Politics

NESG: Nigeria at crossroads over quality of politicians

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has advised the Federal Government to always consider its economic policy choices, before taking decision, in order to FastTrack economic growth, its recently launched 2021 Economic Outlook has said.

Ten months to the general elections, Nigerian Economic Summit Group has said that Nigeria is at a crossroads over the quality of politicians presented to the electorate.

NESG Chairman, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, while speaking at the National Economic Dialogue on, “Critical Challenges Confronting the Nigerian Economy” in Abuja, at the weekend, said the group is concerned about the quality of politicians jostling for leadership positions in the country.

He said, “We are at a significant crossroad. This is a moment in our national history where we need political leaders to emerge who think globally and act locally to tackle seemingly intractable development problems.

“The emergence of such enlightened leadership-credible, competent, courageous reform-minded, and able to rebuild the institutions of governance-is what Nigerians desperately need now.”

He flayed the process and quality of candidates that the political parties have been presenting to the electorate in the past.

He said, “The process by which each party will select their candidates during their primaries and the characteristics and capacity of the persons selected is of critical and defining importance.

“Where the parties saddle us by their process and selection, with candidates not fit for purpose, without the capacity, ability, grasp of issues, integrity, courage and love of country and our people, the options we then have during the general elections they are poor and unpalatable.

“So, we the people of Nigeria must collectively signal to our political parties that they must select only the best from their ranks and that we shall only support parties that present competent candidates.”

The chairman said that achieving the Nigeria of our dreams was the obligation of the government to the citizenry, adding, “We the citizens also have a strong responsibility and role to play in ensuring that this is achieved.

“We must insist that as our politicians begin to set or reshape their plan on the way forward, they will be mindful of the various negative socio-economic indicators and not lose sight or focus to finding a path to transformational progress.

“We the citizens need to pay attention to the quality of our political system, processes, institutions, and economic reforms.

“Our collective responsibility is to deliver a first world country with happy and safe citizens. This is a call to national service. We all must be more involved, more selfless and more tolerant, acting in the national interest.”

Critical challenges causing economic dysfunction.

Mr. Ighdalo identified non-inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic instability, infrastructure deficit, human capital deficit and skills gap, national insecurity, and weak economic competitiveness as some of the most critical challenges confronting the nation’s economy.

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Infrastructure deficit, the chairman noted, remained a major challenge, with Nigeria ranking 24th out of fifty-four (54) countries covered in the African Development Bank (AfDB) infrastructure index report 2020.

According to him, “national insecurity is at the heart of recent socio-economic issues in Nigeria. If unchecked, the recurrence of community and personal insecurity would continue to threaten macroeconomic stability in Nigeria.

Mr. Ighodalo added “Nigeria’s weak economic competitiveness remains a crucial concern for investors. Businesses in Nigeria face obstacles that threaten their survival and expansion.”

Prof Osita Ogbu, Director, Institute of Development Studies, University of Nigeria, said, “Leaders cause things to happen. Nigeria is classified as the poverty capital of the world, but enough policies are not placed on this inequality because inequality undermines the trust and solidarity, whereby we have an economy of non-inclusive growth.

“On what someone who would be the next president of Nigeria would do, simply the issue of poverty and inequality is pervasive, and it is not a single matter of there are many rich and poor people. It is a matter of citizenship. How do you expect these people who do not have a stake in the country to regard themselves as citizens of this country? Because of this, there is an increase in non-state actors because they do not believe their children have a future in the country.

“On macroeconomics stability on what we should do, let me still say it here that ‘politics is superior to economics’. Fix the politics first, because if you fix the politics that is a major stake to fixing the economy, because major economic policies are made by politicians. This country has no fidelity to national planning.

Country Director, Care Foundation, Dr Hussaini Abdu, said, “As a country we are in a huge development crisis. For the past four decades ASUU strikes have been quite consistent. Universities have become like constituency projects. We are just recovering from the nine-month strike in 2020. The crisis in the universities is a reflection of the crisis in our education sector.

“COVID-19 led to school closure and the out of school number has increased and violent conflict in the North West has also brought about closure of schools and increased out of school children.

“At a time when countries like Botswana could boast about 88 per cent of literacy rate in Nigeria we are still hovering around 57 per cent literacy rate. We need to invest in the education sector. The government only build physical infrastructure but not to mobilize the people to attend school and all leads to corruption in the system as a way to sustain the sector.”

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The Resident Representative of the International monetary Fund, IMF, in Nigeria, Dr Ari Aisen, said, “Nigeria cannot escape from the predicament of global increasing commodity prices. Producers of grain in other parts of the world outside Europe; Ukraine and Russia should avoid the tendency of protecting their own production because that would even compound the problem further in terms of prices.

“When we look at Nigeria closely, the development of the agricultural sector, increasing productivity, allowing the production of food to increase to satisfy the domestic demand for food at affordable prices is important priorities among other priorities.

“Food security is important and there should be a specific attention to it by the government to effectively produce enough food for Nigerians and to prevent shocks.

“Economies that are more diversified in sub-Saharan Africa like Rwanda stand better face to face and mitigate these shocks. The ups and downs in oil prices there is the need to diversify the economy like the case of Nigeria, the economy needs to be diversified to other sectors that have comparative advantage and this will increase Nigeria’s resilience to these shocks. The main engine for growth is diversification of the economy.”

However, he said despite the borrowings by the Nigerian government, the country does not have any risk for now. He also called on the Nigerian government to build the capacity of the people, build the infrastructure, and generate more revenue to service debts.

He also said Nigerians should pay taxes, and there should be transparency and accountability and good governance to sustain the economy.

The Senior Partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal, Olisa Agbakoba, said, “Leadership has been the singular reason from 1960 to date we are not doing well. So we got to be concerned about 2023.

“The tons of presidential candidates, do they understand these issues? Are they capable of tackling these issues? They cannot.

Government should stop strangulating the private sector. Government presses its knee on the neck of the private sector. They should get their knees out and leave the private sector alone to do business, and leave business to the business people.

On the 2023 elections, he said “What Nigerians and politicians are doing now is an absolute waste of time.”

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