At first FUO international colloquium, Falola fingers weak institutions, embezzlement of public funds as Nigeria’s development challenges

Renowned professor of history, Toyin Falola has fingered weak institutions, embezzlement of public funds as major parts of Nigeria’s development challenges, saying that until such negating indices to the public good are pruned out, the nation will not know progress and development

The Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, the University of Texas at Austin, made this known while delivering a lecture at the first Fountain University, Osogbo, International Colloquium in honour of Professor Toyin Falola, organized by the Fountain University, Osogbo, on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

The event which had in attendance members of the university community, drawn from within and outside Nigeria, and the general public, was led by the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Amidu Sanni. It was held at the NASFAT ETI-OSA Lecture Theatre, Fountain University

The event was part of activities to mark the university’s tenth and eleventh convocation ceremonies. The elated vice-chancellor showered praise and showed gratitude to the honoree, just as he commended the university for its drive for excellence.

While speaking on the topic titled, ‘The Comfort of Faith, The Insurgency of Hope, and The Promise of Success,’ Falola told his audience that: “A former British Prime Minister once described Nigeria as being “fantastically corrupt”, a moniker that notarizes a plight known all too well in Nigeria, in both public service and the private sector.  Although corruption in Nigeria manifests in a myriad of forms, the most common and impactful are the direct and indirect embezzlement of public funds. Government officials across levels and strata of administration connive with civil workers, administrators, and other willing participants in the business world to leech the public’s purse and divert their spoils for private use. This denies ordinary Nigerians the access to the dividends and resources that would have been derived from these funds if they had been used for the purposes for which they were earmarked. Although tracking the funds is an almost impossible task, globally respected socioeconomic and political think-tank Chatham House puts the figure at $582 billion, equaling about 30 years of the Federal Government’s annual budgets. Other manifestations of corruption include public officers demanding bribes before performing their mandated responsibilities, state-sanctioned or permitted extortion from the citizens by public officials or private businesses, etc.  The results of these crimes are poor service delivery, lack of funding for infrastructure, and the attendant impact on unemployment and insecurity.

“Aside from the developmental issues of corruption, Nigeria faces the absence of the rule of law, justice, and equality. The government and private citizens related to law making and its enforcement, are known for their egregious abuse of the rights and privileges of others, almost always with lewd immunity and abandonment. It is not uncommon to find powerful persons employing the state’s security apparatus to punish less fortunate persons than themselves. Public servants and those with a higher socioeconomic status can disobey and ignore court rulings, especially on human rights issues. There is already a gaping divide between the everyday realities of the so-called average person and the people at the upper echelon of politics, society, business, and the economy. As a result, they can afford the basic amenities that the government seems incapable of providing to the wider populace. Similarly, access to compulsory governmental services is often enjoyed by the “highest bidder.”The amalgamation of these conditions fosters a society where discontent festers, engendering violence and mutiny against the state, as we have seen and continue to see today. ”

Speaking further he added that, “If one factor could encapsulate all these issues, it is the fact that institutions in the country are weak and excessively incapable of performing their responsibilities. The laws in themselves grant enough power to the institutions and the officers designated to oversee them. However, in practice, these officers cannot perform the functions they are assigned by the law due to a plethora of superseding interests where the welfare of the general society that they are expected to serve is relegated to the background, and parochial goals gain prominence. This creates a state wherein the average Nigerian cannot have a real emotional connection to the country, or in cases where that connection exists, it is only perfunctory. This absence of patriotism is demonstrated in the growing secessionist upheavals and the killing of others for politico-religious beliefs. A lack of consciousness is also embodied in the siphoning of funds slated for public welfare for personal purposes. Although the true meaning of national identity practically is quite desultory, we can state unequivocally that its essence is lacking in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

He equally itemised the effects of underdevelopment on the average Nigerian. “The effects of all we have covered thus far are palpable and pervasive. Insecurity arising from all forms of agitation has cost hundreds of thousands of Nigerian citizens their lives. Several millions of others have had to flee their abodes, their properties, and their sources of livelihood, fearing for their lives. Those not living in the hotbed of these agitations have their daily lives threatened by fellow citizens’ criminality. Economic depression has thrown many able young Nigerians, some of whom are graduates of the nation’s higher learning institutions, into crippling idleness. Entrepreneurs who aim to create economic opportunities not only for themselves, but for scores of others are frustrated by the state of the economy and a plethora of government policies that are inadvertently or otherwise aimed at frustrating rather than encouraging their efforts. The collapse of essential infrastructure implies that Nigerians are subjected to the most excruciating ordeals while navigating everyday living.

“The aggregation of all the above portends a situation where ordinary citizens are disillusioned with the country’s mode of being and desperately seek escape. Unfortunately, that escape does not prove forthcoming, and as such, the trauma persists. However, a complete lack of hope in the nation’s viability is a recipe for disaster and a clog in the wheel of progress. For transformational changes to materialize, there is the need for a rekindling of hope and faith in the imminent burgeoning of the country.” he said.

Falola had served as the General Secretary of the Historical Society of Nigeria, the President of the African Studies Association, Vice-President of UNESCO Slave Route Project, and the Kluge Chair of the Countries of the South, Library of Congress. He is a member of the Scholars’ Council, Kluge Center, the Library of Congress. He has received over thirty lifetime career awards and fourteen honorary doctorates. He has written extensively on the humanities, including The Humanities in Africa: Knowledge Production, Universities, and the Production of Knowledge, and a forthcoming book by Rochester University Press, Decolonizing African Studies: Knowledge Production, Agency, and Voices.


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