Pol­i­tics, Gover­nance and Hu­man De­vel­op­ment


From its es­sen­tials, pol­i­tics is about at­tain­ing and us­ing power in pub­lic life to be able to in­flu­ence de­ci­sions that af­fect so­ci­ety. In prin­ci­ple, that should be a wor­thy cause, but what we have ex­pe­ri­enced with most of our politi­cians in Africa and other third world coun­tries is the crude pol­i­tics of medi­ocrity, greed, in­sen­si­tiv­ity, hate, nepo­tism, and con­fu­sion. They base their cam­paigns on prob­lems that are on ground, but when they get into of­fice, they start com­plain­ing about those same prob­lems they pledged to tackle and on which plat­form they were voted into of­fice. What did they ex­pect to meet? In­deed, we seem to have missed the road on how to use pol­i­tics to bet­ter the lives of the peo­ple.

Lead­er­ship is the most cru­cial fac­tor in de­vel­op­ment – be it for a small fam­ily unit, busi­ness en­ter­prise, in­sti­tu­tion or geo-po­lit­i­cal en­tity like Nige­ria or its con­stituent states. Lead­er­ship is not just an in­signia for dis­play, but all about per­for­mance – pro­duc­ing re­sults and ful­fill­ing a mis­sion in the in­ter­est of the led. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the lead­er­ship to har­ness our abun­dant hu­man and ma­te­rial re­sources for the com­mon good.

Across the world, good gover­nance is ac­knowl­edged as the ba­sis for mean­ing­ful and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Due to fail­ure of real pol­i­tics in Nige­ria, the coun­try has been in­flicted with a bat­tered econ­omy, cor­rup­tion, mis­man­age­ment, in­fras­truc­tural de­cay, mass im­pov­er­ish­ment, and worse of all, a pal­pa­ble cit­i­zen ap­a­thy and mis­trust of gov­ern­ment. Good gover­nance is about the peo­ple whose well-be­ing is the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of gov­ern­ment. Good gover­nance is com­mon sense; not rocket science. It is part of this mis-gover­nance that led the coun­try into re­ces­sion – our in­abil­ity to save for the rainy day.

Some re­ports say that in­fla­tion in Nige­ria is com­ing down, but that is not en­tirely cor­rect be­cause there is a strong link be­tween in­fla­tion and de­mand. The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in our dear coun­try is that ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple do not have money to pur­chase their ba­sic needs. When peo­ple stay away from ac­quir­ing their ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties, they do not have “ef­fec­tive de­mand”. Re­spond­ing to that sit­u­a­tion, those with the stocks may be com­pelled to re­duce their prices in or­der to stay in busi­ness. That also does not re­flect ef­fec­tive de­mand. Us­ing this scenario to claim that in­fla­tion is com­ing down is to­tally de­bat­able.

Sim­i­larly, the pub­lic could be told that a coun­try in­debted to the tune of about 20 per cent of its Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) is not un­der any fi­nan­cial threat. This may appear so if the money so bor­rowed is be­ing ef­fec­tively utilised for pro­duc­tion or the real sec­tor. Alas, if the bor­rowed funds are for con­sump­tion – like pay­ment of salaries, over­seas va­ca­tions and char­tered flights -- the coun­try is not only un­der fi­nan­cial threats, but in se­ri­ous cri­sis. Flow­ing from this, how do we ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion where a coun­try’s to­tal ex­ter­nal debt of US$32 bil­lion was can­celled in 2008, but 10 years later be­comes freshly in­debted to the tune of US$70 bil­lion? It is mind-bog­gling, to say the least. The mat­ter is fur­ther wors­ened by the fact that there is no tan­gi­ble project to show where the funds so bor­rowed were in­vested or utilised. Such is the alarm­ing trend that the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund (IMF) has cau­tioned Nige­ria to watch it or end up in the path that Greece plunged unto a few years ago.

Largely due to gross in­fras­truc­tural deficit, Nige­ria has missed out be­ing part of an as­so­ci­a­tion of ma­jor emerg­ing economies. Formed in 2006 with the acro­nym ‘BRIC’ – com­pris­ing Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia and China -- the group was joined by South Africa in 2010 to make it ‘BRICS’. The acro­nym was coined by the then Chief Economist of Gold­man Sachs, Jim O’Neill with the prediction that they would grow faster than the de­vel­oped coun­tries and play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in the world. Look­ing at the per­for­mance of those five coun­tries, that prediction is be­ing proved cor­rect. It is also sad to note that Nige­ria – by virtue of its large econ­omy and huge con­sump­tion mar­ket – was the pre­ferred po­ten­tial African coun­try to join the as­so­ci­a­tion. While we present po­ten­tials, South Africa boasts of such in­fra­struc­ture as power, roads, rail­ways and the like in good enough shape to be ac­cepted.

Essen­tially, the Treaty among BRICS – signed in 2014 – fa­cil­i­tates their co-op­er­a­tion for so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, mu­tual fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, project sup­port and in­ter­na­tional trade. In­deed, those with the knowl­edge of real in­ter­na­tional busi­ness should be able to es­ti­mate what Nige­ria lost by miss­ing such an op­por­tu­nity. Mean­while, some eight years af­ter its ‘Brother’ African coun­try be­came a mem­ber, that es­teemed sta­tus and tremen­dous ben­e­fits still elude Nige­ria. One com­mon thing about this coun­tries is the progress they are mak­ing on all in­di­ca­tors of hu­man de­vel­op­ment index.

The Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Index (HDI) refers to the qual­ity of life en­joyed by cit­i­zens of any coun­try in fo­cus; and one of its mea­sures is Per Capita In­come. In a re­cent as­sess­ment by a UN agency, Nige­ria was rated a lowly 152 out of 185 na­tions cov­ered. Sim­i­larly, on an of­fi­cial in­vi­ta­tion to Nige­ria, the global phi­lan­thropist, Bill Gates noted that the Gov­ern­ment’s Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery and Growth Plan (ERGP) did not accord hu­man cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment a de­cent place. He suc­cinctly ad­vised the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to rise to the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­mot­ing the wel­fare of the peo­ple, es­pe­cially the grossly-ne­glected teem­ing youth pop­u­la­tion. But, rather than re­spond pos­i­tively to the re­al­i­ties be­fore us, we en­gage in un­pro­duc­tive re­torts and dis­trac­tions that do not add value to the econ­omy or the cit­i­zenry.

One of the surest ways of re­dis­cov­er­ing our­selves as a coun­try is by telling the truth, ac­knowl­edg­ing that we have not done very well, es­pe­cially when jux­ta­pose with other coun­tries. Ev­ery Nige­rian – lit­er­ar­ily-speak­ing – must be held re­spon­si­ble for the cu­mu­la­tive fail­ures of our lead­er­ship over the years. The ‘ras­cal­ity in gover­nance’ is not only the fault of the lead­er­ship, but to a great ex­tent that of the fol­low­er­ship. While con­ve­niently re­fus­ing to hold their lead­ers ac­count­able, Nige­ri­ans tend to cel­e­brate medi­ocrity and im­punity in gover­nance. The leader is a re­flec­tion of the led. Our lead­ers are thrown up through poorly dis­til­la­tion process.

The Chinese method of rat­ing their lead­ers is sim­ple – show us what you have done in the past be­fore we en­trust you with a big­ger re­spon­si­bil­ity. If a man has not cre­ated any­thing, he can­not man­age any­thing. We have to see those who want to lead us to­day and ask them ques­tions on their pedi­gree and per­for­mance. We should no longer al­low peo­ple to come from nowhere to as­sume lead­er­ship; else we will go back to the same mess.

Ca­pac­ity in gover­nance is not a func­tion of age; and nei­ther is in­tegrity or even ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions. One of the lead­ing states in the USA is Cal­i­for­nia; re­cently ad­judged the fifth big­gest econ­omy in the world. The Gov­er­nor, Jerry Brown will be 81 years old this May. He has the ca­pac­ity and is do­ing very well. On the con­trary, we have seen young lead­ers in Nige­ria widely re­garded as a calami­tous fail­ures.

Youths con­sti­tute a large pro­por­tion of our pop­u­la­tion and their fu­ture is in jeop­ardy. They have to take back their coun­try, es­pe­cially through ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion to elect good lead­ers. How­ever, it is not just about “youths” tak­ing over, but in­creas­ingly par­tic­i­pat­ing in choos­ing their lead­ers and the gover­nance process.

We have to in­stil re­spon­si­bil­ity in gover­nance. Why should a leader owing work­ers and pen­sion­ers spend mil­lions of Naira dec­o­rat­ing streets for Christ­mas when peo­ple are hun­gry and no­body is ques­tion­ing the ra­tio­nale be­hind that? How can peo­ple char­ter flights to so­cial events with pub­lic funds when reg­u­lar tick­ets will take them there con­ve­niently, and yet the peo­ple that own the funds keep quiet? What of peo­ple who owned prac­ti­cally noth­ing when they got into pub­lic of­fice, trans­form into own­ers of pala­tial man­sions and ex­pen­sive cars, and a ‘Man of God’ goes to pray for him that his source of in­come will mul­ti­ply when he knows the per­son has stolen pub­lic money? And worse still, the peo­ple will be cho­rus­ing ‘Amen’ to such prayers in­stead of in­form­ing the Po­lice to ar­rest thief.

We have no other coun­try apart from Nige­ria. You must rise up to the de­sired change. The so­ci­ety we abuse to­day will take re­venge on us to­mor­row. There is no way we can lift our Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Index from its cur­rent low level of 152 out of 185 na­tions to any ap­pre­cia­ble level if we con­tinue to cel­e­brate those that mis­ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic funds with­out ask­ing them ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tions and hold­ing them to ac­count on good gover­nance.

Given pur­pose­ful and com­mit­ted lead­er­ship, the ba­sic needs of ma­jor­ity of Nige­ri­ans – as else­where – are at­tain­able. These needs in­clude: peace, progress, se­cu­rity of life and prop­erty, de­cent health­care and so­cial ser­vices, af­ford­able hous­ing, eq­uity and jus­tice and op­er­a­tional in­fra­struc­ture. They should be the rai­son d’être of gover­nance.

Ex­cerpts of a Pre­sen­ta­tion by the for­mer Gov­er­nor of Anam­bra State, Mr. Peter Obi to an In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence held at the Clare­tian In­sti­tute of Phi­los­o­phy (CIP), Mary­land-Nekede, Ow­erri

Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Kemi Adeo­sun

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