By AKOMA CHINWEOKE
Bashorun Jaiye Kofolaran Randle,Â althoughÂ belongs to the third generation of the â€œJ.K.â€ lineage, is still a living symbol of that enduring vision of excellence of his forebears.
He is the chairman and chief executive, JK Randle Professional Services Chartered Accountants and assists both the government and private organizations with policy analysis and strategic thinking. In this interview, he speaks on the task of nation building through selfless service andÂ why the country cannot afford to dismiss Vision 20: 2020 as an optical illusion as, according to him, it is a huge challenge whichÂ offers the nation an excellent opportunity to redeem itself.
Poor leadership has remained the bane of Nigeriaâ€™s economy.Â How do you think we can get the economy back on track?
I think we will start off by appreciating that proper preparation prevents poor result. So, even at the point where you are formulating a policy, preparation is so critical. I like to say often, what is missing in the process?Â There is a lot of policy issuesÂ in our country.
You can see the way we have started the story in the middle whereas we should have started it from the beginning. In other words, if you want to build houses,Â you have to know how many you want to build and how many you can afford to build and the time frame, so, you canâ€™t say you are going to build in one year what by all rational judgementÂ would take five years, because all you do would end up in creating frustrations and anguish. So, you have to factor in land acquisition, the quality of contractor, legal frame work, how you are going to fund it and how the beneficiaries are going to maintain it; otherwise, you can build the houses and, within five or six years, it becomes a different story.
Also, you have to take care of the linkages.Â If you build a house, somebody has to fund the furniture; otherwise it will just end up as a mere shelter as opposed to proper home and of course who ever is going to live in it must have adequate economic activity namely employment to be able to enjoy the house you are providing. That is one example. You can even extend it to roads asÂ the roads have to be properly designed and you cannot begin to build in the middle of rainy season and expect to build roads that will last.
The roads need to be properly designed with proper drainage and of course you donâ€™t build for the day but for the future. So, there are myriads of examples you can use.
In the same way, in the area of schools or hospitals, how many kids are of school age and how many of them are going to accommodate and where?
They canâ€™t all be in Lagos, but at the same time you can have families living in Ikeja or Lekki and impose on them the excruciating difficulties of moving from Ajah to school in Victoria Island, there by forcing some of those families to leave their homes as early as 5:30 a.m. other wise their kids wonâ€™t get to school when they are supposed to resume. So, that creates a problem for the parents, the school and the kids too. These are some of the things that need to be addressed and they can only be addressedÂ through proper planning process and proper analysis of the problem.
You just talked about rolling out good developmental plans for the country.Â At this point, how do you think we can achieve Vision 20:2020?
Let us break it up into the various components. The first thing is to appreciate that when you talk about 20:2020 Vision and you say you want to be one of the 20 most prosperous economies in the world, then the first thing we have to do is to list all the countries in the world from one to whatever and then see which country is right at number 20 and look at the living standard of that country.
I suspect that country would probably be Belgium. Look at the GDP of Belgium, the country probably has a population of maybe 16 million but its GDP is about 26 times of that of Nigeria. So, that has to be the benchmark and you have to appreciate that while you are growing trying to get into number 20, Belgium is not going to stand still. So, it is going to be a really a tough race to catch up with Belguim or indeed any other country. Therefore, it is not enough to just go by rhetorics, it requires a lot of hard work and it means that the process is not entirely that of the elite, everybody has to feel that the benefits would accrue to him from being in the first 20.
Whatâ€™s the point in being number 20 in the world when we are still as poor as we were beforeÂ battling with the issues of housing, electricity, water, insecurity, crimes and massive unemployment.
So, it becomes self defeating. In essence, everything has to be thought out and I think in fairness to those who are behind Vision 20:20-20, they are making rigorous attempt to adopt that approach but the issue of rolling plans must be taken seriously.
We used to have rolling plans 20-30-40 years ago but suddenly we stopped following the rolling plans. If you have a rolling plan, it should inform what is put in your budget and you build consensus around the rolling plan and that is what is reflecting in your budget and from your budget you then move to implementation. But, unfortunately, what has been happening is that we suddenly find that we jump into a project and you donâ€™t find it in the budget or it may not even be in the rolling plan
. It could also be that if it is in the budget, somebody would alter it at the last minute without thinking about how it hooks up other components of the budget or the rolling plans. For example, if you are building railway, it is a huge investment but at the same time align your rail way project with your road project or the bridges so that they are not in conflict like the classical example ofÂ what we witnessedÂ when NigeriaÂ ordered for aÂ huge power plant but the bridge to get the power plant across from one side of the river Niger to the other has become a huge problem because we didnâ€™t think out the process properly.
So, the badges and the plans are there but they are far too big for the existing bridge. So, it is either you have to pull down the bridge or put a new one or find some way to dismantle the entire plant.Â These are some of the things that lead to problems.
The same government that is talking about improving power generation in the country has consistently made provision for acquisition of generators in its budget.Â Donâ€™t you think that will rubbish their effort at ensuring sustainable power supply?
The issue really is that of coordination. If you are committed to providing power, then you need to address all those critical issues that have to be resolved to make that target possible and of course the most obvious one is that of gas supply. So, you need to supply the gas, transmit and distribute it; so if that trinity is not in place, we will just be going round and round the problem.
Therefore, all the components have to be in place. To a large extent, buying generator is a cough out because if the government took the point and says no more generator and everybody realizes that if the electricity power is not in place, we all are going to suffer, then it is possible that those who are responsible in getting the other bits of bolts in place would be much more energized and of course there are powerful vested interests whose livelihood depends on generators, so they are not anxious to ensure that electricity is provided.
It is the same thing for the refineries. We are dealing with conflicts of interests.Government is bent on actualizing deregulation of the down stream sector as it said itâ€™s the only way forward.
Before you address the issue of deregulation, you should ask yourself, why were those facilities regulated in the first place and I suspect the reason they were regulated was because then the population was much smaller and much more manageable and the demand for those resources was within our capability.
We could manage it. So, we had one person who made decisions on behalf of the entire countryÂ in order to bring some element of moderation. In other words, he didnâ€™t want some people to be payingÂ high prices and othersÂ low prices. So, you try to average our prices when you are talking about fuel or electricity but now we are dealing with a situation where are talking about 150 million Nigerians and unfortunately the purchasing power of the Naira has gone low.
So, if you deregulate, as you are solving one problem, you are facing another or you may be creating a much bigger problem because if you deregulates how do you ensure that those who have to have those facilities, if they are not earning enough, we are going to have a point because we would end up in a situation where 80 percent of their income would have to go into either paying electricity bill or paying for fuel or what ever and of course, one way or the other, they have to survive, so they would end up seeking other ways to compensate themselves and it is human nature.