BY CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO
1. Let me begin by saying that it is quite an honour for me to be chosen to give the keynote address at this most distinguished gathering of the people of God. Before continuing, please permit me to commend and congratulate Your lordship the Bishop of Oleh Diocese, Rt. Rev. (DR.) John U. Aruakpor, the clergy, and, indeed, the entire laity of the Diocese for sustaining the time-honoured tradition of and requirement for annual synods. As all of us are well aware, synods such as this affords us all including the bishop, the clergy and the laity the opportunity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to rejuvenate our relationship with Almighty God by reviewing the events and activities of the diocese over the previous year, and then map out the events for the coming year. I sincerely pray that by the time the synod ends, the aims and objectives for which it was called would have been realised a hundredfold.
2. Your lordship, it is gladdening to note that the Church in Nigeria has continued to provide not only for the spiritual growth of the people, but also, for the overall physical wellbeing and welfare of Nigerians generally. The church has continued to play a very critical role in the overall growth and development of the country. It has continued, in the face of daunting challenges, to mould opinions, make critical interventions, and influence policies and general directions of the various tiers of governments in Nigeria. A clear testimony to this ennobling role of the church can be seen from the topic you have asked me to speak on, which is: Mobilising Nigeria’s Human and Natural Resources for National Development and Stability. Yes, the main mission of the Church is salvation of the soul but without ignoring the physical, mental and the general social well-being of humankind. Jesus said, “I come that they may have life and have it to the full”, John 10:10 (NIV). This topic is, to me, very apt, particularly as our dear country Nigeria keeps seeking for ways and means of overcoming the developmental challenges that confront it. I say this because, when closely examined, it can be seen that the topic is prescriptive, as against the general norm nowadays which tend to dwell only on the ills that afflict us as a people and they are many and consequently end up with only criticisms. But I must also hasten to say that criticism particularly objective criticism is good and important for development and growth and generally for human development. I, therefore, once more, commend Your lordship and the brains behind the Synod for deciding on this approach whose ultimate output would be recommendations on how to deal with the multifarious developmental challenges confronting Nigeria.
3. Accordingly, within the next 60 minutes or thereabout, I am going to try to complement your efforts by attempting to look at the topic in some detail, and in so doing, share with you my views, ideas and experiences on how to mobilise the country’s immense human and natural resources in such a way as to facilitate Nigeria’s overall national development and stability.
4. To do the above, I am going to first look at the topic as a whole and try to break it down into its various components for ease of understanding by the audience. I will then, briefly explain some of the more important terms associated with the topic. Next, I will try to look at the ‘Nigeria Project’. This will entail trying to find out what the nation Nigeria is all about. I think that it is very pertinent and, indeed, apt to interrogate the notion of this entity called Nigeria, since, without doing so, could equate to building on a weak foundation!
5. Closely allied with the interrogation of the concept of the Nigeria Project will be an examination of those human and natural resources which it has pleased God to bless Nigeria with, and, of course, the ways and means to mobilise them to promote the country’s development and stability.
6. Next, we will try to look at the core issues surrounding Nigeria’s National Development. We will start by first establishing the facets and parameters of national development, and then trace its historical evolution as a national development tool in Nigeria. Continuing, we will compare the state of Nigeria’s national development with those of some other countries of the world. In my opinion, one very good way of doing this is to consider the concept referred to as the Human Development Index (HDI). We will look at some of the issues that go into the compilation of the index, with a view to seeing how our dear country fares in them.
7. After this, I will then come to the meat of my address, which is how to mobilise the country’s human and natural resources to engender security and stability of the polity and promote overall national economic and social development and growth.
8. All these will lead us naturally to an examination of some of those challenges that have debarred us from achieving our goals as a nation, politically, economically and socially.
9. We will finally end by proffering right way forward and I will point at possible grave danger of moving knowingly or unknowingly on the wrong way.
10. Let us now start by looking at the topic to try and break it down into its component parts (for ease of understanding). As given, the topic is: Mobilising Nigeria’s Human and Natural Resources for National Development and Stability.
11. The first word in this topic is the action verb ‘mobilise’, and it is saying that we need to do something. Specifically, it is saying we need to ‘mobilise’: which is to put together to make ready, but mobilise what?
12. The answer forms the second segment of the topic, which is: Nigeria’s Human and Natural Resources, which then leads us to the third and final segment, which can also be framed as another question as follows: for what purpose? For National Development and Stability. So, taking as a whole, the topic wants us to discuss how to mobilise Nigeria’s human and natural resources for the purpose of achieving the country’s Development and Stability and I will add growth and progress just for emphasis.
EXPLANATION OF SOME KEY CONCEPTS
13. Looking at the topic, the first term that I believe we all must be clear about is Mobilise (or Mobilising). Within the context of the topic, what do we mean by Mobilising?
14. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English language lists several meanings and usages of the word ‘mobilise’. However, for our purposes in this address, we go with the one which tells us that the word is the same as: to marshal, to bring together, to prepare (something such as power, force, wealth, etc.) for action, especially of a vigorous nature. In other words, we are looking at ways to marshal, to bring together or to prepare Nigeria’s abundant human and material resources in such a way as to realise the essence, the rationale, or the raison d’être or main objective of government, in other words, the welfare and security of the people. Of course, the welfare and security of the people is, to a large extent, synonymous with national development and stability.
15. Stability as a word also features in the topic. Referring once more to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we are told that stability is: the quality, state, or degree of being stable, such as the strength to stand and endure: firmness – against or in the face of upheavals (social, political, and economic) and natural and man-made disasters.
16. With regards to our country Nigeria and for the purposes of this address, we are concerned with how to ensure that the Nigerian Polity (i.e., the State as a whole) is stable by efficiently mobilising and harnessing our human and natural resources to achieve the purpose of governance – welfare and well-being of the citizenry.
17. Next, is National Development, or simply put, Development. So, what do we mean by Development? According to Wikipedia, Development is the process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced. From this, I want to believe that everything that is created by God and has life need to grow and develop; whether it is we collectively as a people and as a nation Nigeria, or as individual human beings. In other words, growth and development are positive attributes. Anything God creates needs to grow and develop. To drive the point home, we must emphasise that the opposite of growth or development is to decrease, to diminish, to reduce or to become stunted. Later on in this address, we shall look at the state or status of Nigeria, especially as it was in 1960 when we gained independence, and compare it with what it is presently, to see the extent of growth as a nation or lack of it.
18. Explaining further, Wikipedia continued by telling us that Development is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components. It further added that for any nation, the ultimate goal of development is a rise in the level and quality of life of the population, and the creation or expansion of local and regional income and employment opportunities and choices, without damaging the resources of the environment. Development is visible and useful, not necessarily immediately, and includes an aspect of quality change and the creation of conditions for a continuation of that change. Development cannot be static.
CHANGED NOTION OF DEVELOPMENT
19. Until the last two or three decades of the last century (especially while the Cold War was still on), when nations talked about national development, the emphasis was more on the growth of the economy (or economic growth as measured by GDP per capita), that is infrastructure, industrial output and growth, etc. Except for the western nations perhaps, very rarely did the welfare and wellbeing of the individual citizen come into reckoning. In fact, in some jurisdictions, the citizens themselves counted more as means of production, which explains the historical listing of population as one of the elements of national power. Human beings were expendable commodities in the quest for greatness – that can be reduced to a single dimension as economic creatures. Hence, GDP growth matters more than the welfare and well-being of the people.
20. However, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1990, there emerged a changed notion of the concept of development which now holds that people must be at the centre of all development: in other words, the central focus of all development efforts (or national development) must be to ensure the advancement of human flourishing and expanding the richness of human life. According to this new thinking, the end point of any developmental thinking or process must be the welfare and wellbeing of people themselves. Development, therefore, is for all the people, about all the people, for all the people and by all. This implies that no aspect of the development of any nation must be seen as an end in itself, but rather, as a means to acquiring human wellbeing and welfare. From this, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) espoused the concept of Human Development as the ultimate goal of National Development. In short, from 1990 onwards, the new paradigm of national development championed by the UNDP is called the human development approach – which emphasises enlarging people’s freedoms, choices and opportunities rather than economic growth. This has inspired and informed solutions and policies across the world, including, supposedly and I emphasise supposedly, our own dear country Nigeria.
THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX (HDI)
21. Accordingly, the body (UNDP) defines human development as “the process of enlarging people’s choices,” said choices allowing them to “lead a long and healthy life, to be educated, to enjoy a decent standard of living,” as well as “political freedom, other guaranteed human rights and various ingredients of self-respect. By 1990, the UNDP’s Human Development Report published the first Human Development Index (HDI) as a comprehensive annual tool for the measurement of human development in various nations of the world. The index is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development i.e., a long and healthy life as measured by life expectancy at birth, being educated which is measured by an education index (calculated using mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling), and ability to achieve a decent standard of living calculated on a nation’s gross national income (GNI) per capita.
NIGERIA’S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT SINCE 1960
22. Now, having established the fact that the end product of every aspect of any nation’s national development agenda (be it GDP growth, industrial output, power output, infrastructural growth, agricultural advancement, etc) is the enhancement of human development of the people, we must now proceed to see how Nigeria, or, rather, Nigerians have fared since the country gained independence in 1960. For emphasis, it needs to be restated that irrespective of the level of growth in GDP and industry, infrastructural development, military prowess and power, even advancement in science and technology (all of which constitute indices of National Development), the now agreed ultimate indicator of any nation’s progress or development is in the advancement of human flourishing and expanding the richness of human life – i.e., how healthy and long one lives, and how happy, contented and fulfilled you are. All we are saying is that even if we have sent people into or conquered space, even if we have fast-moving trains, built ten-lane expressways linking all of our cities and towns, acquired or developed all the trappings of modernity, however in spite of these, the people themselves live a short and brutish life, then all the so-called development is superficial and nonsensical. This, in short, is the new paradigm of national development, and should be the focus of this gathering and any group of Nigerian citizenry as far as development is concerned.
CLASSIFICATION OF THE WORLD ON THE BASIS OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
23. By 1960, as it is today (and for historical reasons beyond the scope of this gathering), the nations of the world have always been classified into four categories as follows: highly developed (corresponding to highly industrialised), developed (industrialised), moderately developed, and under-developed (but to make it sound less offensive, developing). In terms of human development, these correspond to nations of very high human development (with very high HDI), nations of high human development (with high HDI), nations of medium human development (with moderate HDI), and lastly, nations of low human development with low HDI.
24. Specifically, and according to the UNDP standard of measurement, peoples living in nations with very high HDI have, on the average, a life expectancy (LExp) of 79.5 years; those with high HDI have LExp of 75; those with medium HDI, a LExp of 69.9, while the LExp of those with low HDI is 60.8 years. By the way, the UNDP tells us that life expectancy (at birth) indicates the number of years a new-born infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life. It is a simple statistic indicating the level and quality of healthcare in any given country, the level of sanitation, and the provision of care for the elderly.
25. So the question now is: following this definition and classification, where was Nigeria by 1960, and where are we now – 58 years down the line? What was the average life expectancy of Nigerians by 1960?
26. By 1960 and having just gained our independence, Nigeria was classified as an underdeveloped (or developing) country with very low HDI and an equally low LExp of just 37 years! However, just last month in April, the Acting Chairman of the National Population Commission, Alhaji Hassan Bashir, while delivering Nigeria’s statement at the 52nd Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development in New York, informed the world that Nigeria’s average life expectancy has now increased to 52.2 years which puts us below low human development index of 60.8 years. To adequately appreciate whether this represents advancement or not, we must see how a few other countries have fared over the same period. We have moved down from 53 years which we were in 2015. We were only better than Chad and every other country was better than us. And at 52.6 years, Chad is better than us today at 52.2 years.
27. From the above table, it can be seen that apart from Chad, Nigeria has the lowest life expectancy amongst its other three immediate neighbours. In fact, on the life expectancy index published by the WHO, Nigeria placed 177 out of 183 countries and territories surveyed. This means that in the whole wide world, Nigeria is only better than six countries in terms of early death or short life span!
28. In its 2018 edition published just last October, the UNDP was in a jubilant and triumphant mood in celebrating what it said was its 30 decades of PROGRESS in Human Development across the globe. Its happiness derived from the fact that ‘even though the global population increased from 5 billion to 7.5 billion between 1990 and 2017, the number of people in low human development (with average life expectancy of 60.8 years) fell from 3 billion to 926 million (i.e. from 60 per cent of the global population to 12 per cent), and the number of people in high and very high human development more than tripled, from 2.8 billion to 3.8 billion (or from 24 per cent of the global population to 51 per cent). This is certainly cheering news for the global body whose efforts have led to such dramatic improvement in human development across the world. It is also cheering news for the many nations and territories across the world whose governments harkened to the advice of the UNDP and adopted measures and policies that helped uplift the quality of life of their peoples.
29. While the rest of the world are celebrating this improvement in human happiness and human quality, it is appropriate to ask where Nigeria fits into this scale of advancement in human development. My lord Bishop, distinguished audience, without belabouring the issue, the summary of the state of human development in Nigeria over the past 30 years or even since independence in 1960 can be summarised by that CNN headline news of 26 June 2018 and which proclaims as follows: ‘’Nigeria overtakes India in extreme poverty ranking’’. Explaining further, the news outlet said: ‘’Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day. The findings, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute, show that more than 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for about two-thirds of the total number’’. When this is juxtaposed with the fact about 962 million people in the world now are grouped under the low human development index with average life expectancy of 60.8 years, which is even far higher than the average of 52.2 for Nigeria, then the abysmal state of this here become obvious. To further compound the depressing picture of life and living here in Nigeria, the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2018 (a publication of the Institute for Peace), which ranks nations of the world according to their level of peacefulness, places Nigeria at the 148th position out of 163. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria places 40th out of 44, more peaceful only than CAR, DRC, Somalia and South Sudan. According to the GPI, all of our neighbours are more peaceful than Nigeria: Niger and Cameroon are ranked 33rd and 34th respectively, Sierra Leone is ranked 3rd, Ghana 5th, while Liberia is ranked 11th.
30. My lord Bishop, distinguished audience, having seen the totality of the practical side of Nigeria’s national development as summarised by the very low average life expectancy (or life span) of the average Nigerian, we must now turn our attention at what needs to be done to improve the situation. This entails mobilising the nation’s human and natural resources to ensure improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians. But first, what are these human and natural resources?
NIGERIA’S HUMAN RESOURCES
31. According to the World Population Review, Nigeria is currently the 7th most populous nation in the world. With a median of 18.3 years, the country’s population as on 14 April 2019 was 199,915,717. I say 200 million. At the current growth rate, in six years’ time, i.e., by 2025, Nigeria will become the 4th most populous nation in the world with an estimated population of 233,691,888.
32. Of the country’s present population and according to the CIA World Fact Book, those aged 0-14 years constitute 42.45%; those between 15-24 years make up 19.81%; while those in the age bracket of 25-54 years are 30.44%; the ones between ages 55-64 years make up 4.04%, those 65 years and over constitute 3.26% of the entire population. From this, it can be seen that those within the most economically active or working-age range (15 – 64 years of age) constitute about 54.29 % of the population, which is relatively high. The question now is: what percentage of this group are actively employed?
33. With regards to being actively employed, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated in its Labour Force Statistics released on 19 December 2018 that 23.1 per cent (i.e. 24,370,500) of the work force is unemployed by end of September 2018. Frightening high!
34. Of Nigeria’s entire population, about 59.9 per cent are literate (i.e. can read and write in a particular language). Let us take it for 60 per cent. Males constitute about 69.2 % of this figure while the percentage for females is 49.7%. With this literacy rate, Nigeria, as in other fields of human development, ranks a lowly 144 of 162 on the global literacy index. To compound matters, Nigeria also has the dubious reputation as the country in the world with the highest number of out-of-school children. The Federal Ministry of Education estimates these to be about 10.5 million but others put real figure at about 13million.
35. The summary of this brief survey of Nigeria’s human resources is that, although it is huge, a good percentage is unproductive to the extent of positively contributing to positive, great and economic and social development and growth and the enhancement of human life in general. Education is the most important and most potent instrument of development for an individual and for the society. And where they cannot contribute positively, they then contribute negatively or at best not at all, hence Boko Haram, kidnappings, armed robbery, bandits, terrorists, human trafficking, and other organised crimes and all the well-known ills and misconduct and other crimes that currently plague our nation. The challenge that confronts us all now is how to arrest this slide into negativity due to lack of properly empowering 40 per cent of our population for development. And more importantly today, how do we prevent external influence and impact like ISIS that are dislodged from Iraq and Syria and are taking comfortable haven in Sahel Africa and linking up with Boko Haram?
NIGERIA’S NATURAL RESOURCES
36. Nigeria’s total geographical size is 923,768 square km, with land area of 910,768 square km and water constituting 13,000 square km. Given the countries huge population, this land size is considered to be relatively small. Unlike its immediate neighbours to the north, Nigeria is a maritime nation with a coastline measuring 853 kilometres, territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (nm), exclusive economic zone of 200 nm, and a continental shelf of 200 metres depth or to the depth of exploitation. These maritime endowments are great assets that if adequately mobilised can lead to wealth and subsequently improvement of the human capital. What today, they call blue economy. But we should ask ourselves, how much attention have we paid to blue economy other than for oil and gas?
37. Of the country’s total land area, 37.3 % of it is arable, with permanent crops and permanent pastures occupying 7.4 and 33.3 percentages respectively. Only about 2, 930 square kilometres of the land is irrigated. Nigeria’s varied land types support a great variety of agricultural products including cocoa, rubber, coffee, palm products, groundnuts, cotton, cow pea, ginger, cashew nuts, fruits of various types, animal products, aqua culture, just to mention a few. As all us well know, these agricultural products constituted the base of the nation’s (anticipated) industrial growth in the years preceding independence and immediately thereafter.
38. Just as Nigeria is blessed with abundant agricultural products, she is also blessed with numerous mineral resources. These include coal, tin, gold, iron ore, zinc, limestone, niobium (formerly known as columbium), salt, and, of course, natural gas and petroleum, just to mention a few. Studies have shown that there is no State in Nigeria that is not richly endowed with abundant mineral resources. The challenge now is to adequately mobilise these to ensure the stability of the polity and the peoples’ human development in terms of enhanced livelihood.
STRATEGIES TO MOBILISING NIGERIA’S HUMAN AND NATURAL RESOURCES
39. Any keen observer of the Nigerian situation will easily agree that the country’s inability to adequately harness her abundant human and natural resources for national development, and thus, ensure a happier, more qualitative and longer life span for her citizens has nothing to do with lack or absence of plans and strategies. On the contrary, Nigeria has always being blessed with some of brightest and most endowed human beings in the world, who have churned out fine plans and strategies for the nation’s rapid socio-economic development. Let us briefly outline some of these plans.
Brief History of National Development Planning in Nigeria
40. Being a former British colony, the country’s first experience with a formalised development plan came on stream in 1944, when the then Secretary of State for the colonies sent out a circular requesting the governments of all the then British colonies to formulate plans for the economic and social development of their territories. This was in anticipation of the Second World War. For Nigeria, the response from the then colonial administration was a plan referred to as “Ten Year Plan of Development and Welfare for Nigeria”, for which a total expenditure of about N110 million for the period of ten years was envisaged from April 1, 1946 to 31st March 1956. However, following the granting of semi autonomy to each of the three regional governments in 1955, each of them along with the federal government lunched its own 5-year development plan for the period 1955-1960. Then it was in preparation towards independence. This 5-year pre-independence development plan was the beginning of Fixed Medium Term Planning for the country, and was to be the model up till 1985.
41. After independence, 4 more Fixed Medium Term plans were executed as follows: (1) First National Development Plan from 1962 to 1968, and extended to 1970 because of the civil war. It was the first after independence. About the sum of 2.2 billion Naira was provided for capital expenditure under this plan. Some amongst you here might also recall that an integral part of this 1st Development Plan was the establishment of the National Manpower Board (NMB), a scheme that was launched in 1962 to develop the requisite manpower needs of the newly independent nation. (2) Then followed the 1970 – 1974 Second National Development Plan for which was earmarked the capital expenditure of 3 billion Naira. (3) For the Third National Development Plan, (1975 to 1980) a capital expenditure of 30 billion Naira (later raised to 43.3 billion Naira was provided for. Recall that this was shortly after the Arabs imposed an oil embargo on the West following the 1973 October Middle East war. As a result of the embargo, Nigeria earned an unprecedented amount of foreign exchange. As I am sure some of you remember, following the unfortunate events of 13 February 1976, it fell on me to implement this 3rd Plan up till 1st October 1979, when I handed over to the now late Alhaji Shehu Shagari. We build almost all the airports and sea-ports that we are proud of today. The power stations, Shiroro and Jeba with Egbin commenced. The roads – Lagos-Ibadan was completed; Shagamu-Asaba, Enugu-Onitsha, Calabar-Makurdi, Badagry-Sokoto, Yola-Numan, Kaduna- Kano, Warri-Benin, Portharcourt-Enugu were commenced. Airports were built in Calabar, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Makurdi, Sokoto, Yola, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Ilorin, Ibadan, Kainji, Kano and Jos. Lagos airport was completed and Lagos ringroad with Third Mainland Bridge and replacement of Carter bridge with concrete were carried out. We launched and established nine unity schools and seven universities. We also launched UPE and Primary Healthcare Scheme countrywide. The 4th Plan covering 1981 to 1985 followed and for this, a capital expenditure of 82 billion naira was envisaged.
42. After the 4th Plan, the fifth was to be lunched at the end of 1985. However, due to the prevailing economic crisis and the subsequent administration’s self-induced socio-political scenario, it was abandoned. In all these, specific emphasis was placed on planning because of ‘the urgent need to rationally ‘tap the available scarce resources for the socio-economic development of the nation’. But did this happen?
43. Instead of having a 5th development plan to cover the period 1986- 90, Nigeria adopted a policy plan known as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which was initially designed to last from 1986- 88 but which was later extended to last till 1990. SAP was adopted on the advice of the World Bank and IMF and it really sapped the Nigerian socio-economic development through heavy devaluation, and non-promotion of agriculture. Then from SAP, Nigeria graduated to the three-yearly National Rolling Plans: Rolling Plan 1 (1990 – 1992), Rolling Plan 2 (1993 – 1995); and Rolling Plan 3 (1996 – 1998). Of course, in 1996, Nigeria decided to take the bull posed by the challenge of under development by the horn by deciding to look far into the future. We, as a country, with much fanfare, launched the Vision 2010 Committee in 1996 with the Committee’s report submitted in 1997. However, by May 1999, I was back on the scene and we realised that strict hard plans of Cold War years was giving way to market economy led by the private sector with incentives and conducive conditions provided by the government. So, we launched the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) policy document which strategises down to State and local government level. By 2009, NEEDS was abandoned for Seven-Point Agenda and later went for National Vision 20:2020.
44. As with all the development plans starting from that of 1944 that was launched by the then colonial government, each of the above enumerated plans outlined strategies to uplift the living standards of Nigerians and improve the peoples’ human development. For example, the last ambitious of these, (the Nigeria Vision 20:2020) claimed as follows: ‘the Nigerian Vision 20:2020 document is underpinned by the ‘need to effectively and efficiently mobilise the nation’s resources to serve and improve the lives of its citizens’.
45. However, the truth of the matter is that as at today, 18 May 2019, (a few months to the targeted and long anticipated 2020), instead of improvement, the quality of lives of Nigerians has degenerated even more in all aspects of human development. UPE launched in 1977 nationwide has gone and UBE launched in 2000 has also gone. Primary healthcare system has suffered same fate. In education, health and food and nutrition security, we are worse today than we were in the first decade of this century. It is the same story, unfortunately in security and economic well-being.
46. As can be seen from the brief recall of Nigeria’s experiment with developmental plans, the problem cannot be said to lie with our inability to plan, strategize, dream or even conceive visions.
47. I hope you will all agree with me that if what Nigeria needs to move forward are dreamers and visionaries, we have had some. Without being immodest, I can claim that I have dreamed and visioned for our dear country, almost all through my adult life.
48. In this regard, please recall that in our quest in the late 1970s to strike the correct developmental cord, we changed our form of government from the Westminster model to the American presidential model. Some people have claimed that the presidential system is expensive to run. It is not the system but those who operate the system that make it expensive. Before this time, we moved from a nation of three regions to four; then to twelve states, then 19, 21 and now 36 states plus a Federal Capital Territory. And of course, we have had our own fair share of military authoritarian rule. So…, what next?
49. On the challenges facing us as a nation, may I call your attention to the Inaugural address I gave to the nation on 29 May, 1999 on the occasion of my assumption of office as the first democratically elected president under the present democratic dispensation. Recall that I said, inter alia:
“Nigeria is wonderfully endowed by the Almighty with human and other resources. It does no credit either to us or the entire black race if we fail in managing our resources for quick improvement in the quality of life of our people…. Instead of progress and development, which we are entitled to expect from those who governed us, we experienced…persistent deterioration in the quality of our governance, leading to instability and the weakening of all public institutions…. Relations between men and women who had been friends for many decades, and between communities that had lived together in peace for many generations became very bitter because of the actions or inaction of government’’.
50. If I was bemoaning the situation in 1999, what then am I expected to say today given the situation all over the country generally: in the Boko Haram infested states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe? What should I say regarding the situation in Zamfara State, Kaduna State, Plateau, Benue and Taraba States? What should I say regarding the kidnapping menace that wasn’t there by 1999? What do I say about IPOB and MASSOB and continued insecurity in the Niger Delta in spite of amnesty? Are relations between friends, between neighbours, communities any better today than in 1999? How united are we today as a nation? Are our elections more free, fair, transparent and credible than 1999, twenty years ago?
51. On the specific challenges facing us, I identified corruption to be on top and accordingly said as follows:
‘Corruption, the greatest single bane of our society today, will be tackled head-on at all levels. Corruption is incipient in all human societies and in most human activities. But it must not be condoned. This is why laws are made and enforced to check corruption, so that society would survive and develop in an orderly, reasonable and predictable way. No society can achieve anything near its full potential if it allows corruption to become the full-blown cancer it has become in Nigeria. One of the greatest tragedies of military rule in recent times, is that corruption was allowed to grow unchallenged, and unchecked, even when it was glaring for everybody to see. The rules and regulations for doing official business were deliberately ignored, set aside or by-passed to facilitate corrupt practices. The beneficiaries of corruption in all forms will fight back with all the foul means at their disposal. We shall be firm with them. There will be no sacred cows. Nobody, no matter who and where, will be allowed to get away with the breach of the law or the perpetration of corruption and evil. Under the administration, therefore, all the rules and regulations designed to help honesty and transparency in dealings with government will be restored and enforced. Specifically, I shall immediately reintroduce “Civil Service Rules”, and “Financial Instructions” and enforce compliance. Other regulations will be introduced to ensure transparency. The rampant corruption in the public service and the cynical contempt for integrity that pervades every level of the bureaucracy will be stamped out. The public officer must be encouraged to believe once again that integrity pays. His self-respect must be restored and his work must be fairly rewarded through better pay and benefits, both while in service and in retirement.
Government and all its agencies became thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of funds. The impact of official corruption is so rampant and has earned Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad. Besides, it has distorted and retrogressed development.’
52. Twenty years after, and even though I tried to fight the menace by establishing, first, the ICPC, and later, the EFCC which are the instruments being used today and at times being misused, Nigeria is still mired in the corruption quagmire as reflected in nearly all the annual Corruption Perception Index ratings of Transparency International. Apart from the challenge posed by endemic corruption, I equally outlined other challenges that had been allowed to continue to rot in spite of elaborate budgets and thus contributing to making increasing misery in the land. I observed that:
‘Our infrastructures – NEPA, NITEL, Roads, Railways, Education, Housing and other Social Services were allowed to decay and collapse. Our country has thus been through one of its darkest periods. All these have brought the nation to a situation of chaos and near despair’.
53. Almost twenty years down the line, except for, perhaps, telecommunications where there have been some progress, is NEPA any better than when I made the observation? Are our roads and other infrastructure any better? If anything, we have deteriorated. In that same address, I bemoaned the loss of confidence in the leadership by Nigerians which is equally or more applicable today:
I am very aware of the widespread cynicism and total lack of confidence in government arising from the bad faith, deceit and evil actions of recent administrations. Where official pronouncements are repeatedly made and not matched by action, government forfeits the confidence of the people and their trust. One of the immediate acts of this administration will be to implement quickly and decisively, measures that would restore confidence in governance. These measures will help to create the auspicious atmosphere necessary for the reforms and the difficult decisions and the hard work required to put the country back on the path of development and growth’.
54. On crime and the Police, I said as follows:
‘The issue of crime requires as much attention and seriousness as the issue of corruption. Although the Police are in the forefront of fighting crimes and ensuring our security, it is our responsibility to help the police to be able to help us. The police will be made to do their job. All Nigerian citizens and residents in our midst are entitled to the protection of life and property. A determined effort will be made to cut down significantly the incidence of violent crime’.
55. On the need to improve the quality of Human Development of Nigerians, I added as follows:
‘I believe that this administration must deal with the following issues even in these difficult times of near economic collapse: The crisis in the Oil Producing Areas; Food Supply, Food Security and Agriculture; Law and order with particular reference to Armed Robbery, and to Cultism in our educational institutions; Exploration and Production of Petroleum; Education; Macro-economic policies – particularly, Exchange rate management etc; Supply and Distribution of Petroleum Products; The Debt Issue; Corruption, Drugs, organised fraud called 419 activities, and crimes leading to loss of lives, properties and investment; Job creation, Poverty alleviation, and creation of conducive environment for investment; Health Services; Women and Youth Development’.
56. Although the Debt issue was resolved under my administration, today we are mired again in debt with the excuse that our debt to GDP is comfortable. “Neither a lender or a borrower be” was the lesson I learned in school. “He who goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing” was another one.
57. My Lord Bishop, distinguished audience, ladies and gentlemen, the reason I am recalling my 29 May 1999 Inaugural Address is to show that all the ills plaguing this nation and the necessary policy options to address them have all being thoroughly canvassed. All the challenges have been well identified, if not since our independence in 1960, at least severally over the course of the past twenty years that we have had uninterrupted democratic governance.
58. In spite of all our best efforts, all the targets and goals set to uplift the standard of living of Nigerians have serially been missed, not because the models and policies to achieve them have been substantially faulty, but for some other more insidious reasons. One is lack of continuity and consistency. For instance, when I was military Head of State, we had Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) to raise awareness for agriculture and food and nutrition security and dignify farming to encourage youth to participate in modern agribusiness while banning some commodities like rice and poultry to ensure more local production and self-sufficiency. President Shagari administration lifted ban and changed to Green Revolution which turned out neither to be green nor revolutionary. Ban on toothpick which was imposed in 1977 was lifted by President Goodluck Jonathan over thirty-five years later by 2013. All toothpaste factories including those making chopsticks for exports had to close down because of dumping. There have been many policy somersaults, inconsistency and discontinuity that negated and drew us back. Two, corruption has always been with us and no nation is absolutely devoid of corruption but there are many countries where corruption is not a way of life. In Nigeria, it is almost a way of life in spite of efforts of the past to fight the scourge. Stealing public fund and fraud are very serious examples of corruption but nepotism, favouritism, condonation of misconduct, cronyism, deliberate underperformance and bribery are also serious acts of corruption that do not sleep well with development and growth. For instance, a contractor got away with sub-standard job on a road project because the Controller of Works supervising him got a sub-contract from the contractor to supply materials. The Controller claimed he did not know it was corruption. The Minister who awarded his or her brother or sister a contract without competitive tender and who claimed he or she did not regard that as corruption. The official who diverts a project from where it was meant to be located to his own community and claims he does not know it is corruption. Fighting corruption must be like dispensing justice blindy for all. There should be no sacred cow and it must not be turned to witch-hunting and victimisation of political opponents and declaring corrupt political associates as without sins. Such effort will yield no meaningful result rather it will perpetrate corruption further no matter what we mouth. And there is no greater corruption than electoral fraud.
59. Three, it is the problem of discouraging investors and those who come to do genuine business. For all sorts of flimsy and disingenuous reasons, business is made not easy to be done in Nigeria. And because of that, business people and investors go to where they are more welcome. There are too many arbitrary and discretionary powers and decisions used by officials to frustrate and discourage business people and investors including delaying issuance of visa, refusing or delaying permits that should be issued without delay or hesitation. Prolonging access to land for investors.
60. Four, it is stability and predictability. Political and economic stability are essential for development. Government must be seen to be stable and on all grounds confident, responsive, pro-active, and building a united, wholesome, inclusive and shared society. Economic predictability means steady foreign exchange regime, sensible fiscal policy and building successively on existing edifice predictably. All these four essential ingredients listed above and even more that must be present for accelerated development and growth have not always been there in Nigeria for any length of time. Development takes time and any time lost as a result of what is not in place that should be in place will be harmful.
61. My lord Bishop, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, if you ask me and if I am permitted to… once again air my views, I will, without hesitation recommend that we go back to that number one concept in human behaviour, which is ‘Politics’, and on the part of the leaders and the led, politics matters most. Politics here embraces governance, political will, political economy, economy itself and understanding global situation as it impacts on the fortune of our nation, and the welfare and well-being of our people individually and collectively. Leadership is the bases of our politics. If politics is right, the other four Ps of population, prosperity, protection which is security and partnerships will invariably be got right. In economy which must mean prosperity for all, government must get out of temptation of over-borrowing and consequent devaluation trap. What have we gained from moving Nigerian currency value from one naira to almost two dollar to 360 naira to one dollar in one generation – impoverishment?
62. Every issue of insecurity must be taken seriously at all levels and be addressed at once without favouritism or cuddling. Both Boko Haram and herdsmen acts of violence were not treated as they should at the beginning. They have both incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria can handle alone. They are now combined and internationalised with ISIS in control. It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youth in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African fulanisation, African islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change. Yet we could have dealt with both earlier and nib them in the bud, but Boko Haram boys were seen as rascals not requiring serious attention in administering holistic measures of stick and carrot. And when we woke up to the reality, it was turned to industry for all and sundry to supply materials and equipment that were already outdated and that were not fit for active military purpose. Soldiers were poorly trained for the unusual mission, poorly equipped, poorly motivated, poorly led and made to engage in propaganda rather than achieving results. Intelligence was poor and governments embarked on games of denials while paying ransoms which strengthened the insurgents and yet governments denied payment of ransoms. Today, the security issue has gone beyond the wit and capacity of Nigerian government or even West African governments. The Economist Magazine of May 4, 2019, p. 15, has this to say:
“The conflict is spread across a broad expanse of Africa, from Somalia in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. It is concentrated in some of the poorest countries on Earth, where it is fuelled by bad governance. Some of these states barely control much of their own supposed territory. Many jihadist recruits come from ethnic minorities, such as the Fulani, who see officials as alien and predatory. Many join up after being beaten or robbed by police. Global warming, meanwhile, has withered pastures, intensifying conflict over land.
These pressures are most keenly felt in the Sahel, on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. In Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the number of people killed by jihadists has doubled in each of the past two years, to more than 1,100 in 2018. In the Sahel as a whole, some 5,000 have been killed in the past five months. In the area around Lake Chad, some 2.4m people have fled from attacks by Boko Haram, a group that straps bombs to children. The number of jihadist groups in the Sahel has multiplied, from one in 2012 to more than ten at the last count by America’s defence department.”
63. But all the same, our charity must begin at home. Government must appreciate where we are. Summon each group that should make contributions one by one and subsequently collectively seek the way forward for all hands on deck and with the holistic approach of stick and carrot. There should be no sacred cow. Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant. After we have found appropriate solution internally, we should move to bilateral, multilateral, regional, continental and global levels. With ISIS involvement, we cannot but go global. Without security and predictable stability, our development, growth and progress are in peril. Let me hasten to add that we must be at the appropriate seat at the table of international discourse, deliberations, agenda and action. That Nigeria from independence has always been in the forefront of any continental initiative, decision, action or programme has put us in some form of leadership position. For Nigeria to be outside the African Continental Free Trade Zone Agreement when it automatically came into effect with twenty-two-nations’ ratification is to say the least unfortunate.
64. A situation where almost 40% of our population are not equipped with education to be able to make meaningful, positive and rewarding contribution to development in this day and age is bad almost to the point of criminality. Education both in quantity and quality must be seen as the first pillar of our development after we have delivered on politics of unity in diversity in concrete and sustainable policies and actions. We need a revolution to deal with our great backwardness in literacy and popular education. I believe that a two-year preparation to send all children below ten years of age with two streams of 8am to 12.30pm and 1pm to 5.30pm with teachers taking on two streams, getting additional 25 to 30 per cent salary will break the back of illiteracy and set us on the path of education for all. Community leaders, traditional rulers and local government chairmen should be held responsible for any parents or guardians preventing their children and wards from going to school. I have heard it said in some quarters that if everybody goes to school, who will be the servants. My lord Bishop, I dare say that if everybody goes to school, we will have more competent, efficient, effective and better servants.
65. If we get the politics correct, every other human activity would fall into place: culture, ethics, way of life and adherence to rule of law/equality before the law/ruthless application of the law, economy, education, defence and security, etc. I hold the view that it is because we have not been able to get the politics of our coexistence right that nearly sixty years after independence we are still battling to answer the most basic questions involved in nationhood. I think it is like a building, which once the foundation is faulty, becomes wobbly with the tiniest turbulence. Consequently, the issue of nationality identity, values, ethics and national dream must be settled once and for all. This may require a global national meeting. If Miyetti Allah is truly encouraging herdsmen violence and killings and truly they have to be appeased or placated with 100billion naira and they are equated to Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, etc, then we have to appease those other organisations similarly or be ready to allow them to unleash havoc of their own. We need politics of a united Nigeria for all Nigerians – not one for Yoruba, one for Ibo, one for Hausa-Fulani, one for Ijaw, one for Nupe, one for Tiv, one for Kanuri and one for Isoko. If we fail to do this, I am afraid all the EFCC, ICPC, Plans and Strategies and the rest of the political re-engineering and manoeuvres such as creation or contraction/merger of states, forms of government, attempts at ethical re-orientation, constitutional amendment, etc, may not usher in the much desired peace, stability, national development, and of course, improvement in the quality of life of the majority of Nigerians. We shall merely be going round and round in circles which has been our lot since independence. We must move away from taking two steps forward followed by one and two or three backwards. Let us continue to build positively on existing structure. If the issue of politics and governance is firmly settled, the issue of development, stability, growth and progress will constitute no problems because humans, materials and funds will be mobilised internally and externally for the good of all and all will be partners, stakeholders and defenders of our common wealth. There are some of assumptions in our Constitution that time has shown are too presumptuous and we have to deal with this issue of assumptions; either those assumptions are clearly spelt out with ways and means to live up to them or to amend our Constitution in accordance with our inability to live up to those assumptions. When all these are done, mobilisation of everything we have and which we can muster will be easy for our development, stability, growth and progress.
66. What is the roadmap for economic development? If we have one, it may not be well spelt out or well known. But let me in drawing to conclusion suggest a five-point strategy as follows:
a. Commodity, agriculture and mineral
e. Fourth, industrial revolution.
These can be fleshed out in details and must be accepted as national programme and strategy to be followed and actualised by any government for the welfare and well-being of the people.
67. In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus. Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society. It will be a national programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter its colour and leaning.
68. Election fraud undermines legitimacy and it is a killer of democracy. To destroy democracy is to destroy hope for most Nigerians and the consequence will be grave. And we must all appreciate that democracy that fails to deliver dividends to the citizenry in terms of security, safety, freedoms and general enhancement of livelihood will lead to frustration and desperation and all other dangers that can follow.
69. Through division and alienation wittingly and unwittingly encouraged by government, incipient factors of state destruction are observable everywhere in hate preaching and advocacy, upsurge tribalism and sectionalism, silence and complacency among those who should care and a dangerously rising feeling that your votes don’t count and elections don’t matter. And yet we spend colossal amount of money on elections every four years with apparently not much to show for it. With other ills within our society, if these observable symptoms are not addressed and speedily too, we are heading to self-destruction. It will not matter where the fire commences from, it will spread fast and widely leaving no survivor on its trail. In the last three weeks, I have been close to two countries and learned how they self-destruct. I was in Somaliland to learn at first-hand the story of self-destruction of Somalia. And I was in Colombia to similarly learn the story of self-destruction of Venezuela. They both started with destruction of democracy. And Venezuela used democratic process to destroy democracy. Nigeria seems to be embarking on the path of Venezuela. With only a population of about 30 million, the Venezuela humanitarian situation today, heightened by drug trafficking, illegal mining, pervasive corruption and terrorism, is crying to the world. But the world can turn a blind eye and it would be our funeral. Over the same period, I was in Malaysia and Vietnam and I could feel the palpation of nations on the right path by and large. The forewarned is to be forearmed and the impunity is already there. But with collective goodwill, the right leadership and good governance, the sky is the limit for Nigeria, a country surely in the hands of God for us to move forward, unitedly mobilising all necessary resources to make Nigeria a leader in Africa and the leader of the black race. That is the role God has created for us.
70. I thank you for your attention and God bless you all.
Being a keynote address delivered by former President Obasanjo at the 2019 Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Oleh Diocese Isoko, Delta State, May 18, 2019