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The Second Keynote Address at the Mbaise Policy Roundtable By Prof. Pat Utomi (Represented By: Dr. Fabian Ihekweme

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The Keynote Address Delivered By Prof. Pat Utomi At The 3rd Annual Summit Of Mbaise Policy Roundtable On Tuesday, the 3rd Of January 2023

*Protocol*

Let me begin by commending the organizers of this great summit ‘The Mbaise Policy Roundtable’ (MPR) for so noble an initiative.

This summit comes at a time when the survival and existential angst in Nigeria as an independent Country has become a national crisis.

I have no doubt on my mind that this gathering is part of the efforts being made by well meaning Nigerians to get the country back on track again.

Concern with policy is central to citizenship. I talk often about how old Greek society categorized people from the level of idiots to tribesmen and then to citizens. Idiots think only of self, tribesmen of parochial relatives with everyone else as enemy. Citizens think of a shared humanity and the common good. But the way you pursue, that is policy making.   Concern for policy making is therefore an imperative of citizenship. It is on that basis that I am generous with praise for this policy summit.

One reason countries underperform is that their policies cannot pass the Rotary 4 way test. But even when policy is well done, sometimes weak institutions result in the push back syndrome. To explore this phenomenon I wrote the 1998 book; Managing Uncertainty – Competition and Strategy in emerging economies.
But it is in the 2006 book “Why Nations Are Poor” that I pull together interdependent variables that place development in context.

There are six sets of interdependent variables that invariably determines progress.
Policy choices in our experience have been so poorly made with Dirigisme or statist policies leading us to a prebendal culture of sharing and away from production. And as we know, a system in which a government has a lot of control over a country’s economy or a political system in which the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic matters, is bound to fail. This has brought us to the status of the poverty capital of the world.

It is this that Labour Party Presidential candidate Peter Obi refers to in his mantra of going from consumption to production.

Our institutions are weak with one consequence being that regulatory risk is even a greater threat than market risk for businesses in Nigeria.

Each of the variables are being addressed in the Obi/Datti Manifesto and supporting documents.
Some of the details can be reflected on here by Dr Fabian Ihekweme who has been gracious to stand in for me.

There are macroeconomic variables that policy makers should try and manage; such as Balance of Payment, Inflation, Unemployment and economic growth.

Economic growth measured by GDP means the increase of the growth rate of GDP, but what determines the increase of each component is very different. Public expenditure, capital formation, private or public investment, employment rates, exchange rates etc have different impacts on economic growth and we should take into account that these determinants have different implications if the country is developed or not. There are also socio-political factors and events that have a major influence on the economic advancement of a country. (We may not have enough time to dwell on that right now)

But I must not fail to point out that there are also non-economic determinants that help to advance progress in a given state, such as capital accumulation, technological progress, government efficiency, institutions etc.

In dealing with all of this, it is important for us to understand that the duties of government are numerous with the protection of lives and properties of her citizens as the primary duty. Therefore, the aim and essence of every responsible government, is provide good living to the people.

It is also the duty and responsibility of any government to build and provide social amenities for her citizens, provide jobs and employment, as well as cater for the basic needs of her citizens.

Again, respect for the rights of her citizens is the hallmark of a responsible government, for it is only a government that respects and values the lives of her citizens that performs the duties expected of her. This however, is not the case in Nigeria as the country has been faced successive regimes of bad government.

It is critical to mention that corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our nation and many of our political leaders have traces of a corrupt past, even with the intention of doing worse in the future.

When people of this nature clinch political power, the result is that bad governance has assumed office and there is barely anyone can do to prevent it.

The masses in Nigeria seem to have apathy towards politics. Our people are neither interested in politics nor are they interested in what the leaders are doing.

They stand aloof and are scared of demanding accountability from the political leaders as well as those in authority.

In the light of this, the government is very much relaxed in the mismanagement of the nation’s wealth since no one is ready to hold them accountable.

We are witnesses how our country has been thrown into crisis with some parts still under the control and occupation of insurgent groups.

Hardly any day passes without the news of insecurity filtering into the ears of Nigerians. Insecurity as it is currently in Nigeria cannot be in isolation from bad governance. It is a direct consequence of bad governance of the country.

Nigeria as a nation is a potential power to be reckoned with, but the forces which have held her captive have prevented her from being that.

The forces are not spirits, they are humans like us. Our country is down because there is a deliberate lack of will power on the part of the citizens to make her rise. The task of stopping and ending bad governance is a task that all Nigerians must key into if they wish to have a country they can be proud of and call their own.

It is nolonger hidden that Nigerians now live in fear and anxiety, as a dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over the nation. Nowhere is secure, our homes, our highways, our institutions of learning and even our sacred precincts of worship centers, are all unsafe.

It is therefore, very important and timely to seize the moment and opportunity being presented to us by 2023 Presidential election to change the narrative and restore the dignity of Nigeria and Nigerians by voting for the right candidate and the Presidential flagbearer of Labour Party, Peter Gregory Obi.

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