Act locally but think globally- Professor Ibrahim Gambari

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“There is general agreement that low oil prices will become the new normal for quite sometimes to come. The world is tiring of the hydrocarbon industrial civilisation that has fuelled the world economy since the beginning of the last century. The advanced industrial nations are frantically seeking alternative energy sources. Global warming is an additional incentive for them to move away from hydrocarbons. The handwriting is clearly on the wall: We in Nigeria must diversify or perish”.

“ACT LOCALLY BUT THINK GLOBALLY”

CHAIRMAN’S ADDRESS
AT THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE ILORIN EMIRATE DESCENDANTS PROGRESSIVE UNION (IEDPU)

BY PROFESSOR IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI, CFR

CHAIRMAN/FOUNDER SAVANNAH CENTRE FOR DIPLOMACY, DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT (SCDDD)

25TH- 26TH DECEMBER, 2017
ILORIN,
KWARA STATE
NIGERIA

It is for me both a huge pleasure and a singular honour to address you today as Chairman of this annual gathering of Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union. My career as an academic and international civil servant has taken me to far-flung corners of the world; from New York in America to the war-torn Darfur region of the Sudan; from Bellagio in Italy to Yangon in Myanmar. And yet, I must say, that nothing gives me more joy and fulfillment than to be here in Ilorin, the city of my venerable ancestors – the one corner of Africa I can truly call home.

2. Yes, Ilorin, Gari Alimi is the city of my birth and the Emirate is where the foundation of my education was laid. However, if I simply introduce myself to this audience as Ibrahim Agboola Gambari from Ilorin Emirate and stopped there, this would be limiting. But if I go on to say that I am from Kwara state of Nigeria, in Africa and a citizen of the world, we can observe the increase in value added. Indeed, through this identity check, we can appreciate the expansion of our individual and collective consciousness and possibilities. And, it is in this context of concentric circles of interests and concerns from the vantage point of moving from Ilorin to the world that I wish to make my remarks as chairman of this distinguished audience.
3. The main argument to be made here is that, while we need to act locally, it is imperative to think globally in order to survive and prosper as a people in an increasingly inter-dependent world. Fortunately, Ilorin and the Emirate has almost always been cosmopolitan- whose horizon has been widened by the evolution of melting pots of several tribes, ethnicity, linguistics as well as hopes and aspirations. Geographically, we are the most Southern part of the North, the most northern part of the South and we live in the middle of the country. Hence, we are natural bridge builders and while we act locally in political, socio-economic and even cultural terms, our environment encourages us to think nationally.
4. Almost one hundred and four years ago, Lord Lugard and the British government created the entity which they called Nigeria. They have done their job—imperfect as the boundaries may be…..but it is now up to us to create a Nigeria of our dreams; not as a mere geographic expression but a community of peoples sharing broadly common values, vision and aspirations aimed at producing a united, peaceful, prosperous and just nation. Unfortunately, our reality is that after over fifty seven years of independence, Nigeria is not where it should be and not near where it can be. Indeed, countries with which we were at least at par in 1960, the year of our independence, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and even Taiwan, have overtaken us in many respects. And it is my view that in order to regain the huge economic development grounds as which we have lost and to move this country forward, we need to embark on concerted efforts to make three main sets of changes: structural, policy and attitudinal.
NATIONAL RENEWAL AND TRANSFORMATION
5. Permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to illustrate my argument with an analysis of the state of national development today. The current APC-led administration came into power in 2015 with a lot of moral capital. There was overwhelming endorsement by the electorate for President Muhammadu Buhari because Nigerians believe he is incorruptible–a man they can trust to look after our common patrimony. It was Buhari’s lot to ascend the mantle of leadership in a time of unprecedented economic recession. The collapse of oil prices has grossly affected our public finances, eroding over 50% of our public revenues. Our foreign reserves fell from a peak of US$60 billion to a low of US$24 billion. The naira has been on a downward spin. Meanwhile output has fallen precipitously while inflation is shooting through the roof, at the current 18 percent. Layoffs have been taking place quietly while several airlines have pulled out of our country. The investors are no longer coming while a good number have relocated to Ghana and other neighbouring countries.
6. I am glad to note that the government recently launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) as a platform to re-launch growth and to reboot the economy for long-term sustainable development. Economic stabilisation requires bold neo-Keynesian to pump a fresh infusion of capital into the economy in order to rejuvenate growth. Improved sentiments will not happen until we pursue economic policy within the framework of a coherent and credible development strategy.
7. In terms of long-term policy, my view is that government holds the key to our long-term sustainable development prospects. We need bold action to reinvent the state and restructure the economy away from dependence on oil. It is clear that the model we have been operating for the better part of 4 decades is no longer sustainable. There is general agreement that low oil prices will become the new normal for quite sometimes to come. The world is tiring of the hydrocarbon industrial civilisation that has fuelled the world economy since the beginning of the last century. The advanced industrial nations are frantically seeking alternative energy sources. Global warming is an additional incentive for them to move away from hydrocarbons. The handwriting is clearly on the wall: We in Nigeria must diversify or perish.
8. For a long time, economists, in my opinion, had never given enough attention to the role of the state in economic development. The neoclassical orthodoxy and its stepchild the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’ which dominated the eighties and nineties tended to assume away the role of government; concentrating, instead on the role of markets and prices as the key to the transformation of national economies. The work of the new institutional economists — in particular Douglass North, Ronald Coase and Elinor Ostrom – has brought back attention to the critical role of government and institutions in the making of the prosperity of nations. My own point of departure is that not only do institutions matter; the role of the state is critical and, indeed, central to economic development and structural transformation.
9. Until the Great Recession which swept like a hurricane across the advanced industrial economies, the reigning orthodoxy was that government is the enemy of the people, not their friend. Ronald Reagan in America and Margaret Thatcher in Britain anchored their monetarist programmes on the belief that ‘big government’ inhibits free market enterprise. They proceeded to ‘roll back’ the state through massive programmes of deregulation and liberalisation. We in the developing world were virtually coerced into undertaking structural reforms, with disastrous consequences in terms of de-industrialisation and deepening poverty.
10. Today, we know better. We know that the gods of the marketplace are naked masquerades. We also know that untrammelled liberalisation of capital markets has created untameable financial bubbles whose chickens will sooner or later come home to roost. Indeed, ever since Plato, Kautilya and Ibn Sinna, government has existed because man by nature is a social and political animal. Left on their own, men are governed by the law of nature where, as the Greek historian Thucydides tells us, ‘the strong do as they please and the weak grant what they must’. It is in living in community under the framework of the political state that civilisation evolves. This is why German sociologist Max Weber defined the state as that organisation that monopolises the authoritative use of violence. In reality, however, that monopoly by the state is coming under increasing challenge by non-state actors such as armed militias and terrorist groups.
11. On the other hand, the medieval historian and jurist Ibn Khaldun that we referred to earlier famously defined the state as the sole institution allowed to commit crime and get away with it. A very clever definition, if you asked me! It conforms to the African royalist injunction to “talk softly but carry a big stick”. It is indeed a wise counsel at a time when lawlessness, criminality, kidnapping and rural banditry are on the increase throughout our country.
12. Of course, there has never been a perfect state anywhere, of course. This is why political theory, as the British philosopher Michael Oakeshott taught us long ago at one of my alma maters, the London School of Economics and Political Science, remains a part of the great conversation of mankind. Men and powers must continually converse with one another on how to a better life; on how human beings can live together while preserving individual freedom and cooperating in building the ideals of a humane civilisation.
13. Sadly, in our globalised integrated world society, it is the case that the state is everywhere in crisis. Technology has turned our world into the proverbial ‘global village’. But it has rendered governance even more challenging. Terrorist networks, global warming and viral epidemics trigger ramifying effects that transcend borders. Money now travels at the speed of light. No country can act on its own, no matter how powerful. And yet, cooperation and internationalism are not easy ideals to follow in practice. In reality, discord and collaboration constitute the dynamics of contemporary international relations. Everyone has become vulnerable. The competencies of government and rulerships have become more important than ever; so is the pursuit of international cooperation. On these alone depends the fate of civilisation itself

 

14. The key functions of the state as understood in our twenty-first century requires, the following key elements: the presence of the rule of law; monopoly of the use of violence; effective administrative control; sound management of public finances; massive investment in human capital, including education, health, knowledge, training and skills; enhancement of citizenship rights through expanded opportunities for participation and ensuring reciprocal rights and obligations to all citizens; development of a competitive and forward-looking market economy.
15. The effective exercise of state authority in a manner that promotes economic growth while ensuring political stability requires not only high quality visionary leadership; it requires a sound and professionalized bureaucracy. Public policies must be suffused with social justice, inclusive growth and what the philosopher John Rawls termed the idea of ‘public reason’. This is the foundation of the essential mechanisms of check and balances in a democratic state. In this regard, that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” as Lord Acton reminds us.
16. We in Nigeria are a tragically divided people – divided by the fissures of ethnicity, religion and regionalism. And what is alarming is that our divisions are getting deeper. For a country with the size, resources and innate potentials of Nigeria, I am persuaded that progress can only come about through the forging of a new consensus among the ruling elites from across the country’s key constituencies. Nation building is a vital requirement for successful economic transformation. Many economists do not realise that this was a major factor in the emergence of the so-called ‘Asian Tigers’ in the seventies and eighties.

 

“IEDPU, our community in the Emirate and all citizens of our country must demand accountability and good governance at the local, state and national levels and fight to establish mechanisms for monitoring same before, during and after elections. Impunity and corruption must be attacked with all rigour”.

17. What is crucial, in my view, is to evolve a common vision and commitment of all the political and economic elites to the creation of a developmental state that would accelerate the process of economic growth and wealth-creation. Developmental states, according to the American political scientist Peter Lewis, are those that have “successfully provided the collective goods for high growth and competitiveness”. This requires not only creative leadership; it requires the reform of the civil service to make it a merit-based institution with a sense of national mission and destiny. Above all, it calls for the mobilisation of all citizens and the youths in particular, to share in the vision of national transformation for the building of the New Nigeria of our dreams.
18. Moving on to the African condition, the first decade of independence for most African countries (1960-1970) was one largely of hopes, excitements and great expectations.
The expectations were that self-governance would produce good governance and that independence would usher in economic growth, higher standards of living and over-all development. Unfortunately, in the almost two succeeding decades, disillusionment soon followed as African countries experienced military coup d’etats, poor governance, civil wars, low commodity prices, unfavorable external terms of trade, growing external debt, drought and famine, HIV/AIDS pandemic. Indeed, for the two decades following Africa’s decolonization, the continent was in the media almost exclusively for the wrong reasons.
19. For decades, international financial experts and development practitioners designed and attempted to apply different concepts in efforts to develop Africa’s markets and open them to the global market. However, contrary to their predictions and hopes, Africa continued to suffer from stagnant economic growth, coupled with high unemployment and inflationary pressure. This period may be characterized as one of “Afro-pessimism”. As an illustration, there was a screaming caption of the cover page in an edition of the Economist magazine titled “Africa: the Hopeless Continent”.
20. However, with the end of the Cold War and the global pressures for open societies, demand for human rights and democratization, Africa was entering, in the following two decades, a new phase of political maturity and development. This period witnessed the end of colonialism and Apartheid in Africa and, in most countries, the transition from military rule and one-party state structures to civilian, multi-party democracies.
21. Coincidentally, the first decade of the new Millennium also marked the turn for Africa’s economic woes. Africa witnessed an upturn in economic growth that is far more than a passing phenomenon. From 2002-2010, its average growth rate was above 5%; some countries even showed double digit growth. According to a most recent study by the World Bank, over-all, the region is forecast to grow at more than 5% on average over the 2013-2015 periods . In 2010, ten of the 15 fastest growing economies in the world were African and the projection is that seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world in the next five years will be African.
22. Initially, Africa’s growth boom was caused by rising commodity prices. Africa is estimated to have about 12% of the world’s oil and about 40% of the world’s gold reserves, as well as vast arable land and forest resources. However, while African countries were also affected by the world economic and financial crisis in 2008, they were quick in bouncing back and returning to their pre-crisis growth rates. Africa’s middle class is gaining ground. Today, spending in African households is more than in India and Russia, with Lagos being a larger consumer market than Mumbai. The rule of law and respect for private property rights is spreading along with improvements in the financial sector. The telecommunications revolution in Africa and its IT innovations have equally made a great contribution to growth and development in Africa. For example, in 2011, Africa became the largest mobile phone market in the world, following Asia, with about 620 million connections. In 2011, FDI grew by 27% making Africa’s global share of global investments to almost 25%. These changes have lifted Africa out of an era of Afro-pessimism to a new era of Afro-enthusiasm.
23. Yet, multiple challenges remain which threaten to undermine the progress already achieved. These include the scourge of terrorist activities like Boko Haram in Nigeria and from Mali in the Sahel to Somalia in the Horn of Africa; continuing violent conflicts and insecurity in some other countries and regions in Africa: environmental degradation threatening the supplies for millions of people more; poverty and unequal distribution of wealth; food insecurity; weak governance systems, youth unemployment, disparities in gender and political and economic governance. African leaders have, however, recognized and repeatedly stressed the urgent need to resolve these issues and advance in efforts in peace and security, environment, food security, peer review mechanism, etc, so as to bring lasting peace and sustainable prosperity for all the people of Africa.
24. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say a few words about the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism because “over the last few years, the threat of violent extremism and terrorism has risen to alarming global proportions (and) the African continent has not been spared” Indeed, 25 African countries experienced one form or another countries experience terrorists attacks in one form or another in 2014”. In a concept note for the Expert Group meeting on the Role of Civil Society Organisations in Preventing Violent Extremism in Africa (Co-organized by my Savannah Centre in Abuja and the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa) which took place in Abuja on the 28th and 29th November, 2017).
25. Some may argue that as Ilorin Emirate is a peaceful place and violent extremism and terrorist acts cannot happen here. We certainly pray that they do not happen. However, to ensure that we never experience these tragedies, we must rigorously combat the factors or environment which contributes to individuals and groups resorting to extreme behavior and violent conflicts. These include poverty, as well as “compounding vulnerability factors such as porous borders, week institutions and governance, underperforming security sectors, political exclusion of key segments of the national population desertification, ethnic or religious tensions, economic marginalization and high youth employment” (Concept Note above). Can we honestly say that none or a combination of these factors are absent from our part of the African continent? We must recognize, as pointed out in the same Concept Note, that “countries whose territories were initially presumed to be insulated from acts of terrorism and violent extremism are now facing threats and attacks” Who for example, could have imagined that Nigerians who value life and good living would, in our life time, witness “suicide bomber” phenomenon in parts of our country? Indeed, the warning signals are there with the development of new and dangerous “globalization of our (local, national and regional) discontent” in the words of the famous Nobel Prize Laureat in Economics, Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University in New York, another Alma Mater of mine.
26. Nonetheless, the challenges, which I have discussed, also carry potentials, not only for Africa but for the United Nations and the world as a whole. Global efforts to contain transnational security threats or alleviate the impacts of climate change, can only be successful if Africa is fully included in the planning and implementation of strategies to overcome these challenges. Addressing the root causes of people converging toward terrorist activities in Africa will have a great impact on the security and stability in Europe and the United States, for example. In this regard, Africa cannot and should not be viewed only as the recipient of a strategy or aid; rather the continent has to be involved in and should be recognized as contributing to the search for and implementation of solutions to global problems. Only then will global political and financial institutions (the UN, World Bank/IMF) and the rest of the world, partnering with Africa, be able to address and ultimately overcome these continuing challenges. There are signs that this is happening as the United Nations, the European Union are actively seeking out and engaging African leaders and the African Union as recently as in their meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast last week, in order to jointly address the pressing issues of migration to Europe and together with United States on terrorism, peace and security issues as common concerns.
THE WAY FORWARD
27. I cannot end my address without making reference to the enormous opportunities for sustainable development provided by women in Africa as well as its youthful populations. Africa remains the only continent with a significantly growing youth. In less than three generations, 41 per cent of the world’s youth will be Africans. It has also been estimated that by 2035, the continent will have the world’s largest workforce with over half of the population currently under the age of 20. The energy, the resourcefulness and enthusiasm of the young people and African women have the real potential to lift the continent towards increasing socio-economic development and for this bilateral and multi-lateral partnership with the rest of the world.

“when the late Speaker of the House of Representative in the United States, Tip O’Neil, said that all politics is local—he is only partially correct. Local politics is enhanced by and have consequences for the national, continental and global and vice versa. What we say and do in Ilorin Emirate affects and are affected by what happens in Kwara State, Nigeria, Africa and the world and the reverse is the case. Hence, it is of critical importance that we get our politics and governance, our focus and our socio-economic development agenda right so that we can live in a better, richer and freer society, country and the world”

 

 

28. As the way forward therefore, I make the following recommendations. First, there must be structured programme for massive youth employment (including self-employment through entrepreneurship. This is essential for the development of our human capital for accelerated socio-economic development and enhance national security in order to make Nigeria more competitive in this era of globalization. Secondly, there must be urgent and creative ways to promote the empowerment of the women who constitute more than half of our population with huge capacity for enterprise and resilience and promote family cohesion even in situations of violent conflicts. Third, IEDPU, our community in the Emirate and all citizens of our country must demand accountability and good governance at the local, state and national levels and fight to establish mechanisms for monitoring same before, during and after elections. Impunity and corruption must be attacked with all rigour.
29. Finally, when the late Speaker of the House of Representative in the United States, Tip O’Neil, said that all politics is local—he is only partially correct. Local politics is enhanced by and have consequences for the national, continental and global and vice versa. What we say and do in Ilorin Emirate affects and are affected by what happens in Kwara State, Nigeria, Africa and the world and the reverse is the case. Hence, it is of critical importance that we get our politics and governance, our focus and our socio-economic development agenda right so that we can live in a better, richer and freer society, country and the world.

I thank you for listening.

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