Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me start by expressing my profound gratitude to the Governing Council and Management of this institution for extending this invitation to me. For me, returning to Ondo Town is always a delight, as it provides an opportunity to reminisce on a very important epoch in my personal odyssey. It was in this ancient and historic town as a young man who was still trying to find his place in the universe, that I attended the Federal School of Arts and Sciences and earned my Higher School Certificate in 1982 before proceeding to the university.
I am therefore pleased to be here today to associate with the good work you are doing – not only in infrastructural development and the building of institutional capacity and resilience for greater efficiency and effectiveness in university administration, but for also making a deliberate effort to establish a tradition through fora like this, that contributes to knowledge production that would lead to intellection, as well as the promotion of consensus building on how we can address broader issues beyond the scope of the medical sciences, that affect us all in Nigeria specifically, and humanity as a whole.
Efforts in this regard infer your leadership’s understanding of the interconnectedness of all disciplines of study, and the increasing need for multi-disciplinary approaches that draws appropriately from multiple disciplines to interrogate and marshal solutions to some of the complex challenges that confront us today. Hopefully however, my fellowshipping with this university community today would not further confuse those I come across every now and then who think the ‘Dr’ title I use was earned from medical school.
While my path in life has taken me far from the medical sciences, I have always admired those called to the honourable profession of saving lives. It is an area of human endeavour that is at the centre of the survival of humanity itself, and I look forward to a rewarding time here today.
Re-Thinking Nigeria for Future Development
Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, I will be speaking on the topic, Re-Thinking Nigeria for Future Development, although the topic as originally framed was: “Re-Thinking Nigeria’s Future Development”, it is my sentiment that we may not be able to rethink the future development that has not happened but we can rethink the structural, political, social and economic configuration of Nigeria as it is presently constituted, for the future development of our dreams for our great country to materialise.
The word “rethink” suggests there is an existing thinking or thought about Nigeria. To rethink therefore, is to challenge the existing thought(s) and to evolve a new one (or ones) for the development of the nation. It would also suggest that the existing thought has failed the developmental appetite of the nation or become obsolete, hence the need to try a new approach. It is therefore imperative to start with a cursory look at the status quo to identify certain features of our nationhood and patterns of thought that have guided our development trajectory as a nation.
The Socio-Political Anatomy of the Nigerian State
Nigeria is an amalgamation of peoples from diverse ethno-religious background brought together for the administrative convenience of the British colonial authority. One must however mention that Nigeria is not the only nation to have been so created. Almost all great nations of the world were similarly born out of circumstances.
Nigeria is officially a federation, but she has a lot inflectional touch of unitary system as a result of long years of military rule. Nigeria has 36 states and 774 local government areas. It also has an informal geo-political zonal arrangement that is based on linguistic or geo-cultural propinquity. While zones are not expressly stated in the constitution, there are some political, including constitutional offices which are created on the basis of zonal assumptions.
Nigeria runs a federal system that amongst a number of dysfunctionalities strangely sees local governments as a tier of government even as the constitution assumes that only the states and the federal government are federating units and that local governments should be run according to the laws peculiarly adopted for that purpose by the state legislative assembly.
Nigerian maintains what many critics have called an expensive bicameral legislative assembly and a republican presidential system.
The nation is currently faced with security challenges that include terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, ethno-religious tensions, rape and other low level criminality. In spite of the overwhelming insecurity, Nigeria security architecture remains ineffective because it suffers what some critics called structural obesity.
Our economy still remains fragile in spite of the tremendous work being done by the federal government because we are still a commodity-dependent nation with our attendant susceptibility to the volatility of unstable international prices.
Nigeria has an unverified but estimated population of 206 million with over 65% of her population as youths below the age of 35 years, one of the most youthful demographies in the world. Nigeria accounts for 47% of the total population of West Africa and she is the most populous black nation in the world.
Nigeria has abundant deposit of natural resources and thousands of square meters of arable land for agriculture. She is a major exporter of crude oil which accounts for about 70% of her foreign earnings. This is in addition to topping the chart in almost unlimited deposit of natural gas. In terms of potentials, Nigeria is often seen as the biblical land that is flowing with milk and honey.
As to economic indicators, the nation has a Gross Domestic Product of 397.3 billion dollars and ranked 31st globally in 2018. GDP growth for 2018 was 1.9% while we did 2.8% in the last quarter of 2019. The Per Capita income to GDP is calculated at roughly $6, 027 per annum. Inflation rate continues to oscillate between 18% in 2016 to 12.13% as at last month. It is believed that half of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line and that human development index (HDI) is at a very low point of 0.53 as at 2017 which makes the country 152 of 157 nations of the world. Current World Bank data suggests that poverty incidence is more endemic in the north with 87% and 16% level in the south.
With a labour force of about 90.5 million, and roughly 3.9 million new entrants into the labour force annually, unemployment continues to grow at 2.7%, while Nigeria, according to recent statistics has an unemployment rate of about 24% and youth unemployment of about 36.5%. This is on the back of the reality that the country is import dependent for most of her needs and has low industrial base. The nation also has a disturbingly high birth rate of about 38% per a thousand, which easily dwarfs the economic growth rate of the country and consequently, partly results in the high rate of unemployment.
As to power and influence, Nigeria is blessed immeasurably in terms of natural and human resources. Her economy is the biggest on the continent of Africa. The nation’s diverse culture, multilingual environment, different belief systems and vast land are big assets that are of envy to other nations; ironically, this is also a source of constant strife, conflicts and sectarian unrests.
Nigeria leads the rest of Africa in the creative arts: be it in music, film making, crafts and other forms of artistic expressions. In natural endowment, sports and trade, Nigeria remains the giant of Africa. She is supposed to be the paradise of the black race and the dream place of the world.
However, because of a combination of many factors such as: socio-economic evolutionary reality, population explosion, low purchasing power, general low income level of the country, low technological development, deficit in infrastructure, socio-cultural conflicts among others, the country has not fully realized her potentials.
Our health system is getting better but the baseline for health indices shows that we still have a lot to do to end basic life threatening diseases in the country.
There is a wide deficit of infrastructure and very limited resources to urgently fix them. Our total capital spending in ten years is what we need in a year to make an appreciable dent on the infrastructural gap, yet there is no urgent miracle to make it happen immediately.
While we still grapple with very elementary things about nationhood, citizenship and patriotism, we compete in a globalized and supersonic world of unimaginable scientific revolution that is redefining the human citizenship as we know it. .Of course, we still have ethno-religious beliefs that continue to hinder the empowerment of the girl-child and the women in general.
Diagnosis of the Political Economy of Nigeria
Two major ailments plague Nigeria as a nation. The first problem with Nigeria is the problem of nationhood. Due to some foundational and historical reasons, Nigeria has remained a deeply divided country along mainly, ethnic and religious boundaries. There is other basis of divisions, but these two factors are the tinder boxes of most national crisis in Nigeria. There is a deep-seated sense of mutual fear of domination among the ethnic nationalities that make up the country.
Every ethnic stock has mastered the trick of scaremongering and hallucinatory agitations against imagined conspiracy of one group to dominate the other. Pan Nigeria, it is always North versus South, Christian Versus Muslims. It is never about one ideology versus the other or about one social-economic class against the other. There are self-appointed ethnic prefects and linesmen who have made divisive rhetoric a strategy of seeking relevance. Luckily for these characters, they have sensation-loving media that give them generous space to ply their divisive trade. For some strange reasons, we have all been held hostage by this unhelpful retaliatory acrimony.
The art of mutual agitation against ethnic and religious domination is a big enterprise that ethnic- entrepreneurs and their religious counterparts have mastered to earn a living. They use it to manipulate the ordinary folks to negotiate political relevance in the nation. When it is convenient, depending on the geo-political positioning of the incumbent, the south could play the victim, when a northerner is in charge; the role changes, when a southerner is in charge. Muslims could play the victims when a Christian is the president, the role changes when a Muslim is in charge.
Minority groups complain of domination by the major ethnic groups like Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba but within states with many minority ethnic groups like Delta, Benue, Kogi and Akwa Ibom etc., one minority group accuses the other of unfair treatment. Even in states where there seems to be a homogeneous ethnic and religious composition, like Anambra, we still have Catholic versus Anglican accusation. Where this is not the case, you may have politics of zonal domination and all that. There is always someone to accuse the other of dominating the political power; what is however funny, is that, this is more of a fleeting phobia than a plausible reality.
The lesson to take away from this is that suspicious ethno-religious fear defines social interaction among Nigerians. This has led some paranoia at one another, caused incalculable damage to our quest for nation building, fuelled hatred at one another and made progress slow. For example, hostility occasioned by mutual but phantom sense of oppression and marginalization has made every section to feel unsecured of the other and made a national consensus around policy, vision, ideals, programmes and progress impossible. It has caused the nation loss of many lives and hindered socio-economic development.
Whereas, nations of the world are generally divided along social class based on economic privileges, and their politics anchored on ideologies to address redistribution of socio-economic benefits of their nations, Nigerian political system is essentially anchored on the appeasement of ethnic and religion bigotry. This, unfortunately, has denied our country quality progress and a sense common nationality.
Some hold the view that the foundational conceptualization of Nigeria as a nation has been its greatest undoing. They opined that the colonial authority that created Nigeria did so essentially to plunder it and the main motivation was access to the mineral resource buried in the resource-rich soil of Nigeria. Simply state, Nigeria was created for the purpose of exploiting the raw materials in the country for the industrial metropoles of Europe and America and so the enthusiasm to create a united and prosperous nation out of the nations was of little concern to them.
This, sadly led to the second ailment that now plagues Nigeria – the slow economic development of the nation. From independence to now, several economic thoughts, ideas, programmes and interventions have been made to jumpstart the nation’s economy to a self-reliant and prosperous one but not much has been achieved; there are however, some significant progresses already recorded.
It has been argued that Nigeria’s economy was also never constructed to be industrially based. It was, essentially, an extractive economy from the imagination of the founders. The attraction of the colonialist to Nigeria was primarily the extractive industry. It is for this reason that even though, Nigeria was a huge market, the colonialists would rather prefer to take the raw material to Europe, process the product and bring the finished goods here for consumption.
Post-colonial Nigeria has largely maintained this outlook. Although, in policies and statements, we tend to mouth industrialization as a national strategy to fighting poverty and unemployment, but, there is no doubt that we are still a nation that is heavily dependent on foreign goods for most of our daily needs.
In fact, we have been so addicted to foreign goods that when the government of President Muhammadu Buhari came up with the policy of self-sufficiency in rice and food generally, many mocked him for lacking economic sense. When he went further to close the borders to check the influx of restricted goods, neo-liberal apologists had unkind words to describe this patriotic policy. Today, these complementary policies are already yielding positive results for the nation’s economic development.
Until recently, 2006 when the policy of cluster parks was formulated, for a very long time, the planning elites continued the colonial practice of industrial concentration along corridors approximate to their domicilation. The impact of this has been the uneven industrial development of the nation which has led to geo-structural poverty, unemployment, rural-urban migration and social upheavals.
Planning imbalance and over-concentration of economic opportunities in certain places at the detriment of the others is one of the reasons there are so much disproportional socio-economic development in Nigeria.
Therefore, in spite of the spirited efforts at industrial development of Nigeria through different initiatives such as the National Planning of 1962 – 1968, National Planning 1970 – 1974, to Structural Adjustment Programme 1986, National Rolling Plans 1990 and the Total Factor Productivity 2003 and the Cluster Concept 2006, all aimed at industrial growth of the country, not much has been achieved.
Apart from uneven spread of economic opportunity in our planning, one consistent challenge to our overall development goal has been lack of patience in policy execution. We have the national habit of overreacting to every new idea as disruptive and something to be jettisoned immediately. We easily scandalize and demonize new initiatives that challenge old practices. While it is easily understandable that every policy comes with its own inherent challenges, which could be improved upon as time goes on, we tend to focus exclusively on perceived weakness and use it as an object of media hysteria.
Unfortunately, with more minds vitiated and doubts implanted in the minds of the public, both internal and external saboteurs do not find it hard to undermine the policy by highlighting why it would never work. This, regrettably, has led to innovation paralysis and built an impossibility syndrome – what some called the “Nigerian factor”, a sobriquet to say that what works elsewhere and everywhere else is bound to fail here because of the so-called Nigerian factor.
Our political structure is definitely something to cast a deep look into. Many commentators have identified the kind of federal structure we run as one of the reasons for our numerous challenges. There is the general sense of inadequacy and powerlessness among the federating units in the critical area of socio-economic development.
For example, many have asked the question as to why the state cannot develop their rail infrastructure and why it has to be on the exclusive list? It is also argued that the idea of national grid is, itself a recipe for energy crisis that we now have. It is just elementary that if all our energy sources are on a single grid, the grid is bound to suffer consistent collapses and infractions. Why do we have to have a national drivers’ license and vehicle licensing system when motor licensing is obviously a municipal responsibility of vehicle inspectorate department of the state ministry of transport?
Why should we have a unitary policing system in a federal structure? Does it not fly against reasoning that a state would have a state legislature to make its laws, a state judiciary to interpret them but would not have a state police to enforce the law? I have always maintained that if we could trust a state judiciary to discharge justice to all manner of people on issues it has jurisdiction upon, why can’t we trust same state with a police to bring suspects before the court?
Re-Thinking Nigeria for Future Development
I hold the opinion that the challenges facing Nigeria are not insurmountable and that they are generally symptomatic of a developing nation. Most of the challenges we face in our developmental journey, are part of the necessary developmental curves and bends we have got to negotiate for us to get the desired destination. We don’t need to despair but we must however take useful lessons so we don’t continue to make the same mistakes. I will therefore want to highlight some critical areas that needs us to have a rethink as we go forward.
Let’s Rethink our Politics and Governance Structure
Politics is at the center of public administration and the governance structure of a country. Simply put, politics is about the struggle for the control of public administration of a people. It has to do with the process of determining who gets what and how? More importantly, however, politics should be about honest and impeccable public service. It is therefore very important for the political elite to deliberately agree on some baseline and irreducible ethical standard for politicians.
There is an urgent necessity to develop an elite consensus on how our political system should run. It is time we quitted prebendal politics and politics of bread and butter that is bereft of any ideological commitment.
In our local context, in recent times, the concept of stomach infrastructure was espoused by an obviously barren political demagogue. Indeed, a confused intellectual arm of the society even found justification for the ridiculous idea until it became clear to everyone that it was a bit of nice idiocy. We cannot afford to remain festooned to politics of tokenism, our politics must be defined by grand understanding of contemporary problems and the capacity to see ahead of the future. We need to draw away from the politics antagonism based on the social attributes of the individuals.
The polarizing ethno-religious politics that strives on hate campaign, “we versus them”, fear mongering, vacuity, blackmail and hot airs cannot fit a vision of a people ready to take the pride of place in the comity of nations. Our political thought should motivate critical debates on socio-economic policies, center around national institutions and anchor on decent engagement.
We cannot substitute sound political debate with muckraking and ad-hominem rhetoric as the political elites have become adept at. As I indicated in my interview with a national newspaper recently, I believe our political parties should have policy dialogues where robust engagements with policy people and the critical stakeholders can take place. You would recall that I was the Director of Research, Policy and Strategy Directorate of our party, the All Progressives Congress during the 2015 presidential campaign during which we subjected our policy plans and manifestoes to serious intellectual distillation.
It is my view that the public must know beyond the ethnic and religion identity of candidates for election but must in fact, be well knowledgeable about the ideas and approaches offered by the contending political gladiators. The absence of serious thoughtful engagement like this has led to the trafficking in distractive rhetoric that is meant to emote the people into hysteria, while the real issue about national challenges and the most effective approaches to solving them are left blinded.
Abuses, tantrums, propaganda, hate campaign and falsehood may win elections but they cannot turn around the fortune of a nation; that is why all segments of the political elite and in particular, the media must depart from the personality-centered incivilities of the most banal kind that characterized the electoral seasons. We should redirect our energy into serious intellectual scrutiny of the political process than the façade of acrimonious political brigandage and thuggish rhetoric that has become a national culture.
It is gratifying to know that Independent National Electoral Commission has deleted some political parties from the list of the registered parties. This is a welcomed development for me. Our political party system should never be trivialized to becoming another “portfolio contractor” syndrome. We were itching to an uncomfortable stage where a husband could establish a party and the wife also could establish hers, both using their living room as national headquarters and their nuclear families as trustees. It seems to me that people are just narcissistic about their views such that they want to operate as one-man political party.
The electoral process is, though, a work in progress, and we can all be proud of some appreciable progress that we have made in our electoral process. It is however instructive that no matter the good intentions of the electoral laws and the fidelity of INEC officials to abide by them, the critical stakeholders remain the political class which has the duty to keep to the rules of the game.
The debate about the necessity for electronic voting has been made and I am very convinced that it is time we gave it a try. Going forward, we should rethink our electoral process to be electronically enabled. Fear should never triumph over hope and aspiration. While the system will come with its own teething challenges, I am sure it would be overcome over time. We cannot run away from the future that is certain to happen.
Let’s Rethink our Security System
One of the things that have continued to generate hot debates in Nigeria for decades is the nation’s security system and architecture. Whereas the first instinct of a man is his survival and thus, security is not only communal but also an individual experience, we have somehow come to see security of our nation as what can only be guaranteed by the federal government.
This approach to national security has created a sense of paranoia among our security elites whenever discussion around local security initiatives are discussed. The laughable argument against state police for example, is that it could be misused by the governor. This thinking itself presumes that Nigerians at sub-national level of governance are primitive and immature while those at the national level are some super intelligent patriots who would not misuse state power. But this is false!
The problem of insecurity which has clearly overwhelmed security agencies is because of the consistent insistence that only federal government can provide security. Let us ask the hard question as to what will be the state of our health if only federal government provides medical services? What will be the state of our education if only federal government is providing education? What of our infrastructure?
The lesson to be learnt in any monopoly is the existence of black market. It is therefore not surprising that with a monopoly of security system, we have arms smuggling, banditry and insurgence that confronts our security agencies daily, which, in spite of their patriotic efforts, they have not been able to put an end to it. The same arms that we deny the sub-national government to legitimately protect Nigerians at the grassroots level, are there in the hands of violent criminals who kill, maim, kidnap and bomb at will. Sometimes, we even have to seek amnesty window to appease criminals to surrender their arms. Yet, state and local governments which could have been effective in preventing this security from snowballing to the level of gangsterism as we have it now, are considered emotionally incompetent to handle security even when they preside over security matters in their respective domains.
That is why we have made the argument that security must be so local that people can relate with it. We therefore need to rethink our definition of security and relearn our concept of threats. State police or community policing structure like Amotekun cannot be a security threat to Nigeria, it can only help to fill the gap that the existing security infrastructure and architecture cannot provide. It is time we devolved the security architecture and make the people at the grassroots take ownership.
Let’s Re-think our Economy
Most economic theorists are united about the place of production as the bases for ending poverty. The twin economic challenges facing our country today have to do with unemployment and general high poverty. These two symptoms are traceable to a single decease of lack of economic activities that provide opportunity for increased consumptions that drive production and lead to more job creation and tax revenue to the government.
But whereas Nigeria has never lacked sound economic plans, we have lacked the patience to see them to fruition. We seem to be sprint runners than marathon runners. We seem to like planting crops than planting economic trees. Therefore, we have been moving in a concentric ring of policy somersault.
As I had indicated before, great economic policies have their gestation period and are not hypodermic injections that will produce results instantly, until we realise this brutal truth and prepare our minds for a long work to prosperity, we will be operating like the Greek’s mythical Sisyphus. We should therefore bury any excitable assumptions that there can be some magical economic quick fix that will turn things around overnight. Like Samuel Beckett’s Godot, the messianic advent of an economic genius that would use a wand to wipe away poverty may never come, if we don’t address the fundamental pursuit of aggressive local production to stimulate our economy.
For example, the Nigeria economy as at now remains fragile because of the volatility of the crude oil prices. The antidote to this is what we have always known since after the first economic recession of the early eighties. That a diversified economy was inevitable because this is what can guarantee sustainable foreign exchange that we desperately need in our balance of trade equilibrium. Our currency continued to be negatively impacted each time crude oil production is down as a result of force majeure or price falls.
The implication of this is that domestic prices of goods and services spike and more people become poorer as purchasing power dips further. Prices would go up because inadequate dollar supply to importers will create scarcity in the exchange market and this often leads to cost-push inflation where cost of importation goes up and this also leads to the cost of goods and services rising.
When this happens, people generally become financially distressed and all manner of suggestions are quickly offered, including sacking of the economic managers and their replacement with some perceived superhuman economists. This has been the circles of our experience and it does not seem we have learnt enough from it.
The irony however is that the sacrifices that are necessary for us to bear to achieve economic prosperity are often strongly rejected as everybody wants the easy way out. Experts have pointed out that the hard choices to wean the nation from the feeding bottle economic system will come with some intended and unintended consequences that can erode political capital of the incumbent. This is why no administration in the past wanted to be the one to take the hard decisions which will definitely attract initial public opprobrium.
We must therefore commend the President for pushing on with the effort to reposition the economy of the country by insisting that we must produce our foods and fix our basic needs ourselves. No one could have imagined that Nigeria could, from being the highest rice importer, move to becoming a major rice producer within four farming seasons. This is significant in so many ways. It shows that with the right incentives, policy insistence and the right environment, Nigeria can, within a decade overcome some of her basic economic challenges.
Re-Thinking our Infrastructural Development Strategy
There is no doubt that one of the reasons our economy is underperforming is the very poor state of infrastructure. You require good infrastructure to drive development in every sector of the economy. Infrastructure is the enabler and backbone of development; it inspires innovation and creativity and supports expansion. So, where critical infrastructure is lacking, economic activities will be at the lowest ebb. Notably, there is a symmetric relationship between low economic productivity and poor infrastructure.
I am of the view that our infrastructure challenge is actually a huge investment opportunity. We however must develop a new mindset about major economic infrastructures. For too long, economic infrastructures were seen as social amenities that must be solely provided by the government; but the current thinking in development economics is that government are very bad managers of infrastructure that are actually major human needs that must be produced as an economic commodity.
So, what we must rethink is that, for us to enjoy good roads, rail, power, water and telecommunication facility, we must be willing to pay for a recovery price of producing them. Government can hardly be all sufficient to continue to pick the bills. And that a socialist approach that sees economic infrastructures as social amenities has failed to sustainably make infrastructure available for all.
It is my view that we can turn our current infrastructural adversity to a huge opportunity that can unleash an unimaginable investment drive in these areas. The Lekki Concessionaire and telecommunication sector examples have shown the possibility of what private investment can do to public infrastructural development.
The same thing applies to the rail, power and water infrastructure. While government should continue to be an enabler and a protector of the poor, we cannot continue to run an economy that makes everyone poor by incapacitating the financial investment through economic ideas that prevent private sector leadership in infrastructure development.
Rethinking our Educational System
Nigeria’s education sector has one of the most elaborate bureaucracy in the world. There are interminable number of agencies, boards and commissions and people are still asking for more! But this agencies and commissions have not been able to imagine a functional educational system that can fit into the global demand of tomorrow. There is a way that too much of regulation kills creativity and innovation and this seems to be the case here.
Our new approach should not be about multiplicity of regulatory agencies and mushrooming of higher institutions of learning across the nation, we need to refocus our education to the one that produces graduate with useful knowledge and skills that fit into the global demands of today and the future.
For example, the National University Commission (NUC) has made vocational and entrepreneurial study a compulsory course for undergraduate. This is the case with the polytechnic and mono-technic colleges. For me, this is scratching the surface. What students are thought in this course is not innovation nor anything near entrepreneurship.
Rather, they are thought artisanal trade in tailoring, hairdressing, bead making, soap making, cake baking and so on. But this is a wrong approach! That is why many of the students just treat this course as another course load that needs to be passed and so they struggle to have a pass. Rather, the schools should have a curriculum that not only teach the fundamental of a particular course but the business and opportunities that the students can key into for self-reliance.
For example, a student of education should not just be prepared to be a good teacher, he should be exposed to investment opportunity for self-reliance in education sector including coaching, book publishing, edu-tech software development, library and laboratory development consultancy, counselling and school placement consultancy, among other opportunities inherent in being an educationist.
So, the new thinking therefore will be to have graduates who have an idea of what they can do with their degree besides seeking employment. Students of medical sciences should not only be an expert in medical sciences and practice, they should be well knowledgeable about the business side, investment opportunities, tech-innovations in medical practice, medical marketing, health journalism, policy advocacy, health economics and other area of entrepreneurial practice in the field of medicines.
Let’s Rethink our Ethno-Religious Sentiment
One feature of any modern and successful nation in the world today is the diversity of tongues and culture. It signifies the sophistication of a people and the advancement of their civilization, especially if they can device a means to live in peace and progress where all interests, no matter how diverse are protected.
So, when people suggest that balkanization of Nigeria will solve the challenges that face us from our pluralistic feature I ask: how? The complexity of our diversity has already been highlighted in this speech. For example, how will you divide Nigeria that Southern Kaduna will be part of Anambra or Ondo? What kind of division will remove the Tangele people of Gombe and align them with Egun people of Lagos? What country will the Ebira belong? Where will you relocate the Bogoro people of Bauchi who are mainly Christian co-habiting with a large Muslim community?
And if we can bicker over which family produced the last councilor of our ward, what tells you that we will not bicker violently among ourselves in ethnic republic as some people have proposed? Have we not heard people talk of Lagos/Ogun political hegemony in the south west? If in larger Nigeria where solidarity on ethnic basis shields internal disagreement, people are already talking about a hegemony, what do you think the future will be in the proposed “republic”?
What this suggests is that suspicion of domination will continue for as long as we uphold discriminatory descriptions like “indigene” versus “citizens”, “aboriginal” versus settlers”, “we” versus “them”, in our socio-political lexicon. In a democratic republic, all of us are citizens of the same country with the same rights and privileges, this is the lofty ideal that we should pursue and not a reclusion to primitive tribal detachment that once made us look like a people who were incapable of running a complex and modern society.
How We are Re-thinking Ekiti for the Future
In Ekiti, we are already rethinking our development strategy for the future of the state. We are anchoring our thought on three key areas:
We are leveraging our passion for knowledge acquisition to trigger a knowledge economy that will make the state competitive in the future. Our strategy is to create a smart city around a corridor where we can create a conurbation of economic activities where the creative energy of our youths can be unleashed productively. In this smart city, we are emplacing an off-grid power solution, high-tech telecoms geeks and cluster investors that can leverage on the internal economy of scale to support our other development strategy. We are in a hurry to create the economy that never sleeps in Ekiti Knowledge Zone. Our hope is that the UNIMED will soon find its top notch software solution for modern medical solution available in EKZ-Smart City.
We are also revamping our technical colleges to serve as human resource hub for the south west. Our technical college graduates have access to some of the most sophisticated training equipment and right exposure to handle the needs of our people in the south west. Our long time vision is to make Ekiti the hub of technical know-how in building craftsmanship, mechatronics, auto-mechanics, cabinet making, carpentry, joinery and furniture making, among others, in Nigeria.
We are also revolutionizing our agriculture from subsistent farming to large scale farming. This is because of our large plan to have Agric-Processing Zone that will feed the Agric-Cargo Airport that is coming up very soon. As at now, we are already attracting the right investment to actualise this plan. Apart from having big players in the rice mill industry such as Stallion, Dangote, GMK to establish in Ekiti, we are also hosting big tomatoes, pepper and vegetable farmers that are currently on about 50 hectare of land. We also have cassava processing companies such as FMS and Promise Point establishing in the Agric-Processing Zone. Ultimately, our idea for the future is that farming must add value to the lives of the people; we, therefore, are committed to creating an industry that has a value chain that employs many and transforms lives.
Ekiti is committed to transformational infrastructural development that leverages on private investment to unlock our untapped potentials. One of the gains of this is that before the end of this year, Ekiti will be having near 100% percent pipe borne water coverage. We are also creating an energy solution for our knowledge and industrial zones. The cargo airport is for us, an economic infrastructure to revolutionize our agricultural potentials and draw quality investment around the corridor. Ekiti Cargo Airport is the only one in the South West and is consistent with the national agricultural/aviation policy to have one cargo airport per geo-political zone.
Finally, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Ekiti is creating a home for all Nigerians where there is no alien but citizens, where no one is seen as a stranger in a country he calls his or hers. We are aware that all great nations and places became great because of the talents of migrants to such places. Ekiti does not discriminate in all our social protection policy, employment and school admission/fees.
Whatever applied to the natives applied to other Nigerians resident in the state. Recently, I appointed a gentleman who hailed from Akwa Ibom, a lawyer in the Ministry of Justice as an executive secretary. I made it clear that it was not a favour we did him and it is more than a symbolic gesture. It is a statement of our conviction that no matter where you are from, Ekiti will not discriminate against you.
We are also establishing a new political culture of tolerance in our state. We demonstrated this with the retention of the elected PDP members in the local government after we came in, contrary to what many of our party supporters expected. Their tenure ended and we conducted another election in a transparent manner that gave no one any reason to go to court. By this, we ensure the sanctity of their mandate was protected and that democracy in the local government was protected.
This is the new thinking in Ekiti that we are proud to commend to the rest of the country.
As I conclude this speech, I like to state that the greatest rethinking that we should all take as priority is the shift in our attitude to our country. We need to individually challenge ourselves about the kind of the future we desire for our country and what our roles should be in its actualisation. We need to purge ourselves of negativity, cynicism and inhuman acts against of country and her people.
Once again, thank you for inviting me and congratulation to the university community for the progress made in this five years since your establishment.
Thank you for listening.
Being the of the Distinguished Guest Lecture delivered by the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on the topic: “Re-thinking Nigeria for future development,” at the Distinguished Guest Lecture Series of the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, Ondo State