All the problems associated with governance would be removed if we can all summon the courage to tackle corruption and banish it from our activities.
Former United State Ambassador to Nigeria Walter C. Carrington, stated this on Monday at 29th Convocation lecture of University of Ilorin, Kwara State, entitled: ‘On The Dawn Of Nigeria’s Second Century: Challenges To A New Generation’ at the University Auditorium.
He noted that development doesn’t have a bigger enemy than corruption and the development of Nigeria was hinged on ridding polity and politics from corruption and corrupt practices.
“I have seen too many good people of high character yield after putting up a good fight. Which is why efforts must be redoubled to create an environment in which character and virtue are rewarded and not scorned. Now, I know from my Sunday school days that being faced with temptation can be good, for if you can resist it you will be that much stronger. But let us not put too much temptation in their path. All of you, old and young alike, have a duty to do all you can to make the society in which these students and those who come after them matriculate is a society in which getting rich quickly is no longer a cherished goal; in which corruption is to be shunned and not envied; a society in which freedom and democracy flourish.”
“Women are estimated to carry on about 70% of economic activity in Africa but they own but a paltry two percent of the land and are woefully under employed in the formal work force. And they are, in so many other ways, continually discriminated against. They remain victims of ancient patriarchal customs.”
“Half of your generation are women as, of course, are 50 percent of all Nigerians. Yet their participation in the workforce is extremely low. Only 33 percent of Nigerians who are employed in the formal sector are women. No nation can long endure and prosper which wastes the talents of so many of their citizens. President Jonathan has done better than any of his predecessors in bringing women into the top ranks of his government. A third of the members of his cabinet are women and he has appointed the first female Chief Justice. Yet, too much of the old s*xist culture remains in the country. It is an anchor holding back its progress. Women’s family inheritance rights in too many states remain subordinate to those of their brothers even if the boys are younger than them. Too often they are s*xually harassed on the job. No task will define the moral fiber of your generation more than your willingness to be committed to do as young people around the world are doing – rejecting s*xism and seeing that women in law and custom enjoy equal rights to dignity and opportunity. No nation can prosper utilizing manpower alone. The freeing up of women’s power is essential to progress.”
“Nigeria has been too long an underperformer on the world stage. It has ceded to South Africa the pride of place as Africa’s leading spokesman. When the G-8 or other gatherings of the world’s most powerful nations occur it is more often to Johannesburg that they call than to Abuja on those all too rare times when they seek an African perspective. In its second century as more than a geographic entity, Nigeria, must at last realize its full potential. Even now, as woefully neglected as it has been, its manufacturing sector produces a large proportion of West Africa’s goods and services. What it has done for the region it can certainly in the years ahead do for the entire continent. You are indeed the giant of Africa. Your population of close to 170 million dwarfs all others. You are, by far, the continent’s largest and most appealing market. Surely Nigeria can raise the future amount of its exports to members of the African Union beyond its current level of 11 percent. Africa’s success is crucial to Nigeria’s own. Even if it accomplishes all of its 2020 goals by 2050 it will find it difficult to long prosper as an oasis in a desert of impoverished countries. It will become the attraction for massive illegal immigration as has the United States to its poorer neighbors to the South or has Europe to the peoples of the poorer countries of Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean. That is why it is in Nigeria’s enlightened self interest to be concerned as much about the plight of its neighbors as it is of its own. Those are the responsibilities that the members of the club of the world’s most powerful nations which Nigeria wishes to join must shoulder.”
“Nigeria has the potential to be in fact the giant of Africa which it has always thought itself to be. Its agricultural output is already second to none on the continent and 25th in the world. By making it more of a priority Nigeria could become a major player on the world’s commodities market. It must refine at home more of its 37 billion proven barrels of oil which is the world’s sixth largest reserve of crude oil. Its 187 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas is the eighth largest gas deposit in the world. Its flaring must be stopped and the gas harnessed to meet the country’s mounting energy needs. The pipelines carrying oil and liquefied natural gas must be better protected for both ecological and economic reasons.”
“The second century must be dedicated to diversifying this economy away from its overdependence on oil and to adding value to Nigeria’s treasure trove of the other natural resources lying beneath its soil. This can be done by sending not raw materials abroad but rather enhancing their value at home through a revitalized manufacturing sector, which refines and finishes the more than thirty different minerals lying beneath the nation’s soil.”
“The question must now be asked, why is Africa’s most endowed country, which earns $57 billion dollars a year in oil revenues not yet able to solve its persistent problems of electric power and infrastructure? The African Development Bank report has summed it up thusly:
‘After decades of neglect, infrastructure in Nigeria is in a dilapidated state. The ranking of overall infrastructure is very close to the worst rank in Africa. Power supply is erratic, roads are in a state of disrepair, and the railway infrastructure is in a poor state. The erratic supply of electricity has continued to plague every aspect of the economy and it is viewed by the Federal Government of Nigeria as the bedrock of the country’s future growth, if addressed. Billions of dollars have been spent on the power sector by various administrations but without success because of mismanagement and implementation problems. However, with the political will to tackle mismanagement in the infrastructure sector and the desire to find a solution to the infrastructure problem in the country, there have been some improvements in the state of infrastructure in the country’.”
“Let me turn now to the great moral shame of our time – the persistence of poverty. Towards its elimination the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank promulgated in 1999 a Poverty Reduction Strategy Program (PRSP). Those two agencies have over the years ruffled nationalist feathers in a number of developing countries because of the austerity and conditionality requirements which they have imposed. Nigeria has not filed a PSRP progress report since 2007. It has enacted instead its Transformation Agenda 2011-2015. It is imperative that poverty reduction be a major goal of the agenda and not a marginalized one as it appears to have been so often in the past in too many countries. If not, then progress will be limited and the plight of the poor will become even more hopeless. One of the most important challenges your generation faces is to find ways to address continuing inequality so that all Nigerians are able to benefit from economic growth.”
“One hundred years before I first came to Nigeria in 1959, on the eve of your Independence, one of my heroes, the father of Black Nationalism, Martin Delany, in 1859 on the eve of the American Civil War came to these shores in search of a homeland for the enslaved sons and daughters of Africa held in captivity in America. He wished to see a great state built in Africa. As he put it: “a nation, to whom all the world must pay commercial tribute.” Sailing aboard a ship owned by three African merchants he arrived in Abeokuta. His one-year stay resulted in the signing of treaties with western Egba Chiefs giving American blacks the right to settle in their areas. The agreements were never followed up because the Civil War broke out just as Delany returned to America. He served as a medical doctor in Abraham Lincoln’s army which ended slavery and resulted in blacks becoming citizens of the United States.”
“I speak to you now, on the eve of Nigeria’s second century and in the twilight of my years, as more than an in-law who first came to Africa as a student in search of my heritage and returned four decades later to find my destiny in my lovely wife – Arese. “
“I speak to you young people as an octogenarian optimistic enough to believe that I will still be around to see Nigeria become the fulfillment of Delany’s dream of a great African state to whom the world must pay tribute. “
“Yours is the pivot generation. One that can and must turn Nigeria around as mine and the one that followed changed America forever. Nigeria is calling you. Heed her call so that in the words of your National Anthem ‘The labors of your heroes past shall not have been in vain.”