracy but without significant progress.
“Most of the countries that we have seen register significant progress moving from low income to middle income in the last 59 years are states that have practiced this.
What the author, Dr. Omano Edigheji, has done is to articulate this argument for development to drive democracy and everything else in a compact written in this book.”
On his part, Senator Uba Sani argued that despite the challenges of transparency and accountability, the country has made some progress.
He said the book “Nigeria: Democracy Without Development: How to Fix It” proceeds from the premise that under democracy we have not made progress as a nation. This is too sweeping. It is also incorrect. In all indices of development, we have made progress but huge challenges remain. There have been missed opportunities. Transparency and accountability is a major challenge.
“I agree with the author that the inability of leaders to meet the expectations of the governed has created a wide gulf between the citizens and governments at all levels. A large segment of the population has disengaged from the electoral process. The situation is worrisome but it can be fixed.”
He therefore said that the suggestions in the book are well “thought – through propositions that, if adopted, will lift Nigeria from its present state to the path of sustainable growth and development”.
Edigheji who is a scholar, development practitioner, pro-democracy activist and humanist, recommended the adoption of the developmental state model which has been applied by East Asian countries to transform their economies from largely agrarian subsistence to achieve high levels of industrial development.
He said: “A developmental state is an interventionist state. The state actively intervenes in the economy by regulating, guiding and controlling it.
“For Nigeria to overcome these development and institutional deficits, it is proposed that democratic governments embrace developmentalism as an overarching national development agenda.
“In effect, development needs to be carried out democratically, in the context of an overarching endogenous national development plan and anchored on a long term national development vision. Its key elements should consist of the promotion of human capital development, infrastructural development and industrialisation.
“Industrialisation, as a central element of ideology of development nationalism, will contribute to the structural transformation of the economy, create jobs and ultimately improve livelihoods. In this regard, agriculture-focused industrialization should be given due attention.
“Also, the service sector needs to be anchored on a strong industrial sector for the former to make meaningful contributions to an inclusive economy. At the same time, pursuing high value – added services should be undertaken if the country is to reap the benefits of the digital age.
“Surely, attention needs to be given to the manufacturing sector if Nigeria is to transit from a country of consumers to that of producers of finished goods.”
Dr. Innocent Chukwuma of Ford Foundation decried the role of godfatherism in Nigerian politics
He attributed this to the criteria given by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the registration of political parties in 1998.