A former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, on Wednesday said there was the need for the country to strengthen its institutions to achieve set development goals. Soludo gave the advice in Lagos while delivering the inaugural lecture of Ndigbo Lagos Foundation.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the theme of the lecture was “The Political Economy of Restructuring the Nigerian Federation.” He said that while capable leadership was imperative to transform the country, the system in which the leadership emerged and operated mattered more, saying the best leadership would fail in realising its development agenda if the country’s institutions were weak.
“Having a visionary and capable leadership is critical for the transformation of the society. But the system in which the leader emerges and operates is more important.
“Whatever the skills of Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo as footballers, if the field of play is a cassava farm, their talents might come to naught.
“Perhaps some rugged street urchins might be the real” leaders “in the cassava farm. Sometimes the debate about leadership and systems come down to chicken and egg argument.
“My view is that we have searched too long for the good leaders to fall from heaven, but for a change. Let us focus also on reforming our evidently defective institutions at least to loosen the suffocating stranglehold of Abuja and unleash the creative and competitive drive of our people.
“It is an oxymoron to repeat the same thing over and over again and expecting the same outcome,’” he said, saying there was the need to restructure Nigeria from a consuming economy to a productive economy.
He said a situation where the country was mainly dependent on oil was bad for the health of the nation, and called for diversification of the economy and urged leaders to summon the political will to pursue the idea. He said the country would be better with fewer viable states within a regional system of government, noting the country recorded great economic growth when it was operating the regional system of government.
He said there was competition among the various regions and each worked hard and drove its development with available resources, saying proponents of creation of more states were only playing politics, as the move would amount to a waste, as most of the existing states were not viable. “Some argue that state creation brought development closer to the grassroots, but without the counter-factual:
“What could have happened if states were aggregated and the wasteful duplications on consumption and recurrent spending saved for investment-considering the quantum of resources expended over the years compared to the miniscule resources under the regions?
“The former Eastern Central State with one Ministry of Education, one Ministry of Finance and one Ministry of Health and now has five states with five ministries with five commissioners of every sector, five parliaments, five governors and so on. “A simple aggregation will reveal the level of duplications and waste which could have been utilised for capital investment,” he said.
Soludo said that in restructuring the country for greatness, there was the need for power to devolve from the centre to the other federating units.
He called for the decentralisation of policing, the railway system, and the tax system to drive efficiency through better monitoring.
The former CBN governor also said the country would achieve more if states were allowed to control their resources. A former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, urged the country to revert to the regional system of government. He said the country would fare better with the system as it would allow the regions to develop at their own pace.
Anyaoku said the richness of the country was its diversity, adding that Nigeria would thrive on its plurality like India and Switzerland with the right structure. He commended the chairman of the Ndigbo Lagos, Anya o Anya, for the lecture, saying the programme would help to proffer solutions to the country’s problems.