(Keynote Address Presented by Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, at the Summit Organized By the Youth Empowerment Summit Group, In Collaboration With The Enugu State Government at Enugu on the 25th of May, 2012)
Nigeria – A Failed State? Nigeria is often rated in the bottom range of any global comparative chart for quality of life/economy of nations. In its 2011 Failed States Index, the United States-based Fund for Peace assigned Nigeria the 14th position out of 177 countries analyzed, only ahead of the world’s 13 most miserable and war ravaged nations. The American Bipartisan Centre on May 12, 2011, similarly, listed Nigeria among the world’s fragile states. The World Bank had also published reports in 2006 and 2007 ranking Nigeria among 15 “fragile states” in the world.
Whatever may be our opinion as individuals or we may feel as a nation, this is the way the world sees us and the indices are not arbitrary, they were derived empirically. For reality test, I will urge us to recount the major stories in most of our newspapers for any two weeks within the last 20 years or so. The stories are of violent power struggles, insecurity, injustice, election rigging, group agitation, looting, hate crimes, unemployment, school closure, infrastructure decay, dearth of manufacturing, capital flight, food scarcity, poverty, infant mortality and maternal deaths, disease, conflicts, bombing, arson, and repeated failures of strategic projects like census, national identity card and privatization.
Against a battery of indicators, we look like a nation at war with itself. The institutions we have in place are ineffective to steer the country back to good health either. The decay is deep. It is shortsighted to heap the blame on the present leadership. Changing executives or principal officers do not guarantee instant new life. We are not able to stop crime; that is the natural result of a police force that the powers that be have neglected for over fourty years. Joint military, state security forces and police are not able to contain Boko Haram and other forms of insurrection; true, because for fourty years they have derailed from best practices in training, organization and discipline. The Chief executives of the various military arms, state security and police are some of the best trained and disciplined officers in the system; and they are doing the best they can with the officers and resources they have. With 30 to 40 years of neglect, abuse and decay, there is no quick fix; it takes time to deconstruct and reconstruct. These institutions are human institutions; habits and attitudes take painstaking effort to defrost before new learning, retraining and retooling can take place.
Jonathan’s Transformation Programme. Quite often, Nigerian politicians come up with flowery manifestoes, captivating slogans, and campaign themes and agenda. But no sooner do they get elected than they abandon the promising statements and return to business as usual or worse; taking advantage of public office and the peoples trust to loot and squander their common wealth. This has been the direction and meaning of political power in Nigeria. However, this time, it has been different at least at the federal level, and few states. President Jonathan has been resolute on a National Transformation mission that would have government to be responsibly vision driven to take Nigeria to its rightful position as a world leader.
Nigeria’s Vision 20, 20, 20.
“By 2020 Nigeria will be one of the 20 largest economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena”.
The leadership vision is that Nigeria becomes one of the 20 leading nations of the world (a G20 nation) by the year 2020. The G20 nations consist of countries and regions of systemic significance for the international financial system. They include members of the more elite G8, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain, and USA; the industrialized nations of Australia, Mexico, Turkey, and South Korea; the developing nations of Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa; and the 27-member European Union. Actually, there are no formal criteria for G20 membership; however, all member countries are among the top 29 economies as measured by their Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and top 25 as ranked by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). Economic power is key to being a G20 nation; achieving this status requires stable, vision driven political leadership, along with a culture that breeds effective and forward looking leaders across the entire spectrum of societal endeavor: government, business, academia, industry, science and culture.
Global investment experts Goldman Sachs in 2004 identified Nigeria as one of the countries that has the potential for attaining global competitiveness based on their economic and demographic settings. They are not alone; the reality is that Nigeria’s economic potential and strategic importance in Africa and the world is well recognized. Nigeria is the most populated African nation, the 7th most populated country in the world, with about 40 billion barrels proven crude oil reserve, 10th largest producer of oil and 26th largest producer of gas. Nigeria is richly endowed with tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead, and zinc and vast arable land for agriculture and coastline for trade. Compare this with Japan which has virtually no natural or mineral resource and is the world’s largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas, as well as the second largest importer of crude oil. Japan is a member of elite G8 and G20 nations, it has a population of 127,650,000 (10th in the world), and is the 3rd most prosperous country.
For a leader intent on lasting transformation, the non-negotiable condition are authenticity; respect for law and order; trust and patriotism; abiding framework of equity and justice; integrity in all dealings; transparency, and good communication. To the chagrin of many, President Jonathan has begun to deconstruct the institution of the presidency starting with himself. He demonstrates authentic characteristics of a leader who feels good in his skin genuinely struggling to make a difference without hubris, no superhero or Mr. Know-it-all persona. At the recent World Economic Forum in Addis Ababa, he was emphatic that CEOs of African nations should count themselves privileged to have been chosen to lead and should not regard themselves as above the state. He said he is not the most knowledgeable, nor the most educated or most physically endowed in Nigeria; no swagger, no sanctimony. While some Nigerians would like to cast him in a particular mould, he has resisted all the temptations. He has said that the Villa, the presidency, and the country belong to the people of Nigeria. He supported one of the nation’s eminent statesman and a charismatic leader to become the National Chairman of his political party. He did not look for a stooge, rather someone who could help sanitize the political process. He has opened-up the villa; for two years running he hosted Youth Corpers in its Banquet hall. He has appointed the presidential candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria one of those who contested against him, Dr. Nuhu Ribadu, to chair a very important commission of the nation’s apex industry. We wait to see how he engages General Buhari; certainly transformation requires all hands on deck.
In addition to leading with justice, equity and transparency, Mr. President must show greater courage. All the institutions need to be reconstructed, heads must roll, looters must be put where they deserve, and known roadblocks and bottlenecks should be dislodged to send clear signals that Jonathan means business. It behooves the leader to assure effective stakeholder consultation and buy-in into the agenda. Nigeria is naked without the states and local government areas; there cannot be a strong Nigeria until our different states become viable through the strength of the composite local government areas, communities, towns and villages.
Governors: As Chief Executive of the states, Governors should develop big picture thinking and make governance what it really is, leading with vision and integrity. Singapore remains a classical example of leading with purpose and discipline, and a model country for transformation studies. Under its transformational leader Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore soared; it now holds the records of the world most competitive country, world’s best business environment, and it’s among the best in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). It receives over 12 million tourists yearly, and records income from tourism of approximately USD$20billion yearly. Singapore occupies approximately 750sqkm, has near zero of the world’s natural resources, however, its GDP (PPP) is USD$59,900, and it has robust foreign reserve of $284billion, combined Sovereign Wealth Fund of $400billion, and an annual budget of $40billion. A great country; you can say that again.
Ironically, the population of Singapore is about 5million while Enugu state has a population of 5.6million. In Enugu, one would appreciate the fine layouts of the city road networks, good signs for a state in transition. Enugu, certainly, is well endowed for agriculture and tourism. It could be to Nigeria what the state of Florida is to the US; a place where people from everywhere could come and build vacation or retirement homes, and experience and enjoy the wonders of nature signposted by the Milikin hills, the unending valleys and hilltops from Ninth Mile and the bye pass to Enugu city. With some creativity, the governor could convert this magical landscape to a global resort. I believe too that the governor could collaborate with the Monks at Awhum to build up the scenic area that I have christened The Trinity Spiritual and Retreat Centre, a scenic place where humanity interfaces with God, featuring the Passion Mountain, Heavenly Valley, and Spiritual Waterfall. With these areas developed, millions of non-Enugu and international visitors can come for enrichment of spirit, peace and rest. With UNN, and other tertiary institutions, the state could be a Research and Academic centre for Nigeria and Africa. Enugu like many states in Nigeria holds a unique promise; 7,500sqkm of arable farmland, deposits of coal, lime stone etc.
The huge potential of the third tier of government is yet to be fully explored. The grassroot is the foundation on which the entire structure of the state and nation rest; it is the pillar for development and industrialization. State governors may unwittingly be stifling the growth and development of their states by not empowering the LGAs and rooting development there. Our states and nation are artificial/constitutional constructs, the fulcrum are the clans, villages, communities, and towns. Council Areas are strategic to Transformation, and must be driven to develop to full potentials. Deliberate effort must be made to grow the LGAs and assure visionary leadership at this critical level.
The Legislature has a duty to drive transformation through oversight functions. This will help control corruption and make the executives and their agencies function more effectively. Understandably, we have many structural problems; the legislature in Nigeria is at infancy and should not be in a hurry to overhaul the entire constitution over night. It is important to promptly sponsor critical bills to address major structural imbalances which impede trust amongst the federating units, as harmony is needed to enable the country power along with the full force of 167million persons. The legislature should remove all hindrances to transformation and motivate the executive arm to better performance. Party or tribal politics will slow or derail the process. Nigeria is far behind and we have a lot of catching up to do. We win when the national GDP and PPP are comparable to those of the G8 and G20 nations, when electric power is in all our localities, and Nigeria youths are availed high quality education, when all our constituents are employable and employed. The legislature needs to knock down and reconstruct the stereotypical and constraining aspects of our constitution, and lead transformation through enabling and qualitative legislation and excellent oversight.
The Judiciary and Our Judges. The idea here is not to criticize. But our court found Governor Ibori without stain; he pleaded guilty in the UK, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison in a foreign land. The Oceanic Bank Chief Executive Mrs. Cecilia Ibru has been in jail for almost two years, while the courts entertain Nigerians with orchestrated delays and manipulation of its processes and deliberately shielding the other bank Chief Executives from the course of justice. It is common knowledge that “elected” political leaders pledge state, local government, or constituency allocations for favourable judgment; fraudsters pledge bounties, corrupt public officials their loots. The role of Magistrates, Registrars, and Judges in leading national transformation is well cut out; Save Nigeria, shun corruption; wield the gavel with courage and justice.
The Media: Transformation is about people. Until habits and attitudes change, nothing changes. Expose and report corruption in a way that discourages potential perpetrators. X-ray the image, conduct and poise of the leaders of other industrialized nations and emerging economies; USA, UK, Japan, and China, Indonesia, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, India and South Korea; and promote them as examples for our leaders. Continuously beam the legislators, executives, judiciary, public servants, business men and factory workers of the G8 and G20 countries at work; create opportunities to interview and interact with them, and use your different media to project what makes them excel for Nigerians to see, and emulate. People change when they are confronted with nobler and better ways that could enrich their lives.
Elder Statesmen and Former Heads of State: They have played their roles and are a living testimony that the old ways are not the best for Nigeria. If during their years Nigeria had advanced to become a G8/G20 nation or a permanent member of the Security Council, their generation would have been our heroes. They are in the vantage position to speak out and shed light on the booby traps to nation building, so that past mistakes are avoided. By 2030 Nigeria’s population will be almost doubled. Haste is required to create jobs, empower our people, grow our economy, and enrich our perspectives. Extreme tribalism, religious fanaticism, and god-fatherism deprive our different people the strength in our diversity. As leaders you owe it to yourselves and the country to advocate and play the lead role. You can make the transformation run better in as many ways as you may choose.
Scholars and Academics Change is difficult; people change only when their perceptions and mental paradigms shift. You can lead transformation by using your skills, classrooms and pens to project facts, new realities, alternative and better ways of doing things for students, industry, business, government leaders to see. We may lack the resources at the moment to fund groundbreaking scientific researches, but the internet has made it easier to do great literary reviews that could be impactful in our circumstance. Transformation requires that you rise above the hardship and continue to seek and transfer relevant knowledge and enhance learning.
Nigerians in the Diaspora Transformation is a clarion call, no matter where you may be. The Asian tigers pulled together to roar; the Nigerian Eagle will only soar when your great intellect and sophisticated world view find a place in the transformation process. Malaysians, Indonesians, Saudi Arabians and Iranians have done it; Indians in the Diaspora championed a lot of changes at home, and today India is a health Mecca. Copy, or create templates; your abilities are not in doubt; you can teach the people at home how to collaborate, how to plan long term, create niches, and pull resources together. National Transformation creates a viable platform for every one of you to make a lasting imprint at “home”.
Traditional and Religious leaders have their roles well defined as every one of the 167million Nigerians is from a community and each of them worships somewhere. These leaders shape culture and tradition, and mould the spirit. Culture is powerful and the spirit is a super force. They could lead transformation by enriching the cultural and spiritual vitality of all of us. Our native values, storytelling, rituals and artifacts make meanings; excavating the relics of historical and heroic exploits, framing and reframing of these have been found to energize a people to great action and accomplishment. Transformation is not simply about copying what works in Japan, rather we mesh those with our originality.
Career public officials, men and women of different professions and trade, and parents you are called to act with diligence, and lead by example; be the mirror. Public trust requires accountability; excellence requires commitment, great society requires quality parenting. We are all called to take a lead role for Nigeria to make the transformational leap. Colin Powell says that in the end, what matters is not what the leader says but what he/she does; true leadership is do as I do and not as I say. Whether you are a teacher, businessman, artisan, office worker or farmer, transformation means no more business as usual, no “deals”, lawlessness, or apathy. Transformation says own what you do, and own your country and stop its abuse. Support the government in its good causes, bark when they derail. Like Caesar’s wife be beyond reproach.
My friends the Youth Empowerment Summit Group, I have taken steps to throw light on some of what is required from the various stakeholders as you requested in your brief; it is not exhaustive. My interactions with the national coordinator Hon Anselm Chinedu Nebeife, a wise and true patriot and a quintessential man of action, and with the members of the executive committee have shown you to be a group that is committed to noble causes. I have faith in your mission, that the entire executives and members of the YESgroup will go door to door across the nation to mobilize Nigerians into the transformation-craft. You are the youth of Nigeria, the Transformation is for you. If you support and drive it, it will work, if you do not, it will fail. You are extremely important in the equation; if Transformation succeeds the youths of Nigeria are the biggest beneficiaries, you will walk tall in all parts of the world. Nigeria will become a strong country with its strength deriving from strong village, town, and LGA/city economies. The world will come to find you in your “city-villages” in no distant time.
At the moment, unemployment is dealing a deadly blow on our young people. You have the potential to compete with your contemporaries in China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, USA, UK and Australia, but the present system denies you the wings to fly and excel. Quality education will give the same skillsets and toolkits to the youth as the young people in Japan; transformation will guarantee those. Do not be dismayed; bring your creativity, tremendous energy and passion to life to lead this transformation. I am aware we have had our hopes raised before, there are numerous failed promises, and we have been taken advantage of in the past. Do not tire, be firm; do not expect me or anyone including the governors or President Jonathan to motivate you to action. Take the lead. Put on your thinking cap. If you ignite a spark you will motivate the entire stakeholders to action. And you can.
Before I close, I will tell you how my son spurred me to learn how to drive myself to a greater action. I went bicycle riding with Elochukwu, my 7 year old son recently. He has newly learnt to ride a bicycle. This day I tried to get him to apply some energy and ride up a hilly path. I stayed at the other end and asked him to ride to where I was. As I watched him coming closer I clapped and tried to encourage him to get to the finish line. He pedaled with difficulty towards the end as he completed the race. Tired, he came with me to sit on grass besides a tree that provided some shade. As I congratulated him and tried to talk, he interrupted me and said “Daddy, I want to tell you something”. He was exasperating and excited at the same time. He said that as he rode and got exhausted, he thought to himself of a song that could motivate him to complete the race. Then he started to sing to himself “Pedal, pedal to the limit. Pedal, pedal to the limit” and he sang on till he got to the finish line. He said “Daddy, really when I started the song, the tiredness, the struggle and the pain evaporated; and I was not going to give up until I got to the end”
My young boy taught me a significant lesson with his song; “Pedal, pedal to the limit”. While the content of the song makes meaning, the import in my son’s lesson are twofolds; that when creativity takes over the soul in every human person, no task is impossible, there is nothing that can stop the spirit; and that there is always a way to motivate oneself under any condition to achieve a noble goal. I believe and I am convinced that Transformation-YESgroup will be the ones more than any other to assure that the Transformation is pedaled to the limit until Nigeria takes that seat, nay, those seats. Today also, The Transformation-YESgroup, gives me a new impetus to say to Mr President, Transformation-Yes; no going back; Going back will be surrendering this country to catastrophic revolution and anarchy. Irrespective of the pull to retrogression and the various forces of dissention, Mr. President should push on and get more creative, engage the great force amongst the young people whose future you have determined to make better, empower them and create a whole new and overwhelming ecosystem that will not only pull Nigeria out of the failed state doldrum but put it where it belongs, G20, G8 and permanent seat in Security Council of the United Nation.
My last word. At times people assume that the World Bank, IMF and other institutions’ templates for sustainable development are a magic wand. That is not quite correct. The idea of one suit fits all is untenable. Nations have their peculiarities. A Nation can borrow or steal development ideas from IMF, World bank, other notable institutions and nations, but must fortify such with their own original and breakthrough strategic creations. Notwithstanding what anyone thinks, our country will leap to unparalleled greatness if we are able to mobilize and empower the grassroots to lead transformation. If the federal government can collaborate with the other tiers of government to systematically get N5billion worth of investment and industrialization fund into each and every Senatorial district in our land, the creativity, entrepreneurship and sense of industry of our different people will be challenged and powered, and Nigeria will not be the same again. This is radical, you may say. Yes, it is courageous, groundbreaking and uncommon actions that cause real progressive change to happen. How do we find the money? That’s what the financial experts in and outside the government are for.
Transformation-YES, it’s for me and you; it is for every one of us to make it happen.
God bless you all. God bless Nigeria.
Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu.
Ikolo Dike Orabueze Awka. National Chairman, African Democratic Congress.