There was a veiled agreement among stakeholders at a recent gathering in Lagos, that the governments in Nigeria at all levels are shirking the traditional but universal responsibility of provision of economic and infrastructural succor to the citizenry which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confer on them. The passionate plea for government-private sector collaboration for sustainable development underscores this assertion, thus eliciting this jigsaw: If it has been said that government has no business in business, what business does the private sector have helping government to do its business of providing quality governance to the populace? Essentially, participants at a recent one-day international conference were unanimous that 2030 sustainable agenda has partnership and collaboration at its centre. It was clearly stated that the scale and ambition of this agenda calls for smart partnerships, collaborations, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society. The conference which had as a theme; Partnership for sustainable development and innovation, was jointly organized by the First Bank sustainability centre and Lagos Business School, Lekki, Lagos.
The event was among other goals aimed at finding an ‘urgent need for creative and innovative thinking by all strata of the society-public and private sector and civil society-to promoting sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection’.
Different speakers present at the event brought to the fore the reality of infrastructural deficit facing the country and government’s helplessness in this regard hence the clarion plea: “Government partnership with the private sector is needed for the provision of infrastructure for sustainable development”. After listening to different speakers present at the event, it has dawned on me that this must be trying moment for our nation especially when it was muted that bridging the infrastructural deficit which will form a major indicator for determining the success or otherwise of the agenda will require a whopping sum of 2.3 trillion US Dollars. That obviously got me thinking as it reminded me also that we are in a nation that is characterized by policy inconsistency and lacking in committed leadership
Still ruminating on this whole thought of sustainability as discussed, I had the opportunity of driving through Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okojie ‘Way, in Ikoyi. A Street that houses the now abandoned federal secretariat. Casting a glance at the complex, the question that readily flooded my mind; If we draw on this Federal Secretariat building as a key performance indicator to appraising the government effort to bridge the infrastructural deficit in Nigeria as explained at the conference, can Nigeria achieve this 2030 sustainability agenda?
Indeed, critical minds will not take the federal government seriously in its bid to attain the 2030 sustainable agenda or consider the corruption fight as orchestrated after looking at this abandoned edifice, as this is worse than corruption.
Adding context, this issue raised is not the primary concern of this piece but apparently will point at the bigger frame of obstacles that may prevent us as a nation from achieving the said 2030 sustainable agenda. Again, the sorry state of the onetime edifice also reminds me of our penchant for project abandonment which may likely blur this vision and damage the goal as envisioned by the United Nations.
Synoptically, I must acknowledge the fact that I am aware of the transaction gone sour and the inherent friction created between the federal government and the parties involved. Also noteworthy is the federal government elusive search for a truce. But while this search is ongoing, the complex is telling our sorry story to the world.
So, using the above scenario as a dashboard to correcting our leadership challenge which is gravitating towards becoming a culture, it would be important for us as a nation to openly admit and adopt both structural and managerial changes if achieving this agenda is at the centre of our goal. This to my mind will necessitate our leaders welcoming approaches that impose more leadership discipline than conventional, and creating government institutions that are less extractive but more innovative in operation.
This shift in action is important as ‘we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it’. And this time is auspicious for our government to bring a change in leadership paradigm by switching over to a leadership style that is capable of making successful decision built on a higher quality of information while dropping the age long mentality which presents execution as more important than idea incubation.
This leadership fence mending becomes crucial as it is considered by many that if Nigeria fails to get it right, Africa as a continent will in turn not get it right. Correspondingly also, if Africa as a continent fails, it means the 2030 sustainable development agenda as planned will be considered a failure the world over. This position underscores the consciousness and industry that is expected from Nigeria as a nation and supports my belief that government rather than the private sector should provide the needed drive of this agenda.
To further buttress the imperativeness of this needed commitment from all the parties in tackling the agenda, the conference stressed that the partnership is at the very centre of the sustainable development agenda as It is both a means to an end, since it is a crucial enabler for the attainment of the other goals and an end to in itself since goal 17 is a means of implementation and revitalized global partnership’.
Catalyzing this needed partnership between the government and private sector in the race for massive infrastructural development will again call for a higher level of transparency on the part of the government. Transparency will remain the cornerstone as it will increase the confidence expected by these interventionists’ private sectors as well as the civil society groups who may not be disposed to investing in an environment that is devoid of transparency and accountability.
Very instructive also, finding a solution to the societal problems vis-a-vis youth unemployment and developing a climate of sustainable future and innovation is another part of the goal that needs a disciplined attention if this agenda is to be achieved. Talking about the youth unemployment in Nigeria, a report recently puts it this way ‘we are in dare state of strait because unemployment has diverse implications. Security wise, large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed. Any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere’
Youths challenge cuts across, regions, religion, and tribe, and have led to the proliferation of ethnic militia as well as youth restiveness across the country. This may, in turn, hamper the peace needed if handled with levity. But this threat has become more pronounced in the oil-rich region of the country with the chunk of the proponents spearheaded by the large army of professionally-trained ex-militants currently without a job.
The recent threat by the members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) exemplifies this position. Proper management of these teaming youth is the panacea to determining the success or otherwise of the 2030 sustainable agenda, It is only by engaging these teaming youths through employment creation that the incessant youth restiveness can be abated.
One fact we must acknowledge is that 2030 sustainable goal was formulated to among other aims promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty but nurturing to bear the premeditated result will depend on not just the private sector but our government.