Obasanjo, Ogwu Advocate Good Leadership, Consistent Policies for Nigerian, African Development
African leaders must shed the garb of wastage and corruption and strive to be committed to and sustain policies with positive impact, if countries on the continent are to achieve economic, infrastructural and social prosperity like the developed nations of the world.
That sums up the recommendations espoused by the Special Guest of Honour and former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Professor Joy Ogwu in their lectures on the opening day of the third Covenant University-International Conference on African Development Issues (CU-ICADI).
The Chancellor of Covenant University, Dr. David Oyedepo, who declared open the 2016 ICADI being held at the African Leadership Development Centre on the University’s premises, had shortly before commencement of the lectures set the tone for the event, acknowledging that Africa is plagued by a myriad of challenges, but posited that, “there are unlimited possibilities for Africa if we are committed”.
Three Nobel Laureates had graced the two previous editions of ICADI, but according to the Chancellor, “I felt strongly about bringing more Nobel Laureates, but no one can feel it the way you feel it. This informed our decision to invite Africans themselves to do justice to the issue”.
Highlighting the significance of ICADI, the Vice-Chancellor of Covenant University, Professor Charles Ayo, described it as one of the strategic platforms targeted towards the actualization of Vision 10:2022 of the university, which is to get the university listed among the Top 10 universities in the world by 2022.
Obasanjo, whose lecture was titled, ‘What is right with Africa’, dismissed the notion that Africa is bad in its entirety as he traced some major milestones in the development of mankind to Africa, just as he attributed the dip in fortunes to pioneer indigenous leaders of the continent.
He said: “Africa became the first exporter of humanity to other parts of the world. Agriculture started here in Africa, we got it right. Technology started here in Africa, we got it right. It is on record that when the white man first came to Benin City, he described the road as wide and straight, nothing like it in Europe. That’s right about Africa.
“Then of course slavery, that is where our misfortune started. No group had been depopulated and carted away like Africans. We have suffered in the hands of people who will say they discovered River Niger; they discovered Nile as if people were not there before.
“Fighting for independence was right, but the direction was wrong. The slogan of life more abundant was wrong. Leaders, through their actions and attitude promoted import dependent economy. I expected them to say ‘whatever the colonialists have done we want to do better for ourselves, more grease to our elbows’. That should have been our direction.”
Speaking on one of the efforts he made as a former Head of State under the platform of the African Leadership Forum, Obasanjo said he facilitated a meeting of 35 African leaders with the the iconic leader of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yu, to know first-hand from him how he managed to transform his country to a prosperous nation.
“Lee Kwan Yu said there is no magic, we did a few things right and we continue to do them right. Commitment and continuity. We asked African leaders what each of them has done right in their respective countries and urged them to continue to do what they have done right,” he said.
African leaders, he noted, had at the turn of the century, replaced the OAU with the AU, with a new constitutive Act different from the charter of the OAU and also introduced the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), met with the G7 who wanted to be part of it.
However, it is not enough to have a good idea or policy, your policy must be matched with your action. Policy without action is abortion. We got many things right, said the former president.
Obasanjo, who listed Rwanda, Ethiopia and Algeria as the front runners among the fast developing African nations, named Namibia, Botswana and Cote d’Ivoire to be in the second group but wished he could mention Nigeria.
“Between 2004 and 2007, we managed to pay our debt and before I left office we had only $3 billion debt. We had $45 billion in reserves and $22 billion in the excess crude account. But in the space of four years after 2007 all was gone.
“One thing is leadership. If one person replaces Oyedepo today things would be different. Many of the things we did were discontinued. The man who took over from me did not allow for continuity,” said Obasanjo, who served two terms as Nigeria’s president between 1999 and 2007.
Professor Joy Ogwu, who was the Keynote Speaker, attributed Obasanjo’s exposition to experience, continuity, skills and talents but pointed out that Africans share a collective responsibility to fashion out an indigenous and compelling response or solutions to the problems of development.
Delivering her lecture on the theme of ICADI 2016, titled ‘Driving Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Africa: Models, Methods and Policies’, Ogwu identified the challenges facing Africa as global economic recession, lack of continuity, corruption and high level of instability.
“A large number of countries on the continent continue to be affected by global economic crises, due to prolonged recession in many of the advanced economies. The low demand and continued fluctuations in the demand for commodities, especially those commodities emanating from Africa, the collapse of petroleum prices has affected our survival as a nation. A certain reaction is the renewed interest in forging integration among African countries.
“Obasanjo initiated a move, which translated to concept of co-prosperity. It allows us to meet investors in the neighboring countries, to establish in the neighbouring countries, allows us to have organized trade relationships. The co-prosperity as a concept was discontinued and that is the greatest flaw that affects our system of governance. Every administration wants to wipe the slate clean and start on a clean slate. What you have is discontinuity; you cannot build a scaffold on the concept of discontinuity.
“So much has been said about corruption, but corruption has been part of us for so long that we don’t take it seriously anymore. So, I decided to return to the concept of Prebendalism. Prebendalism has been so rooted and endemic that it has become the most self-destructive habit of our citizens on the continent, almost and invariably taking life out of any major project of development that is established. I see this on two fronts; apart from problems that it poses to the society,” said Ogwu.
The former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs reckoned that African countries have to live up to their responsibilities to be able to achieve inclusive development. Africa, she revealed, was the only continent unable to meet the targets on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which was a precursor to the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“With the completion of the full cycle from the year 2000 to 2015 and the abysmal performance of African countries in attaining these targets, it’s then compelling to improve on the MDGs and that is why last year October, all Heads of States gathered in New York to approve the SDGs. The SDGs comprise 17 goals and 169 targets. The SDGs has become the new urban platform to continue to fight against extreme poverty as well as address the problem of development and the consequent degradation of the environment.
“While we are tackling these problems, we should consider as a matter of priority getting people out of poverty. Current development strategies, which achieve goals with overwhelming majority of the people, can only lead to disastrous consequences as demonstrated by incessant and pervasive violence in many parts of Africa,” she explained.
In spite of the many tales of woe, Ogwu stated, there is statistical evidence indicating that African countries have been growing at a relatively fast rate since the beginning of 2000, leading to improvement in several areas like trade, revenue, infrastructure and the provision of social services.
However, she noted, the pattern of growth is neither inclusive nor sustainable, stressing that growth without human development is not growth.
On the way forward, Ogwu, who is a former Foreign Affairs Minister for Nigeria, said, “Though Africa has experienced more than three decades of structural adjustments, it has not led to meaningful productivity. President Muhammadu Buhari has so far resisted the pressure to succumb to structural adjustment, in the long term I believe it is to Nigeria’s national interest.
“We must be active participants in negotiations since we are a signatory to the UN Charter. Because we have weak institutions or lack trained experts to negotiate what is right for our national interest, we just follow. We must insist on training and retooling those who will negotiate on our behalf.
“One of the factors in these negotiations is gender equality and inclusive development. When we involve every woman in the process of development, then we are maximizing the human resource available. In total, she becomes a strategic asset, it not she becomes a strategic liability,” said Ogwu.
She added: “Financing must be primarily harnessed domestically. We must develop a model on how to do so by ourselves. Everything should be on the table for discussion, including our political systems and their performance. African leaders cannot afford to be inattentive to the basic prerequisite for national and continental survival. It is imperative that we bridge Africa’s financing gaps to achieve these started development goals. We must get out of poverty, we must get good governance, we must incorporate women, and we must survive as an entity.
“We must focus on domestic finance by increasing government revenues. This will require multifaceted approach, including public and national finance. Government must be aggressive in tax collection. Because of our citizens staying abroad, remittances should not be taken lightly, over the decade from 2002 to 2012 remittances averaged about 21.8 billion dollars to our country, and people keep sending money home. It’s about 10 per cent of the GDP which is also subject to increase.”
Aside the CU Chancellor, Dr. David Oyedepo, the Education Secretary, Living Faith Church Worldwide, Professor Bridget Sokan, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charles Ayo, prominent among the university’s management team present at the occasion were the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Taiwo Abioye; the Registrar, Pastor Olamide Olusegun; and Chairman of the ICADI 2016 Organising Committee, Professor Aaron Atayero.