By OTUNBA GBENGA DANIEL
Being text of the opening remarks of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Chancellor of the Political Leadership Training Institute (POLA) at the Continuous Political Education Programme of POLA with the Theme, “Understanding Democracy, Quality Representation and Political Management”, Friday 17 September- Sunday 19 September, 2021.
On August 28th, 1963, Baptist Church minister and one of the most prominent civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. was preparing to address the enormous crowd in Washington, D.C.
As usual, he had prepared his speech to talk about civil and equal rights for all irrespective of race or creed.
While on the podium, in between his speech, he paused to collect his thoughts, in the midst of that silence, Mahalia Jackson, a singer at the event shouted, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”
Martin Luther King Jr. looked at her, paused again, and then gave what arguably became one of the biggest and most memorable speeches in world history. Unprepared, unwritten, spontaneously.
Many know Dr. King to be a fantastic orator, but beyond that, he was a leader of note and an example to many who pursue the ideals of human rights and responsible leadership.
For citizens to enjoy good governance, they must ensure that only the best hands are handed over the mantle of leadership.
Today, many strive to be like Dr. King, they memorize his speeches and talk about the dream of a just society with all the ingredients of human rights. If there is one thing many political scholars have agreed on, it is the fact that democracy remains the best form of government, especially in the protection of civil liberty and freedom. As expected, it is not perfect, in fact, it may seem chaotic at first, especially for people of diverse historical systems and cultural practices, however, despite the challenges that it comes with, history has shown time and again that it remains the most reliable and the best form of collective or representative governance with a sense of belonging to everyone.
But democracy is not a magic wand, in fact, it is a computer data processing system that thrives on the reliability of the data inputted. For citizens to enjoy good governance, they must ensure that only the best hands are handed over the mantle of leadership. When we fail to give public offices to individuals with the right quality and capacity, we end up with a GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out).
But it is not also enough to give power, citizens play a crucial role in society. They are the ombudsman who checkmate the process and ensure that elected representatives perform optimally. For a society to be better, the citizens must avoid the siddon-look approach and participate in the process. They must critique, guide, educate, inform and most especially render assistance when required for collective prosperity.
I have read the news and watched videos from diverse groups and individuals who have been calling on me to run for some National offices in 2023; while this is neither the time nor the occasion to react to such clamour, I agree mostly with their reasons.
The position that only those with the required capacity should be allowed to make laws and sanction policies that affect the lives of the citizens cannot be overemphasised not just in Ogun state but the entire country. The National Assembly plays a vital role in our democracy and requires the best of vibrant intellectuals our nation has to offer. Laws made must be in tandem with the goals to create a better society for the people, one not just rooted in the ideals of good governance but forged with the mindset of the advancement of the present inventions and future innovations.
But in all these, our dream of a prosperous country will amount merely to a wait for Godot if unity takes the back seat. The raging clamour for succession across the country is a slippery slope that poses a danger to our nation. The agitation for a divided Nigeria is an agitation that will do great harm to all the indexes that make us matter in the continent and globally.
When people say our strength lies in our unity, what they refer to is the demographic economic advantage that only a united Nigeria can offer. Globally, we are being referenced and respected not just for our economic power but our strength.
Many may not be aware but every nation that is tagged as a superpower or a force to be reckoned with today has a population economics advantage, while those who are smaller in size have a relaxed immigration process to bring in people to make up for their shortages. The visa lottery system by the United States of America (and lately Canada and Australia) path to citizenship scheme, education visas etc are good examples.
It will be unfair for me to say this is the Nigeria of our dream, but to achieve that dream, every citizen must roll up their sleeves to give their best for the country to develop. The task is a collective one and it must come from Nigerians. Americans developed the United States, Chinese developed China, only Nigerians can develop Nigeria.
As an advocate for restructuring, I believe in compartmental growth, one which will relax the pressure on the centre and advance the economic strength of the federating units. But this approach must be systemic and not brash. A sudden fiscal restructuring that doesn’t focus on collective economic growth for all states will create a chaotic migration problem and burden for the developed ones. Hence, the approach for a heterogeneous country like ours will be to create a blueprint that will assist all federating units to reach sustainable economy that thrives on local economic growth relying on the peculiar economic niche. I repeat, the path to Nigeria’s economic growth lies on the universe of values; on the nation’s ability to develop a clear ten-year roadmap for local productions of all that its citizens must consume. This will answer not only to its economic recovery, but more importantly towards addressing what is now becoming its perennial security challenges.
Therefore, restructuring plan can best work when the federating states have the potential for self-sufficiency. This underscores the need for a ten years blueprint for economic revolution across the country; the mono-economic dependency system is unsustainable, and archaic. Let’s call it “A path to restructuring” but it must be one with the plan “no state is left behind”.
For instance, every political party including the All Progressive Congress have Restructuring in their Campaign and Policy documents (albeit in various forms and perspectives), what is therefore left is for creative leaders to channel the national thinking towards unity of purpose and common goals. Nigeria needs leaders who can manage our diversities for optimum advantage using the Principles of Comparative Costs and Advantage to develop every part of the country simultaneously.
The United States of America is one of the most heterogeneous society in the world, (Caucasians, African Americans, Chinese, Koreans, Hispanics, Jews, Arabs, Indians etc) but to chart a clear path of growth and progress, the Founding Fathers of the biggest economy in the world set for themselves what they call the “American Dream”. I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is “Where is the Nigerian Dream?”
Of course, it could be argued that some countries have disintegrated successfully, but what calls for research is ‘To what end?’. We need to probe further on the development of all such countries. Only successful models needs copying from. I stand to be corrected, no nation devalues itself to prosperity. We need to emphasise on those things and qualities that unite us rather than those which divide us.
Creativity leadership is about managing and tapping into the economic advantages of each State for the common good.
Every regions, states, tribes or ethnic cleavages in Nigeria have subsets of groups and all with distinct historical and cultural identities. So, for every agitation of ethnic cleavages are we going to recommend further Balkanization. In Kaduna State alone, we have more than ten different and distinct cultural groupings, ditto for Ogun (where I have had the rare privilege to govern and have been confronted with balancing various competitive interests), Oyo, Enugu, Anambra, Borno, Adamawa, Ondo, Cross River, Imo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Sokoto, Kano just to mention a few. Our diversity needs to be converted into strength rather than continuously allowing it to weaken us.
Creativity leadership is about managing and tapping into the economic advantages of each State for the common good. Kano, Sokoto and many other northern states for leather from hides and skin; Ogun and Ondo for Bitumen; Niger Delta States for petroleum and chemicals; the hills and rocks of the Eastern States for marbles and granites which are just polished stones; Cocoa with value added in the Western states. Every part of the country also have adequate Human Resources and manpower that can be exported for foreign exchange to balance trade deficits. This will strengthen our currency especially if we can also reduce our thirst and taste for foreign goods and shun ostentatious lifestyles.
I have always said this, and I repeat, Nigeria does not have any reason to be poor. We tried this model in Ogun State when I was Governor, we tried to develop the Tourism industry, we used sports as an economic instrument to create job opportunities and to solving social problems dealing with crimes. All social problems can best be handled by creating economic prosperity for the larger number of people.
On this note, I welcome you all to the Bootcamp for intellectual discourse and training and hope that at the end of your stay, you will be leaving this institution better than you came.