Feature: No Policy Commitement or Manifesto Pledges from the Nigerian Presidential Candidates

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by Ayo Akinfe

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Nigeria’s election campaign is devoid of policy commitments or manifesto pledges. All we are seeing are Chatham House photo opportunities, so I ask why we expect good governance from whoever wins

[1] To address a nation’s socio-economic problems, you have to understand the thinking of its people, appreciate their outlook and understand the pace at which they are ready to advance. This will inform the choices you make as you try to accelerate the pace of development

[2] My reading of the Nigerian mentality is that the average person is taught from a young age to go to school, work hard and then make as much money as they can. Every Friday and Sunday they go to the church or mosque to pray for deliverance and the rest of the weekend is spent enjoying themselves. Anything outside that is considered taking your average Nigerian beyond the confines of their comfort zone

[3] Of late, things have changed significantly as people tend to be more daring, especially within the commercial sector. There are a lot of innovative young entrepreneurs who have torn up the rule book and ventured into hitherto forbidden areas. This is particularly the case with Nollywood and the music industry. One other area where I see this is with the growth of evangelical churches. Some of these new-age clergymen or pastorprueners are tearing up the old orthodoxy and re-writing the rules

[4] Our problem as a people appears to be that this dynamism has not filtered through to the art of governance. While we get General Overseers who are daring enough to build the world’s largest churches, we do not produce local government chairmen, governors, commissioners, ministers and heads of parastatals keen on building the world’s tallest buildings, longest bridges, fastest trains, biggest dams, largest hospitals, etc

[5] Now, if we want to be fair, most countries tend to grow organically and evolve over time. In Europe, for instance, it took about 300 years for most nations to grow from rural peasant societies into industrialised ones. Our challenge in Africa is that we do not have that luxury of time, so need to force the pace of development. This, however presents it own challenges

[6] What this means is that we need radical leadership that will introduce accelerated development, as we saw in Singapore and Dubai and are currently witnessing in China. I still believe the global record was the Soviet Union, where Joseph Stalin’s forced collectivisation programme led to year-on-year 28% economic growth for about a decade. Given that Nigeria’s population is growing at a rate of almost 3%, we simply need to see double digit growth of this kind to notice any significant impact on people’s lives

[7] Unfortunately, our religious leaning makes us think like the Children of Israel. We want a messiah to appear from nowhere ala Moses, who led them into the Promised Land and Jesus Christ who tore up the Mosaic Laws and gave them a new constitution. In both cases, their two gentlemen were sole administrators. They did not have to get consensus for their actions. They just led and their supporters followed

[8] As a nation, we want that kind of messiah but would we be willing to follow him or her blindly without question in the knowledge that the destination is the Promised Land? I somehow doubt it. This is why the concept of waiting for “good leaders” or God-fearing/anointed rulers who will come and eliminate corruption, build infrastructure, end nepotism, etc is a pipe dream. If anything, what we need is more organic development across the board, as we have seen with our pastorprueners who have gone from nothing to becoming private jet owners within 10 years

[9] When I look at someone like Bayo Ogunlesi, I can see what is missing in our political leaders and in the country at large. Here is a man who in 2009 bought London Gatwick Airport for £1.45bn and turned it around. At the time, BAA sold it to him because the airport was making a loss but he revamped it and a few years later, the airport was profitable again. Mr Ogunlesi also bought London City and Edinburgh airports, turning them round too. He sold London City Airport for a profit after turning its fortunes around

[10] Across Europe, societies have been built by men and women like this who just have a passion for one thing and dedicate their whole lives to the cause. Be it railways, steel, wheat, roads, social housing, anatomy, power supply, rope manufacturing, garbage collection, retailing, clothing etc, what we have seen is men and women devote like 60 years of their lives to their passion. Many of them died penniless but contended because they saw their dreams come to fruition. We have to ask ourselves if we produce enough people like this. If we do not, do we have the moral right to demand leaders of this calibre?

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