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Obasanjo, Experts Task Elites on Reversing ‘Nigerianisation’ of Poverty

Nigeria’s economic, political and academic elites were, yesterday, challenged to rise up to the duty of elite bargain and consensus that could have growth and development as its focus in order to reverse the country’s decent to Nigerianisation of poverty for the rest of Africa, Thisday reports.

This challenge was thrown yesterday during Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation’s “In Conversation with Professor Stefan Dercon” by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, along with other eminent Nigerians like former Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Chairman of Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, amongst others.

These eminent Nigerians argued that development would not happen until the country’s elite jettison self-centered gains and began to unite around certain long term development objectives, to influence polices toward those directions.

They also charged Nigerians to be wary of bringing the anger of the youths on the entire nation by mismanaging the 2023 general election.

Dercon, who was the author of “Gambling on Development: Why Some Countries Win and Others Fail,” warned Nigeria’s elite against favouring distributive politics by yielding to zero-sum game, “which means that those, who control the state will make sure that they benefit from it and those who do not control won’t get anything,” adding: “Spending 10 minutes to run a country and the remaining 23 hours, 50 minutes to line ones pocket” ruins development.

He said conceptualisation of politics as stealing from the people and sharing the loot with a few would increase poverty, pointing out that Nigeria, along with Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, and Zambia were among the nations that have doubled the people living in extreme poverty instead of reducing it.

He said Nigeria needed “an elite bargain that involved a shared commitment to growth and development, serious about peace and stability and a self-aware state in the service of growth and development.”

Dercon said sensible policies matter and actions and behaviours of the actors could make a difference by influencing development.

Obasanjo, in his contribution, said, “In Nigeria, the talk is not about Africanisation of poverty but the Nigerianisation of poverty for Africa. If Nigeria gets it right, chances are that we might become a catalyst for the rest of Africa to begin to thrive. And once Nigeria does not get it right, most countries in Africa cannot get it right.”

He said though Nigerian elite must be aware that not “a consensus that the critical mass of the elite must agree on and influence the movement of the state to that direction. Two, there must be a focus point and unity of purpose, which our national anthem and pledge have given us something to hang on, and three, development does not happen unless it is made to happen and must go along with equity by improving the citizens’ living standard. Nigeria’s case is not a basket case. Nigeria situation is a poor management case.”

He added that the point has been made clearly that if Nigeria failed to take 2023 very seriously, “we will all be consumed by the frustration and the anger of the youths. And I don’t take that lightly.”

Aig-Imoukhuede, on his part, harped on the need to create an elite consensus, saying, “I am nervous, because if we fail to come up with a framework that takes Nigeria out of its ‘stuck-reverse problem’ in our development, we will be heading to the Nigerianisation of poverty. If we cannot reach a consensus, but continue to say we cannot do it, the future of Nigeria will be very dire and I cannot live with that possibility no matter how much blessings God has bestowed on me.

“We cannot fail to organise ourselves as elites as other nations have done. And it is never too late, because at some point in time, the consequences will be too dire for us to face. And I hope that time will not come.”

Moghalu identified four levels of elites in Nigeria that are made up of former heads of state, traditional ruler, politicians and business moguls.

He added that because these elites have failed to come to a consensus and because the state was not functioning due to its weak capacity, what might happen is that the youth of Nigeria might force a change out of disappointment.

“They are outside force, because they have been kept out. But today they are bringing their voices to the table whether the elites like it or not. The danger in this phenomenon is that if it is not carefully managed it could happen in a way that may not be peaceful depending on how the election goes in 2023,” he said.

Jega in his contribution, harped on the need for the elite to agree on what is the direction of development than paying attention to self-serving objectives.

He however, said, “Unless we address the real composition of the state, which is its capacity to discharge its traditional roles, no matter what elite bargain you have, you cannot drive growth and development.

“It does not matter whether a cat is black or white so far it catches mouse. A wise cat that thinks about tomorrow does not eat pregnant mice. But I think in Nigeria, most of our prominent cats are busy catching pregnant mouse.”


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