Two decades have gone in the Twenty-first Century but Nigeria is yet to be an industrialized country. The third decade in the century has just commenced and unfortunately, Nigeria has earned a title as the poverty capital of the world. It is not that Nigeria has not been fortunate to make some progress since independence. That the country has not achieved political and economic stability as expected is worrisome.
In spite of efforts of the past 60 years or thereabout of nation-building, Nigeria is more insecure, less stable with huge unemployed and underemployed youths, and less confident than it was at independence on 1 October 1960. The result is that Nigeria of the Twenty-first Century goes to negotiating tables in the international environment almost empty-handed seeking financial assistance from countries that have organized their societies, educated and disciplined their citizens.
As far as governance is concerned, policy and practice are two terrains of experience that government in Nigeria has been grappling with for several decades with success somewhat below the degree of public expectation in many cases. In our seemingly long struggle to establish ourselves as a developed country, we have continuously run into such troubled waters that negate our democratic advancement and undermine our ability to soar above our numerous socio-economic challenges.
At the core of the issues that continue to plague the country is the question of quality and genuine leadership and all the values and qualities associated with such. To a large extent, the failures in our national systems are all tied to the question of leadership. Just as in conventional war, no democratic society can attain economic development without visionary and committed leaders.
Nigeria’s leadership crisis is legendary. The problem is common at all levels of the government- local, state and federal. And if the country is to develop economically in the true sense, we must begin to source for quality leaders during elections. Our progression as a democracy and our efforts at achieving a stable and leading socio-economic polity are the total sum of the core objectives of our contemporary national endeavours. But these have always been the goals of our historical union since the decades of constitutional reforms that followed since independence.
Invariably, we have struggled with almost the same issues for years and decades, coming out of some and returning into others and going round and round in the same circle. Indeed, Nigeria has not been that lucky. Nigeria emerged from her colonial past on 1 October 1960 with a population of only 32 million which then was ably supported by a strong agricultural base. Today, it is estimated that our population is more than 200 million, and the oil boom of the 1970s has not only weakened the agricultural base but had destroyed the budding impressive socio-economic foundation which would have sustained the phenomenal upsurge in population. This was, therefore, the genesis of Nigeria’s current economic problems.
Before now, hope-inspiring visions (2010 and 2020), transformation agenda, Seven Point Agenda, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), and others have not been able to put Nigeria on the threshold of being a developed country. As Nigeria’s population grows at a rate of 2.6 percent with double-digit inflation, the economy remains sluggish at about 2.1 percent. Thus, in a context of rapid population growth, one expects that policies and programs to reduce poverty and hunger must expand faster than the population is growing. And for progress to be achieved towards proportional targets elaborated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
There are 17 goals in the SDG. The federal government of Nigeria has appointed a directorate of the ministry of works and housing to supervise all the SDG projects in 6 geopolitical zones. However, the solution to our prevailing economic problems depends on how far we plan our tomorrow today and how best we evolve and practice the right policy. This is particularly so as Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa, is today, the world’s poverty capital.
Economic development experts have made a plea for economic development planning. They affirm, that emerging countries which have enjoyed accelerated growth and structural transformation are precisely those countries that never jettisoned economic development plans. By implication, if we fail to have an economic development plan, then we have planned to fail no matter how excellent our policies and implementation strategies are.
We hear the government wants to develop infrastructure. Which infrastructure are those in the government talking about? The government needs to be specific as to the type of viable projects to be embarked upon in order to earn the trust and confidence of citizens. So, the economic development plan must be of strategic significance, well researched and thought-out in all its ramifications before it is put in place. Once that is done, it should not be changed for a period of time irrespective of changes in the personalities in the corridors of power. I strongly believe that it is possible to have an economic development plan that is capable of changing the narrative of the country positively within this decade. But where are the economists?
Nigeria is indeed a country blessed with enormous human and material resources as well as potentials but committed leaders are scarce. In fact, our human resources would have been the country’s greatest assets towards promoting and sustaining a virile economy. Unfortunately, because of the absence of an enabling environment and the so-called “Nigerian Factor,” which tends to enthrone mediocrity, our human resources have continued to suffer from excessive brain drain. A deliberate effort must be made to check this “second exodus” of Nigerian professionals to foreign countries in search of wealth.
Committed leadership is the key ingredient in any prescription for change. Committed leaders have a continual passion for making a difference in peoples’ lives by providing opportunities and empowering them to be successful. A committed leader must be of good attitude and must be able to walk the talk. The “change” or “Next Level” that Nigerians voted for during the last election in 2019 can only be actualized if our leaders across board lead by example. Nigeria needs leaders who will walk the talk; leaders who will lead by actions and not by words alone; achievers not deceivers. Leadership is not everything in governance, but it is very fundamental in developing a nation. As the saying goes: “It takes a generation of committed leaders to build a nation.” Thank you!