By Afe Babalola
PATHWAYS to transformational leadership in Nigeria
Several years after the titanic strides of Chief Awolowo, the search for transformational leadership in Nigeria remains ongoing. In this final part of my address, I will propose how true national leaders in the mould of Chief Awolowo can emerge and how Nigeria, a country of many nations can metamorphose into a nation properly so called and how we can move closer to the ideals of Awoism.
Full restructuring: A necessity for the emergence of nation Nigeria
The founding fathers agreed on a true federalism in Lancaster House in London between 1950 and 1960 having taken into consideration the differences in culture, religion, philosophy of life, attitude to work, languages and so on. One who believes that his father is a fool would sooner than later regret his own foolishness.
There is urgent need for total devolution of powers to enable each state or geo-political zone to effectively administer its resources and social political needs. The Federal Government should only be concerned with management of common political affairs like currency, foreign affairs, etc.
There will be less crisis and quarrel or inordinate ambition to become president, minister or legislator. As a matter of fact, the late Sardauna found regional premiership more prestigious than being the Federal Prime Minister.
Qualification and remuneration for political officer holders
Political offices in this country have been made too attractive, each state spends a huge percentage of government revenue on salaries and allowances. Yet there are 36 Houses of Assembly, two national Legislative Houses, array of commissioners and ministers.
In addition, they maintain a large number of aides and assistants at public expense. There are also large number of senior special assistants, private secretaries. There is also the First Lady and an array of assistants. At the local government level, we have the chairmen and large number of officers. Politics in Nigeria today is viewed primarily as a business and not as a means of service to the nation. In the First Republic masterminded by Chief Awolowo, members of House of Assembly did not earn salaries but sitting allowances. More importantly, legislative business was part-time.
Furthermore, there has to be a change to the qualifications for seeking political office. Rather than have a minimum educational qualification of Senior Secondary School or WAEC, it should be a first degree with a minimum of secondary class lower. Such person must also be self-employed or have viable means of self-sustenance prior to seeking political office. They must also have held positions of responsibilities. The position of local government councillors should be reserved for retired and much experienced people like teachers, professors, other professionals and clergymen also on part-time, with payment of sitting allowances only.
As stated earlier, Agriculture was the mainstay of economy of this country in the First Republic. The fact remains that Agriculture is the major employer of labour all over the world. However, in Nigeria, agriculture is virtually abandoned. In court of law, particularly in election petition cases when witnesses are asked what is their occupation, the answer invariably is “politics”. Our government has been paying lip service to agriculture by urging people to go back to farm. I do not know a father who will tell his son who has just graduated to return to the farm and use cutlass and hoe. Agriculture is an attractive business, if we adopt mechanised farming as is done in other countries. I am confident that our youths can go back to the farms if the government can make available agricultural equipments to all local governments which can be hired by youths. All they need to do is pledge their farmland as security.
If soft loans at the rate of 2-3 percent is made available to youths, most of the young graduates will certainly want to go back to farming.
Generally, to revive the lost glory of agriculture in Nigeria, I suggest that;
(a) Agric science must be taught in elementary and secondary schools as a compulsory subject
(b) All universities must encourage students to study agriculture by reducing school fees such as exemplified by my university ABUAD where tuition is reduced to 50%. In addition, the government should emulate how ABUAD empowers graduates in agriculture with N250,000 as initial startup on their farms.
Finally, each family throughout this country should be encouraged to come together and merge their small holdings for purpose of large scale farming.
I have addressed the issue of poor funding in education over the years. I will recommend once more that this country must comply and implement UNESCO recommendation and budget 26 per cent for the maintenance of education annually. The fact must be told that our universities simply do not have the financial wherewithal to compete with other universities around the world. Most advanced countries appreciate that government alone having regard to its responsibilities on infrastructure cannot provide quality education that will accommodate all applicants seeking admission into the university. That is why in addition to providing robust financial support for public universities, special financing is set aside to support the establishment of private universities that can bridge the gap of insufficient space for interested and qualified university candidates. Government must encourage and appreciate individuals who have the means and interest in education. This is why, on this occasion, I once more thank Awolowo Foundation for appreciating what I am doing in education.
Again, government should set up more scholarships and avenue for students to obtain loans to finance their education.
In this respect, I wish appeal to the government to bring back the Education Bank established by virtue of the Nigerian Education Bank Act. Cap N104, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010. This bank was empowered by law to approve and disburse loans to students to finance their education in institutions of higher learning. Regrettably that bank has folded up.