An Agro economist Dr. Akinade Ogunbiyi has said that the majority of Nigerians are still battling with abject poverty. He noted that the country has more poor people living in extreme poverty than any other country.
Ogunbiyi, who is the Group Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc, said the country’s indices for growth and progress were not where they were expected to be.
He spoke at this year’s Nigeria Institute of Management (Chartered) distinguished management lecture entitled: “Nigeria’s Progress And The New Metrics. The event took place at the remodelled Chris Abebe Auditorium, Management House, Idowu Taylor Street, Victoria Island Lagos.
Wondering why statistics depicting the state of the economy did not capture in clear terms the fundamental issues of leadership, influence, effectiveness of models, processes, relevance and its adequacy, he regretted that the common framework was always limited to production, fiscal and monetary polices, balance of payments, foreign reserves and exchange rates.
He lamented that despite Nigeria’s potential for growth, it has realized little of it because previous efforts at planning and visioning were not sustained.
“The history of economic stagnation, declining welfare, social instability, epileptic power supply, infrastructure deficit, slow and ineffective judicial system, and security issues had undermined development,” he said. He also noted that little attention was being paid to
Nigerians’ emotional wellbeing. in his words, four decades after the various national development plans, problems confronting the Nigerian State, such as widespread poverty, large-scale unemployment, low-capacity utilisation, illiteracy, urban congestion, huge debt burden, inadequate and decayed social and physical infrastructure, had not been meaningfully reduced.
“The typical Nigerian government is plagued with institutional and structural inconsistencies and discontinuity. And government officials are not committed to the development policies of their predecessors, hence the national landscape is littered with uncompleted projects,” he said.
He called for more work to ensure that policies that would make life good for the country’s citizens were put in place.
While calling for a review of the country’s economic management strategy, he identified sound policies, strong institutions, qualitative and relevant education, stimulation of the creative energies of the citizens and decentralization of authority to levels close to the people as some of the intangible ways to ensure economic growth and prosperity.
He noted that the current weak leaderships and gaps were big obstacles to any meaningful growth in the country.
“Even the successes of the past governments and economic agendas cannot be sustained by the present crop of leadership,” he said. “The more qualified you are for leadership position in the present day Nigeria, the more detestable you are in the eyes of people who think they control the power.”
He noted that most of the direct foreign investments (FDIs) into the country in the last two decades were never into the productive sectors. Rather, he noted, they were mainly foreign portfolio investments (FPIs) that took advantage of the high returns in the stocks markets.
In his opening speech, the President of the institute, Professor Olukunle Iyanda stressed that Nigeria now has more people living in extreme poverty than any other country in the world. He noted that ending extreme poverty was the first sustainable development goal of the
United Nations, insisting that efforts by successive governments to get the nation’s economy up and running had not yielded the desired result.
“Although the nation is blessed with abundance of human and material resources, it has not been making the needed progress,” he observed.
He said that it was pertinent to note that formulation of the right or appropriate economic policies has never been the issue as the nation was not in scant supply of robust economic policies.
Iyanda, who was represented at the event by the deputy president, Mrs. Pat Anabor, said the ability to bridge the yawning gap between putting the right policies in place and proper implementation has for long affected the country’s meaningful development.
He expressed disappointment that the country has continued to move in circles in search of the right fiscal and monetary policies to put the economy on the part of sustainable economic progress and development.
His words: “For the nation to move in the right direction, there is the need to change the old ways of doing things. There is also need for attitudinal change and value reorientation. The interest of the nation must be put first at all times.”
Iyanda said that the institute chose the theme for this year’s lecture based on the need to move from talking to walking the talk, and to proffer solutions which would help stem the slide that the nation has been experiencing in its march towards economic greatness.
“Instead of criticizing government for the unending economic slip, the institute believes in supporting government in finding solutions to the problems of governance by using the opportunity provided by this open forum to contribute its quota, besides proffering a viable and workable roadmap to the identified problem.
“The task of getting the country up and running on the right path should not be left for government alone. All hands must be on deck to take Nigeria to where we all want it to be.”
While commending the guest speaker for a job well done, a participant, Mr. Kehinde Ogundipe noted that of all the intangible investments needed by the country, leadership would drive them.
He wondered when Nigeria would get to a point of having qualified people elected into positions of leadership. He regretted that the current government does not have a large heart for those who didn’t vote for it but were eminently qualified to serve in an inclusive government.