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Transformational leadership: a springboard for sustainable development

Civil society organization launches practice guide on social justice

According to Burns, a foremost leadership scholar, in his book titled Leadership (Harper & Row, New York), transformational leadership is the engagement of leaders and followers in a mutual process of raising one another to higher levels of morality and motivation. The transformational leader appeals to the higher ideals and values of the followers in an unselfish manner to achieve collaboration and collective success. In this engagement, the leader affects followers and transforms them in three ways, thus: (i) increasing their awareness of task importance and value; (ii) getting them to focus first on team or organisational goals, rather than their own interests; and (iii) activating their higher order needs.

How has the transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government reflected this understanding of transformational leadership? The transformation agenda of the Federal Government is anchored on the Vision 20:2020, which seeks to elevate the nation’s economy to be among the top 20 economies in the world in terms of GDP growth by the year 2020. The transformation agenda is targeted at creating jobs to reduce unemployment; laying a foundation for economic growth; and improving the well-being of Nigerians on a sustainable basis. To achieve these goals, the Federal Government is focusing its attention on priority sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, oil and gas, trade and investment, health, education, and tourism.

However, one way of pursuing the Federal Government’s transformation agenda is the development of key infrastructure that would lead to the economic empowerment of citizens through the creation of the enabling environment for their engagement in productive activities across the sectors. Infrastructure development and economic growth are mutually reinforcing, as infrastructure development plays a vital role in wealth creation. The importance of infrastructure to national development cannot be overemphasised: It is at the core of good governance and public welfare. Good infrastructure is critical to the overall development of the Nigerian economy, which in turn impacts the standard of living of the citizens. Good and sustainable infrastructure is needed in Nigeria not only to serve as a catalyst for economic growth, but also for the creative engagement of citizens and to generate national development. In summary, good infrastructure provides a platform for the socio-political transformation of the nation. This is what the transformation agenda of the Federal Government is delivering to our citizens and nation.

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Infrastructure stock in Nigeria today is far from being adequate. This becomes even more evident when compared to countries such as Brazil, Turkey, India and South Africa. The Federal Government recognises the need to bridge the infrastructure gap in our country. Consequently, the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government has just completed the preparation of a National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan to guide the nation’s investment in key infrastructure in the next 30 years (2014-2043). Although the priorities of the Nigerian government in the next five years are to focus on good governance (security of lives and property, law and order, and providing enabling environment); human development (education, healthcare, skill acquisition, and capacity building); real sector (agriculture, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas); and infrastructure (power, roads, rails, aviation, information and communication technology, water for irrigation and industries), more premium is also being placed on funding of infrastructure projects to impact positively on the realisation of the other priorities. Infrastructure is a common denominator for the other three priorities and vital to the success of the transformation agenda of the Federal Government.

The various reforms embarked upon by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration in the last two years in the different sectors of our economy are yielding desired results, which are transformational in nature.

What are the indicators? Today, inflation has been reduced from 12.4 percent in 2011 to 9.1 percent in 2013; recurrent expenditure has dropped from 74.4 percent in 2011 to 68.7 percent in 2013 in an irreversible downward trend that will lead to a positive ratio in favour of capital expenditure. In 2012 alone, the amount of Foreign Direct Investment in our economy stood at $8.9 billion; stock market capitalisation has risen by 66.2 percent since 2012 to N11.8 trillion; diversified revenue base, which has brought contribution by oil and gas to 70 percent in May 2013 from about 90 percent in 2010, while increasing the contribution of the other sectors; number of insurance policy holders has increased from 700,000 in 2010 to 1.5 million in 2012 and the upward trend continues; not only has the rail lines (Lagos-Kano) been reactivated, the number of passengers carried by rail has also risen from 1 million in 2009 to 4.2 million in 2012.

With the scheduled revitalisation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line and the completion of the sidings on the Lagos-Kano rail line, this number will more than quadruple. Cargo transportation via our waterways has increased from 2.9 metric tons in 2011 to 1.3 million tons in 2012 and still rising; travel time on most federal roads has been reduced substantially due to improved condition of the roads, and only recently ABC Transport Company in an advertorial in The Punch of May 20, 2013 slashed its fares as a result of the improvement in our road network across the country; improved passenger comfort and navigational aids at our airports and removal of import duties and charges on aircraft and spare parts; reduced clearing time at the ports from 39 days to 7 days, the destination being 48 hours; increased power generation from 3,514 MW in 2011 to 4,500 in 2012, with a projected total of 7,000 MW by December 2013 when the NIPP comes on stream; increased domestic food supply which has been put at 8 metric tons in 2012, representing 7020 above target; increased mobile phone subscription from 14 million in 2004 to about 150 million by 2012; and many more positive developments in other sectors of our economy.

The import of these indicators is that citizens of our country are being empowered by the improving economic environment consequent on better infrastructure in a way that enables them to engage in productive and profitable ventures. This, to my mind, is the hallmark of transformational leadership which brings about sustainable development, as citizens are better positioned to sustain their productive activities consequent on improved infrastructure and economic climate.

In conclusion, infrastructure is the bedrock of development of a society. A solid and adequate infrastructure base will translate into an increased aggregate output and flourishing economy. Researchers have traced the development of infrastructure in Africa and concluded that there is an urgent need for transformation. It is therefore gratifying that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration at its commencement launched the transformation agenda and is not only in the process of bequeathing a National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP) to Nigeria, it is already implementing the content of that plan which will have the salutary effect of truly transforming infrastructure development in Nigeria in a sustainable manner, as citizens become freer and better able to pursue happiness and extending the opportunity to pursue happiness to others.

Onolememen is the Honourable Minister of Works.

Extract from a speech by the honourable minister at the 5th AES Annual National Conference on Tuesday, 25th June, 2013 at the Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos.