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Positioned by Providence at the centre of ten (10) other Nigerian states and with its capital being the first administrative headquarters of modern Nigeria, the continuous thought of how to develop Kogi state to become one of the top global destinations for business and recreation has remained in the orbit of my concern. How states such as Indonesia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong strove to prominence (growing from third to first world nations) has tickled my fancy since forever.
Singapore was top of the list of countries that I was eager to learn about its developmental strides and I had frolicked, albeit not frivolously, with this idea daily since 2013. Every day, as I enjoy waltzing past the ever-bubbling streets of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, I saw this fat book From Third World to First. Seeing that I was (and still am) a denizen concerned with my state’s present state of disarray, this remained permanently in my subconscious. Another event that constantly brought up Singapore was a popular political campaign that featured on most electronic media platforms for the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, likening him to Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. These foregoing consolidated the ideas I had about the Country.
I found a number of handy reference texts online about Singapore’s success but, one really sat well with my views and approach on how to achieve greatness with Kogi state. From Third World to First, Singapore’s Success Story by Henri Ghesquere. This work, brief yet concise, highlighted all the important steps taken by Singapore in achieving the success it now enjoys and known for.
As contained in other articles, Singapore is not without flaws, it is no paradise. The opening paragraph of Henri Ghesquere’s Singapore’s success story leaves no one in doubt about the efficiency/effectiveness of their system. Hear Henri: You touch down at the Island’s ultra-modern airport- routinely voted the world’s most efficient. Soon you navigate through lanes of gleaming new cars in a tropical garden setting. A glimpse of the sea reveals hundreds of ships in front of the world’s busiest container port.
Singapore’s long list of medals brandished on its Wikipedia profile includes- the most Technology-Ready Nation (WEF), Top International Meetings City (UIA), city with Best Investment Potential (BERI), second-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre and the second-busiest container port amongst others. Henri wrote that these feats have led China to learn from Singapore and were the reasons China, in 1978, reversed its five centuries of economic isolation.
Henri Ghesquere broke down the important features of Singapore’s success into five main building blocks which he calls The Five Building Blocks of Champions. These five building blocks sit very well with my views on how I think we can achieve economic success in Kogi state hence the reason I have adopted this piece a framework.
Turn around our weakness to strength
Kogi’s “weakness” which is what we currently experience (in 2018) is a myriad of issues less severe than what was obtainable in some more developed nations – poor leadership, poor education and healthcare systems, lack of job opportunities, the absence of critical infrastructure, weak public service and serious corruption. Looking at the initial conditions of some developed countries, it is safe to say Kogi is at a higher vantage position to achieve success faster if we develop a plan that will re-engineer our critical infrastructure, public service, security, education and healthcare systems. This way we attract investments that create job opportunities for all.
In Kogi, the positives outweigh the negatives. There is an abundance of natural resources, relative peace and security. The state has a vast arable land mass and a climate that supports the production of food and cash crops. The presence of Rivers Niger and Benue and their tributaries provide capacity for all year farming, inland transportation, and tourism.
Develop the will to focus on an ambitious goal and run the distance
For Kogi State to achieve success there is need to collectively state and agree on where we want to be per time; what our vision is or a long-term ambitious goal and come up with a comprehensive plan that clearly outlines strategies having in mind our socio-economic challenges. It is fact that a sound developmental blueprint requires a lot of time, funds and manpower to develop. Kogi boasts of some of the brightest minds within and outside the state. It is time to come to the drawing board and develop a plan that is seen as serving the interest of the majority.
To achieve any long-term ambitious goal, we need to put our best eleven (as obtains in football) forward periodically to be elected to leadership positions. Individuals must be identified based on their records of achievements, leadership capacity and how much their plan is in line with the State’s bigger, developmental plan. The State needs to recruit and develop outstanding public officials and civil servants who are futuristic, innovative, result oriented, pragmatic, disciplined and new school in ways of doing things. Kogi has to find political and economic leaders who are strong: have the courage of their convictions, motivate and lead, apply the rule of law consistently, make informed (even if unpopular) decisions and implement policies designed. They have to be intelligent to think in depth and with foresight on what would work best for the people and adapt policies constantly, engage with ordinary citizens in a sincere dialogue that motivates and get them to fall in line with the new vision. They have to have integrity and commitment to treat ordinary people with dignity, earn their trust, share the economic benefits widely, and foster social harmony.
Discipline is a key attribute required to actualise any goal. The task to rapidly develop requires a leadership team and followership with immense discipline. Discipline is a virtue that must be restored for us to get our developmental goals achieved quickly.
Live within our means. Kogi state needs to take a cue from some developed nations; we have to, as a matter of urgency, develop a budgetary discipline and learn to live within our means. It is common knowledge that Kogi state ranks very high on the list of poor states in Nigeria. The state’s annual internally and externally generated revenue can’t put in place the needed infrastructure to stimulate economic growth yet, we have a bloated civil service workforce and a long list of redundant and unproductive political appointees. The state must shed these liabilities and redirect its little resources to developing schemes that will bring more/alternative economic opportunities for the citizens. Living within our means must be consciously applied across board, every facet of our existence.
The discipline of competition: Recruitment, remuneration and promotion in the civil service should be as credible as can be got anywhere on the globe. It must be based on results achieved through actual policy execution and on potential capability, not on seniority or personal or group connections. For a state whose focus is to rapidly grow, results must be the basis for which promotions and recognition are earned.
Public order and the rule of law: Law and order are conducive to stability and development. A balance has to be struck between the right to life and liberty and the right to order and a safe society. It is a fact that law and order is a necessity for growth. The state we have today is one where large chunk of the population have appetite to go against civil law and order. Law enforcement needs drastic reforms that are stringent enough to curb lawlessness and disorderliness across all social classes.
Opportunities open to all candidates
Unemployment is a massive problem in Kogi presently. Gainful employment is the fastest way out of poverty. Prolonged unemployment has major economic, social and psychological costs. Citizens have demonstrated enormous strength and determination to enhance their economic well-being despite the tough challenges posed by lack of infrastructure and few opportunities to tap into. The Leadership needs to come up with programs and policies that create and open up more opportunities for everyone to compete for. Nepotism must be checked for people to get employment, scholarships, grants and even school admissions based on merits not who they know in positions of power.
Quality education prepares tomorrow’s leaders and workers. Basic quality education for all should be provided by the state. Equal opportunity should be given to everyone to learn, to acquire skills and to perform, regardless of the tribe and religion. The discipline inherent in a merit-based system is combined with open access and a level playing field according to one’s talent. This will contribute to social cohesion in Kogi’s multi-ethnic society.
Incentives for victory
Kogi state needs to build the culture of recognising and rewarding excellence. Our reward system must be improved to motivate people to put in their best always.
Success, it is said, is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. As a state that aspires for rapid growth, we must turn around our initial conditions (weaknesses), develop a long-term vision and a will to go the length, develop discipline, and create enormous, open opportunities.