The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, rightly stated the obvious in his goodwill message to mark the country’s 59th independence anniversary, when he suggested that the Nigerian dream should be repositioned to meet the expectations of our founding fathers. No doubt, the country appears not to be working.
Since the incursion of the military into the political affairs of the country in 1966, things have apparently fallen apart. The country is tottering on the precipice. Sadly enough, the Nigerian story has not significantly changed 59 years after independence. This situation has invariably led to the state of affairs today, where many Nigerians wonder if it will survive under the present circumstances without some form of restructuring.
The country’s federalism, which we started with at independence, has been so much tinkered that it smacks of a unitary system today. The Federal Government, as currently constituted, is virtually in charge of every sector of the economy. The federating units are almost left with little. This can explain why they depend on the money from the Federation Account every month. We are only federal in name as almost all the powers and resources of the country are concentrated in the central government.
Unfortunately, the country has so much regressed in many indices of development and struggling to catch-up with its contemporaries with whom it set forth at independence in the 60s. Basic infrastructure such as power, clean water, integrated transportation, and social services such as functional education and affordable healthcare are still grossly inadequate in the country. However, we believe that if the power sector can be fixed, there is no doubt that the cost of production in the country would be reduced. Those in the real sector are aware of this fact. At present, our products cannot compete so well globally, due to high cost of production.
The nation’s local industry hubs in Aba, Lagos, Ikeja, Otta and Agbara are not the way they should be. Some of the factories there have been closed down while others have relocated to Ghana and other West African countries with favourable business climate. It is no surprise, therefore, that unemployment is at an all-time high in the country at 30 per cent. It may even be higher than this. This is why Nigeria has overtaken India as the new poverty capital of the world. The country is also grappling with insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and sundry crimes. It is worrisome that in spite of our human and material resources, the country has refused to assume its rightful place in the comity of nations. This is why there are so many calls for the urgent restructuring of the country. Something has to be done about the structure of the country as it is now in such a way to encourage economic growth.
Drawing from our experience in the First Republic, it should be noted that the regions were independent and actually controlled their respective resources. They only contributed a certain percentage of their revenues to the central government. Being allowed to control their resources made them to develop at their own pace. The then federal arrangement engendered healthy competition among the regions and led to the rapid growth of their economies. At that time, the economy of the defunct Eastern Region was described as the fastest growing economy in the developing economies. The Nigerian story today is quite different. The picture of the nation’s economy is not rosy with the World Bank’s growth projection of 1.9 per cent. With a population growth rate of over 3.5 per cent, the country has lots of work to do to revamp the economy. This is why the diversification of the economy must be pursued with vigour.
To do this, the cost of governance must be drastically reduced at all tiers of government. The current high cost of governance is clearly unsustainable. There is need to embark on economic reforms that will stimulate growth. There is also need for judicial and electoral reforms, too. Our judicial and electoral systems must be made to work efficiently.