“A Transformation Agenda for Accelerating National Development”:A Lecture Review
By Tola Adenle
President Jonathan seems determined – from utterances so far – to be a “transformational leader”, to use his own words. While to most critics his body language and actions do not portend any change from the status quo, it is the “leader who has assured good progress in the implementation of a transformation agenda” – looking back in 2015 – that Professor Ladipo Adamolekun who gave an Inauguration Lecture – perhaps something of a new direction itself – tries to look ahead to in his lecture, “A Transformation Agenda for Accelerating National Development”.
Adamolekun is eminently qualified to deliver the lecture. After a 1st Class honors University of Ibadan degree in French, all his educational qualifications – an Ife M. Phil. and an Oxford doctorate – are in Public Administration, an area in which he has written many internationally-acclaimed books and papers. He rose to a professorial rank in Administration at University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo U.) before retiring and then joining the World Bank (The Bank) as a developmental professional in 1986. He worked at the Washington, D.C. Headquarters for many years before postings took him to Kenya, and then rising to Head of the Togo Office where he retired some years ago. Professor Adamolekun, a recipient of the Nigerian National Merit Award, is now an Independent Scholar whose long earlier academic career included teaching many top civil servants who are still in service at Abuja. Pardon me, I find it difficult to use the ‘f’ word, an incorrect tagging of the Nigerian unitary government as a federation; it’s always “federal” to me but I choose ‘Abuja’ here.
Since I neither possess the scholarship necessary to do justice to this review and since, mercifully, this forum is not basically for academic types, I’m not held back by my incapacity to take readers deep into the Lecture. However, since I had reviewed almost all the sessions of Professor Adamolekun’s “Iju Public Affairs Forum” over a 4-year period for my newspaper essays in The Nation on Sunday, I’m doing this as a debt I owe myself for personal development! I should issue a caveat by the way, to readers, though: “Ladi” is my older brother, a fact that has never affected my reviews in the past; neither will it now.
The “Transformation Agenda” that Adamolekun proposes comprises five “Fundamentals”, three “Transformation Result Areas” (TRAs) and some implementation issues but I’ve broken the lecture down to only the hot button issues that I know will interest my readers in the most enjoyable manner, that is, if one could enjoy reading about corruption and a university system run by politicians.
From the lecture are electoral legitimacy, peace and security, education, infrastructure, rule of law and anti-corruption. A big ticket item like Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are highly pursued all over the world as accelerants to development through improved service deliveries, etcetera, are not apparent in Nigeria except on paper and to government types, as another avenue for you-know-what! I therefore skip.
On electoral legitimacy, Adamolekun believes that Jonathan has delivered “to an appreciable extent” on his promise of a free and fair election and with that “legitimacy” comes his own burden of accountability to the citizens during his tenure. He cautions, though, that an important ingredient to accelerating development during Jonathan’s four years would be that citizens demand accountability on his promises.
Adamolekun sees the problem the country faces in the area of security as being of very urgent import because it could pose serious challenges to any development: peace in the Delta; peace on the Plateau, and peaceful religious and ethnic relationships are necessary for the country’s economic well-being and peace. As regards the never-ending political-ethnic-religious conflicts, Adamolekun wonders: “Is there a role here for the Sovereign National Conference that some opinion leaders have advocated since the early 1990s?” He suggests the president needs to address this as a priority. As regards the Delta in particular, Adamolekun suggests “…that the Ministry of Niger Delta created in 2008 significantly duplicates the work of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and it should be folded into the NDDC” while in the matter of Jos and other religious/ethnic problems, he thinks the “Failure to implement the recommendations of the succession of commissions of inquiry set up to probe the politico-ethnic-religious conflicts in Jos since the early 2000s has undermined the usefulness of this instrument for tackling the problem … Given this evidence, it is doubtful if the judicial commission recently set up to probe post-election violence will prove different.”
Most Nigerians are aware of the rot in the education sector, climaxing in a tertiary education level that has parents – and even the former House Speaker – sending kids and relations to Ghana, South Africa for access to better university education. Adamolekun cites the matter of a University Act started during the Obasanjo presidency, an Act that was almost immediately “placed on the back burner”. He suggests that Jonathan makes it a priority that would see it “ready for implementation by the end of the president’s first 12 months” result of such on other levels of education that he states would be just as the fish gets rotten from the head … the rot in the Nigerian education sector is most severe at the apex. As soon as rehabilitation efforts at that level begin to yield positive results, they are very likely to cascade down to polytechnics, secondary schools and primary schools.”
Adamolekun suggests that the president do something about the turnover rate of ministers and permanent secretaries in the ministry: “an average of about 15-18 months for each of these key leaders since 1999 is the opposite of what a rehabilitation effort requires”, and thinks government should look to other countries for recent innovative approaches to financing universities. He cautions in the ever-widening roles of the NUC that started during the military. These roles must probably include when army officers were posted as university vice-chancellors!
Like most Nigerians, Adamolekun is baffled why “the huge budgetary allocations to roads and electricity” has not yielded better infrastructure. ‘“Federal”’ roads are worse today than they were in October/November 2004, Electricity supply is more epileptic…” seemingly all over the country. He also wonders at why the the National Assembly’s report on electricity has never been released.
On rule of law, Adamolekun believes that in spite of the military having returned to the barracks, “the country does not yet function fully as a country under the rule of law” and cites a definition from Economics Nobel Laureate Hayek’s 1944 seminal The road to serfdom to show that Nigeria is not yet THERE : “A country under the rule of law means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand.” He suggests the president “base all appointments to the Appeal Court and Supreme Court primarily on merit, competence and integrity, with consideration for “federal character” as a secondary consideration.”
Citing that Nigeria’s corruption was worse in 2009 and 2010 than in 2008 according to CPI corruption Index, Adamolekun dares the president to “declare and make public his assets and those of his wife within three months after his inauguration; mandate all ministers to do the same, and commission an immediate performance audit of the ICPC and the EFCC” as a way that would show Jonathan leading by example.
My personal Opinions
Electoral legitimacy: Citizens should demand accountability from Jonathan, especially in view of the high expecations of millions but this may be tricky as leaders in these parts view citizens’ demands for accountability, equity and justice, as well as a real effort to fight corruption – as unpatriotic behaviour. The president and leaders at other tiers of government see themselves as the country; the states they govern or the local governments they chair, and criticisms meant to call attention to inequities and corruption, etcetera, are viewed as personal attacks that must be crushed, including the “attackers”.
Nigerians are waiting to see the president’s actions on matters waiting for him right away. He has his self-assigned role of “transformational leader” cut out for him.
Basic to peace and security is equity and justice and the Nigerian project as was set up and has been administered since its creation is structurally faulty, and calling for peace without the acknowledgement – in action and processes – is attempting to put a high rise building in a swamp without engineering the type of foundation called for in such structures. It is therefore beyond Jonathan alone except providing the enabling environment for an SNC. Without equity and justice, there’s never going to be peace in Nigeria between the ethnic nationalities despite an ethnic minority being president. The National Assembly, NA, a motley group of self-important greedy lot must buy into this before it can be done but the PDP behemoth stands between the very survival of Nigeria and the citizens. Wither Nigeria? I think the citizens must be ready to engage themselves in forcing those in government to listen to their cries.
Even in the Yoruba translation of “independence”, there is no “give” – stated or implied. Nwon gba ominira translates to something like “they take/grab independence” which implies some form of force by the receiver before the ‘independence’ can be his/hers.
The press must wake up to its role as security guards of the country’s and citizens’ interests. Without a medium like online website saharareporters.com, the changes we have seen in the last few years, but most especially on the matter of corruption and alleged corruption, for example. Governor Ibori, and lately, Bankole – would have not yielded the results so far yielded.