I welcome you all to the first Annual Independence Lecture on Economic Regeneration by The Point Newspapers. I celebrate the commitment of the team at The Point to elevating the conversation beyond reportage and analysis on the pages of newspapers to a focused gathering on critical issues.
This sense of responsibility from a year-old publication is a ray of hope in difficult times. We are here at a sobering moment for our nation, when the Nigerian economy has slipped into a recession for the first time in more than two decades. As we deliberate on the economics of change, permit me to couch my brief contributions in terms of “The 3 Cs of Change.” These are: the Concept, the Content and the Consequence of Change.
Concept of change
A clear definition of what change implies for Nigeria and Nigerians at this critical juncture is crucial. Does it mean numerical and qualitative improvement? Does it mean a radical re-thinking of the very basis of our nationhood? I believe we are gathered here in the context of the “change” mantra, articulated by the All Progressives Congress, in the run-up to the 2015 presidential elections and the wide-ranging expectations of the Nigerian people as a result. This necessarily leads us to the content of change. THe CONTeNT OFCHaNGe The cornerstone principles of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration are anticorruption, security and diversification of the economy, driven by the Strategic Implementation Plan. This discussion on the economics of change allows us to critically assess, not only the content of the change agenda, but also its philosophical underpinnings.
Is the change, of which we speak, bold and robust enough in the light of Nigeria’s governance needs? Or does it need to be fundamentally re-considered, re-focused and/or expanded? Do we, perhaps, need to expand the content of change to include an economic perspective on the restructuring debate?
Also critical, as far as the content of change is concerned, is the communication strategy by which the people ought to be kept abreast of developments in the change agenda – there is still an opportunity to develop a well-branded and strategically communicated economic plan.
The consequence of change
Finally, the consequence of change is what holds the key to understanding the economics of change. Life is about chances, choices and consequences. The Buhari-led administration has offered us a chance at change, but the choice of change comes with consequences. What is the opportunity cost of development as borne by the state, the civil society and the market? On a scale of preference of policy and investment demands, what must the government prioritise? What are the trade-offs? How do we manage sectional interests?
In our quest for competitiveness and productivity, how do we deal with unintended consequences that have often led to policy somersaults?
I am particularly gladdened by the competence of the discussants converged here today, and I am confident that actionable solutions will emanate from our interactions. Having said that, let me admonish that, as we examine the economics of change, we must be mindful of the everyday Nigerian: from the importer who can’t access foreign exchange, to the manufacturer whose loan capital has been devalued by over a hundred per cent; from the parent, whose naira estimation of the cost of education for his ward has been overwhelmed by the cost of a dollar, to the employee, whose remuneration has become the victim of a downward spiraling purchasing power - it is to these Nigerians that we owe actionable solutions.
I am reminded of a profound re-couching of recession and depression I heard recently: recession is when your neighbour loses his job and turns to you for help; depression is when you lose your job and have no one to turn to.
An over-simplification, perhaps, but these are the realities Nigerians are faced with, and we have a duty to make this moment count. Hopefully, we have a government that is eager to take on ideas from reputable platforms such as this; let us therefore make the most of this opportunity to chart a course for our nation’s economy.
*Pastor Bakare, General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, delivered this address as Chairman of the The Point Newspaper’s Public Presentation/First Annual Conference on Economic Regeneration, themed, ‘What is the Economics of Change,’ held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Friday, October 21.