The President, African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, has given insight on how Nigeria can address fundamental reasons for the rising agitations across the country.
Speaking yesterday at the Convocation Lecture of American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State in his lecture titled; “Building a New Nigeria: Imperatives for Shared Prosperity,” Adesina said Nigeria can address the agitations by listening, understanding, removing prejudices and allowing open, national dialogues, without preconditions, but with one goal by building one cohesive, united, fair, just and equitable nation for all, not for a few or for any section of the nation or religion.
Citing Singapore, he said the country’s system is based on meritocracy, not aristocracy or ethnocracy or religiocracy.
According to him, any society where meritocracy is subjugated to aristocracy, ethnocracy or religiocracy eventually tends towards mediocrity.
Adesina said; “Nigeria must learn from this experience and forge a new way of engaging among its diverse ethnic groups and religions. Nigeria must start managing its diversity for prosperity.
“We must drive for national cohesion, not ethnic nationalities. We must address the fundamental reasons for agitations, by listening, understanding, removing prejudices, and allowing for open, national dialogues, without preconditions, but with one goal: build one cohesive, united, fair, just and equitable nation for all, not for a few or for any section of the nation or religion.
“A nation, unified by a sense of common wealth, not a collage of ethnic nationalism. A nation driven my meritocracy, not ethnocracy, religiocracy or aristocracy.
“One of the things that Singapore did well was to have four national languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Nigeria needs to put in place the compulsory teaching of its major languages in schools, from primary through universities, to ensure multilingualism, cross-cultural understanding, and to build a strong socio-cultural capital that unifies.
“The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was a very good idea: it allowed graduates from tertiary institutions to have one year of national service, largely (ideally) outside of their places of origin.
“The real test, however, of “national service” is that it often revealed the lack of diversity. After one year of service the NYSC graduates are often not able to gain employment in governments where they served, simply because they are not indigenes of those states. That in itself, is an irony!
“The young graduates are strangers in their own country. A country they pledged to serve. Opportunity is denied just because they were not born in those states! Even if they were born in those states, they are told to return to the states of their origin.
Yet, their origin is Nigeria, not their states!
In Nigeria, regardless of how long you have resided in any place, you cannot run for political offices in those states or locations, just because you were not born there. State governments, therefore, largely reflect nativism not residency, which further sends a message to non-indigenes that they do not belong.
“Over time, this has created greater insularism, splintering, a lack of inclusiveness, the promotion of ethnic and religious chauvinism, instead of promoting national cohesion, trust and inclusiveness. This needs to change.
“Governments must be open to representation based on nationality not on ethnicity, to build a society of mutual trust, where diversity is well managed,” he added.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the weaknesses of Nigeria’s health care systems. He stated that from diagnostic and testing centers, access to vaccines, and hospital infrastructure, the health care systems were overwhelmed.
“I commend the spirited efforts of the federal and state governments, and the private sector, in mobilizing resources to tackle the pandemic.
“The African Development Bank provided $288.5 million to support the efforts of the Nigerian government in responding to the pandemic.
“But we must go further. Nigeria must manufacture vaccines locally,” he said.
Adesina said the AfDB was working on a $500 million program, Digital Nigeria, designed to transform Nigeria’s digital competitiveness and build on the incredible entrepreneurship of Nigeria’s youth.
He said the bank was also exploring the establishment of youth entrepreneurship investment banks-financial institutions for young people run by first-rate young bankers and financial experts to drive youth wealth creation.
“The young shoots are springing up in Nigeria. Today, Lagos has its own Silicon Valley. Yabacon Valley has emerged as one of the leading tech hubs in Africa with between 400 and 700 active start-ups worth over $2 billion, second only to Cape Town,” he said.