By Ayo Oyoze Baje
“Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance” – Ban Ki-moon
For our dear country Nigeria, to achieve most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030 our current crop of political leaders and their successors-from the Executive through the Legislature to the Judiciary- must climb down from their high horses of self-deceit and glorification and humbly accept that they have done much less than they have said. That is with regards to the all-important terms of agreement signed. But first, let us look at what the goals truly entail. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
In well-articulated and precise terms, they encompass the moving mantras of achieving No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education and Gender Equality. Amongst the other set goals are to have Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable Clean Energy, Decent Work And Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Good enough that in conceptualizing them the 17 SDGs are integrated. That means that “they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability”. Furthermore, it is significant for the world leaders to note to note that: “The creativity, knowhow, technology and financial resources from all of society are necessary to achieve the SDGs in every context.” In a personal perception, placing the SDGs together, they become the epitome of paradise; a dreamland, one which would create a world next to the Biblical Heaven. But are we anywhere close to it? The answer is to state it as it is: “Not at all!” Mind you, it is not as if the world does not have the potential resources to turn these pleasant and practicable principles into reality. They are there in quantum. But in several countries the world over, the so called leaders of the people, have on several occasions sacrificed the state for their self-misplaced priorities. For the moment, let us consider the Nigerian situation, with regards to meeting the the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before the SDGs. It would serve as an eye-opener. The MDGs were introduced and agreed on at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000 with 190 countries, including Nigeria as signatories to the agreement. But at the tail-end of the last Millennium, Nigeria, like most sub Saharan African nations, was adjudged to have failed to meet any of the targets. This was due to a multiplicity of health system-related, political and systemic challenges.
Meanwhile, during that period, the major successful countries that achieved the set objectives of the MDGs included China (whose poverty population declined from 452 million to 278 million in line with MDG 1A) and India according to the World Bank. Let us fast forward to that of the SDGs, with regards to Nigeria’s achievements. According to Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 23 states and the FCT have received the humongous sum of N24.450billion from the Conditional Grant Scheme, from 2015 till this day, to battle the monster of pervasive poverty. The specific areas targeted include providing 732 water and sanitation projects, 494 health facilities, with some renovation and rehabilitation. In addition, there was the construction, renovation of 616 educational facilities such as classroom blocks, while 1,150 women and men were trained in vocational skills. That perhaps, explains why she proudly stated that Nigeria, which started the SDGs in January 2016 has remarkably achieved 48 per cent of the goals. She made the remarks at the Scientific Conference of the Association of General Private Nursing Practitioners (AGPNP), Lagos State Chapter, in Ikeja, Lagos. Paradoxically, it was during that same period in September, 2018 that Nigeria was ranked 157 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). According to the Programme: “Although Nigeria possesses the resources to end extreme poverty and even up the inequalities between rich and poor, women and men, it remains the country where the government is the least committed to reducing inequality in West Africa (based on the Oxfam’s Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index 2019).”
Furthermore, it stated that: “The combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men – $29.9 billion – could end extreme poverty in that country according to a new report published by Oxfam today.” So, who has told us the bitter truth, as it really is? The answer is patently obvious as stated. And in December, 2018 the United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel estimated that Nigeria needs no fewer than $337 billion to implement Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, from 2019 to 2022, the cost of implementing the SDGs in Nigeria, according to the plan is $80.65 billion in 2019, $82.83 billion in 2020, $85.07 billion in 2021 and $87.37 billion in 2022. But by July 2022 the outlook was no better. The United Nations stated that the acceleration of Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, across Africa requires financing. It specifically stated that over $300 billion was needed to close the growing gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria.
Also giving a keynote address on the theme titled: ‘Rethink, Rebuild, Recover, Accelerating Growth for the SDGs’, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Matthias Schmale noted that given the economic regression across Africa, occasioned by the pandemic, the volatilities caused by the Russia-Ukraine war the SDGs may not be achieved with just 8 years to go before 2030. Considering the outlook of gender inequality in Nigeria, it was noted that it has remained an issue of serious concern. For instance, in July 2019, though 43 politicians were considered by the presidency for appointments only seven, or 16 percent were women! On a broader perspective, it was discovered that Nigerian women hold just 7 percent of elected positions in the country, even though they make up nearly 50 percent of the electorate. The 7 percent figure remains one of the lowest in the world. That is why gender inequality has become a matter of agitation for women advocates like Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin-led Women Arise for Change Initiative and the activist, Justina Toochukwu.
Indeed, Nigeria’s gender inequality runs against the concern of Kofi Annan(of blessed memory). The late Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) noted that: “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance”. When it comes to climate change, Nigeria still has a lot to do in the areas of public enlightenment to create awareness against the indiscriminate felling of trees, the need to step up environmental sanitation and tree planting. As Dia Mirza rightly noted: “It is critical for us to cultivate consciousness and compassion towards our environment, create awareness, galvanize people, and build sustainable innovations for sustainable development”. And that is because as pointed out by Angela Merkel: “Climate change knows no borders. All said, one would keep advocating for a holistic restructuring of the country. Let the states/geo-political zones control their resources, bring governance closer to the people so that much of the SDGs would be attained right to the grassroots.
Baje writes from Lagos