Outgoing president withdraws to the sidelines – Part 5
Nevertheless, it cannot be over-emphasised that good governance embodies the fear of God, accountability, transparency, responsible and responsive government, leadership by example, equality and justice. These are cardinal points to be imbibed and respected by both leaders and the followers. Thus, government and the people must contribute equally to good governance and nation building. The global trends inevitably pose newer challenges that will necessitate the refocusing of government’s role in governance as well as the citizenry’s taking up the vast opportunities provided by the New World Order. Our prosperity or lack of it is tied to how we as a people are able to cope with what is happening in the wider world.
In conclusion, the panel declared “we wish to state that only by a combination of good leaders, good governance and good followers would we be able to bring about economic prosperity and qualitative democracy, which would enhance our standing before the International Community.
The panel recognised the very important role that all stakeholders need to play in the effort to alleviate poverty and more specifically, eradicate absolute poverty. Government must pursue its programmes and projects in partnership with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and the International Donor Agencies.
Uncontrolled population growth is a major contributor to poverty. Any strategies for poverty alleviation must take into account the need to address the problem of population growth. The rate of population growth in Nigeria has been 2.83 per cent, while that of food production is about 2.5 per cent. More people are being born than there is food to feed them. Therefore, the government must urgently address this issue.
One of the reasons for the rising rate of population growth has to do with unplanned rates of birth.
This problem can be addressed by encouraging child-spacing, which is recommended in the interests of the child and its mother and which is not discouraged by most cultures and religions. However, given the deep-rooted suspicions about family planning in many religious circles, creative ways of public enlightenment and education have to be devised by the government in order to promote a the positive health attitude to child-spacing.
Another problem giving rise to the rapid increase in population growth is associated with traditional beliefs that giving birth to more children is an investment for subsistence security in the future, especially at old-age. Given the high mortality rate, many people believe that the more children they have, the better their chances of having surviving off-spring to look after them in subsistence production and in old-age. This problem should also be solved through imaginative public enlightenment campaigns and through deliberate policies of reducing infant mortality, such that people can have greater confidence that death may spare them an heir.
Perhaps the greatest safeguard against the dangers of over-population is increased investments in agricultural development and food production. Therefore, the panel recommends that the government should pay greater attention to evolving strategies for increased food production.
All three tiers of government have, for years now been levying numerous taxes and levies in their effort to generate more revenue.
State and local governments have been known to employ consultants and task forces to assess and collect taxes, which were hitherto unknown sometimes at gun-point. As at the last count and according to the figures compiled by the Organised Private Sector, there were about 250 of these taxes and levies.
Generally, most Nigerian cities do not have adequate water supply for even human and much less for industrial use. The collapse of water treatment facilities due to lack of spare-parts chemicals has caused intense hardships to many dwellers of Nigerian cities. It has led to reliance on ponds, rivers and generally untreated water for drinking.
As a result of this, there has been a resurgence of preventable water-borne diseases such as cholera and guinea-worms, which are now causing havoc in the country.
The need for safe drinking water, therefore, cannot be over-emphasised. In view of this, the panel recommends that: the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, should accelerate the process of the rehabilitation of all water-works and treatment plants in the country.
The Federal Government should embark upon a massive programme of the extension of rural water supply with a view to raise the current level of potable and safe water supply from the 30 per cent to 50 per cent by the year 2003. This is because the provision and expansion of access to water is a very vital programme of poverty alleviation.
In line with the policy of inculcating maintenance culture, the panel recommends an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to the federal, state and local governments through the initiation of massive public works programmes. This is to embark on project based programmes tailored towards the maintenance and restoration of critical public infrastructure and the environment.
These programmes should be designed to provide meaningful “hands-on” employment to large numbers of people wherever feasible. Such schemes would discourage the use of heavy mechanical equipment, thereby providing employment for unemployed youth, idle work forces, and those displaced or retired during the on-going processes of rationalisation in both the public and private sectors. It will also aim at inculcating and improving better attitudes towards a maintenance culture, injecting a sense of sustainability in government’s investments in infrastructure and restoring pride in our surroundings.
Rural development is a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of the people in the rural areas. Over 70 per cent of the 67 per cent of poor Nigerians are found in rural areas. The rural poor are a heterogeneous group, including small-scale farmers, the landless, the nomads, pastoralists and fishermen and women. But they share common disabilities, limited assets, environmental vulnerability and the lack of access to public services and amenities especially education and health facilities.
The main concern in rural development therefore is the modernisation of rural society through a transition from traditional isolation to integration with the national economy for equitable and balanced development of the nation.
In making its recommendations, the panel has emphasised the need for a focus on eradication of absolute poverty rather than poverty alleviation because of the belief that deliberate steps must be taken urgently to destroy the psychology of poverty and the sense of helplessness amongst Nigerians. We have recommended strategies that will encourage personal initiative and community co-operation and lead to enhanced productivity and prosperity. Nigeria cannot truly be considered great and democratic if it is unable to provide minimum material comfort – the basic necessities of modern civilisation, that is, food, light, water, shelter, clinics, schools and jobs – for the vast majority of its citizens.”
These recommendations are for the next President to implement.
I wish the next President goodluck.