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On behalf of the National Council of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, I welcome you all to the 34th Annual General Meeting of our Association. Continuity/3rd term controversy
On behalf of the National Council of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, I welcome you all to the 34th Annual General Meeting of our Association.
Continuity/3rd term controversy
Of late, the issue of the continuity of governance by the current administration has raised increasing debate. Some of the views campaigned have tilted towards respect for the current constitution, with the debate dominated by speculations and allegations of bad faith; – accusing the president of "undemocratic intentions as if wishing and intent are crimes against democracy.
Many Nigerians are however saying that they are tired of experimentation and calling for continuity and sustenance of current leadership, direction and reforms – to engineer our country out of poverty, misery and underdevelopment in the shortest possible time.
Perhaps, it is better to look at the issue in a wider perspective with the key objective of determining what is appropriate, just and necessary for our country at this point of its development i.e. what is in the best interest of our nation?
It must be recalled that for over 40 years, we have battled with the institution of appropriate governance structures and procedures that will ensure unity/stability and indivisibility of our great country. A lot has been said about power sharing, power rotation and equitable distribution of resources and good governance. Unfortunately, so little has been done up uptill now, to guarantee a good economic foundation which, in itself should drive the politics of our country.
It must be observed that in the major economies that we have tried to copy, it is economic activities that drive politics, and consequently, whatever government is in power does not really matter much, as the basic social and economic institutions, remain in place with minor tinkering and course corrections, which do not necessary distort or bring about reversal of economic politicies or long-term strategic national objectives or direction.
Upon return to democratic rule in 1999, the current administration discovered, albeit, far into its first term, that the basic social/economic institutions have been destroyed. For example, power generation in 1999 was about at the same level as was the case in 1979. Our health, educational, judciary and other institutions were virtually crippled and no quick or short-term solution earlier attempted at the commencement of the administration, could produce any durable quick fix or sustainable turn-around.
The administration discovered that in order to guarantee long-term and sustainable economic growth, it has to come back to basic fundamentals, hence the birth of our economic reforms under the NEEDS Agenda. These reforms which must be admitted have put some strain on our social fabric, can only lead to long-term economic stability, justice, free enterprise and promotion of worthwhile economic initiatives that are expected to lead to prosperity. Some of the reforms which must be high-lighted are:-
1. Freeing of the economy (liberazation) from the distortions which normally arise from control measures of government. We have seen the benefits in the telecommunications industry. Nigerians, especially the younger ones are increasingly able to actualise various innovative ideas previously constrained by regulatory economic policies that stifled entrepreneurship.
2. War on corruption and other unethical practices that are prevalent in both the private and public sectors.
3. Consolidation and strengthening of the financial institutions and enthronement of appropriate capacity to support economic activity. This is being achieved through increased capitalisation requirement which, hopefully, will also lead to reduction in the cost of funds to business and engender positive inclination and disposition by banks to led tot he productive sectors.
4. Investment in major infrastructural facilities to support increasing level of economic and social activities. The high level of prudence, frugality and unusual sense of discipline which have resulted in the highest level of foreign reserves in the history of Nigeria.
5. De-regulation and removal of various forms of hidden subsidies and bottlenecks which invariably lead to corruption and other unethical practices in its implementation, e.g. "due process" regimen.
6. Restoration of the dignity of the Nigerian nation and its citizens through appropriate consultative interactions, both bilaterally and multilaterally. The recent debt negotiations and write off which is expected to liberate the Nigeria economy and strengthen the fight against poverty – were positive outcomes from such diplomatic initiatives by President Obasanjo.
7. Freeing of our educational and other institutions to ensure the provision of manpower and other mechanism for national growth. No sector is untouched in the reform process – even the judiciary and civil service are undergoing major positive changes.
These reforms together with others not mentioned, are being gradually entreched and it would be a pity if, as a result of the need to ensure formal compliance with the current constitutional provision, we allow a reversal of these positive developments.
The need to guarantee consistency of policy goes beyond the question of whether President Obasanjo remains in power or not. We, as a nation, must view the tremendous achievements we have recorded and guard these jealously to prevent any possibility of a reversal before they are fully entrenched and clearly irreversible.
The question, therefore, is, how do we protect these glorious achievements for a little while longer before full entrenchment or, indeed, how do we ensure that, whichever government comes into power, and in this case, individual or party, sufficient structures are established to prevent major polices somersault and ‘U’ turns?
We believe the debate is on-going but we plead that enlightened opinion should be focused on benefits to the nation, as opposed to whether an individuals stays or goes. The only question should be: What really is in the best interest of our nation?
President Obasanjo as a leader has recorded quite considerable and indeed spectacular achievements. In the process he has risen to the status of a major African president and leader of considerable international clout, respect and repute. The ongoing debate should also focus and contemplate what Nigeria should do with such experienced, mature human resource in Africa where there are few reputable statesmen with personal discipline and integrity.
Should we perhaps pack him in a box or basket and put him on the shelf of retired leaders and seek out a neophyte with whom we should experiment as dictated by our constitution bequeathed by the military regime? These are the extreme choices open to us. So what are we going to do?
All I am permitted to say is that the Private Sector is worried about the need for sustainability of current momentum of development. The anxiety of course stems from the fear of very possible policy reversals and U-turns which had occurred in our past history in governance.
It is therefore urgent and of prime importance that institutions vested with the power and authority to ensure/regulate governance should begin the process and discussions that will guarantee stability of the polity and sustain the direction and momentum of our current economic reforms and national progress. These are issues of concern to the Private Sector and we are honest and open about it.
Engr. C.C. Ugwuh
15th November, 2005