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Challenge Of Progress In The Midst Of Crisis (2)

Published by Guardian on Tue, 03 Jul 2012

(First instalment was published last week)YOU will recall the periodic violent skirmishes that our state was renowned for under this regime (the past administration in Oyo State). Blood was shed at will as if in appeasement of some blood-sucking deities. Politicians became indistinguishable from thugs and motor-park kingpins. Inside this vortex was the state government, which was said to be in cahoots with the motor-park kingpins.The very sad episode of the death of a notorious NURTW (National Union of Road Transport Workers) kingpin, who, with the support of the state godfather, took over our State Assembly in 2006, is still very fresh in our memory. Thugs stomped on the hallowed historical chambers where the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo stood to deliver his addresses; where the late Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for Nigerian's independence.Indeed, an NURTW thug moved the motion for the impeachment of the then state governor, hitting the gavel on the table in a manner reminiscent of how it is done in a sane legislative House. And rather than pronouncing the governor, who was the target of his patrons, he said, 'the Speaker is hereby impeached.'The rest, as they say, is history.This state of violence quickly infected the polity. You could not move round the state capital, and, indeed, the state without being afraid of the menace of cultic thugs. The violence that started with the NURTW had promptly gone beyond the road transport union and had become all-encompassing, with any indigene or inhabitant of Oyo State being seen as a potential miscreant.This was one of the challenges that our administration faced upon coming on board. We knew what we wanted was peace and how to go about it was very clear to us. The way out, it occurred to us, was for our government to show impartial leadership.Even though some sections of the road transport workers' union were rumoured to have worked for our party pre-May 2011, we maintained that to achieve peace in the polity, there was the need to maintain impartiality across board. Thus, whether you were Osaka or Tokyo, whether you were Auxiliary or Original, our government took a dispassionate frown at violence and was ready to deal decisively with anyone fomenting trouble in Oyo State.This leadership and commitment have paid off in our state, as the challenge of violence and thuggery is fast becoming a thing of the past in a state renowned for its peace and tranquillity.The imperative of progressTHE Nigerian challenge has been a subject of several academic concerns. From the diverse challenges encountered by the country in its federal practice, to the diverse socio-political crises confronting the country since its inception, scholars have dissected, almost to its minutest details, the challenges that the Nigeria project has had to confront.Thus, that Nigeria has gravitated from one existential crisis to the other is not for lack of intellectual proffers, nor absence of adequate theorising. The challenge is that every development-prone nation would have to pass through the crucible of these existential crises.However, while it is not unique or peculiar to Nigeria that it would go through this caterwaul of crisis, the management of these divisive characters of the polity is of utmost concern. What is the attitude of the leadership to this challenge' Has the leadership thrown its hands in palpable surrender or is busy ferreting for ways out of the bind' These are germane issues, which should agitate the mind of a committed leadership.While crisis would keep rearing its head in a plural society like ours, with its hordes of divisive features and catalogue of conflictual tendencies, the management of the crises and the resolve to ensure that they do not become a permanent albatross of state are very crucial.The challenge should not be crying over the proverbial spilled milk but an urgent articulation of a way out of the seeming bind of the myriad of crises that have conspired to arrest and slow down the pace of development of the Nigerian nation.Indeed, there is an array of development and governance challenges facing the Nigerian leadership. In this league are the challenges of the current economic situation in the country and the apparent cyclic problem of unemployment that has seized the oesophagus of Nigeria. What is the leadership doing to ensure that Nigeria wakes up from this unfavourable slumber' How does Nigeria capitalise on its vast manpower and resources at large to wean the nation from the stasis of under-development and crises'The most important aspect of the challenges for the leadership is to make itself believable to the stakeholders, who would, in partnership with the leadership, make the road to perdition, which intense crisis symbolises, unattractive to the nation. How do I mean'The leadership, through transparent acts and openness, must carry its people along and must open its mind to the people to see through its commitment and sworn declaration of intention to vacate underdevelopment. Carrying the stakeholders along on this route is very essential and is a task that must be achieved by the leadership.In spite of the seeming array of insurmountable crises that are currently afflicting the nation, there must be a resolve by the leadership to move the country out of the mess it finds itself. One significant feature of this resolve is that it must be done in conjunction with the stakeholders. Who are the stakeholders of the Nigeria project' It is the collectivity of the Nigerian people. Nigerians must be carried along in the business of Nigerian development.The resolution of the Nigerian challenge in a sustainable manner depends on the sincerity of the leadership and the political elite to confront such issues as the character of our federalism.The extant federal structure is weak and defective.The distribution of powers and resources is such that as a people, we are not encouraged nor empowered to be the best that we can.THE Federal Government is at present saddled with numerous responsibilities that can be better handled by State Governments.The logic of distance from the grassroots and the need for bottom-up development dictates that such responsibilities as maintenance of township roads, control of ecological problems, traffic and highway control are better handled by the States rather than the Federal Government, which today struggles to discharge them.The present revenue allocation formula, which leaves 52 percent of national resources at the disposal of the Federal Government and a paltry 24 percent for 36 States, does not acknowledge the need for the country to make quick progress in the midst of crisis.The states are where the challenges are.The states, more than the Federal Government, know where the proverbial shoe pinches.All such issues as poverty alleviation, agriculture, housing, transportation and urban development are challenges that the states confront daily.The allocation of resources should reflect this reality if we are to overcome many of the challenges we face.Our state of insecurity has been exacerbated by the challenges in the structure of our police service.A police service that is alien to a community cannot be effective.Our police should be community-based.The way to efficient policing should include elements of state police moderated by checks and balances to curtail abuse by state governments.We need to pay special attention to the condition of our youths who constitute over 65 percent of the population.We cannot pretend that all is well when our army of teeming youths are unemployed.As long as hungry men remain angry men, so will the army of unemployed youths constitute a time bomb for the country.Today, an average of 1.2 million Nigerian youths apply for admission into universities. Less than 20 percent of this number is admitted.We do not have a sustainable arrangement to cater for the remaining 80 percent. The statistics for enrolment into primary and secondary schools are not cheering either.There is over 60 percent gap between pupils who are admitted into primary schools and those who ultimately graduate from tertiary institutions.What do we do with the rest'Manpower is the driver of development and progress.The loss of over 65 percent of our youths from the regular, formalised and standardised educational and manpower development institutions is a missing link in our quest for national development.For us to progress, we have to empower our youths.In Oyo State, we place emphasis on this.Our strategy includes massive rehabilitation of our schools.We are at present rehabilitating 235 schools.We are also devoting resources to improving the skill of our teachers through routine in-service training.We are providing instructional materials for the schools, which have been abandoned in this regard over the years.Although we collectively own Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, with Osun State, we are upgrading The Polytechnic, Ibadan into a Technical University. We are renovating our technical colleges, as well as establishing new Skill Acquisition Centres in each of the senatorial zones in the state.Our goal is to ensure that our youths, who could not get university education, have other opportunities to equip them to earn a decent living.This is the focus in Oyo State where our vision of restoration is anchored on the four cardinal programmes of infrastructure development, efficient social service delivery, industrialisation anchored on value-added agriculture, and good governance, security of life and property.Making progress in the midst of challenges require basic public infrastructure of socio-economic development. In Oyo State, we have embarked on simultaneous construction and/or rehabilitation of 199 roads. In Ibadan, for the first time in 34 years, we are constructing a flyover that will enhance socio-economic activities. We are dredging over 70 rivers and streams to avoid flooding and also embarking on a 110-kilometre circular road in Ibadan for the development of a new city lined with new development centres.In social services, we are paying WAEC fees for thousands of students. We have reduced tuition in schools. We have embarked on massive equipment of science and home economics laboratories in our schools and we are building skill acquisition centres across the state. Our free health mission has visited all the local governments and offered free serves to over 370,000 people. We have introduced a free ambulance service for enhanced health service delivery.In the labour front, we started paying the new minimum wage in August last year. We have maintained a policy of paying all workers latest by 25th of every month and last year, we made history as the first government in the state that would pay full 13th month salary to workers.These initiatives and engagements constitute our holistic approach to addressing security challenges in the state. We believe in Maslow's hierarchy of needs that, if society ensures an environment that allows individuals to cater for their food, clothing and shelter needs, it will reduce the propensity to crime.We are only one year in office. By the time all these initiatives mature, we would have ensured that in spite of the challenges we face in Oyo State, we would still ensure steady progress for the benefit of our people.As a nation, we have the capacity to overcome our challenges.As Dudley rightly says, these challenges should be building blocks of our development. The academic community, which forms the bulk of this audience, has a critical role to play in the formulation of ideas for national development.The academia should also be alive to its responsibility as the conscience of the nation, eternally putting the political leadership on its toes to deliver on its duties for good governance for development.We can collectively overcome the challenges and make Nigeria great.Being concluding excerpts of the Foundation Day Lecture, Making Progress in the Midst of Crisis: The Nigerian Challenge, delivered by the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, at the Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, recently.
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