Former Minister of Education and Solid Minerals, Dr Oby Ezekwesili has made a strong case for an urgent economic ideas revolution in the country in order to prevent an impending total collapse of the country’s socio-economic life. Oby said this on Tuesday at the Big Ideas Podium, an intermittent public policy debate and analysis programme of the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), Enugu.
In her lecture titled, “Nigeria: the Economics of Failure”, the former “madam due process” asserted that the citizens must wage an ideas war that will upset the status-quo and disrupt the existing socio-economic class. According to her, it is only when this is done that a new Nigeria that will ensure the well-being of her citizens will emerge. “Nigeria needs an Ideas and Mindset war that will topple the prevalent predatory elites and their obsession for rapidly thinning natural resources rents as their economic anchor and safe zone. Nigeria must stage an Economy, Economic Structure and Economic Class War that is intellectually revolutionary enough to birth an entirely new country and people”, she declared.
Dr. Ezekwesili who was the guest speaker at the event berated the ruling class for their insincerity, lack of vision and diversionary tactics in their over fifty six years leadership of the country. She accused the politicians and those in leadership of replacing the economics of the people with politics; she believes politics, though important, is only a means to the economics, this is because economics is about the welfare of the people.
In her proposition for a better, prosperous and egalitarian Nigeria, the former minster called for a total disruption of the exiting socio-economic class structure. However, she was clear in her message: “The specific nature of the disruption one wishes to canvass is one which is triggered by a new awakening by citizens to demand a rebalance of the weight of power between those that "rule" and the ones they rule. How does this happen? It can happen by the agency of informed, active and engaged citizens who are cohesive and collective enough to launch a “buy out option” and enforce the retirement of the existing political class and changing the structure and substance of the ongoing conversation”
She warned that while her wake-up call has nothing to do with tribal, religious or ethnic inclination, that it is an ideas and mindset war that will topple the prevalent predatory elites and their obsession for rapidly thinning natural resources rents as their economic anchor and safe zone.
Dr. Ezekwesili who made allusions and inferences richly from the Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore’s experience, however warned that any assumption that the rising trend of citizens’ restiveness and complaints, particularly that of the youths are mere version of the old social theatrics that will soon fizzle away, may well be a joke. “To Nigerians who are above fifty, like me, the rising trend of political drama could be regarded as same-old-nothing-new theatrics because we have seen various versions of it in the past; does anyone really think that there is nothing to worry about because the dust will settle as it always did previously? Anyone in my generation who answers yes to these questions falls into the grips of the fallacy of misdiagnosis”, she averred.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Executive Director of AfriHeritage, Prof Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, spoke on the great impact being made by the Big Ideas Podium in helping the government in the area of advocacy in policy formulation and assessment. According to him, some of the big ideas conversed in the past editions of the programme have led to either a revisit, restructure or re-evaluation of policies and programmes of the government at both the federal and state levels.
In his discussion of the speech by the guest speaker, a national Commissioner of INEC, Professor Okey Ibeanu, explained that Nigeria as a nation has not failed neither have her teeming hardworking citizens failed as individuals but the elites and ruling class have failed in their leadership and provision of development and good governance.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of African Heritage Institution and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Soludo in his contribution upheld the call by Dr Exekwesili that the citizenry has a responsibility to take a decisive action in taking control of the economy through ideas revolution and intellectual paradigm shift. Some dignitaries present at the occasion include former minister of Information, Chief Frank Nweke jnr; eminent scholar, Professor Okwudiba Nnoli, who was one of the paper discussants; the moderator, Professor Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, (Dean of the Faculty of Law, UNN) and a host of others.