The future we eagerly desire (1)

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

On the 28th of September, President Muhammadu Buhari stepped forward to address distinguished world leaders and delegates and pledged Nigeria’s commitment to some goals, which according to him, “mirror the hopes and aspirations of much of the world.” New York was the location. The 70th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly was the setting. The official adoption of the ratified, though not binding, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a successor to the marginally achieved Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), was the occasion. These goals, 17 in number, with 169 smart targets, are expected to inform national (and local) agenda and policies and stimulate actions on issues affecting the world, its people and their environment, over the next 15 years.

Interestingly, President Buhari stressed and justified the addition of ‘peace’ as the seventh essential element of the SDGs, which, indeed, is a critical area of importance for humanity and the planet. If the speech delivered by the President were anything to go by, there is no doubt Nigeria would be liberated from its economic, political and social shackles in the nearest future. Sadly, over the years, Nigerians have seen leaders make such passionate declarations but failed to come to grips with the promises. With everyone called to demand actions and hold their leaders accountable for the SDGs, they cannot afford to remain simple-minded or torpid. As a matter of fact, it is high time they stopped paying lip service to the pillars of sustainable development; namely, social progress, economic growth and environmental protection. Like the famous Chinese proverb, the best time to have been on the path to an inclusive, long-term and sustainable
economic growth and development was 15 years ago and, the second best time, preferably to align our national development plans with such fundamental goals, is now.

Profound and united efforts must, therefore, be made to rise above the multiplicity of challenges that plagued the implementation of the MDGs.

Whilst the nation must mobilise actions on all 17 goals, Nigerian students at the prestigious Imperial College London, are demanding immediate actions on two far-reaching goals, based on ideological preferences. These goals are eight – decent work and economic growth, and nine– industry, innovation and infrastructure. For goal eight, leaders must promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, whilst for the latter, they must build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation. At the Imperial College Nigerian Society (ICNS), we could argue that tackling these squarely, with a sense of urgency, would provide some needed momentum and platform to tackle other goals, and also create a sense of early success.

Having seen the distortion in the country’s economic fundamentals, the corruption and conflicts that have resulted from a huge influx of oil and gas revenues – a phenomenon called Oil Curse – and its sister consequence, the Dutch Disease, which shrunk the revenues from the agricultural, manufacturing or other tertiary sectors, we believe an intellective and visionary restructuring to focus on industrialisation and economic diversification becomes imperative. These critical terms should not be just buzzwords du jour.

Perhaps, Nigeria could take a cue from Norway’s resource management model extraordinaire. The Scandinavian country made stouthearted efforts to leverage its natural resources in order to avoid a monochromic oily economy. It made research and development a core priority, explored knowledge and technology for its industries and invested substantial capital and labour into them. Less economically productive sectors, which may have been dependent on their oil and natural gas sector, were developed using oil revenues. From surplus oil revenues, it established the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which boasts about $900 billion in assets. Its constructive and stable policies fostered innovation, entrepreneurship and a sound and healthy business climate that encouraged investments through partnerships with multiple domestic and foreign investors.

• Miss Azeta is the vice chair of the Imperial College Nigerian Society. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Benin, and recently completed her graduate study for a Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Futures at Imperial College London. She is an Energy Professional, with rich work experience in the Oil and Gas sector, a STEM Ambassador and a Future Energy Leader at the World Energy Council.

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