Nigeria must tackle poverty, illiteracy, insurgency to sustain its democracy ― Fayemi

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State has observed that sustenance of democracy will only be a mirage except the nation addresses issues of poverty, illiteracy and insurgency.

According to Fayemi, who spoke during a book launch in Abuja, democracy can only be sustained when the people are happy and can foresee a future for themselves and their children.

He, therefore, said it was expedient for the Federal Government to invest more on solving the nation’s developmental deficits for democracy to flourish.

Represented by Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi at the launch of the book titled, “Nigeria Democracy without Development: How to fix it”, Fayemi said only development can drive democracy.

Fayemi faulted the nation’s thinking that democracy will drive development as misplaced, noting that rather development should be the focus to drive democracy.

“I hold the view that to have a democratic state, we first and foremost must succeed as a developmental state because it is when we get rid of poverty, illiteracy and insurgency that you can talk of democracy.

“It is only when these human calamities are taken away from a polity of a geographical location, that is the only time you can say that democracy can work.

“That is why I believe that any government, including the current government, needs to invest more time, more thinking and will bring all hands on deck so that we can solve the problem of developmental deficits.

“Unfortunately, we believe that democracy in our country will lead to development, and that has been the state of Nigeria since independence.

“I think in my view, the development will deliver democracy and not the other way round because in an environment where you have poverty, lack of consensus, vision for the people and nation, it is difficult to rarely talk about democracy.

“Without development, it is difficult to sustain democracy because democracy presupposes that people are interested in enforcing freedom and participation in governance through the contribution of representation. But how do you do this while the majority of the people are not even able to put food on their table?

“Democracy can only be sustained by people who are happy, who can foresee a future for themselves and their children’s future, and because of the current stability they enjoy, they want to use the instrument of democracy to sustain that.

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The book launched was authored by Dr Omano Edigheji, who is a Special Adviser to Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.

Kaduna State governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, in his remarks, said it was paradoxical to have democracy without significant progress.

El-Rufai said: “I think it is a book that tries to explain a paradox on how you could have democracy but without significant progress.

“Most of the countries that we have seen register significant progress moving from low income to middle income in the last 59 years are states that have practised this.

“What Dr Omano Edigheji has done is to articulate this argument for development to drive democracy and everything else in a compact written in this book.”

However, Senator Uba Sani argued that despite the challenges of transparency and accountability, the country had made some progress.

Sani faulted the premise that the nation had made little progress under a democracy.

Sani said: “This is too sweeping. It is also incorrect. In all indices of development, we have made progress but huge challenges remain. There have been missed opportunities. Transparency and accountability is a major challenge.

“I agree with the author that the inability of leaders to meet the expectations of the governed has created a wide gulf between the citizens and governments at all levels. A large segment of the population has disengaged from the electoral process. The situation is worrisome but it can be fixed.”

Edigheji who is a pro-democracy activist and humanist recommended the adoption of the developmental state model which has been applied by East Asian countries to transform their economies from largely agrarian subsistence to achieve high levels of industrial development.

He said: “A developmental state is an interventionist state. The state actively intervenes in the economy by regulating, guiding and controlling it.

“For Nigeria to overcome these development and institutional deficits, it is proposed that democratic governments embrace developmentalism as an overarching national development agenda.

“In effect, development needs to be carried out democratically, in the context of an overarching endogenous national development plan and anchored on a long term national development vision. Its key elements should consist of the promotion of human capital development, infrastructural development and industrialization.

“Industrialization, as a central element of the ideology of development nationalism, will contribute to the structural transformation of the economy, create jobs and ultimately improve livelihoods. In this regard, agriculture-focused industrialization should be given due attention.

“Also, the service sector needs to be anchored on a strong industrial sector for the former to make meaningful contributions to an inclusive economy. At the same time, pursuing high value-added services should be undertaken if the country is to reap the benefits of the digital age.

“Surely, attention needs to be given to the manufacturing sector if Nigeria is to transit from a country of consumers to that of producers of finished goods.”

Dr Innocent Chukwuma of Ford Foundation decried the role of godfatherism in Nigerian politics which he said may not be unconnected with some of the criteria given by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the registration of political parties in 1998.





Nigeria must tackle poverty, illiteracy, insurgency to sustain its democracy ― Fayemi

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