The news these days is replete with conversations about the innumerable challenges we face as a nation. Every day, there is a barrage of tales of corruption, terrorism & kidnappings, political instability, dilapidated infrastructure, social injustice, poverty, crime, poor health care, broken educational system, all of which are the consequences of a convoluted mix of structural issues, cyclical issues and occasional shocks.
While there are various theories and postulations on how we got here as a nation and who is to blame, one thing we can all agree on is that we cannot continue to fester in this cesspool of failed systems, poor leadership at some levels of governance and missed opportunities. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need to change course before we find ourselves in more turbulent waters than the recent 2015/16 troubles, where our vulnerabilities were greatly exploited.
This formed the crux of a recent presentation at the Foundation Lecture and birthday ceremony of Bishop Taiwo Adelakun of Victory International Church in Ibadan by Mr Joseph Tegbe. In his speech, he drew attention to the urgent need to treat deep-seated maladies within our society – including poor governance, infrastructural deficits, social injustice, political arrangements, weak institutions and inadequate investment in human capital – rather than focusing our energies on applying band aids to their cosmetic manifestations.
His critical analysis of our current challenges, actionable solutions and relatable case studies provided key learnings which, if implemented, spell significant hope for the future of Nigeria.
Charting a sustainable path to Nigeria’s threatened development
Certainly, we are on the road to the recovery thanks to a few bold – and sometimes unpopular – moves of the current administration, evidenced by reported 1.95% growth in GDP recorded in Q1:2018; improved investor sentiment; increasing ease of doing business; and stability in the foreign exchange market. However, now is not the time to fall back to our old ways of over-reliance on crude oil exports to the detriment of other vibrant sectors of the economy, neither is it the time to fold our arms and watch the progress we have made come undone if the political tides shift and bring with it a new dispensation.
Rather, we have come to the point where sustaining Nigeria’s threatened development should be at the fore of all our minds. We have moved past the point of relying on the Presidency or Federal Government for miracle-working solutions to cure us of our ills. Current realities demand an inclusive, participatory, transparent and revolutionary approach that includes all stakeholders within our society, individuals, institutions and governments alike.
The need for inclusive institutions
In proffering solutions to the challenges initially highlighted, Mr Tegbe established a clear foundation for moving forward, stating, “At the heart of the successful transformation of any nation are inclusive, dependable, responsive and trustworthy political, judicial and economic institutions.”
His assertion suggests that the onus lies on the ability of existing institutions to take responsibility for their pivotal role in shaping Nigeria’s development and prioritize it accordingly. Too often, the needs of ‘the one organization/institution’ are prioritized over the needs of the Federation and its people, and this often results in underhanded practices that are detrimental to the whole and for which these entities are never held accountable.
There is, however, a call for a transition from self-serving methods of operation to more transparent and sustainable practices that transcend ethnic, religious, gender, political and socio-economic divides and embrace true nationalism.
The power of a shared vision
One of the biggest challenges discussed by Mr Tegbe is the ever-changing ‘transformation agenda’ that morphs with each change of government. We suffer greatly from what he explained to be ‘short-termism’ where electoral cycles constrain government leaders to focus on cyclical issues during their term(s) in office, leaving out the structural transformational initiatives that can create sustainable progress.
At some point we had the Vision 2010; then there was the Vision 2020; and now we have the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). But what happens when next power changes hands? We will again have a reset of our objectives as a nation because we lack consensus on where we want to go and who we want to be. Therein lies the power of a shared vision.
Key players within the national and sub-national spheres need to come together to agree on the vision of Nigeria. We need to set and agree on clear targets that will guide the activities of each era of governance at the federal, state and local government levels. This way, a succeeding government picks up the baton from where its predecessors left off and continues to run with it till the target is achieved.
Granted, it is no easy feat, but an impressive level of collaboration/partnership across several political parties, regions, states, private and public institutions, and the various arms and levels of government can indeed make this a reality. This would guarantee that the efforts of those at the top trickle down to the smallest unit of the nation effecting real change across board.
Quality leadership and national culture transformation
In answering the question of what good governance looks like for a country like Nigeria, Mr Tegbe simply stated, “A government that is able to meet the needs of the people; good governance that translates about 2 million barrels of oil production per day and N9 Trillion of budget into good lives for its citizenry.”
It is no secret that many are clamoring for political restructuring across varying lines depending on which side of the mouth is being spoken from. However, the deeper issue of the quality of leaders we are churning out continues to go unattended. While proper political arrangement is indeed crucial to the development of the nation, it is equally important that we build, elect and appoint transformational leaders right from the local levels all the way to the federal government.
What we need are servant-leaders who focus on building a solid foundation of shared goals by showing sincere interest in the needs and concerns of others, building a common vision and working to creatively build consensus. We must put an end to the era of unexposed, illiterate, self-serving, money hungry, power hungry tyrants who exploit us to further their own ambitions. This can, however, only be achieved when we institutionalize transformational leadership into our educational system, from primary to tertiary educations.
Building on this Mr Tegbe expressed a truth that is never discussed when the subject of our fate is discussed, when he said, “The ills in the followership – rent-seeking, ethnic & religious divisions, corruption, etc. – are now ingrained in our culture. However, the culture is a product of years of repression, manipulation, misinformation and erosion of our people’s integrity by poverty and deprivation.”
How do we then reverse the effects of abuse? By reorienting the masses. It will not happen in a day, nor be contained in a single message, neither will one voice be enough. Rather, every person of influence must speak about in their respective spheres to teach their fellow countryman what it means to be a good citizen. Within our communities, religious leaders, social media influencers, entertainers, mentors, and every single person with a voice must be the agent of a change if we will make a difference.
Grow national wealth by growing the people
Studies have shown that the level of economic development is strongly related to national wealth, and that human capital is the largest source of wealth in most advanced economies. This suggests that our economic prosperity is hinged on our ability to harness the full potential of our human capital.
Our goal is to, therefore, do whatever it takes to educate the population and equip them with the right skills to not only thrive within Nigeria, but to compete on a global scale in this 21st century. This does not speak to only formal avenues of education but extends to the proper organization of even skills acquisition and spurring young Nigerians to innovation and creativity.
Invest in infrastructure and diversify the economy.
All these efforts will, however, come to naught if we do not have the right environment to function. There is an urgent need for funding to support the massive infrastructural development that will sustain our efforts at economic development, and the easiest identified approach is through Public-Private Partnerships.
The responsibility is, therefore, on the government to provide a seat at the table for the private sector to take up some of the challenges and deploy the necessary resources that they may not have access to, especially to bridge the current $300billion dollars investment deficit in our national infrastructure requirement over the next 20 years. This is required to improve our power, rail, road and other physical infrastructure system
Furthermore, the need for diversification is even more crucial. Ours is a country that is blessed with diverse natural and human resources which have not begun to scratch the surface. We need to deploy the full extent of our resources to explore these opportunities and more importantly, build the necessary capacity to move beyond exports of raw commodities to beneficiation.
Summarily, one solution is not enough to fix Nigeria, neither is one person or even one government. It will take a reorientation of the people, a collaborative approach and a consistent pursuit of one shared vision.
Joseph Olasunkanmi Tegbe, FCA, FCIT, CGEIT, is the Founder of Tegbe Foundation, a non-profit organization since 2013, focused on Agriculture, Education, ICT and Governance with a commitment to developing a nation whose potential are fully harnessed.
He is also a Senior Partner in KPMG Professional Services and an International Advisor to Infrastructure, Government and Technology sectors.
Source: ‘Gafaar Adesina, Ibadan North Coordinator, Tegbe Foundation.
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