Nigeria’s march to true greatness can only begin with the implementation of the recommendations of the National Conference convened last year by President Goodluck Jonathan.
That was the consensus of eminent Nigerians who attended the inaugural Daily Times Leadership Forum, held at the company’s premises in Agidingbi, Lagos, last Thursday.
The leaders maintained that the recommendations of the conference are the surest way to guarantee equity, justice and growth in the country.
At the forum were the chairman of the presidential advisory committee on the conference who was consequently one of its members when it was eventually convened, Senator Femi Okurounmu; and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the United State, Professor George Obiozor.
Also present were the CEO of First Katalyst Communications Ltd., Mr Soji Odedina; and the President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Olusoji Salako.
The Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, who was billed to attend but could not, sent her views on how the country could address its many problems.
When asked about when Nigeria, a nation of great promise at birth, took the wrong turn, Comrade Salako identified the discovery of oil and the consequential abandonment of agriculture.
The ASSBIFI President, who is also a Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said:
“Agriculture was what was giving us value and we were showing dividends of that by monumental edifices that you could point at: the first TV station in Africa, Cocoa House in Ibadan, first radio station in Nigeria, Kano groundnut pyramid, coal in Enugu, oil plantation, and others. But the moment we wanted to cut corners, because we knew that so much money was coming in from oil, then we decided to abandon what we were doing right.”
Professor Obiozor argued that Nigeria could not get anything right until it solved its political problems. He recalled the statement of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, who said
Do you agree that the President-elect should simply fix electricity and the economy and leave the rest?
The truth of the matter is which economy? You mentioned Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah once said: “Seek ye first the political kingdom and everything else will follow.”
Obiozor said further: “We must all accept this fact; Nigeria is a country whose past is better than its present and its future is still in a serious doubt even by a serious nationalist. We must sincerely stop the idea of denial; countries that live in denial will always have fundamental problems. Thank God we had the National Conference; the confab is a landmark, and a place to begin the rebuilding of our nation, Nigeria.”
He added: “The country must be rebuilt from the foundation. We are tired of blaming the colonialists, tired of blaming leaders; fundamentally, we must discover what is wrong. To me, what is wrong with Nigeria is structural; a defective structure that we inherited and we persisted in it.”
Odedina spoke about the need for a vision and a mission as the roadmap for the nation’s growth. He said: “I take the example of the UAE, a country where every Nigerian now when we are on holidays, desire to visit. One man, Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, saw a vision that, ‘this island in the desert will one day become a place where the whole world will be attracted to’. Europe is no longer the centre of the world; Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the centres of the world because that is where everybody goes now. What have they done differently? They looked at the whole world and decided to create something out of nothing. Only a single man saw the vision. What has been the vision for Nigeria since inception? The kind of business that I do, if you don’t have a vision or mission statement, your business is doomed from the beginning. It is vision that will help you to think of what you can become in the nearest future.”
To Senator Okurounmu, the recent presidential election was significant because it showed the country’s fault lines, which he warned must not be glossed over.
He noted that apart from the South West and a sprinkle of the North Central which voted on the basis of a desire for good governance, the remaining part of the country was decidedly motivated by ethnic and religious inclinations.
He said: “We pretend that everything is fine, we bury our noses in the sand refusing to see the problem. This election has revealed a number of problems about Nigeria which in spite of the euphoria that is being propagated by several sections of the media, I hope the President-elect will see that these are challenges ahead for him.”
He said that Buhari “must see to it that he implements all the recommendations from the National Conference.”
In her contribution, sent by email, the Finnish ambassador said that free education, free meals and free healthcare were largely guaranteed in his country, but added that the schemes were provided through a tax scheme.
She said: In Finland education is indeed free of charge from primary school to university level. High-quality education is available to all, regardless of where they live, or what their income level is. This allows for everybody to realize their full potential, and enables us to make the most of the talent that we have in our country. This very comprehensive system is funded through taxes.”