Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) Tuesday, 29th April, 2014, advocated a redirection of the nation’s quality human resource to the public sector and a conscious effort by the citizenry to work towards the emergence of a desirable leadership as some of the ways of taking the country forward.
The Governor who spoke as one of the high profile discussants on the theme, “Nigeria @ 100: Reflections on the Future” during the launch of an online newspaper “The Cable” published by former Editor of ThisDay, Mr Simon Kolawole at the City Hall, Lagos, southwest Nigeria, said the problem of Nigeria is not about making the political class the fall guys of the situation.
While situating the problem as that of value system which has greatly depreciated, the Governor said the Nigerian political system does not exist in isolation but is a reflection of the larger Nigerian society.
He said in terms of simple arithmetic, the totality of political office holders at the federal and state levels are not more than 72,000 people and in a country of about 170 million people, the number could not be factually identified as being responsible for the problem of over 170million.
Fashola who sought to know from the audience which was made up largely of media executives and other professionals, how many of them voted during the last general elections and was faced with the reality that very few of them exercised their franchise, stated that such a situation would remain as long as the opinion leaders refuse to participate in the electoral process to make a choice on the kind of leaders they want.
He explained that there is a surplus of leaders in the private sector when compared to the public sector recalling that except for the period of the Alison Ayidas that the public sector boasted of a crop of the best that the nation could offer, there is a need to redirect the nation’s human resource to her area of priority need now which is the public sector.
While painting several scenarios to back up his points, the Governor said corruption is not all about taking money but about breaking rules or cutting corners, stressing that there are several people who have prevailed on public officials to bend the rules in their favour.
He added that what they fail to realize is that each time they tried to cut corners, the shortfall that has resulted from that action is going to be responsible for the inability of the government to perform certain stated tasks.
At the outset, the Governor said in discussing the topic of Nigeria at 100, part of the questions agitating his mind and which no one has provided answers pertain to the fact that Nigeria a couple of years ago rolled out the drums to celebrate her 50 years of independence and that now some years after that it is celebrating Centenary when indeed he has no record of the country celebrating 90th or the 99th year before the Centenary.
The Governor said in terms of measurement of progress already made by the country while many would readily point at the successful introduction of the GSM phones that has brought telephony closer to the people, what has not been achieved is a made in Nigeria telephone handset.
He said part of the ways to promote good leadership is for the people to stop idolizing modest successes by elected public officers, adding that when leaders perform tasks for which they have been elected into public office, such feats should not be celebrated as extraordinary.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Channels Television, Mr. John Momoh said Nigeria can boast of the best set of people and the best type of weather at all times, adding that in spite of the current challenges, the country is still blossoming and would become a great nation.
He said one of the ways to bring about the emergence of great and selfless leaders in the country is to make elective office unattractive so that the real people will step up unlike the current situation where many see elective office as the only short cut to wealth acquisition.
He said with the advent of digital broadcasting in a couple of years, the Nigerian nation will explode in the broadcast world such that in another two decades or so, the country will tower above many other countries of the world.
Momoh also charged governments at various levels to take security very seriously because the signs look very ominous and commended the Lagos State Government for its efforts in clearing the under bridges of undesirable elements saying it is one step that will ensure security of life and property.
Another participant at the session and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu while speaking said the country has made progress in many respects including the telecoms, provision of roads and electricity.
She noted that the National Assembly has to develop a Marshal plan to deal with the issue of unemployment in the country as a way forward.
She added that it is rather regrettable that many Nigerians are very passive about governance and do not get involved and has resulted in a situation where dregs of the society have been elected into public office, saying she dreams of a Nigeria where premium would be placed on excellence.
The Managing Director of Airtel Nigeria, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, who also participated in the discussion said Nigeria would still improve with the incorporation of good governance, commending the Lagos State Government for showing good example of quality governance, adding that his organization just got a refund for a payment it made into the coffers of the state government very recently.
In an interactive session which followed with members of the audience, Governor Fashola said while the people could remain nostalgic about the past, it is expedient to come to terms with facts on ground in terms of resources that are available to those at the helm of affairs at the local government level vis-à-vis what has been achieved.
He said issues such as Primary Health Care and funding of primary education are solely the constitutional responsibility of the local governments, yet the Constitution allocates only 22percent of the federation account revenue to the 774 Local Councils while the Federal Government takes 52 percent and leaves the 36 states with 26 percent.
The Governor said the present structure does not support development and that the only way out is to redress the seeming lopsidedness in the revenue sharing formula and also supported the call for a special status for Lagos as a former federal capital, saying the state should not be allowed to suffer neglect.
He commended Simon Kolawole for moving from ordinary print to digital print, adding that in a new world of digital online publishing, integrity, factual reporting and the highest ethics would be needed to make a headway.
The Publisher of ThisDay Media Group, Mr Nduka Obaigbena who moderated the session expressed the conviction that in the next 100 years, Nigeria would get better in all fields, adding that on his part, he is doing his bit at the ongoing Constitutional Conference where he is a member so that far reaching suggestions can be proffered to the nation’s problems.
The participants were unanimous in commending the Lagos State Governor for distinguishing himself out of the pack in terms of the impactful policies of his administration in the state in all spheres.
Former Military Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar who was the Father of the Day at the event charged all Nigerians to join hands in fighting the several challenges like that of security and a need to reduce poverty in the land.
He appealed to politicians and all Nigerians in general to always put the nation first and forget all their differences when the issue of insecurity and the instability of the nation is at stake, saying the singular fight should be about striving to build a united Nigeria.
The publisher, Mr Simon Kolawole in his vote of assurance thanked all those present for their support while giving a commitment that the cable online newspaper would strive to not only publish events as it happens, it would also seek to find out the views of the other side at all times.
The event was attended by many dignitaries including members of the State Executive Council like state Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello; Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba; President, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Mr. Femi Adesina; and Managing Director, ThisDay, Mr. Eniola Bello.