Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State believes the oil wealth accruing to the country constitutes a major obstacle to Nigeria’s ability to think and innovate its way out of underdevelopment.
He wishes the oil wells and the ‘free money’ there from dry up so that the government and the people can get serious about making the country realize its full potentials.
el-Rufai spoke yesterday in Ibadan at the 2017 Town Hall Meeting/ Founder’s Day Celebration in memory of renowned economist, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade.
He also made a fresh case for state policing, and warned against allowing the federal character policy become an enemy of merit in appointments.
The governor who was the special guest of honour at the event said: “Because Nigeria gets easy money from oil, the nation has lost its thinking initiative on how to develop other sources of revenue and diversify the economy.
“We get easy money, we do not collect taxes and our taxes are six per cent of Gross Domestic Product; that is an average of 21per cent. We stop respecting the intellectuals that we have in our universities because we get easy money.
“This is very sad, I wish the oil will dry up so that we can begin to use our brains because we have stopped using our brains and we have stopped respecting intellects because of easy money.
On policing, he said: “It is obvious that Nigeria is severely under-policed, and will require more personnel, intelligence assets, better training, technology and equipment for its security agencies for the country to be a credible guarantor of security.
“Even if these were to be available, it is also debatable whether a single centralised policing system, structure and staffing for 200 million citizens is viable in a diverse, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria.”
He also addressed the issue of federal character, saying: “To complement the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, we must have discourse around the imperative of a project dedicated to enabling equal opportunity so that the circumstances of a citizen’s birth don’t prescribe his or her ceiling in life.
“How can we promote a national subscription to meritocracy? How can we ensure that the imperative of reflecting federal character does not become the enemy of merit and quality of appointments? Today, we don’t plan. We don’t have national plan and if we don’t plan, we are planning to fail.
“Having suffered brain drain, how do we attract back our Diaspora and the brain-gain associated with it like the Chinese and Indians have witnessed? These are the questions a distributive mentality around easy oil revenues is dodging.
“The earlier the oil dries up the better for our national ability to think, be innovative and respect intellect and academic achievement.
El-Rufai spoke on “Public Policy research should promote national consensus.”
In his presentation, the lead speaker, Professor Sam Olofin, explained that indeed the country is technically out of recession but that it requires sustained efforts for an economy to be progressive.
He noted that many Nigerians are confusing the country’s underdevelopment with recession adding that with the reversal of the growing negative rate of the economy, the country is technically out of recession but that the positive growth must also be sustained and continuous so that it would rub on the overall economy.
He stressed that if Nigeria doesn’t diversify its dependence on oil early enough, the country will remain an underdeveloped economy for a long time.
Chairman of the occasion, Professor Oladipupo Akinkugbe, said Nigeria keeps chasing potential but that the country will have to get there fast and as early as possible.
He lamented that many of the excellent ideas churned out by many research institutes are often allowed to gather dust. He said that if some of the ideas and recommendations made by many researchers over the years had been implemented, the country would not be where it is today.
The event which had the theme “Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria,” was organised by the Development Policy Centre, Ibadan.