Presented by * Austeen Anibe Otene * today being August 24, 2019, at a Public Lecture with theme, Economic and Socio-Political Reform in Nig...

Presented by *Austeen Anibe Otene* today being August 24, 2019, at a Public Lecture with theme, Economic and Socio-Political Reform in Nigeria - Youth taking the lead; organized by the National Association of Kogi State Students (NAKOSS), Ahmadu Bello University Chapter, Zaria.

According to Wikipedia, Reform is simply the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc. The use of the word in this way emerged in the late 18th century and is believed to originate from Christopher Wyvill's Association movement which identified “Parliamentary Reform” as its primary aim.

Reform is generally distinguished from revolution. The latter means basic or radical change; whereas reform may be no more than fine tuning, or at most redressing serious wrongs without altering the fundamentals of the system. Reform seeks to improve the system as it stands, never to overthrow it wholesale. Radicals on the other hand, seek to improve the system, but try to overthrow whether it be the government or a group of people themselves.

Having said this, let us take the Nigeria situation into perspective. Economic and Socio-political reforms in Nigeria have posed serious challenge(s) to many Nigerian governments since our independence in 1960. This has been a major challenge to both past and even the present government who have always struggled to advance this country through economic reforms. This has led to creating programmes such as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which was started in September 1986 and also the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) (2004-2007) under former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

The NEEDS programme under then-president Obasanjo, focused on four main areas which are: pursuing structural reforms, strengthening public expenditure management, improving the macroeconomic environment and implementing institutional and governance reforms. Recall at some point in our history, Nigeria’s economy was hit with a collapse in oil price which has been a commodity that became a beautiful-evil bride to our development as a country. Nigeria was faced with economic crisis as at the time which was a result of high exposure to external debts, inflation, and recession.

Today, to a very large extent all these efforts of reforms have been futile as it affects the innocent child on the street who must hawk, hence there will be no lunch in the house or dinner and monies to pay school fees as well as medical bills. Recall as mentioned earlier, as our economy nosedived, the concern lead to the introduction of SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme) which started in September 1986. It was indeed a programme designed to alleviate poverty, however, the indicators show that SAP was a failed programme just like the N-Power programme introduced by the present Nigerian government. We must create policies and not programmes.

Until recently, when we hear about agriculture being a channel to diversify our economy, agriculture was central to Nigeria's economic structure till the early 1990s. It was one of the core sources of Nigeria’s foreign currency. However, over the years, the agricultural sector has become sort of a grey area for our economy. Today, we can all agree that the Nigerian economy is known to be a mono-economy, depending solely on oil. Leaders like State Governors have become sort of lazy and redundant when it comes to innovation and development ideologies as they must depend on the Federal Government’s allocation from FAAC before they can pay wages and run government. What is happening to our mineral resources?

The question is why are we not taking advantage of the over 30 solid minerals we are blessed with such the Aqua Marine, Cassiterite, Dolomite, Gemstone, Gold, Marble, Silimonite, Talc & Tantalite, Barite, Bauxite, Betonite, Bismuth, Coal, Emeral, Fluoride, Gemstone, Granite, Lead/Zinc, Salt, Tantalite/Columbite, Tin & Clay, Flakes, Gold, Granite, Gypsium, Laterite, Limestone, Phosphate, Potash, Silica Sand, Soda Ash & Tintomite, Dolomite, Feldspar, Gypsium, Iron-ore, Kaolin, and more.

As a matter of priority and urgency, the government must swiftly act towards practical diversification of Nigeria's economy. It is the only feasible way to survive through the current environment of global economic instability with the unpredictability of oil price.

In the past, oil was a good base for revenue generation. However, the value is diminishing so fast because other nations around Nigeria and the world have discovered oil in commercial volume posing serious economic threats to Nigeria. Also with the world tilting towards green energy, oil would in no distant time become sort of a devalued commodity. The reforms within the agriculture sector must be holistic and realistic. There should be a flexible lending programme by banks such as the BOI (Bank of Industry) and the BOA (Bank of Agriculture) to support reform programmes through agriculture and industrialization.

Now let us bring this discussion home in practical terms. Are there any Economic and Socio-political reforms in Nigeria? In a self-based analysis, I want to say unequivocally without prejudice that there has been none designed to succeed and this is characterized by some factors such as:

▪️Lack of Leadership
▪️Lack of Checks and Balances
▪️Weak Institutions
▪️Weak Constitution
▪️Lack of Political Will
▪️Poor or weak democracy
▪️Weak Policies

I do think that as a country, we must all come out of hideouts and task ourselves if indeed we want to create Economic and Socio-political reforms in Nigeria. It is a bottom-top and top-bottom action. Everyone must get involved and this is where the role of youths taking the lead must be a thing of high concern with every youth of this nation.

They must do well to get into leadership position. They must be focused to pursue purposeful leadership values eschewing all forms of vices ranging from drug abuse, cultism, financial fraud, hooliganism, robbery vis-à-vis social-vices.

So the question is, what role(s) exactly are the youths playing in this aspect? This is the question we must sincerely ask if we are determined to create the desired change our country deserves. The true reform and revolution have to be an individual effect on individual basis. We must reset our individual mindsets positively if truly we are ready to change reform this nation.

Thank You
*Austeen Anibe Otene*
Rights & Equality / Climate Change Activist




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