JONATHAN VOWS TO FIX PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS
President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to fix public institutions, adding that strengthening the frameworks was the solution to the long years of rot and corruption that had characterised the Nigerian state.
He assured that his administration would begin the process of restructuring and building institutions that would create the enabling environment for the nation's diversification from reliance on crude oil in the next 10 years.
Jonathan at a National Lecture: 'Nigeria in Transformation', to mark Nigeria's 51st Independence Anniversary held at the International Hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, stated that Nigeria, like many developed countries of the world, had the potential to grow and become great, but noted that strong institutional base was needed to drive the process for the desired growth.
He expressed optimism that Nigerians have the capacity to transform the country into a world-class economy, but prescribed the building of strong institutions in all sectors of the economy as the antidotes that Nigeria needed to heal her current socio-economic and political woes.
'A country (Nigeria) where we have good people in athletics, in academics, why can't we fix our country and that is the kernel. If we have this people, fantastic people all over the world, medical doctors. In America alone, we have about 25,000 medical doctors that are from Nigeria and that is a society where if you treat somebody and something happens, you will be taken to court unlike here that medical doctors can kill people and nobody cares. They don't employ butchers, they employ doctors. So, for us to have 25,000 medical doctors working there, that means we have the people', he said.
The President vowed that one of his major priorities for the next four years was to build strong institutions by fixing the existing ones, upon which the government would kick-start the process of the development.
Jonathan said 'if we have well managed ports alone, the income we receive as a government from the trading activities alone will be enough but we are still running a deficit budget because there are a lot of leakages, things are not being done properly'.
'If we fix a number of institutions that we must fix, it may be painful but we have to do that. People will complain that politics is being used but must be done by the time these institutions are fixed, I believe in the next 10 years or so, we should be able to run our economy without oil. For the 53 African states, about 20 or so produce oil. We are getting oil everywhere but the quantity may differ. If we continue to rely on oil, of course oil is also a wasting asset, you cannot replace it easily.'
Jonathan declared that he was not unmindful of the politicisation of his action whenever the reforms of such public institution commences, but stated that no amount of politics or political pressure would made him to retrace his steps on the planned reform.
He explained that it is a common experience the world over that no nation can attain and achieve its maximum desires without first building a strong and proper institutional base as a driving force for the process; saying that Nigeria can't be an exception.
The President who was accompanied to the lecture by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Pius Anyim Pius, and other cabinet members regretted that over the years Nigeria has not been a able to develop adequate institutional framework upon which to drive the process of economic recovery.
'I used to tell people in my office that ministers don't need to see me if the system is working well, even if I am sick for six months, ordinary Nigerians will not know the President is sick because the system is supposed to run. Ministers have budgets approved by the National Assembly for them to run their ministries, their recurrent and capital projects, so even if a minister does not see Mr. President for four years, that minister if he is competent can run the ministry in a way that Nigerians will know that we are moving.'
He lamented that, 'so many things are not done properly. So almost everything needs the President's intervention because we want to alter something that has been there before but is not good enough, in that case you need the signature of the President to give you the power, now we are in the process of that transformation, by the time we finish setting up all these structures, surely Nigeria will get to where we are all hoping that we will get to. I have no fear about that.'
Reacting to the Guest Lecturer, Mr Richard's claim on oil and corruption, Jonathan said, 'the problem of oil is true. Not just the oil but any country that is blessed with a mineral, extractive industry generally breed corruption and that is the perception of the people.'
'I am hoping for a Nigeria that will in the next 10 years or there about be able to run our government without oil and we can do it. If you look at the size of Nigeria, all the general import that come into Africa, about 20 percent of them come into this country', he said.
Jonathan explained that 'some goods that are supposed to be cleared through Nigerian whalfs are being cleared through other countries and smuggled into Nigeria, we consume all those goods here but we cannot clear them through our wavers, they have to be cleared through neighbouring countries and they will transfer them though all kinds of means to Nigerians for us to consume.'
According to him, 'developed countries are thinking about alternatives. They are developing generators that don't require hydrocarbon fuel in the next 50 years you do not know what the world would be. People may be driving without oil, so we need to plan a nation that can do without oil.'
He said while he was not against comparison as a measurement function, 'the purpose of comparing yourself is to improve and not to go backward. You can not reinvent the wheel, if bicycle has been already discovered, Nigerians doing research to discover bicycle is a waste of time.'
The President said 'societies have made it from mistakes and have developed to some level. At this point we should start from where they have reached and move forward. We may not go back and retrace their history. So to us as a people, we must look at what others have done well, forget about the areas they did not do well'.
He maintained that 'you have to compare from where you are and I know that as a nation, just like the speaker in his summary has described Nigeria, especially the Lagos situation that if you look at Nigeria everybody expected that the country was going to collapse, that is why there is a lot of prediction about Nigeria collapsing but when we look Nigeria is moving people begin to get worried that why should Nigeria move. A country that everybody expected to collapse and he concluded in saying that Nigeria looks like a heated oven that the heat was so much that it gave out the best'.
He pointed that the problem of Nigeria is not lack of talents but how to use these talents and brains that we have and move this country forward; assuring that ' I promised Nigerians that surely we would move our country forward. We would exploit all that is available and build strong institutions that will support us.'
Jonathan argued that though Nigerians may not care so much about the politics, they can easily brian washed, stressing that 'theoretically, you would say that yes people don't care much but people could be brain wash to the extent that they don't listen again. People can be so brain washed that they begin to behave in a particular way so no matter what you do the perception will not be changed and that is why people talk about rebranding Nigeria.'
The President expressed worries over Nigeria's image outside the country, stating that 'the perception of Nigeria outside is bad. What am saying is that we Nigerians also owe our country a responsibility to protect our country'