Greedy Leaders Contributed To Nigeria Economic Woes – Akiyode- Afolabi | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Greedy Leaders Contributed To Nigeria Economic Woes – Akiyode- Afolabi

Posted: Jun 20, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Founding Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, (WARDC) was a delegate to the 2014 National Conference. She spoke with AUGUSTINE ADAH on  bad governance , corruption and role of women in the society. Excerpts:

  Nigeria appears to be going through economic recession, what do you think is responsible for the present economic situation?

There is nothing more than the mismanagement of the resources by political leaders in the country. It is unfortunate that our GDP is at the level where it is presently, though there is a general economic downturn   everywhere. Our own is more challenging compared with some countries like Malaysia which is able to weather the storm despite the economic downturn.  Our own has to do with issue of governance because for years we have been ruled by leaders that are very selfish, leaders that are not concerned with the need of the people. We have been ruled by greedy leaders who steal our money and do not care for the welfare of the people. But if you look at the whole thing you would know that we have reached a point where we have to determine what we want. We have come to a point in the history of the country where we don’t really have an option but to address the matter. Though the government has recovered some money from looters, but if nothing to stem corruption and safeguard the looted fund from further looters, we might come back to square one.

How do see the fight against corruption by the present administration?

I think we need to have an effective institution that is not in any way bias. A lot of people talk about EFCC been biased because we saw them shifted during the time of Obasanjo, we saw them shifted during Jonathan’s time and it appears they have their loyalty to any government in power.   What we need is an institution that is not political but takes a life course of dealing with corruption as a priority and I think that is lacking in the country because those institutions we have presently are political and more committed to the interest of government in power. That is why a lot of people have suggested the need to have an independent court that would deal with corruption. Every day you see a lot of petty corruption going on in the country,  if you go to court and you want to file your case, somebody want to collect money from you, if you go to hospital, despite the fact that you are paying somebody want to collect money from you, you go to private organisations and buy a product  they don’t issue you a receipt. You don’t ever travel abroad and buy a product without them issuing you a receipt. We need  to imbibe the culture of dealing with corruption in the country, that is where  I don’t  see the  National Orientation Agency (NOA) doing it works in the country because there are supposed to be on ground enlightening people on corruption every time.    The National Orientation Agency supposed to change the orientation of Nigerians, the ministry of information has been belaboring itself talking about corruption, but it is wrong because it is the job of National Orientation Agency. We need to have a mass mobilisation of Nigerians to resist corruption and report corruption to the appropriate agency.  But when you ask people to report corruption, there must be a mechanism, a hot line where people can report incidents of corruption and when that is done, action must be taken at the right time. That is why we are where we are today.

What are other problems facing the country?

Nigeria’s problem is social, economic, political, and legal and we must address the problems holistically. That is why the Avengers in the Niger-Delta are in the creeks blowing oil pipelines because it is a business. Kidnappers are kidnapping because it is a business and when things are done with impunity, nobody talks about it. What am saying is that when you are fighting corruption, the problem of impunity must be addressed.   We must be bothered about everything that happens around us because they matter to us. But we can do this effectively when we have effective places where people can report matters to. This can only happen when for instance, there is a case of kidnapping and did not see government going to pay ransom for the person to be released. When you hear a case of government or its agencies going to pay ransom it means there is total chaos and total breakdown of law and order in the society. A lot of people talk about the economy because of poverty in the land, but around it there are a lot of variables that we need to address and without addressing those variables, the country cannot move forward. We all need to go to churches and educational institutions and begin the awareness in order for the country to redeem its lost glory and have Nigeria of our dream which we don’t have yet.   It appears the present administration has a listening ear to that but they must move from the usual to the unusual and address the matter concomitantly.  I believe in Nigeria because I am a Nigerian to the core, I believe it is a country with a lot of potentials.

Are you satisfied with the contribution of women to the economic development of the country?

Women have done well, though there have been a lot of downturn and challenges.  We see women still being marginalised, Women still remain the poorest in the society and excluded and l represent the largest population in the rural areas producing the agricultural products for the family and the society. Despite the high poverty ratio among them, they struggle to put food on the table of their families and society. Strategically, if you want to look at how we have fared, women themselves have not done badly in doing what is expected of them by the society. But we still have a lot to do as women, which is why I am emphasising   on the challenges because without power, education, women would not be able to attain the position that is expected of them in the society. So, there is need for education, power, voice and participation for us to be able to get there. There is also need for an enabling environment and to mainstream gender governance in Nigeria.

How will you assess government’s compliance to affirmative action on women in Nigeria?

Affirmative action means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some people take it to mean quota but it is bigger than mere percentage or quota. Affirmative action is any positive action government can take to redress any age long injustice. Before I go to quota which is what we talk mostly in Nigeria, I want to say that there are several affirmative action’s that government has taken in Nigeria. For instance, if you look at the policy of government to lower JAMB scores for some states that are regarded as catchment area, educational disadvantaged states, it is affirmative action.  When you look at the reason behind such actions, you would discover that it was aimed to step up those states regarded as educationally disadvantaged. Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) came as a result of affirmative action because the government realised that the people have been neglected in the past. The one concerning Women is beyond quota but the issue of quota is what we talk most because it has to do with power sharing .If you look at the recent gender issue and equal opportunity bill before the National Assembly, had it been a sizeable population of women at the National Assembly, it would have been a big issue in the house. It would be very easy for the member to understand that there is need to have equal opportunities for women. So the quota system was in the national agenda policy which was signed in 2007 that made provision for 35 percent of the political appointments to be reserved for women by the then president as a way to address the imbalance in the political appointments for women in the country. When President Jonathan came into power, he saw that as a laudable policy and followed it very well. If you check very well, the number of women appointees was up to 42 as the way of addressing the injustice against women in the past.

What is the position of present administration on that?

The present administration has not really demonstrated interest in furthering that policy and it is quite worrisome because the administration came with a change that is expected to be a transformative one. When a change is transformative, it is radical which takes you from here to there. There is an issue in the gender equality and there is need for the government to begin to imbibe that culture because there can never be development in the society without equal rights and participation of women. If government can encourage more participation of women in politics, it would attract more resources for the country because there are thing that are very clear in our today’s world. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania was clear about that. It is difficult to work in one direction that is why in a country like Tanzania, there have a lot of gender mainstreaming policies.  Nigeria is a very big country that is supposed to lead other countries because of our population and the position we occupy in the society. If you look at Rwanda, it has about 56 percent of women in its parliament meaning that there have come to a point where they have more women than men in the parliament and the economy of the country is growing. If you move from Rwanda to Uganda, you discover that in their constitution they instituted affirmative action by gender quota that is why at every time in their parliament, they have at least 35 percent of women populations in their parliament. My point is that it is not a western ideology, it is African and it is here with us.  In Nigeria, where they talk about quota system and affirmative action a lot of people became apprehensive thinking over what they are going to lose because they would say it means we are going to vote for women and people would not be made to vote according to their conscience. I think people should think more about the benefits. Why that argument looks valid, I think it must also be put into contest. Look at countries like South-Africa and USA, the fact that America is shifting from having a white as president to black is a form of affirmative action.  So there are things that help to develop the country and the gender quota as a form of affirmative action is something that helps to better the lots of people in the society. In South Africa, the whites have been ruling the country but it got to a point power was transferred to the black in that country, it is affirmative action.