When I was invited to The Point Newspaper’s Public Presentation and First Annual Conference on the Economy, I was informed in the letter of invitation that I would have to talk about what the Ministry of Niger Delta is doing to aid the economic diversification efforts of the Federal Government. (This, the organisers said, was in view of the fact that peace and stability in the Niger Delta region were crucial for the success of such efforts). But this is difficult to talk about within so short a time.
By the mandate of the ministry and by prevailing circumstances, it is not easy to manage nine states in all multi sectorial spheres. In fact, it is the same as managing a regional economy, which is a sub macro level of the national economy. So, it is subsumed under the national action for diversification.
Instead of dwelling on this, therefore, I would like to talk on the theme of the conference, which is, “What is the Economics of Change?” I am conscious of the fact that, in 2014, the International Monetary Fund policy papers predicted three per cent growth in the national economy of the sub Saharan region.
The policy papers predicted that it would even go below three per cent in 2017. This means that what we are currently experiencing (recession) was foreseen, predicted and has come to reality.
Emphasis and action on fiscal infrastructure, while revamping social infrastructure, is a major policy decision of this administration. However, the perceived economics of change is coming from the fact that change has become a maxim of identity for this regime.
On this account, we recognised and noted that change must be re-heralded prior to the coming of this administration. This means that there was a psychological consciousness of the need for change because this was anchored on visible indicators of economic failure.
Fortunately for us, a whistle blower for such indices at a time it was quite prevalent is one of us here, when he had the privilege of managing the fiscal policy of this country. So you can see that, sometimes, the voice of the minority is the truth, and if we fail to take it seriously, we will be faced with the far-reaching consequences of negligence.
The citizens must appreciate differences and must be able to transform our perceptions radically so that we will no longer live under the illusion of being the giant of Africa that is unable to confront the responsibilities of such identity. We must also accept that thinking-NIGERIA is more beneficial than thinking ethnicity
Beyond this, we saw that such indices brought about the failure to pay salaries between 2013 and 2014. So, what we are experiencing now is not an introduction of the change mantra. We must be steadfast (in the belief that) the efforts of the Federal Government will yield the desired effects in the near future.
There was also the loss of sovereign defence capacity, which led to the prevailing Boko Haram invasion, where a sect took territories in a sovereign state. If that was allowed to continue, there would have been no Nigeria by now. Also, the compromised internal security brought about the deliberate concession of economic infrastructure to undefined systems, societies and individuals. It is sad that today, we are held hostage by the actions of those people.
There was also moral deficit in governance, which made us look like people in a game without a referee. So there was a deregulation of every segment of life such that people could hold birthday parties in aircraft at the expense of the poor.
The mobilisation of economic resources was at the beck and call of those who were in privileged positions. So for me, the economics of change means to understand these fundamentals, which will lead to learning our lessons. Our lesson is that we must continue to build; this means that we are like a people struggling to come out of social, economic and political crises.
The critical demand of the economics of change is that government has a responsibility as well as the citizenry. For government, it means to be open to ideas and innovations; to take prompt action based on foreseeable crisis and to communicate effectively on actions taken to remedy the situation.
The citizens must appreciate differences and must be able to transform our perceptions radically so that we will no longer live under the illusion of being the giant of Africa that is unable to confront the responsibilities of such identity. We must also accept that thinking- NIGERIA is more beneficial than thinking ethnicity.