By Sam Eyoboka
IMMEDIATE past Chairman of Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa has thrown his weight behind calls for devolution of powers and true federalism, arguing that without restructuring to address perceived imbalances in Nigeria and quell ever growing agitations for self determination, the nation will not experience appreciable economic growth.
Speaking at the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria’s fourth public lecture in Lagos ahead of its 72nd annual national convention, the guest speaker, Mazi Ohuabunwa and chairman of the occasion, former Minister of Health, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi agreed that Nigeria is on edge and unless the leaders make haste to redress the situation, there is not much hope.
In a short opening remark, Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi identified inept leadership as the bane of the nation’s socio-economic challenges, arguing that unless something urgent is done there are likely to be more agitations.
According to him, the leadership Nigeria needs now, must be those with capacity and character, connecting with his constituents, so they know he is part of the plane heading to the same direction.
The former Health minister, reminded his audience of the Greek mythology Sisyphus who was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity, Prince Adeluyi-Adelusi said “unless we go across the realm of just words without action, no matter how late we start, our task in Nigeria of making progress is Sisyphian.”
In his keynote address titled: “Making Nigeria work: A job for all”, Mazi Ohuabunwa traced the nation’s woes to politics, economics, social challenges, saying that unless the leaders make haste now to restructure the nation will continue to grope for a while yet.
“God in His infinite mercy has deposited so much in this country, it is for us to make it work. The first thing I will recommend is this issue of political restructure. We must restructure this nation to make it work. If we do not restructure, I believe we may have another conference maybe in another 20 years from now and the statistics we see today will be worse then.
“Before 1967, we had a country that generally worked. The first thing we need to do is devolve power to the federating units and reduce the cost of governance which has become so frightening.
“Today, we are spending 70 per cent of our budget in servicing one or two million public servants and the rest of us get 30 per cent in the name of capital budget.
“The president is shopping for $5.5 billion loan to service the 2017 budget yet check the amount of money we are servicing the National Assembly is much more than that money. And I am saying whether the National Assembly people go home and we have one mono-camera legislative assembly instead of the current Senate and House of Representatives who should be on part time.” he noted.
Continuing, Ohuabunwa asked: “Why have 36 ministries and 36 ministers? I have suggested a maximum of 18 ministries that will deliver the same quality and better services and bring down the cost of governance. By 1978, our capital expenditure was 68 per cent. But now it’s 30 per cent and the rest goes to consumption. How can a nation grow with such stastitics.
According to him, despite all the war against corruption since 2014-2017, Nigeria remains endemically corrupt, “we retain 136 position out of about 170 countries that were polled.
“There is a low level patriotism. People do not feel proud to belong to this nation. The only people that feel happy about the nation are the government in power. That’s where we are,” he said.
“And somebody says there is nothing to restructure and we are happy,” he said, buttressing his argument with illustration of a retired Minister of Education who desired to set up a Polythenic in Isuochi, Abia State and after going through several huddles from Federal Ministry of Education and National Board on Technical Education, he was directed to the Attorney General of the Federation who promptly denied approval.
“Tell me, what Attorney General got to do with the establishment of a village Poly-thenic? And you tell me there is nothing to restructure,” Ohuabunwa stated.
“Before the civil war, the existing structures of North, West, East and the Mid West harvested their natural resources and kept 50 per cent and remited 30 per cent to a common pull which was distributed and gave 20 per cent to Federal Government for the maintenance of fderal activities.
According to him, the only economic transformation that the nation needs now should involve a massive investment on infrastructure, make job creation a major focus of national policy with agriculture and ICT, adding “we need to restore education and healthcare and skills that will prepare people for the future.”
The change Nigeria requires now must be holistic and it must start with from the top, he argued, because “that is the only way it can have the needed impact to trickle down.
Earlier in his brief remarks, the General Overseer of the church, Rev. Felix Meduoye pointed out that the process of nation building calls for the contribution of every citizen and therefore appealed to all Nigerians to always pray for the nation and ensure they contribute their quota to the nation’s development.