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Again, the imperative of governance reform

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25th Edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES)

The bell is again tolling for Nigeria with sundry calls for reform of the ailing state system by well-meaning citizens and foreign development partners. The urgency of the moment cannot be ignored with a wave of the hands. It can be recalled that Wolfgang Stoker, one of the aliens who helped to plan Nigeria’s first development plan, once wrote a book after the Nigerian experience titled, Planning Without Facts.

On the continental basis, William Easterly also came up with The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. These authors speak to the tragedy of development in Africa. Although efforts were made to heed what appeared to be a warning from the premier planners with followed-up development plans, it was short-lived.

The economy was to be pillaged brazenly by a long military rule. The distortion was not helped by the meddlesomeness of the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) with their neoliberal sword of Damocles a la Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The BWIs’ experiment was a disaster and there was no improvement in the health of the economy. The country and its economy have remained in the wilderness addicted to a mono-product, the crude oil. Correspondingly, we have been at the receiving end of its vagaries with ruling elite that is utterly disoriented in the saddle.

Given this governance constraint, interventions that seek to turn things around are to be welcomed. One significant intervention came in from Abuja, the country’s capital the other day. The occasion was the 25th Edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES), which held in the capital city. The summit comprising major economic players in the country raised an alarm about the country’s economic fundamentals. Key issues, which engaged the attention of the summiteers, were the rising population, poverty, slow growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), near-absence of power and the imaginary oil subsidy. Specifically, many key players told Nigeria’s leaders that time was indeed running out on the expediency of reform of key operations of the system of governance in the country.

Not a few are worried that the rising population of the country will result in a calamity. By 2050, the country’s population will be almost half a billion threshold at the current growth rate of three per cent per annum and a youth element averaging 18 years. All the sectors of the economy need to be reformed for sectoral linkages and productivity. The GDP will need to grow at an equiponderant scale to match the population shock.

It is to be noted that with about 90 million of our population living below poverty, a youthful population, endemic power problem, slow growth rate of GDP and poor governance output, a reform if not a substantive change is inevitable to avert a predictable implosion.

However, it is a significant development that the call for change in the country’s socio-economic and political structures is catching up with every segment of society.  Without a doubt, the unwieldy Nigerian system is stymied and cannot function optimally as it is today. Therefore, institutional reform or more fundamentally, tinkering with the superstructure and the substructure has to be expected to escape the predictable cataclysm.

We believe that the problem with Nigeria is not for want of ideas regarding how to fix the country but the absence of political will to implement the ideas and to translate them into development and nation-building. We have on this page constantly stressed that the 2014 conference organised by the Jonathan administration is a good starting point to steer the country on a good course to national wellbeing.  It is a fantastic beginning for the task of restructuring the country.

In spite of its limitations, the conference came up with a new political structure for the country in ways that allayed the fears of component nationalities of the Nigerian federation and that would strengthen national cohesion. Indeed, the report focuses on contemporary socio-economic and political challenges confronting the country. It particularly addresses the issue of fiscal federalism, devolution of power, reforms of public service, accountability and transparency and even the global component of Nigeria’s development challenges. To be sure, it is something to re-examine and get the country moving. The document, in our opinion, has many salient points, which if implemented will lead to a win-win scenario.

Besides, what of the ruling party’s own commissioned document on federalism? Why is the president dithering on the implementation of the El-Rufai Committee Report on the point at issue? We hope Nigeria’s leader at this time is aware of the historic responsibility to restructure so many aspects of our political and economic life– for the good of the most populous black nation on earth.

It would appear that in spite of glaring governance deficit, population explosion and low-intensity war in the northeast and widespread insecurity in the country, incumbent politicians appear not desirous of change. Some have derided the process as a brain wave of some idle state actors. Some are so fixated to the ‘‘Lugardian architecture,’’ that they cannot discern a brave new world outside it.

The recalcitrant is also inured to the music of change because of the rent-seeking accruals of the prevalent depraved system. If truth be told, the decadent system is obviously unraveling that some control measures are inevitable, otherwise, the agents of change and the covets of the moribund social order would not be spared of the catastrophic outcome. This is no time for docility and complacency. In reforming our ailing system, we will be saving ourselves from a foreseeable national tragedy. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.


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