Statecraft in the African Renaissance by Gov Fashola (2)

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This is the second part of the paper delivered by Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, at the 2012 Achebe Colloquium on Africa held at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island USA on Friday December 7, 2012.

IN some parts of West Africa, political change and possibly the quest for a better life, has acquired a new image. It is now anchored on Islam, by the group now classified as the Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.

As we speak, the West African nations are contributing troops to go into Maliin a coalition to dislodge them because of the political danger they pose to the entire region. But beyond guns and live ammunition, their pursuit for power is fired by a stronger ammunition, one which does not attack the body but instead strikes the mind. Religion.

This will be difficult to defend against or to attack. Its range is limitless, its fuel supply is not science; on the contrary, it is passion driven by unquestioning faith. That fuel rarely runs out of supply and it does not tolerate reason but commands only unquestioning faith and belief. This is the newest and biggest threat and it is on both sides of the two popular religions, christianity and islam, both of which incidentally and interestingly owe their origins to the same region, theMiddle East.

Perhaps the closest in history to what we experience today are the ecclesiastical wars in advent of Christianity. It is against the background of these complexities that I intend to examine the role of statecraft in the 21st Century.

For my definition of ‘statecraft’, I choose “the art of conducting the affairs of state or conducting government affairs”. I think it is fair to say that at whatever level one is involved it is not an easy affair. Whether you are a President, Prime Minister, State Governor, City Mayor or whatever designation you operate at, the problems are the same.

Speed survey shows that the average speed within the vicinity (Agege Motor Road) had increased by 300 per cent from 10km/hr measured while developing the Strategic Transport Master Plan in 2008 to an average of 40km/hr in spite of increased traffic flow 

It is about humanity. Protecting people, securing your environment, saving lives, providing economic opportunities which in a simple word means jobs, providing education, healthcare, protecting rights and so on and so forth. What differs is the complexity of the same problem, from place to place, depending on the level of development or lack of it. The accepted global model for conducting these affairs, which is democracy, has been tested, but is now in my view, technologically challenged. By this I mean that with globalization many more people are involved in the process and they influence decision making for good or bad.

What newspapers could by editorial decision delay or refuse to publish while a decision of Government is under consideration is now instantly available on the social media without any consideration for its possible adverse or beneficial effect. Very recently, I told my colleagues that this is not a good time to be a leader, although I have always asked myself if there was ever a time in human history that it was good to lead.

That is why I salute the leaders of many centuries past, especially those of the early 20th Century who led our world through many technological breakthroughs such as electricity, the telephone, the airplane and protected our planet amidst the threat of two world wars. I draw a lot of inspiration from their courage and refusal to give up.

This is the least that is expected of every leader today in any part of the world if we are to save this planet from peril. This is the challenge of statecraft. Regrettably, democracy does not concern itself about this. It is only concerned about the emergence of the leader by popular mandate in an open process. Democracy does not guarantee that the leader will be competent as we have seen in some jurisdictions. It makes no guarantee that he will be compassionate or God fearing or that he will be passionate about the job. Indeed, the democratic process on its own cannot help the electorate determine beforehand, whether the prospective leader who seeks their vote is interested in the office or in the job.

Competence of prospective leaders

It is other processes that provide this guide, and as I have argued, debates during campaigns become most critical tools for assisting the electorate to have at least an insight as to the competence of the prospective leaders, their knowledge of their society, their present and previous positions on social, economic and religious issues which will one way or the other be indicative of how well they will act or conduct the affairs of State.

In the event, education of the highest quality, which is the acquisition of skills and tools of communication and knowledge, which is the individual quest for self-development, inquisitiveness, discernment and consultation  will be the biggest tools for successful statecraft in the 21st Century. A leader in the 21st Century must be a repository of knowledge; it must interest him to know many things such that whatever he chooses not to know must be clearly unimportant.

In a technologically driven world, where the primary objective of statecraft centres around the human civilization, data possession, processing, understanding and management are a sine qua non to successful statecraft in the 21st Century. In the last five and half years that I have spent  in office, I have paid unrelenting attention to data. The importance coincides with the cliché that you cannot manage a thing, if you cannot measure it. A few quick examples will suffice to demonstrate the point.

Security  

On assumption of office in 2007, the first inquiry I made was about the number of Policemen in the State that was available to help me protect the 17,552,000 people that our 2006 headcount showed that we had living inLagos. Over the years data management has become invaluable in our crime prevention strategy and has made our state easily the safest in the country.

We are able to monitor trends by analysing reports at monthly security meetings which I chair and by so doing we deploy the necessary logistics, either of more men, more patrol vehicles, more boats, more communication equipment or extra hours or a combination of any of them as the crime data reports suggests.

Revenue 

In order to raise money to fund our obligations, I sought to know how many properties we had registered on our data base and found out that we had registered only 26,000.  We invested in the property enumeration exercise and today we have registered 640,000 and still counting.  Of course I need not say that receipts from Property taxes  jumped in many folds. I also sought to know how many citizens were issued with tax cards as proof of payment of personal income tax, and I was told it was only 500,000.

We embarked on massive tax awareness campaigns and invested in printing and issuance of tax cards and today we have 2,530,744 tax payers on our data base. This accounts in part for why we are the only state that may survive without oil proceeds, because about 70 per cent of our annual expenditure comes from internally generated funds

We also conducted a registration of existing businesses in the State and our version of the Lagos Yellow pages, a directory of small businesses shows that we have 158,720  businesses in our State as at 2011 with significant increases expected in 2012.

Traffic Management 

When we resolved to clean up Oshodi, a very congested part ofLagosthat prevented access and thoroughfare throughAgege Motor Roadbecause street traders had taken over the road, our first task was to enumerate the number of street traders in order to plan their re-settlement.  Their new market is now finished and awaiting hand over. Subsequent to the cleanup, our monitoring and data collection revealed that it was a well-considered effort and money wisely spent because:-

•Speed survey shows that the average speed within the vicinity (Agege Motor Road) had increased by 300 per cent from 10km/hr measured while developing the Strategic Transport Master Plan in 2008 to an average of 40km/hr in spite of increased traffic flow arising from traffic diverting (to Agege Motor Road) from Ikorodu Road and Apapa-Oworonsoki expressway. The fact that vehicles now have effective use of two clear traffic lanes is a contributory factor to this development.

•Travel conditions has also improved along Ikorodu Road where traffic volumes have reduced by four per cent as Agege Motor Road now serves as an effective alternative for north to south movements in Mainland Lagos. Traffic speeds have consequently increased by 10 per cent.

•Overall, our data analysis showed that the Oshodi clean up measures will lead to travel time savings of 252 million hours, equivalent to 112,500 man years savings leading to productivity gains in the Lagos Economy.

•Indeed the traffic improvements translate to an annual benefit within the Oshodi vicinity of around N10bn. The wider benefit to the Lagos Economy is far bigger and could reach N120 billion. •As a result of the increase in travel speed from an average of 10km/hr to 40km/hr, the amount of carbon emitted by vehicles has reduced by 48 per cent to 76g/km. •The noise level has also decreased from 73.73 dBA recorded in 2008 to an average of 65 dBA. This is a reduction of 12 per cent in noise pollution.

•The cost of developing other measures such as building a 1km bridge to by-pass the troubled area of Oshodi and to achieve the result currently being experienced now in Oshodi will cost the Government N16.6 billion as opposed to under N300 million spent on relocating the traders and mobilizing enforcement to ensure the area remains clear. • This leaves a surplus of just over N16.3 billion for more pressing infrastructure needs of the State

Reduction of road traffic accidents

Since August 2012 when we introduced a new traffic law to increase safety and reduce road traffic accidents, I was recently able to report to citizens the results of our monitoring of the impact of the implementation of the law as follows: From the 25 General hospitals, the reports of accidents from motorcycles dropped from 646 to 525 cases in September; an 18.73 per cent reduction, while deaths recorded between the same period dropped from 14 to 8, a 42.86 per cent reduction.

In terms of the impact of the law and our advocacy on healthcare, our recent monitoring and evaluation assessment report reveals that:

a. 65 per cent of people sampled after the law want to reduce alcohol intake as against 30 per cent before;

b. 93 per cent now want to reduce drugs as against 71 per cent before the law;

c. 77 per cent are now convinced that alcohol is a danger to them and their passengers if they drink and drive, as against 10 per cent before the law; and

Only 4 per cent now say they can still purchase alcohol within the motor park after the law, as against 58 per cent before the law.

Budget

Similarly we have taken data and budget statistics very seriously as our critical tool for planning and service delivery. We hold quarterly budget sessions year on year, we monitor performance vigorously and we have never performed below 70 per cent of our budget commitments even though this is below our target of 90 per cent.

Education 

Data has proved quite useful in education management, just as in other sectors. Although we started an emergency school repair and construction programme, data collection has helped us identify areas of more classroom needs and this has helped us allocate resources more judiciously. It has helped us to remain focused on the long gestation that education renaissance requires because we are seeing consistent upward results in the performance of students in their final examinations as a result of our many initiatives.

For example, from the results in the final West Africa Examinations Council secondary school leaving results showed that 7 per cent of students passed with five credits in one sitting with English and Mathematics in 2007. The result  went up to 11 per cent in 2008, 18 per cent in 2009, 21 per cent in 2010, and dropped to 19 per cent in 2011.

Our detailed analysis of data of students performances at monthly education meetings that I inaugurated in 2011 and which I chair, resulted in the deployment of a cocktail of solutions, such as younger teachers,  review of class promotion grades, involvement of parents, injection of funds and extra lessons.

Our 2012 students performance in the same examination, showed a 39.8 per cent pass result. This is not where we want to be, but it points to the direction our public education renaissance is heading. It is eloquent testimony of a departure from quick fixes, and a committment to planning. Clearly, therefore, apart from the usefulness of data for resolving social and economic issues as a pre-requisite for statecraft, it is an instructive necessity for conflict resolution in West Africa, and its need is the more eloquently spoken to, by the debilitating impact conflicts both resolved and yet unresolved that we have had on the West African sub-region.

From Liberia to Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Mali and the threat of Boko Haram in the homeland in Nigeria. 

Perhaps at this point it will be remiss of me and dangerously ominous not to take a position about the still raging controversy back home, at least by the accounts in the local papers as of the last weekend. My host, Professor Chinua Achebe had chosen to document his account of an indelible personal experience in a new book titled, “There was a country – a personal history of Biafra” . 

It received and continues to receive mixed and in some cases hostile reception. In fact some commentators suggested that the work had contributed to restoring old tensions and brewing new hostilities, prefacing possible inter-ethnic conflict. Wherever your personal view may lie, we cannot but observe, from the tone of the commentary, that our national governments continue to fail us in the crucial duty of being repositories of information, data, records and archives as historical records are indispensable tools for policy development.

Certainly the discourse would have been richer, less acrimonious and not predestined for tension if institutional national archiving and information disclosure was responsibly discharged by the Federal Government of Nigeria. I am sure there are other examples across the West African sub-region. States must begin to see the connection between information management and inter-religious, ethnic and sectional tension acrossAfrica.

That publication has put me in some difficult straits and I will explain. I speak here today not in person but by virtue of my office as Governor of Lagos State. The invitation from Professor Chinua Achebe to me is, therefore, an honour to the people ofLagosand on their behalf I thank him. My first invitation was actually to speak here in December 2011 but previous commitments made that impossible.

When I suggested to Professor Achebe that I will write the speech and have somebody deliver it he was emphatic in saying that he would rather wait for a year until 2012. Sometime early this year, I wrote to confirm my acceptance and my attendance. I am Yoruba and interestingly a product of his seminal work Things Fall Apart as student of literature in aNigerianSecondary School. You cannot imagine my excitement as I prepared for this occasion sometime in August this year, when I heard of his new book.

Checking the online news

I ordered a copy online and requested that it be delivered to me inLondonin October whilst I was attending an event there. I was halfway through the book when I checked the local news online and saw that things were no longer at ease back home inNigeria. Some leaders of my ethnic group had very strong views about parts of the book. Professor Achebe is from the Igbo ethnic group. As you can also expect, there were spirited responses from leaders of opinion from his own ethnic group.

My thoughts were to write to Professor Achebe to decline the invitation and proffer some excuse. I wonder if it crossed his mind to find a reason to ask me not to bother to come. But I resolved that a commitment I had made in honour to attend was more important than what anybody might say or feel.  Those were the values on which I was raised. More importantly, this was a generational disagreement between the principal parties of the events that took place when I was barely four years old. As I said, the management of the National Archives and the publication of what really happened at that time will certainly help to ensure that nobody creates his own facts.

But beyond that, my own generation has moved on. We see our country differently.  It also seems to me that many years after the conflict, that some of the principal actors in the conflict such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yoruba leader and Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu had decided to move on. This was what Ojukwu said when Chief Awolowo passed on in the late 1980s:- “the best President thatNigerianever had”.

It might interest you to also know that one of the active military leaders of the time, a Yoruba General, did not object to his daughter subsequently marrying an Igbo man.

My own aunt, a Yoruba Muslim, had a son for an Igbo Christian man and he is as much my cousin as the others are. Today, the story of our progress in Lagos State cannot be complete without acknowledging the role of Ben Akabueze, an Igbo man from Anambra State, who has been my Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning for the last 5 (Five) years.

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