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Problems of our underdevelopment

By Adisa Adeleye
IN his own analysis of why Nigeria has been crawling annoyingly while it should be running fast after Independence, President Jonathan saw the failure of leadership as the greatest obstacle to the desired growth – political and economic.

Perhaps our President shares the views of those Western European leaders of the 1930s who believed that the economic system would be favourable if only ‘earnest and God-fearing men are in command of its destinies‘.  Such attitude then bred a policy of ‘wait and see‘, or in late Bola Ige‘s ’Sidon-look’ attitude.

President Jonathan, in perhaps a curious mood of confidence has assured the nation that the problem of effective leadership could end within the next fifteen years. He noted, to me apologetically,  ‘that the desire to entrench the needed development could only take root, when the nation begins to elect good leaders, especially in the next 15 years.

Only then will the country become great among the committee of nations‘.  There is little doubt that the President Jonathan‘s homely truth in front of his Bayelsan folks might have come as a disappointment to those who believe that the Messiah has been found, not in Nazareth, but in Bayelsa State.

Many Nigerians who see in President Jonathan the virtues of a great leader are becoming disillusioned by the quality of speeches of Mr. President on national issues and important policies.  Hear President Jonathan on problem of unemployment, a scourge ravaging the country with its dire consequences.

‘The unemployment issue is a problem and I have informed the National Economic Team to look critically at ways of solving it and engaging the teeming youths of the nation.

We will try and stimulate the economic activities that will allow companies and industries to thrive and be established to absorb these youths.  We at the Federal Executive Council will dedicate the rest of this year to discuss these issues and solve them`.

From all indications, it would appear that the President is not totally aware of the enormous problems of unemployment or his advisers are giving wrong interpretation to the threat to security through day and night armed robberies, killings and kidnappings by jobless youths.

To many observers on Nigerian national issues, the issues discussed by the President in his state of origin are too serious to be glossed over casually.  Some see in the President‘s reactions to many issues as those of a leader who has reached the height of his political career effortlessly.  He is already occupying a position that calls for serious hardwork, systematic and strategic planning, deep experience and extensive communication art. However, he is already there by providence.

The unemployed troubled mind would expect an assurance that if his leader is elected, certainly a decent job is waiting for him in any part of the country.  The restless youths of Bayelsa have in mind that any type of amnesty would take care of his life at present and in future.  The assurance would include packages that would recognize his right to be a partner in the production of oil and gas in his environment.

The question of resource control is still rife and carries a load of danger if not seriously considered.  The seemingly peaceful atmosphere in the oil troubled region should not encourage a policy of ‘hold on for sometime’ because the President is a son of the soil.  Perhaps, as many thought, the President should have used the opportunity of his visit to his native State to announce his plan (if any) for curbing mass unemployment in the country and especially among the restless but militant Ijaw Youths.

President Jonathan, whether he likes it or not, will have to declare his stand or that of his government on Resource Control – one of the pillars of true Federalism.  The advocates of true Federalism are not thinking only on oil and gas and the impact of its revenue on the Federal Budget, but also the implication of the Federal Government taking over the taxing responsibility of the States.  Economically, States are treated as appendages of the Center, subjected to the indignity of queuing in Abuja every month for the dole.  This idea of propping non viable States has encouraged fiscal irresponsibility in many States.

Another salient point is the carriage of heavy burden of governance by the Federal Government to its detriment to perform efficiently for political and economic development.  The poor condition of the Nigerian State has been responsible for non inclusion of Nigeria among the G20 members.  It is sadly observed that at the time the President Jonathan was not eloquently (as expected) expressing his government stand on some national issues, the Vice-President was facing the international audience in Oxford, appealing for the admission of Nigeria into the wealthy and influential club G-20.

The Vice-President Sambo, in his political and economic innocence, put up a powerful but strange argument for Nigeria‘s entry into the powerful club of the rich which included the Eight richest nations of the world.

At Oxford University, Vice President Nnmadi Sambo pleaded the case of Nigeria‘s role in United Nations Peace Operations, political and economic reforms (?) and economic growth rate of about six percent.  The Oxford audience (presumably included some grandchildren of those who once colonised us) was appreciative, even if not convinced by the logical presentation of the Vice-President, an architect by profession.

The G-20 is a club of the rich and the richest countries of the world.  They represent countries with high income per person, developed transportation and communication services, developed health and insurance services and are mostly manufacturing nations with balanced economies.  They are also self-sufficient in agriculture.

Nigeria sadly is on the other side of political and economic development.  Annual income per head is dismally low, economic and social infrastructures are under-developed, and manufacturing base is weak.  It relies on abundant oil and gas where revenue accruing to over 90 percent of export earnings.  Nigeria is a poor country whose economy has been mismanaged over the years.  The excellent investment opportunities have been affected by unstable political atmosphere and threats to security of life and property.

But Nigeria could change to merit admission into the prestigious Club of G-20.  In sympathy with our Vice-President, we have to be in a decent Club to achieve greatness.  If I were a presidential Candidate, I would go for a massive investment in the underfunded real sector of the economy.  I would concentrate on building new roads and maintaining the old ones.

I would see that the all states capitals are linked together by road, rail and water.  I would support home industry and put more money in the hands of households to stimulate demand of home produced goods.
My last appeal to the President and the Vice-President is to tackle the issue of unemployment seriously through government action in stimulating dormant demand.  Possibly, the Vice-President as an architect can look at the deformed structure of the country.


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