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Recipe for economic development

By Ayodele Fagbohun

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Since the attainment of political independence and freedom from British Colonial rule on October 1m 1960, the Federal Government and its entire labour forces are regularly on brouhaha and war path over the acceptable national minimum wage to the workers.

As a result of the economic potential and latent natural resources abound in the country, the presumed denial of the bonanza derived from the anticipated wage increase fuelled misunderstanding; and path of no return if government fails to accede to the genuine demand of workers.

Ever since the rights of workers are either not fully met or being trampled on, there is no respite for amicable settlement on the need for acceptable minimum wage to the nation’s workforce.

While the government argues plausibly that the national wealth and scarce resources cannot be squandered on a neglible, fractional part of the whole nation.

On the other hand, the workers feel that being the goose that lays the golden egg cannot afford to be destroyed by over exploitation.  Hence, their strident clamouring for enough wages to meet their ever increasing demands on the face of vast diminishing returns of income accrue to state’s coffers.

Notwithstanding the sharp practices and venality perpetrated by some government officials in cahoots with their friends in the private sector, from known and unknown to swindle, rob and steal government blind.  The unbridled act of corruption, corrupt practices and sheer nepotism in the public service gradually blows out of proportion as a prairie fire to consume the nation in the ultimate.

Thus, the implementation and non-implementation of national minimum wage is unduly over flogged to the anguish of workers smarting under severe strains and pressure of socio-economic predicament.  This may further aggravate the unpleasant strained relations between the government and worker across the states of federation.

As if this is not enough, the discordant voice of some state governors not obliged to pay what the federal government approves, must not by stretch of sane imagination, inflame passion; nor lead to daggers-drawn and provoke bitter industrial disharmony all over the place.

The ugly scenario will not augur well for economic development of the country.

To avert needless industrial strike that may arise as a result of our naked moral turpitude, non-chalance and slipshod attitude to governance.  Hence to control and nip in the bud, the negative centrifugal and centripetal forces therein, Nigerian leaders, irrespective of political divide or inclination must not be oblivious of the fact that Nigeria is still seriously contending with multi-dimensional and multi-faceted problems of under development.

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As intractable, knotty as problem of underdevelopment stares us in the face, let’s be assured and re-assured that the problems are not insuperable and will no more see the light of the day if our leaders possess the right frame of mind, ideologically oriented, spiritually and mentally gifted; and imbued with Spartan self discipline.

To cap it all, the leader in every theatre of public administration, must address their mental and physical luggage rigorously and determinedly address the problems and challenges confronting the nation.

The country will henceforth move forward.  The leaders will see clearly with objective and dispassionate mind to run the economy unafraid, where no man will be oppressed, shortchanged or suffer injustice want or hunger in the midst of plenty.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late sage, elderstateman and Nigerian foremost economic and political thinker, in his address, on how the rich and highly placed in the country were running a dreadful and notorious risk in their callous and irresponsible abject neglect the poor and the downtrodden.

Awolowo rendered the address to old Ondo State House of Assembly in Akure on January 18, 1970 where he elucidated on the main causes of underdevelopment as follows:

“Our expert planners, from time to time, plan for economic growth of Nigeria; not for her development.  The phenomenon of growth without development is habitually overlooked.  All development economists outside Nigeria are agreed that there is substantial difference between growth and development.  I say economists outside Nigeria deliberately.  For in Nigeria most of the experienced economists have allowed partisan political prejudices to colour their analyses and judgment, and badly damage their scholastic credibility.”

Obafemi Awolowo, the pragmatic economist of our time, continues: “All around us we see evidence of growth.  New factories, new shops, new highways, plenty of exotic vehicles, greater output of petroleum, and of cement, etc.  in the result, our per capita real income has risen somewhat.  But in spite of all these, Nigeria still remains underdeveloped.  It also remains one of the poorest countries of the world.”

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According to the revered sage and the most visionary leaders of our times, “Gerald Meir denominates the objective of economic development as “better nourishment, better health, better education, better living conditions, and an expanded range of opportunities in work and in leisure for the poor.”

Jocob Viner, a world acclaimed development economist, in his book: “The progress of underdeveloped area says: “It must be recognized that the objective of development should be not only to raise the level of per capita real income but also to reduce the absolute number of individuals and the percentage of total population below a minimum level of real income.”

From the foregoing, it could be generally seen in the layman point of view that Nigeria is practically a subsistence economy, a dumping ground for exotic, unwanted imported multi-national foreign and European goods living at the fringe of starvation and grim poverty; unable to pay neither to sustain the approved minimum wage if the ongoing staccato of disagreements over the inability to sources funds for the minimum wage by the state governors is anything to go by.

The economy at the lowest ebb is not compatible with the ostentatious lifestyle of some political leaders especially in the National Assembly.  This is far from being in tandem with what Awolowo brilliantly espoused as objectives of development”

“to raise the level of per capita real income, and to increase the absolute number of individuals and the percentage of our total population, who can afford to live above a minimum level of real income, and thereby enjoy “better nourishment, better health, and education,” amongst others to put the nation on the fast-lane of economic development.

Accordingly, the earlier the Nigerian leaders organize themselves and pullout the country out of the morass of underdevelopment, the better for the entire citizenry.

What are the characteristics of development as Awolowo succinctly explains:

“(1) Underdevelopment of the mind, arising from ignorance, illiteracy and deficiency in techniques and organization.

(2) Underdevelopment of the body, arising from disease, calorie deficiency, bad water, bad housing, meager housing, meager clothing and filthy environment.

(3) Underdevelopment of agriculture and excessive under employment of the rural population, arising from underdevelopment of the mind and body, and lack of savings and capital formation.”

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It is generally agreed that the recipe for economic development is synonymous with the solutions to Nigeria’s endemic underdevelopment problems which include full development and full employment of every Nigerian, man or woman; child and adolescent.

For the development of his body, everyone needs suitable food and adequate food; suitable and adequate shelter and clothing.  To preocure these in a reasonable quantum, one must possess commensurate purchasing power.

It is asserted that man cannot get the good things of life without money.  Which is why, a reasonable national minimum wage per month becomes urgent, imperative and sine qua non to economic development in Nigeria.

Awolowo graphically painted the tragic and gory picture of how the few privileged political elite in unholy league with few rich in Nigeria society devastated and impoverished the vast majority of Nigerian populace as a result of iniquitous, wicked and planless governmental policies and programmes.  And the sad story still continued in the present political generation.

“ Out of our 180 million population about 70 million lives in abject poverty whilst about 60 million are actually starving, and have for houses likened to shelters unsuitable for modern poultry or piggery.  As against this soul-depressing picture, we have in our midst, about 1,000 rich Nigerians who in the past cleverly rigged the sources of the wealth of our nation, and are now tactically poised to oligopolise all the munificent avenue of riches that my supervene now and in the future.

“The rich and highly placed in business, public life and government are running a dreadful and notorious risk in their callous criminal neglect of the poor and the down-trodden, so declared the late sage Awo.

To avert this drift and pull out Nigeria from the pit of hell, the government must declare free education at all levels for its intrinsic benefit; halt the present mushrooming of private schools especially the private tertiary institutions which before our very eyes reduce our existing poorly funded public universities to glorified secondary schools.

The excesses of some private universities and their entrepreneurs are potentially inimical to the development of public universities and by extension detrimental to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

Full and gainful employment and free Medicare should equally take top most priorities as the chief cornerstone of

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