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What are the measurements for progress in a nation? Clearly every student told to mark his own essay will cheat somehow. President Jonathan challenged his opponents when he said in his speech recently that those that seek to mark his government’s performance should present their marking scheme. Well, I have decided to respond to his challenge. But rather than devise a new marking scheme that can be questioned; I decided to use a reputable, GEJglobally acknowledged scheme that also provide comparative analysis with other countries in Africa and beyond. Nigeria Finance minister at the same event organized to mark the midway in the administration spouted out several statistics and data; that is far from representing the realities of most Nigerians. The progress of any nation is beyond just GDP growth and national success and prosperity is about more than just fancy figures. The question is, how do ordinary Nigerians feel about their personal wellbeing and economic standing?

To capture my sentiment exactly; let me allow a progressive African leader to speak. Dr Joyce Banda , President Republic of Malawi said recently as follows:

“As for me, growth is not merely about GDP growth. Growth is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all. Growth is about growing and improving access to education for our children, and creating jobs for our youths. Growth is about growing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital.  As women leaders, we should not allow children to suffer from malnutrion. We should refuse to allow our children to learn under trees rather than proper classrooms. We should refuse to allow mothers to die while giving birth because the nearest health centre is far away .Whenever these challenges are prevalent, our economies cannot meaningfully achieve the sustainable economic growth we all aspire for”.

I could not have said it any better. So the marking scheme I will use to score the Jonathan administration is the recognized measure used by the OECD and other global outfits called The Prosperity Index (developed by the Legatum Institute). This is the only global measurement of national success based on both income and wellbeing. Their econometric analysis has identified 89 variables, which are spread across eight sub-indices. By measuring prosperity holistically they are able to identify and analyse the specific factors that contribute to the success of a country beyond just GDP statistics or other banal statistical measure that does not impact on the true economic realities of a nation’s citizenry. These Eight Prosperity indices are: Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Governance, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.

According to the Institute’s survey of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria; the raw GDP statistics masks major weaknesses in indices of national prosperity and economic wellbeing. In its report last year it noted that economically, Nigeria paints a mixed picture. GDP growth is recorded at an impressive 7.9%, however a high inflation rate of over 7%, high levels of unemployment, and poor internal infrastructure stifle long-term, sustained growth it said. Nigeria it stated has significant oil reserves but its reliance on revenue from oil has been described as “damaging”, while the risks of relying on oil reserves as a one-pronged economic strategy is well documented across Africa. They concluded that “Factoring in the current instability of the global economy as a whole, we may reasonably conclude that a diversified, entrepreneur-led economy is crucial to Nigeria’s long term success and stability”.

The Legatum Institute produced last year its annual National Prosperity Index for 142 countries in the world. Nigeria ranked a dreadful 123 out of 142 countries in 2012, that is a relegation from our already bad rank of 104 in 2011 and 106 in 2010. That means by an holistic measure of national prosperity and wellbeing as measured globally; Nigeria has slipped backwards and performed worse between 2010 and 2012. South Africa was ranked 74, Tunisia 78, Namibia 83, Ghana 87, even Mali was did better than us at 104.

Looking behind the overall poor ranking of Nigeria; we performed worst between 2010 and 2012 in the following indices: Economy (drop of 31 point), Safety & Security (27 point drop) and Education (17 point drop). We however improved in Personal Freedom (gain of 10points) and Social Capital (gain of 3points) measures.

So while I praise the Jonathan government for some of its high level macro economic achievements; attention now needs to be paid to the wellbeing of Nigerians in a holistic way. It is a known economic fact that there are more business opportunities in any economy than job opportunities. The engine for growth in Nigeria therefore will not be just more jobs for the unemployed (although that is needed by many) but an entrepreneurial explosion. Government should encourage and promote new businesses and our universities should emphasize entrepreneurship more rather than the current focus on getting a degree and going to apply for jobs that are not always available.

There exists today a multitude of objective data about entrepreneurship in Nigeria. For example, the Index report states that the average time it takes to start a business in Nigeria (31 days), the total tax rates, as a percentage of commercial profits, faced by Nigerian entrepreneurs is 32.2%. The growth of any economy is based on the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises. A concerted and unified strategy is needed to make a success of this vision. So rather than trumpeting pure statistics that means little to average Nigerians, the government should put more effort in productive activities and strategy that impacts on the day to day living of the people.  Of the eight indices measured, Nigeria improved in only two of them under this government. Given that we have slipped backward in six of the Prosperity Index in two years since the President was elected; I will give him a presidential performance score of 25%. So Student number 001, Goodluck Jonathan, if you repeat this core by the end of the school term; you will be expelled for poor performance.  So work harder and improve on your score. That is the conclusion of the Headteacher.

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A common constitutional argument in Nigeria is the fact that as a Federal Republic; the states should be the strongest tier of government with a weak centre giving the states power and room to assert their individuality. This is the case with most Federations in the world from USA, Germany to Australia and so on.  It is therefore considered as odd; the super strength of the centralised Nigerian Federal governmental status quo which has consequently emasculated the states  and its ability to carve out unique identities and  exercise  esoteric powers in the interest of the peoples of each state. This has led to repeated cry for decentralisation of the Police and many federalised institutions in Nigeria as an example.

The counter argument against the perceived foregoing purist stance by many “pragmatists” is that the states in Nigeria are not mature enough and cannot be trusted to acts in the interest of Nigerians (as one nation) were they to be left fully to their own devices. That the governors of these states will become mini emperors exercising total powers for self-interest at the expense of opposition actors and could endanger the existential reality of a united Nigeria nation.

There are clearly signs that the fears of the pragmatists are not imaginary. Many will recall the effect of the declaration of Sharia in many Northern states during Obasanjo regime and how that has affected not only the Muslims must non-Muslims in those states; thus making some of these northern states a no-go area for some Nigerians or at least a place where they now lead cautious existence compared to when they are in non-sharia states. By the way this is not a Boko Haram phenomenon although that has exacerbated the problem. But these are not my focus primarily in this article.

The fundamental principle of a federal republic is that citizens can travel and live freely anywhere in that country without being made to feel like a foreigner in their own fatherland. So an Hausa man can move from Kano and reside in Lagos (or travel through it) without any problem at all and more importantly; without having to feel he is in another country completely and vice versa. This is where Lagos and its government need to be careful not to create a de facto immigration border on the Lagos end of the expressway for Nigerians coming into Lagos.

Many (including myself) have commended the progressive stance of the Fashola Administration in Lagos. But I am beginning to feel that a primordial case of a national Tale of two Cities seem to be emerging and getting worse by many of the new  legislations coming into effect in Lagos. In the past few years; Lagos have enacted many new laws that makes demand not just of Lagos residents; but all that pass through Lagos territories, even for just one day. Like I said earlier many of the key state institutions in Nigeria are centralised with the Federal government, allegedly to help create a commonality across the nation. For instance; the FRSC issues Drivers Licence. This allows you to drive anywhere in Nigeria; just like a Lawyer certified after finishing Law School can practice in any state within Nigeria.

But with many local legislations coming from Lagos state covering many of these same areas; there is emerging not just a regulatory duplication but added burden to operate in Lagos compared to other parts of the nation. For instance; Lagos state enacted a law making it mandatory for all commercial and official drivers driving within the state’s territory to be certified by the State’s driving agency. This on the face of it looks good. But if you are a commercial driver based in Rivers state and coming to Lagos for just one day on business; what are you going to do? Will you be expected to go through the process of certification first before you can drive within Lagos even though you are not a Lagos resident?

Now there are new laws making it illegal to eat, make a phone call etc while driving in Lagos. While this is a good and progressive stance; but that will criminalise in Lagos what is perfectly legal in the other 35states of  Nigeria. So a non-Lagos driver coming from Kano will now have to behave substantially differently only in Lagos. Accordingly you will have to rush and finish that meat pie you are eating as you approach Berger bridge into Lagos.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying there is anything iniquitous with many of the forward-looking statutes that have been enacted in Lagos. But I am sounding a warning that this could create unwittingly a Republic of Lagos within the Nigerian nation state. A state where Nigerians will have to behave significantly differently from all other states. I am also warning that it could become counter productive for Lagos residents if other states in Nigeria decide to enact an anti Lagos legislations. For instance; what if each state decides to do exactly what Lagos is doing. That will mean a Lagos resident will need to obtain certifications from ten different states before he can drive from Lagos to Kano. What if other states decide to bring laws that prescribe what you can and cannot do while driving in their states. That will mean a driver from Lagos will have to adjust his behaviour markedly at the border of each state or risk arrest.

While I agree there is need for Lagos to set the pace for others as it has a unique capacity and means to do so; a Yoruba adage should inform their speed and pace of transformation. That is; a rich man in the family of ten poor men is ultimately the eleventh poor man. That is because the needs and demands of the ten poor men will impoverish the one rich man. So it is in the interest of the one rich man to help others to be wealthy more speedily. Lagos cannot isolate itself from the realities of the Nigerian existence. And in most federal countries where powers are fully devolved to the states; things work on the basis of reciprocity. That is; all states will recognise the instruments issued by one another without imposing any additional demands. Also (while some differences may still exist), most states have tried to harmonise much of their public requirements in order to minimise the burden on new state residents. For instance in the USA; Drivers Licence are issued only by the State governments. But a Licence obtained from New York is fully recognised by all other states in America. So you can drive through any state in the union with your New York licence without any problem.

Hence as Lagos is part of a federation it is in its interest to carry other states along or risk possible reprisals against its own residents by other states. Such development portends badly for the spirit of one Nigeria.  Lagos should try to minimise the plethora of new legislation it is churning out or at least create some exemptions for non-residents of the state. Nigerians should not be made to feel they need a visa (and legal training) to travel to Lagos from other parts of the nation; a perception that will be further entrenched by any new legislation peculiar only to the state. Lagos needs to show leadership by helping to spread best practice to other states as much as possible.

I accept the inherent contradictions in my desire to encourage the emergence of Lagos as a global mega city and the need to avoid a two-tier country where Lagos is thousands of kilometres ahead of all other states in ways that can create unnecessary envy and cause a possible backlash from other states. Truth is; all other states can make life difficult for Lagosians  should they want to. Can you imagine Ogun state requiring all drivers on its road to buy a special permit for instance? That will mean you cannot travel out of Lagos easily without buying an additional permit to do so. It will become like buying a visa to be able to leave Lagos and another one on your way back. So as you can see, States working together in a collaborative manner and working on the basis of reciprocity (fuelled by consultation with each other) will allow Lagos to move ahead as it is doing but on the basis of an agreed national consensus with its partners; rather than the current we can do what we like approach of the state at the moment.

So my advise to Fashola will be for him to try and find ways of making his laws work for the benefit of all. This can easily be done through the implementation procedures  and policies adopted by its officials. For instance many years ago; I travelled to Orlando in Florida with my then four year old daughter. I was a resident of the UK at that time. I was allowed to drive in Florida on my UK licence for the duration of the vacation. One day I was stopped by the Florida police and was going to be given a fine for not having a special booster car seat for my daughter. I explained that I was not a Florida resident (by showing them my UK licence) and that in the UK (at that time) there was no law against what I was doing. The police officer immediately reversed his decision and apologised telling me that as I was not a resident and unaware of the requirement he was using his discretion to allow me to go. And that as I was leaving Florida the following day, he said there was no need to buy a car seat that will not be required in the UK. Now that is an example of how a state specific law can be implemented but in a way that still allows non-residents to not feel victimised. Clearly if I was going to be in Florida for six months for instance; I would have needed to buy the car seat. Hence there should be a human face to the implementation of many of the Lagos legislations. Officials should be well trained and informed (as well as monitored) to use their discretion when dealing with Nigerians just passing through Lagos compared to a Lagos resident driving a Lagos coloured public transport for instance.

The dangers of an emerging republic of Lagos are many; not just for Lagos government and residents; but for Nigeria as a Federal Republic. If these implementation discretion is not in place as suggested; new economic traffic could be diverted away from Lagos; thus delivering a blow to the economic growth of the state that would otherwise have been the case. So, well done Fashola for many of the legislations to modernise Lagos; but remember the Yoruba adage that says if you send a slave to go and deliver a message; he does not have to deliver the message like a slave. Lagos can only truly develop in the spirit on one Nigeria.

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August 16, 2012 · 2:48 pm