By Joke Adeniyi-Jackson and Adebayo Olodan
Egg heads last Thursday brainstormed on national issues bordering on economy and restructuring, at a roundtable convened by the National Pilot Newspaper, held at the NUJ Press Centre, Ilorin, Kwara State
The discussants dissected the national issues and proffered way forward towards development and growth of the country.
The panelists were Professor Hassan Saliu abd Professor Israel Olufemi Taiwo of the University of Ilorin, Professor Adigun Agbaje of the University of Ibadan and Professor Matthew Odedokun of the Kwara State University.
Prof. Hassan addressed the topic, The current debate on restructuting : Genesis, dynamics and its nature, while Professor Agbaje gave ‘An appraisal of the proposals for restructuring in Nigeria.
Prof Taiwo economy with the theme: Understanding the fundamentals of Nigerian Economy and its current challenges.
The KWASU don x-ray the economy through his topic: Workable options for revamping Nigerian Economy.
The epoch making event which was chaired by the Emir of Shonga, Alhaji (Dr.) Ndanusa Haliru Yahaya, had in attendance array of dignitaries.
Present at the programme were government functionaries, captains of industry, media gurus, members of Civil Society of Nigeria, members of professional associations such as the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) among others.
Speakers after speaker identified the political and economic challenges bedevilling the nation and has stifled its growth and development over the years.
Restructuring, which has taken the front burner in the political landscape with political and non political actors lending their voices to the national discourse, was thrown up at the event.
Professors Hassan and Agbaje gave their perspectives to the concept of restructuring and how it has defined the political scene in Nigeria lately.
In his opening remarks. the convener of the roundtable, the Editor-in-Chief/the Managing Director of National Pilot Newspaper, Alhaji Billy Adedamola said the essence of the programme is to contribute to national discourse towards shaping the country.
According to him, the outcome of the roundtable would be transmitted to policy makers towards national development.
“We owe a duty to discuss two national issues; Economy and Restructuring. Those two issues have taken the front burner of discussion in Nigeria. Thus whatever we came up with in terms of views will be channeled to the policy makers.”
He, however, stated that the bane of national development is the lack of political will on the part of the leadership to efficiently manage the country’s abundant resources; a problem which he said the roundtable would address.
In his address, the Emir of Shonga decried the mismanagement of the country’s vast human and natural resources, just has he called for the democratisation of the nation’s vision.
Presenting his paper, Prof. Taiwo noted that the country has made considerable social-economic progress over time, stating that Nigerian economy has increased by eight folds while the income per capital has nearly doubled.
The don attributed the development to various economic reforms and policies of previous administrations including the Structural Adjustment Program of 1986. with the efficacy of these thwart policy to the Nigerian economy.
Taiwo, however, said that the country is lacking in development indices, saying “Human development in Nigeria is improving, but remain low by international standard by 0.5 to 0.527 indexes.” “If Nigeria is to move forward the gap in human Capital and entrepreneur must be bridged.Nigeria is yet to transit from primary products and it is only about 25 per cent of Nigeria products that are manufactured domestically. The dichotomies between formal and informal sectors of the economy need to be addressed.”
As way out, the don advised the current government to formulate and implement the National Integrated Infrastructure policy and implement power sector reform.
“We should increase funding in research, improve the education system and adopt the system of meritocracy. We should improve our value to philosophical issues,”he added.
Professor Odedokun in his presentation said for economic revival the country must addresss, low growth in the size of economy, high level of unemployment and inequitable distribution of wealth and income among others.
He advised that Sovereign Wealth Fund should be adopted- where the government can save money in terms of equity and bonds since oil is cyclical, thus saving for the raining days.
According to him, adopting SWF policy would have saved Nigeria from the recently experienced economic recession.
Speaking on devaluation of the nation’s currency, Prof Odedokun said, “If you depreciate currency by 60 per cent, there will be a net gain. However, the fixed income earners will suffer if government deliberately devalues currency in Nigeria due to inflation rate.”
In his submission, a professor of Political Science, University, of Ilorin, Hassan Saliu, listed lopsided appointment, nepotism and favoritism and uneven distribution of projects, among others as reasons for agitation for restructuring in the country.
According to him, the restructuring agitation has large effect on the political direction of the present administration.
“The agitation for restructuring is diversionary to the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, stoking ethic tension and engendering mutual suspicion,” he stated.
To put the restructuring agitation to rest, Prof Saliu advised the Federal Government to engage in the debate.
“The President must assert himself as the leader of the All Progressives Congress and he should heed the advice of Prof . Bolaji Akinyemi by educating his kinsmen on restructuring. President Buhari should make up his mind on 2014 constitutional report.”
Delivering his paper; ‘An Appraisal of the proposals for restructuring in Nigeria’ Prof. Adigun Agbaje from the University of Ibadan, described the Emir’s position on attitudinal change as the only solution to the nation’s problem.
He said, “You cannot give what you don’t have. Nigeria is yet to have democracy especially with the wide spiral of impunity in our system.
“We need to first get the basis right. We don’t have federalism in terms of minimal requirement. We should not demonise Nigeria. Restructuring has longed be with Nigeria and federalism comes along with restructuring.”
Speaking further, Prof Agbaje said, the American system is structured, and its citizen hardly debates it. He added that the only country without structure is USSR.
“Our efforts should move from centric noise to one based on culture and values. A culture that forbids impunity,” he stated.
The Don went further by saying Nigeria’s progress is negotiable but should be devoid of violence and anger.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin Branch, Barr. Issa Manzuma, who stressed the urgent need for a social and constitutional order, said the country must begin a process of political and economic healing through constitutionalism.
He commended National Pilot Newspaper for the roundtable, which he said is a way of contributing to national issues and nation building.
“I want to acknowledge Alhaji Billy Adedamola, the intelligent Editor-in-Chief/Managing Director of National Pilot Newspapers for organising this event, He has brought to fore the role of media in nation building.
“Billy exemplifies how to use the press for progress, fight demagogues of all parties, remain devoted to public welfare, not satisfied within merely printing news but investigative news reporting, which is typical of National Pilot Newspaper,” he added. While delivering the vote of thanks, former chief press secretary to the former Kwara State governor, Alh. Mas’ud Adebimpe, said the event will in no small measure shape the future of the country.
Adebimpe, who appreciated the Chairman of the occasion, the discussants and the guests however charged the organisers to ensure its sustainability.