Nigerian leaders have been urged to think out more positive ways to move the country forward. They have also been advised to deploy available capital for the good of the poor masses rather than using same in chasing after more capital.
The advice was given in Lagos last week during the launch of a book – ‘Financialism: Water from an Empty Well’ co-authored by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor, Lagos State and Brian Browne, an American diplomat and former consul-general in Lagos.
In their individual addresses at the event, Tinubu, Brown, Babatunde Fashola, governor, Lagos State; Adams Oshiomhole, Edo; Rauf Aregbesola, Osun; Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun; Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo; Rochas Okorocha, Imo; and Kalu Idika Kalu, former Finance minister, who was the chairman of the occasion, observed that Nigeria has been busy raking in trillion dollars of oil revenue which has not impacted on infrastructural development, neither has it elevated the living standard of masses of this country.
Idika Kalu said the nation’s problem was inflicted by poor management of resources. He observed that despite numerous reforms by successive administrations for many years, Nigeria is still struggling owing to disorganisation and inability to reinvent the proceeds from the oil boom and agricultural pyramids.
“We have gone through one crisis after another over the past 50 years. We saw how we started, we brought in broad-based agricultural economy and we saw how we managed that under very low technologies to save and to make progress across this nation. I thought we should have leveraged on that to invest more in real sector in order to achieve improved quality,” Kalu said.
Amosun said: “Any attempt to de-emphasise that money translates to wealth must be encouraged. Oil gives money but it does not create wealth.”
In his address titled: ‘How long shall we attempt to draw water from an empty well?’ Tinubu wondered why government is maintaining a foreign reserve of $46billion with one or two percent interest and shouldering a load of $42 billion domestic debt which it services with 16 percent interest. He accused government of running a voodoo economy, noting that such a policy is choking the private sector.
Tinubu said: “We must in this country do away with the idea of ‘it is better to save the money and spend the people’. Rather, I will say we should adopt the policy of ‘it is better to save the people and spend the fund.’”
According to him, “making money not tangible goods that improve our standard of living has become the overriding economic objective. Funds should be used to fuel industrial production and generate employment leading to broadly shared prosperity. Instead funds are incessantly recycled within the financial sector, creating huge nominal profits for a select few.
“The great nominal wealth is unconnected to economic fundamentals and has little bearing on the welfare of the average person. The more attractive this nominal wealth, the more money flow to and remain within the financial sector which produced this entrapping mirage.
“In Nigeria today, with our lack of vital infrastructure, the absence of a concrete industrial policy and with the paucity of long term funding to fuel the real sector, we ask the economy to do the impossible. It’s like attempting to draw water from an empty well.”
The former governor also emphasised: “We must reform our philosophy about economic development. First, we must reform the financial sector so that it becomes an effective artery that sends funds to the heart of the real sector. The federal government must formulate a national industrial policy that would focus on developing labour-intensive industries.”
Browne, the co-author, in his address observed that the petro-dollar that had accrued to Nigeria over the years has yet to benefit the poor citizens. He wondered how many Nigerian children that will continue to die on the busy roads while hawking all manner of wares to assist their poor parents.
According to him, “we must not let this nation go away like dry leaf in the wind.” The book was reviewed by Osaghae Eghosa, a professor of comparative politics and vice chancellor, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State.