Anambra Deserves Better; Remarks By Oseloka H. Obaze, PDP Governorship Aspirant at The Anambra State Political Stakeholders Forum (APSF) Political Summit, Dora Akunyili Women’Development Centre, Awka 18/7/17
I wish to recognize and acknowledge theme of this summit, “The Imperative of Good Governance & Equity“; especially, the 6-point aim and objectives of this summit as enumerated by the Chair Dr. Okey Umeano. I note particularly item 4, “to install in Anambra state a responsive and responsible government;” and item 6) “to assist credible individuals who have political ambitions in any of the political parties in the country.”
I thank Prof. Sunday Obiajulu Obikaeze for his speech on democracy and good governance. My thanks to Professor Frank-Collins Nnamdi Okåfor for the magisterial and illuminating discourse on zoning. He has vindicated our stance on zoning. For the record, I have taken the position, that if elected Anambra State governor on 18 November, 2017, I will keep faith and serve for only four (4) years. Thus Anambra North will conclude its term in 2022.
To speak about why we are hear today, we must place Anambra State in its proper context by understanding existing realities in Nigeria.
I am a student of comparative politics and governance. So, when you say a nation is doing well; we must ask, can it do better? When you say a state is working; I will ask is there still room for development? If you say it is not broken, so don’t fix it; I will ask can the system be redesigned to achieve greater good for all, inclusivity and all-encompassing development?
Today our nation and our states are challenged. Why? 1.) Uneven distribution of returns of development; 2.)Disparities in interests for each group in Nigeria; 3.) Adverse changes in the business environment affecting SMEs (electricity tariff); 4.) Current economic policies are not in tandem with current economic realities; 5.) Many manufacturers have closed shop and moved their production plants to other countries; and 6.) We say the system is not working, but we are too sacred of restructuring by any means.
Leadership: It’s been said that “leadership provides direction; management provides capacity for implementation.” This dual track approach, when effectively combined, makes government purposeful and effective. For any good governance and leadership to excel, you must carry along your broad constituency.
We must restore the people’s confidence in governance. There must be a bond of performance between the government and the governed. We in Anambra retain the potentials to lead other states in all facets.
Investment in industry and Infrastructure: Government has a role to play in regulating and preserving national property, but so do we as individuals and professionals. There exist and will always be cross cutting niche sectors where government, consortiums and individuals can partner, under the rubric of Public Private Partnership (PPP).
Security in all spheres. There must be responsibility to protect. Security is not just about freedom of movement; security includes, human security; security from hunger; addressing unmet needs; and the guarantee for the pursuit of personal wellbeing.
Education, Empowerment, Employment: We must support investment in education. Our educational and related public policies must be assertive, introspective and developmentally focused. Anambra State schools should become top in the nation, so as to become recognized as a Magnet State for academic excellence. We need to devote 26% of state budget to education as prescribed by the UN and 10% of that to mission run or the so-called parochial schools.
We remain emphatic in stressing that the underfunding of educational policies will remain inimical to long-term planning and the nation’s developmental progression. Hence, our policymakers and stakeholders must be proactive and constructively engaged. Contextually, our educational institutions must not just churn out half-baked students; they must engage in research and development and orchestrate functional models and policies that will assist the government and society at large in wealth creation, and averting fiscal and economic hiccups like recession.
Youth empowerment: We must empower our youths. Nigeria is in dire straits developmentally and economically, with immense challenges; but it is such challenges that offer unique opportunities to creative and talented persons. As a means of tackling our youth bulge and growing youth unemployment, we will encourage our youths to seek to become entrepreneurs upon graduation instead of employees; and if necessary, to form clusters and pursue startups or SMEs, even as Nigeria retains 75% high failure rate of its SMEs.
There are broad areas where we must engender good governance. We must acknowledge that good public policies are society-centered and centered on public interest, public participation and adaptive leadership. Such policies are aimed at resolving complex problems, ensuring absence of dichotomy and effectively managing cost of governance. In whatever we do, effective governance will always be predicated on efficiency.
Accordingly, efficient public policies must reflect priority, be properly formulated, and funded, faithfully implemented and consistently evaluated, through measurable benchmarks, feedback and auditing. Managing the cost of governance is important. There is room for shared responsibilities and complementarities, but this must be balanced with separation of responsibilities as it relates to constitutional provisions and exclusive lists-federal, state local government. Our state house of a assembly must be allowed to function and carry out their legislative and oversight functions in a seamless manner.
Any puposeful leadership must engage in frugality. Managing fiscal policies require intrusive focus and above all, measurable benchmarks. There must be clarity about how government raise, spend and manage public resources, including assets and liabilities, borrowing, investments procurement and disposal or sale of public assets. Results-based budgeting remains imperative.
State budgets must be transparent and in the public domain. Government can’t spend what is not appropriated. After appropriation there must be AIE –authority to incur expenses. Corporate governance must include transparency; we must remember that accountability is answerability. Today, we know the Anambra State budget size, but we are unaware of its details and narratives.
Nationally and at the state level, Cost of Governance (COG) remains exceedingly high. Besides policy incoherence, Nigeria still maintains a very huge public service at the federal, state and local government levels. In this regard, cost of administering the legislative branch is mind-boggling. I heard a governor admit that “there is no recession in the government house” that is applicable to all government houses.
Strategies for Anambra: Beyond attracting investors who sign a slew o MOUs without commensurate resources on the ground, we need to pursue efficient, pragmatic, measureable and sustainable policies.
1. Restructuring policies to catch up with current economic realities and competition from other states or countries. We strive for an efficient tax system; by restructuring of taxes to eliminate the scourge of multiple taxation.
2. Encourage new areas of business that advances Anambra’s prosperity and competitiveness by establishing strong legal infrastructure that encourages innovation.
3. Linking up industry supply chains by upgrading critical infrastructure that reduces operational costs and drives economic and social development.
4. Map out strategies that will guarantee even development for each region (with the help of academic, research institutes, private sector etc).
5. Enter into strategic economic and trade agreements to capture potential economic opportunities.
6. Formulate comprehensive policies to promote and support the key industries that are important to our economic development and encourage new industries that will bring new job opportunities.
Closing: We need to fix the present governance system. Certainly, Anambra deserves better. There is a credible alternative to the incumbent leadership and we must capitalize on that and put Anambra on its best trajectory, not just to make it a working state, but best of all 36 states in Nigeria. I thank you all.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.