What Nigeria should do to move forward economically, politically – Former Finance Minister, Kalu Idika Kalu

Renowned economist and former Finance Minister, Dr Kalu Idika Kalu has drawn a roadmap through which the country should move in order to make progress both economically and politically.

Kalu, who was a presidential aspirant in the 2003 general elections, under the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), in this interview, said that Nigeria has too many political parties that do not seem to help matters, insisting that the country doesn’t need more than two or three political parties.

He spoke on other national issues, including priority areas President Muhammadu Buhari should consider in his second term, security challenge and restructuring, among others.

Excerpts:

Let’s look at the way the economy is sinking with the country’s debt profile rising?

That is a fundamental question that addresses many issues. And I think 35 years to the exit of the civilian administration we have been grappling with the issues of growth. So, where did we get it wrong? First, macro-economic policies that have affected mobilization, resource in-flows, constrained real investment and reduced growth, we have not been very careful how we try to bridge the resource gap that we have had.

You make sure you improve the condition for saving and having set your investment, whether in terms of the budget, you look for the cheapest way to bridge the resource gap. Then to do that, you must have the proper understanding, the scope. When there is growth in population and no corresponding growth in job opportunities that will lead to a pool of idleness, that also will result into massive insecurity, and before you know it massive insecurity will spill into ideological problems, which also attracts international insecurity. And when you have an insecurity that goes back to impact on the form of savings, investment and the kind of growth that you will get. So, it’s all inter-related and that is why we talk about the dynamics. So, you have to fearlessly and truthfully operate these fundamental issues: security, economics for policy making, general policymaking that will mobilize the entire area, not any sub-section alone, everybody must get involved.

We are still a little away from there because there are lots of issues; judiciary issues, human right issues, general security issues, etc. All these require that you set up a platform where all Nigerians will come and make presentations and re-commit to the Nigerian nation. If we are not prepared to recommit then you set up a platform to discuss how we are going to disengage.

Like most people saw us, Nigeria seems like an ideal country in terms of the size and population, if endowment of resources were evenly distributed to all parts of the country all this issue of oil and non-oil will not arise, many areas have their own rich resources; agriculture, mineral oil, gas, human capital etc, so that is why many are saying that it is better and easier to start talking about how to break it up and work towards a solution that will produce a more maximum mobilization of resources that will help in improvement in life expectancy, improvement in health, improvement in education, general improvement in living standards require proper education. Education and health are key issues in this problem.

Most Nigerians feel that our population is much and that restructuring can be a solution?

Restructuring has to do with creating more efficient systems, it’s not the size of the population. Do we have more population than India or China? They are all much larger than Nigeria, but some people say by 2050 we will be number three in population, perhaps with almost half a billion people in one country. We can’t continue the way we are going if the death rate continues with the incidence of brutality, we may not even get there. But the presumption is that those who have done the calculation say we will still get there, but you can then imagine the poverty level that will show up, so we need to restructure. It is very strange that we are having a negative connotation of restructuring here and restructuring simply should be to create systems that will make it more efficient to make sure there is equity in representation.

When there is equity in representation whether you come from a sparsely populated part of the country, it doesn’t matter because you know that you are accommodated and represented. Restructure means that people who are working are close to where the resources are developed and they can come from any part of the country.

People migrate here and there, that is what the constitution says and guarantees, but then you cannot hold that static by creating a structure that prevents people from moving around where they want. When they move around they should be protected as citizens and on no account should this have a negative effect except that people are using the structure we have now for other reasons to suppress the dynamics of population, the dynamics of growth, the dynamics of simple freedom.

Some people want to stay in the North, some want to stay in the South, some people want to stay near the riverine areas, some want to stay in arid areas, and nothing should prevent that. If people say they want to restructure that is all that it will take: the guarantee of equal representation, fairness, justice, freedoms, as long as it contributes to stability, peace and the growth of the people and place.

Are you worried about the security challenge we are witnessing in the country today?

Anybody should be worried, it is beyond what you can say you are comfortable with. We should begin to ask the question: are we training enough people to do the job? Do we have enough police? Do the police have enough psychology, not just the equipment, but the psychology, this idea that they are protecting the citizens. But for them to do that all these other indicators should be there.

Somebody should be able to assure them their children can go to school safely; their women can go to maternities and other places safely so that they can focus on the job of protecting the citizens. There should be enough of them; there should be camaraderie and a shift from the former ways people are promoted, not a question of where you come from, so these are the little things that should be given attention, among other issues.

 Most Nigerians were worried about the outcome of the 2019 election. Do you think we need electoral reforms?

Electoral reforms are good, it is not a question of yes or no, but whether the system will let it work. There is no way we can say that our elections are as transparent as the ones we had in the 60s when we got independence. But I think by now we should be one of the countries that should be transparent in our elections, where people register their wishes and those wishes are registered and counted properly. Well, we hope that the judiciary will correct some of these things because it is in the interest of everybody.

But the judiciary to most people have been boxed to a corner and it appears they can’t do much as the last hope of the common man? 

They (Judiciary) shouldn’t be. That is why I said we need to go back to the basics, education, the civics of responsibility, the commitment to separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the ample growth with income that are evenly distributed so that people can take care of those standards that are set for them to work without fear. It is because of some of this fear and some of the dislocations in the allocation of salaries and wages or awarding of contracts that are padded which give people more than they deserved in terms of what they actually rendered, when those things are dislocated at so many points, it begins to affect the system, people now begin to find how to make ends meet, how to adjust. So it’s not as easy as you think unless the structure is assured to have equity, freedom, justice, checks, and balances.

What do you think should be President Buhari’s priorities now that he is getting into his second term?  

The first priority is to make sure that Nigerians accept that the last election is concluded well, whoever that is adjudged the winner has an agenda, the agenda is to begin to make peace to bring people together, we have so many political parties, that already tells you there is so much discord in the entity.

In fact, I will support where we go back to two or three political parties that cut across provinces, languages. So, we put Nigerians in political structures where they have different ideas as to how to move the nation forward, all the other primordial issues with all due respect should be put in their proper perspective.

The second priority is to identify all the problem areas in the economy, infrastructure, and social system and see how we can mobilize to solve them. I think we can, we have our experts out there, they need encouragement to come back, coming to engage in their areas of expertise. The whole world thinks Nigeria should be a major country and I believe so. We should be a major player and you can’t be a major player by mouthing your population size, that is neither here nor there, you need action, quality, maintenance of the rule of law, maintenance of equity and justice in the system, that is where the strength is, not numbers. – Culled from The Sun.

 

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