Former chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Professor Anya O. Anya has noted that the country is presently at crossroads, as according to him, “we are in a political, social, economic and moral crisis.”
Prof Anya who made the remark while delivering his lecture with the title: “Business and Accountable Governance in Nigeria: The Obligations of Leadership” at the 2nd Annual Lecture of The Niche Newspaper on Tuesday in Lagos, pointed out that the country has continued to deteriorate because both leaders and citizens have refused to face the truth.
“Cardinal Okogie was quoted recently to have diagnosed our situation when he observes that we are allergic to the truth and are addicted to falsehood. The depth of the moral crisis cannot be more aptly stated. What is the evidence on the ground?” he said.
“The cacophony of voices on the political issue of restructuring is a measure of the level of dissonance in the political system. Nigeria is a diverse society that is multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Not surprisingly our pre-independence leaders chose a federal system of governance which will over time build a united but diverse nation of shared values of inclusiveness and national purpose.
“The military intervention destroyed this foundation and planted the seeds of division and centrifugal political forces. There cannot be a peaceful nation unless we return to the basics of federalism as the foundation of our national enterprise. The political challenge is how to operationalize Chapter II of our constitution- the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Unfortunately it would appear that current political actors do not see and do not hear.”
Read Full text of the lecture below:
Business and Accountable Governance in Nigeria: The Obligations of Leadership
By Professor Anya O. Anya, Ph.D. (Cambridge) D.Sc. (Hon) D.Litt. (Hon) FAS, OFR, NNOM
(The Second Annual Lecture of the Niche Newspapers)
Protocols and Preamble
This is not an auspicious time to be asked to give a talk on any aspect of our national life. On a regular day we may find seven to eight separate stories on any page of any of the national newspapers and all stories would all be negative – filled with bizarre stories of piracy, insurrection, militancy, armed robbery, kidnapping, electronic manipulation, fraud and all kinds of weird stories of sexual malfeasance. What is more it is becoming difficult to conduct a civilized discussion on any issue of national importance or interest. So a visitor to this country may be forgiven if he/she were to wonder if we were in a permanent state of moral and socio-pathologic malaise that has become endemic and has defied diagnosis. Yet this is a nation whose citizens are doing fantastically well in all major nations of the world – in business, in the professions, in the arts – winning prizes and outstanding laurels all over the place. The question ought then to be asked what can account for this apparent state of national schizophrenia? What is responsible for the continuous projection of a normless society of denizens of the underworld by our leaders and our citizens?
The Normative Foundation of Nigerian Nationhood
In any society, there is a drive to maintain social order and to assure peace. There is therefore standards of proper and acceptable behaviour. Such rules of standard behaviour of each member of a social group constitutes the norm or values, when aggregated they become the grundnorm or constitution of the society.
The grundnorm for the management and direction of Nigerian national affairs are captured in the 1999 constitution, which in 153 pages of turgid and legalese prose summarises in chapter II the essence of the Nigerian state: its vision, philosophy, ethos, mission and goals. In the Nigerian state it is envisaged that
“…..it shall be the duty and responsibility of ALL organs of government and all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of this constitution…”
It continues “…The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice;
….It is hereby accordingly declared that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority;
….the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
….the participation of the people in THEIR government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of this constitution;
….The composition of the Government of the Federation….shall be carried out in a manner to reflect the federal character and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty;
…the composition of the Government of a state, local government…shall be carried out in such a manner as to recognize the diversity of the people within its area of authority….;
…The motto of the Federal Republic shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress, accordingly national integration shall be actively encouraged whilst discrimination on the ground of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited”. It continues “…The state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice”;
…every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law;
…the sanctity of the human person shall be recognized and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced;
…the independence, impartiality and integrity of courts of law and easy accessibility thereto shall be secured and maintained;
…all citizens without discrimination on any group whatsoever (shall) have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment;
…Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide
free compulsory and universal primary education; free secondary education, free adult literacy programme;
…The press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people…”
When one reads carefully through the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy it is evident that successive leaders of the Nigerian state over the last fifty years have failed our citizens. Governance has not been according to the grundnorm that connects government to the people
It can be said that a lofty vision was projected, the philosophy, goals and objectives enunciated in the constitution would seem eminently desirable and germane. Why we are so far away from the desirable social state is difficult to understand. It is often claimed that this part of the constitution cannot be enforced because it is not justiciable. There is no stipulation as far as one can see that cannot be enforced if there was a time frame attached to the achievement of these objectives and fundamental principles as well as a leadership committed to the achievement of these laudable goals. Every government has lacked the will to fulfill their oath. It is pertinent to note meanwhile that in the nearly twenty years of the celebrated return of democracy as a system of governance to this nation all factors relating to individual welfare of the citizens has steadily regressed even as inequality has exponentially widened: poverty, educational and health facilities, quality of life, food sufficiency, shelter have all gone south. Indeed, it can be surmised that the amount of resources left unutilized because we abandoned the pursuit of these fundamental needs of the citizens may have served to increase the quantity of resources now available for misapplication or even for corrupt conversion and personal aggrandizement by those who have access to these resources earmarked for the welfare of the generality of the citizenry. So how did we get here?
Governance, Values(Norms) and Leadership
The orderly management of a society starts at the family level, through the community and so on to the level of the nation state. The organization of each level often depends on an individual. Human beings are born with a hierarchy of needs that often drives our perception of reality and our behaviour. These needs constitute our value system which may change over time. As needs are met their dominance wanes: as needs are met new needs emerge. At any particular time each of us has one or two dominant needs. It is to be noted as observed by Brandon/Hambrick that these universally held values which an individual or a group of individuals could share constitute a dominant set of values. At the top of each person’s system of values, there are a handful of dominant values of paramount importance. What motivates an individual is important. There are then three motivational domains applicable to each individual or to each society:
Needs driven by our desire for sustenance which are therefore anchored on our physiological, survival and security demands. Research has shown that the traditional values of loyalty, trust, companionship and the sense of belonging are anchored on these;
Needs driven by external forces such as recognition, the crave for significance and self-esteem which is linked to the core values of power, prestige, ambition and expectedly aggression;
Needs driven by internal factors such as self-actualisation, personal growth and transcendence anchored on the entrepreneurial values of innovation, pursuit of risk and creativity.
The needs and values of leaders shape both their vision and strategies thus aligning their mission, goals and tactics: the vision must be a shared vision between the leader and the followers anchored on the commitment of the leader and followers. While leaders cannot change the values of their followers, they can change their behaviour by understanding the forces that drive them with a view to tapping into and/or harnessing them through policies, strategies and communication. While leaders who lead on the basis of ethical principles are usually consistent, pro-active and dynamic what fosters their hold on their followers is their commitment to be conscientious, inclusive, accountable and compassionate.
In the final analysis what is that which makes the difference between one individual and another as successful leaders? The successful leader according to Kraemer shows absolute fidelity to four principles of value-based leadership
Self-reflection : the ability to identify and reflect on what he/she stands for, his values and mission;
Balance/Perspective: the ability to see the situation from multiple perspectives including different viewpoints to gain a holistic perspective and understanding;
True Self-Confidence: accept yourself, recognize your strength and master your skills as well as your weaknesses for continuous improvement;
Genuine humility: not forgetting who you are, appreciating the unique value of each individual and treating everyone with respect.
Appreciating these principles leads to the discovery of the best self who will build the best team that can fit in and fulfill the goals and objectives of the organization or nation. Consequent on these is the discovery and promotion of the best investments whose end-product is the best citizen.
Governance, History and Development
It seems evident that values, motives and styles of the leadership are the lynchpin on which leadership revolves and ultimately influences the culture of the society. There is always an underlying and implicit synergy between the values of the leader and the followership filtered through the perception of the leader by the followers.
In the 6000 years in which the history of leadership, development and social progress have been documented clear cut patterns have emerged. For example, leaders whose needs are driven by external forces tend to emerge in societies where there is limited constraints to the exercise of power. In such societies there are no institutions to restrain the use and abuse of power leading to great wealth and unchecked power for those in control. This encourages the emergence of extractive economic institutions which confer great profits and wealth with the implicit message: control of power bestows great wealth either by extracting through taxes, expropriating the assets of others and/or by setting up monopolies. This is why the earliest model of power tended to be feudalistic. This model of social organization created huge inequalities in societies but also bred instability as many wishing to take over power to control the society resorted to infighting and even civil wars.
There is also the tendency for successive regimes to be even more extractive thus increasing the level of competition within the elite. The civil wars and the intensity of extraction cause great human suffering even as the society descends into lawlessness, state failure and political chaos destroying all hopes of economic prosperity. The rulers in such absolutist political systems neglect all factors that will encourage the emergence of forces conducive to economic progress for fear of creative destruction and may even take explicit steps to block the spread of new industries and new technologies.
Absolutist rulers are fearful of the forces of creative destruction because they tend to redistribute income including wealth and political power. On the flipside, is the emergence of inclusive political institutions. These inclusive institutions create constraints against the untrammeled exercise and usurpation of power. It fosters pluralism in the polity even as it also fosters inclusiveness in the economic system as new forces and interests emerge such as merchants, industrialists and the new class of diverse political interests. We must also note that inclusive political and economic institutions bring with them a level of political and economic centralisation so that the nation-state can enforce law and order, uphold property rights and encourage economic activities by promoting or investing in public services.
It is perhaps appropriate to indicate that in the modern era the emergence of inclusive and plural political and economic systems have often followed a period of convulsive social collision in the different countries where these took place, what many call revolution. In Britain we had the Glorious Revolution presaged by regicide and dictatorship. In France we had the French Revolution of 1789 which in one fell swoop abolished the feudal system. The first article of the Constitution of 4th August 1789 stated:
“The National Assembly hereby completely abolishes the feudal system. It decrees that among the existing rights and dues, both feudal or censual all those originating in or representing real or personal serfdom shall be abolished without indemnification”
There is also the American Revolution (1787), the Meiji Revolution (1860) in Japan and the communist revolutions in Russia (1917) and later in China (1947). The incomplete revolution in Korea led to the division of the Korean peninsula to North and South Korea with two political and economic systems. As we can surmise not all revolutions ended in inclusive political and economic systems. As it has been observed the rich countries of today are those that undertook the journey of industrialization and technological change and the poor ones are those that did not. As Acemoglu and Robinson have stated
“World inequality exists today because during the 19th and 20th centuries, some countries were able to take advantage of the Industrial Revolution and the technologies and methods of organization that it brought while others were unable to do so. Technological change is not only one of the engines of prosperity: it is the most critical one”
Moreover the societies which permitted and provided relevant incentives to their citizens to invest in new technologies which enabled them to grow rapidly in contrast to the nations firmly in the grip of extractive political and economic institutions which could not generate such incentives. Spain and Ethiopia before the dawn of the 19th century were in the grip of absolutist control to the extent that the environment provided no incentives and the incipient economic institutions asphyxiated whatever initiatives that could thrive. In Nigeria colonialism strangled whatever progress that could have arisen in the political and economic sphere. Before then was the slave trade that exported the best of the human capital of these societies. The damage to the indigenous Nigerian political and economic system can best be appreciated when it is remembered that the Itsekiri nation had ambassadors to the Portuguese royal palace in the 16th century even as the streets of Benin City enjoyed street lights at night long before London could enjoy the same facility.
The situation in South Africa is of special interest. There a dual political and economic system operated such that African miners’ wages fell by 30% between 1911 and 1921. By 1961 despite relatively steady growth of the economy miner’s wages were still 12% lower than they were in 1911! On the other hand South African Whites had property rights, invested heavily in education while the extraction of the minerals gold and diamonds was firmly in the hands of the White South Africans who sold them at phenomenal profits to other individuals in the global market. Over 80% of the population was excluded from any meaningful economic activities given the chokehold the white population exercised over the political system under the apartheid system. Black South Africans were precluded from using their talents and skills to become business men, entrepreneurs, scientists or engineers. While the Africans grovelled in poverty white South Africans luxuriated in affluence comparable to the best living standards of their cousins in Europe. This oppressive extractive system could not last forever. By 1970, the South African economy had stopped growing and by 1994 apartheid finally crumbled as did the Soviet Russian system a few years earlier.
Governance, Development and the Concept of the Elite
Governance systems emerge in response to the political and economic institutions that arise in societies. It could be feudalistic as we saw earlier which is often dominated by an oligarchy. Often the interplay of forces leads to the emergence of particular forms of governance which may redefine the particular political and economic system. For example in 1688 Britain underwent the Glorious Revolution which transformed the politics and thus the economics of the nation. People fought for and won more political rights and they used them to enlarge their economic opportunities. The result was a fundamentally different political and economic direction which gave birth to the Industrial Revolution and a new pattern of economic development and prosperity.
This created a new environment that spawned capitalism and the variety of democratic systems – social democracy, liberal democracy, liberalism etc. All these were anchored on the need for the practice of representative democracy. In most societies alongside the political, social and economic changes a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power or skills emerge in the society. This is the power elite who through their control of the governance systems, manage the policies and the process of national dialogue and consensus building. In Nigeria, for example, it was reported recently that 80% of the 5 trillion naira debt owed to the banking system is held by no more than 20 individuals and their corporate buddies! Without question the value system, the sense of ethical responsibility and the obligations which such an elite espouses can make or mar the future of the society and may therefore foreclose or accentuate the possibility of a social cataclysm or revolution.
In Britain, for example, the first five decades of the 19th century, perhaps up to 1850, was a period of increasing social unrest arising from economic inequities and political disenfranchisement. The luddites led a fight against the introduction of new technologies. Alongside this was also an emerging consensus among the elite that the buildup of social unrest needed to be turned away by meeting the needs of the mass of the people, even if it included parliamentary reform. There was a strong mantra represented in the phrase noblisse oblige – “nobility obliges”. In other words leadership imposes responsibility and obligations on the leadership. While a school of thought within the elite toyed with the idea of repression in other to avoid opening up the political space further, they ultimately pulled back from the brink. New reforms were granted because the elite thought that reform was the only way to avoid another revolution and the imperative of securing their rule. As the Earl Grey, Prime Minister (1830-1834) who presided over the passage of the Reform Acts observed
“The principle of my reform is to prevent the necessity of revolution: reforming to preserve and not to overthrow”
Pluralism and inclusiveness which much of the reforms induced creates positive feedback between inclusive economic and political institutions and led to the development of inclusive markets which facilitated efficient allocation of resources and greater encouragement for individuals to acquire education, new skills and to pursue innovation. In the United States the rise of the Robber barons and their monopoly trusts in the late 19th and early 20th century underlines the fact that the presence of markets is not in themselves a guarantee of inclusive institutions since markets can be dominated by a few firms charging exorbitant prices and blocking the opportunities for the entry of more efficient rivals and new technologies. When the Robber barons posed a threat to the inclusive political institutions the free flow of information engendered by the free media served to mobilise friendlier forces that countered the unhindered monopolies that were threatening the foundation of inclusive political and economic institutions.
Lessons for Nigeria
Having now taken a snapshot view of global development, the environment that conduces to desirable and acceptable outcomes, the character and values of the elite and the leader who can drive the social system to the desired end, we need to situate these lessons within the context of the Nigerian environment. In tackling the challenge we need to answer three questions –
What lessons have we learnt that are applicable to the Nigerian situation?
What is the current state and challenges that faces Nigeria at this juncture in her history?
What must we do to steer the ship of state to the desirable and equable harbour?
It is now obvious that successful societies in terms of prosperous and peaceful development are those that have striven for inclusiveness in the midst of diversity in their political and economic systems. The elite has dominantly worked within a context in which the emphasis is on their responsibilities and obligations to the society rather than their rights and privileges. The leader has usually been a knowledgeable person with character, who stands out by his personal self-confidence and humility. He/She need not be a know-all but his persona must exude trust with a capacity to mobilise citizens across boundaries and dividing lines.
Nigeria is currently enmeshed in a multi-dimensional crisis. We are in a political, social, economic and moral crisis. Cardinal Okogie was quoted recently to have diagnosed our situation when he observes that we are allergic to the truth and are addicted to falsehood. The depth of the moral crisis cannot be more aptly stated. What is the evidence on the ground?
The cacophony of voices on the political issue of restructuring is a measure of the level of dissonance in the political system. Nigeria is a diverse society that is multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Not surprisingly our pre-independence leaders chose a federal system of governance which will over time build a united but diverse nation of shared values of inclusiveness and national purpose. The military intervention destroyed this foundation and planted the seeds of division and centrifugal political forces. There cannot be a peaceful nation unless we return to the basics of federalism as the foundation of our national enterprise. The political challenge is how to operationalize Chapter II of our constitution- the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Unfortunately it would appear that current political actors do not see and do not hear.
With regard to the economy we are faced with two fundamental obstacles: while our economy is growing at the miserly rate of 2%, our population is growing currently at 3.8% nearly double the economic rate of growth. So there is a fundamental dissonance between our demography and our economy. Additionally, the Debt Management office tells us that our debt as of 2015 was a little over 12 trillion naira but is now over 25 trillion naira as of 2019. In other words we have borrowed in 3 years more than we borrowed in 30 years previously! Much of the extra loans have been applied to recurrent expenditure given that most state governments could not even pay salaries. Indeed it has been alleged that we spend 60-70% of our total earnings in servicing debts i.e. paying interests (NOT re-paying loans). In spite of these, the fact is that the normal metrics of economics continues southward – unemployment, inflation, productivity are not giving us cheering news either. The empanelling of an Economic Advisory Council is a step in the right direction but we must remind ourselves that these brilliant and eminent economists are no magicians. We must face the gravity of our current situation. In this context we must appeal to our leaders to wean themselves from an emerging attitude that is not helpful in our present circumstances: the tendency, to reply without deep reflection and usually with opinions rather than facts to any comments on our economy or other affairs often occasiond by new facts from research, whether from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, foreign and local respected think tanks etc. The well-known advice is here relevant: when in a hole stop digging. It is also important to put in a word relating to the matter of trust. Absolute trust in a leader is vital. A leader who will lead in an era of change must enjoy total confidence and trust of the citizens.
The social crisis is as frightening as the economic crisis with tales of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, insurrection, militancy and the rampaging herdsmen. It would often seem as if the apocalypse has arrived. Historians of British history suggest that our situation is comparable to the situation of Great Britain in the years 1800-1850. The emergence of a leadership that understood and read the times accurately and accepted the responsibility and obligations of leadership made the difference. They steered their society away from the brink, embraced social and technological changes that ushered in the Industrial Revolution. The lesson is that it is possible to rechart a new course and there are Nigerians who have the capacity to steer us away from the brink if we are prepared to mobilise our best and brightest in a new challenge to rebuild and restore the dream of Nigeria. As an aside it is also important to observe that the campaign against corruption is an important issue on the social agenda. But corruption is a symptom not a disease. We must reexamine our strategies on this matter in order to tackle the disease and not merely the symptom.
What gives me confidence that we can face the new challenge to rebuild a new Nigeria are two facts of our present reality – as difficult as the circumstances are, our youths are doing fantastic things: unremarked and uncelebrated. Beyond the hordes of the unemployed and the uneducated are also battalions of brilliant men and women who do the unexpected that often challenge their peers in other nations. To challenge and incentivize them should be the current priority. They are there if we look carefully.
We must learn to celebrate our successful and exemplary citizens. In this regard let me ask the fatuous question: where was Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Ernest Azudialo-Obiejesi, Leo Stan Ekeh, Aig Imoukhede twenty five years ago? They are all products of the modest economic reforms that came after the debacle of the Structural Adjustment Programme particularly in the Oil Industry, Banking and Technology. If there is any regret on the modest success of those years it is the fact that we did not have the sharpness of mind and heart to ground the new wealth in the productivity of our people and hence develop an equitable process to share the new opportunities with the mass of the people. Consequently, we have allowed a grossly unequal society to emerge hence the social crisis. We can tackle it by understanding the seeds of our success and the genesis of inequality which is presently a decomposed fly in the sweet smelling ointment of our success. If truth be told we were able to engineer reforms in the private sector with incentives but did not institute an equivalent system in the public sector. The situation in the public sector has been worsened by the repudiation of the principles of merit, competitiveness and the pursuit of excellence in the public sector despite the stipulations of our constitution as enshrined in the federal character principle.
The failures in the public sector has seeped through into the political space and has insidiously corrupted the politics and management of the society by institutionalizing a culture of greed, mediocrity and self-aggrandisement as the reward for political engagement. Indeed, if the uncomfortable truth must be told the opinion of the younger generation is that no one who has participated in the politics of Nigeria in the last thirty years should be allowed to participate any further in the politics that hopefully will usher in the new Nigeria going forward. The politics and economics of the new era needs a new culture that sprouts from a new mindset of the leaders.
Where can we begin? We must start from the recognition that the current situation is beyond the capacity of our political elite: it is beyond the capacity of APC as a party and government. It is beyond the capacity of the PDP or indeed any of the multitude of parties. We need to start again by instituting a new programme of national regeneration, restoration and renewal. We must mobilise our people beyond the political parties, beyond the ethnicities and other diversities and, beyond the limitations of our current situation. In this effort we must commit to Non – Violent Communication (NVC). So where are the wise elders? Where are the insightful statesmen? And where are the brilliant and industrious youth who are prepared to rebuild from the foundations?
I am done. Thank you all for your patience and tolerance.
15 October 2019