By Clifford Ndujihe
FROM her lower comparative status, Nigeria can overtake world economic powers like Malaysia, Singapore, China and United Arab Emirates, if the needful was done, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, founder of Leadership Newspapers Group and presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has said.
According to Nda-Isaiah, Nigeria will leap-frog these countries on the economic ladder by ensuring good leadership, rule of law and security; punishing corruption squarely; creating jobs; strengthening the local currency; changing the way government works and the elite reaching a consensus to move the country forward.
The presidential aspirant spoke, yesterday, in Lagos while delivering the First City People Monthly lecture, entitled, ‘Moving Nigeria Forward: Lessons from Malaysia, Singapore, China and Dubai.’
Noting that in terms of development most of these countries looked up to Nigeria in the 1970’s, Nda-Isaiah lamented that “the reverse is the case today.”
He said: “Nigeria’s First Republic leaders and General Yakubu Gowon did their best until things took a turn for downward slide after the toppling of Gowon’s military regime
“General Yakubu Gowon, one of the former leaders of this country that I believe had not yet been given his rightful place in history, told me in a private discussion last year that what pained him most about the coup that removed him from office was not the loss of power, but the loss of opportunity to implement his Third National Development Plan, which started the year he was overthrown and which could have moved Nigeria to the level of the Asian Tigers.”
He said that, before he left power, international organisations, including the media, were already saying that Nigeria was on the same development trajectory with some of these nations. And General Gowon believed his programmes would have taken us there. He had a lot to show for his tenure as leader.
“Apart from prosecuting the civil war and keeping Nigeria one, which Nigerians will eternally remember him for, Gowon also achieved significantly in the development of the country. I know there are people who may differ on this, but most of the developments we still have on ground today in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Benin City, Enugu and a host of other cities are traceable to Gowon’s era. I also believe that the First Republic leaders still have a lot of good history going for them,” he said.
Speaking on lessons to be learnt from Singapore, he said: “I love the story of Singapore so much that, about four years ago, I attended a governance programme at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore where most of the resource persons were former principal secretaries and ministers of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who is considered the founding father of modern Singapore. One of the former principal secretaries of Lee Kuan Yew told us that when Singapore gained independence in 1965, apparently without hope or a future to look up to, their greatest ambition was to grow to be like Nigeria and the Philippines in the future. Today, it is Nigeria and the Philippines that want to be like Singapore.
Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Dubai had a roughly similar history and circumstances. All of them were once considered Third World countries and were once termed emerging markets. Today, all the others have joined the First World; only Nigeria remains a Third World nation.
One thing that separates Malaysia, Singapore, China and Dubai from Nigeria is leadership – consistent leadership. Singapore had Lee Kuan Yew, China had Deng Xiaoping, Dubai has Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Malaysia had Mahatir Mohammed.”
The way out
To move forward, he said: “Nigeria needs a new leadership. Since 48 million jobs are not available, Nigeria must create an army of entrepreneurs. Nigerian leaders must fashion out policies and subsidies that would create at least 10 million new small businesses in the next five years if we don’t want a misfortune worse than Boko Haram. A small business typically creates between two and five new jobs; so, potentially, with 10 million new small businesses, we can create 50 million new jobs.”
“With Nigeria’s current deficit of 17 million housing units, Nigeria needs a government that will start building at least one million new housing units annually, a project which multiplier effects will create millions of jobs for engineers, quantity surveyors, architects, labourers, block moulders, flourists, mortgage banks, estate agents, cement, tiles, paint manufacturers and sellers, food vendors at construction sites, among others.
“We can borrow money from the N4 trillion pension funds since the houses are going to be sold to the public and the money will be paid back.
“To move Nigeria forward, we must also change the way government works. Governments all over the world, but especially in Nigeria, have a problem of inefficiency, bureaucracy and corruption directly impeding several well-intended plans. We cannot change a country without first changing its government. I believe one way to achieve this in Nigeria will be by the appointment of CEO-style ministers and heads of government agencies with clear targets and commensurate salaries and bonuses.”