By Nkiruka Nnorom
Fola Adeola, founding Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, has identified the 12 giant evils plaguing the nation to include the evils of hunger, ignorance, disease, idleness, darkness, voidness, barrenness, wastage, aimlessness, crookedness and insecurity.
Delivering a lecture on “Human Development Index vs Economic Growth: Nigeria’s Policy Options” at the third edition of Vanguard Economic Discourse in Lagos, he warned that if the evils are not addressed, they would ruin the nation.
Taking ignorance for instance, he said that out of over 180 million Nigerians, 75 million do not have basic literacy skills. He added that Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world and accounts for more than half of the 20 million out of school children globally.
“Ignorance is evil because it negatively impacts the ability of our citizens to make informed choices about their future and the future of their children. It limits their earning potential, and robs them of the opportunity to participate, much less compete in a global market place.
“With the largest population in Africa, almost twice that of Ethiopia, which is second in line, continued illiteracy in Nigeria will spell disaster for the country and the continent and almost likely result in a humanitarian crisis,” he warned.
To address the evil of ignorance, Adeola suggested the provision of free high quality universal basic education and subsidised, targeted and functional tertiary education.
To achieve this, the government, he said, should make it mandatory for all children of primary school age to attend school, while parents who do not adhere to the rule should be made to face legal consequences.
Additionally, “tertiary institutions will deliver world class education in the field necessary to propel the nation’s development, for example engineering. Education at the tertiary institution will be at par with the best in the world to slow the rate of population explosion and allow for judicious management of the nation’s resources,” he further advocated.
He described the evil of hunger as lack of access to food due to extreme poverty, while that of disease mean prevalence of preventable sicknesses and death born out of poverty, ignorance and abysmal health care options.
Evil of idleness, which he described as lack of jobs, access to opportunities and resources, he opined, also destroys wealth. Evil of darkness, according to him, is highlighted in the absence of steady power supply which we are daily faced with in Nigeria.
Compounding the absence of power is dearth of infrastructure, (evil of voidness) which is the pillar to support the productive economy. He bemoaned inadequate and poorly maintained roads and public transport system, which have translated to stagnation of key industries in the country.
Evil of barrenness, he said, amounts to failure to produce, which makes it difficult for the nation to generate adequate revenues to fund developmental projects. Added to this is the evil of wastage – the failure to manage the available resources, poor expenditures, taxation, debt management, and cost of governance (particularly the National Assembly)
The rest are evil of aimlessness – brotherless, leaderless, vision-less, direction-less and disorderliness (just existing or subsisting); evil of crookedness – intentional and devious creativity aimed at taking unethical, often illegal advantage of a poorly managed system and evil of insecurity, which is living in fear of violence, exploitation without protection or just cause.
He said that government policies must be crafted and directed at destroying each of the evils rather than focusing on Human Development Index (HDI) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth as foundations for policy making. Though good, he said that focusing on HDI and GDP growth would not deliver the desired positive impact.
He said: “The choice of the word evils, as a matter of fact, ‘giant evils’ in describing our particular barriers is the function of their depth and destructiveness and it is deliberate. To call them challenges will be a lie. It will cause us to underestimate their pervasiveness and leave any responses we may craft inadequate to address their ruins. If we are running away from the insufficiency of GDP and HDI as foundations for policy, then we must run towards the kind of brutal honesty that will compel us to strive for a different existence.
“What I want us to do is to take a properly different approach to policy formulation as opposed to HDI or GDP, not that they are useless. My approach to working through national policy arises from the reality that the country is already on a course. This is not a start up sovereign of Israel. Rather, we are a country on a coalition course and deeply plagued by fundamental evils which if not addressed will ensure our ruin.
“The role of a government is to respond to and create an enabling environment for the needs, challenges and aspiration of its population to be addressed and where there are barriers to these taking them down must be the foundation of policy. That is why they are called policy interventions. Their singular purpose is to remove the barriers from national attention.”