‘Revive national development plans, focus on self reliance’ (2)
SINCE we abandoned National Development Plans of known duration and content in 1986 in favour of globalisation, privitisation, conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund and market forces in terms of profit making by banks and other financial institutions at all costs, especially reduction in the quality of life of our individual citizens, the nation has been beset with a myriad of problems. The problems include lack of security of life; erratic power supply and decline in the provision and maintenance of other engineering services; youth unemployment; depreciating currency and crippling foreign debt burden.
The Naira, which in 1986 was equivalent to US$1.5 is now equivalent to only about 0.5 (or 1/2) of a US Cent at N200 (or even more naira) being exchanged for US$1. The nation’s economy is now being run on the basis of debt level determined and dictated by the technologically advanced countries and international moneylenders as if Nigeria is no longer an independent country.
Preparation of Annual Budgets has become problematic and Budget implementation is now based on unpredictable quarterly allocations. Yet Nigeria, until mid 2014 was still receiving income from export of crude oil and natural gas at levels comparable with the case when the nation joined the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1972.
There is need for us as a nation to return to National Development Plans of known duration and content and adopting self-reliance as our national ideology. This will mean that the development of our human resources will take precedence over the search for foreign investors to come and develop our country at the expense of their own countries! While we have a commission for promoting foreign investment, there is no such organisation for developing and promoting local talents and expertise. This is an area where the saying “charity begins from home” should be emphasised. After all, there is nowhere in history where foreigners have gone to develop foreign lands in the interest of the indigenes. Rather they either wipe out the indigenes or subject those who survive to a life of servitude. Nigeria is not likely to be the first exception. Therefore, we should adopt the doctrine of using what we have to get what we need.
Self-Reliance is a very powerful tool that can be used to fight corruption, which has been identified as one of the most serious problems facing the nation today. There is no doubt that the worst aspect of this corruption is the large net outflow of financial resources from the country. It is acknowledged that there is no country in the world that is free of corruption because of human greed, but where it is internalised the net outflow of money is negative. The surest way to reduce both legal and illegal outflow of financial resources is by using indigenous organisations and professionals as much as possible to provide the goods and services required in the country.
Adoption of the philosophy of self-reliance as our national ideology can also be a very effective tool for pursuing poverty alleviation. This will mean that we must first look inwards to see whether we have individuals in our own country who can do what we want to do before going to look for foreigners to do them for us. In this way millions of employment opportunities either being neglected or being enjoyed by foreigners, especially through importation of goods and services that used to be produced or can be produced in the country, will be taken up by our citizens, thereby allowing the wealth of the nation to be evenly distributed instead of being concentrated in a few hands. It should be noted that the technologically advanced countries improve their trade balances through “invisible earnings” which are made up of earnings from services performed by their indigenes in such fields as consultancy, shipping, insurance, etc. In our own case, our foreign trade is worsened by “visible losses” based on our using foreigners to provide goods and services, which our own manpower can provide!
We, therefore, need to establish institutions, which will promote the use of our indigenous manpower by giving them opportunities for them to use their talents and intellect for the development of their own country. The Civil Service is being suggested to be the prime institution that should do this. It may be recalled that the British colonial imperialists, though not due to any altruistic motive but out of necessity, established a Civil Service to support their administration of the country. The Civil Service operated along well-established rules and regulations coded as General Orders, with emphasis on merit and justice without favour. There were no sacred cows and nobody was above the law. The Civil Servants were very good in following established procedures and keeping accurate records of their actions in order to ensure accountability and transparency. They were also very humble, dedicated, disciplined and honest. They were prepared to subject their actions to scrutiny by any citizen.
To this end, all correspondence to citizens began with “Dear Sir or Madam” and ended with “I am your obedient Servant.” Public Office holders, therefore, behaved like servants of individual citizens instead of lording it over them as of nowadays. A Government Printing Press was established to provide an outlet where any individual could obtain copies of publications giving details about Government activities. Some of the most popular of these publications were the Annual Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, Hansards recording proceedings in the Legislature and Weekly Gazettes.
The set of indigenous Civil Servants who took over from the colonialists tried as much as possible to continue the traditions they inherited. However, once the Military carried out a coup d’etas in January 1966 and then continued to have a series of about ten others, successful or otherwise, the performance of the Civil Service gradually declined until it is merely a shadow of its former self-today. The Civil Service is a very important part of the public service. Apart from being the principal organ responsible for the implementation of government programmes and projects it also plays a vital role in the formulation of government policy on various issues through officers in the higher echelons of the Service.
TO BE CONTINUED
•Oseni is a former Director, Development and Engineering, Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja.