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Be innovative to be viable, VP tells states

By Dirisu Yakubu

ABUJA—The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has charged federating states to devise innovating ways of boosting their respective economies to improve the standard of living of their people.

VP Yemi Osinbajo, SAN

Osinbajo, who was keynote speaker at the Leadership Newspaper 2017 Awards ceremony, yesterday, in Abuja, also advised governors to build solid economic foundation upon which their predecessor would build to drive development process.

Speaking on the theme, “Towards Financially Viable State Governments,” the vice president said federating states must take cognizance of what works for nation- states, adding that in most instances, national blueprints were equally implementable at sub-national levels.

He said: “We are heading towards a time when our states will be competing very actively with one another for big ticket investment as is already happening elsewhere in the world.

“When companies make important decisions about citing their offices primarily based on how easier it is a state makes for people to do business in it; states that make it easy for investors to acquire land, to register property, to pay taxes, to access broad band internet would be the clear winners. While states that make these things difficult or impossible will languish as the world carries on without them.

“Indeed, the problem of the state is the same as that of the Federal Government. The complete reliance on the source of revenue that is extractive requires no creativity or productivity whatsoever.

“Most resource-rich nations and sub-nationals in the developing nations end up being poor and financially unviable, because making easy revenues from the extraction of resources is habit for them; habit of easy money without efforts. Few jobs are created because there is no value added.

‘’Why is that so? It is because financial viability is based on innovation and productivity. Productivity means adding value. Not necessarily possessing the resources but adding value to whatever resources, even if you have to import the resources.

“So the consumers of crude oil, like those countries that I have mentioned, earn more than producers of oil because they add value to the crude oil that they import by processing it and converting it to petro-chemicals in some cases and often selling these improved products to the oil producing countries themselves at more profit.

‘’So, the prescriptions will always be similar. Most of the principles that work for national governments will also work for a sub-national government.”

In what appeared an indirect reference to states that pay little or no attention to the prospect of agriculture as a means to financial viability, Osinbajo lauded such states as Kebbi and Jigawa, saying both have witnessed tremendous improvements in earnings by their farmers.

Learn from Awolowo

The Vice President took a trip down memory lane to the developmental strides recorded by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory) in the then Western Region.

According to him, Awolowo as Premier of Western Region relied on agriculture and income taxes to deliver on his economic blueprint spanning education, infrastructure and commerce.

“Recently, I had cause to refer to the remarkable achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Premier of the then Western Region of Nigeria from 1954 to 1960. The Western Region is what today constitutes Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, part of Kwara and Kogi, part of Edo and Delta states. The six year period of the Awolowo’s government is often cited as one of the most progressive of any government in the developing world.

“Some of the accomplishments of that government include the University of Ife (now, Obafemi Awolowo University), the 26-storey Cocoa House in Ibadan, then an architectural wonder, the Western Nigeria Television Authority, the first in West Africa and in fact, the first in many parts of Europe. Belgium did not even have a television when the Western region had its own. There were various networks of roads across the region.

“By far the most significant of those achievements was the free education, the free universal primary education. In 1952 when the scheme was proposed, 381,000 children (about 30 per cent of children at the time) were enrolled in school. By 1955 when the scheme took off, 811,4 32 children were enrolled.”

A word for governors

Osinbajo who got a standing ovation with his delivery, also urged state governors to think more about their legacy rather than the next election. In his words, only a synergy between a governor and his successor would help states consolidate on their achievements.

He added: “It is clear that governors have to think beyond four or eight year’s cycle. There must be a commitment to laying a foundation that our successors will build on. One of the challenges with governance today in Nigeria is the penchant for dismantling or dismissing everything inherited.”

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