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Hayatu-Deen: Next president must’ve capacity to manage diversity

Alhaji Mohammed Hayatu-Deen is a former Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the FSB International Bank PLC and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on how to address insecurity, socioeconomic and infrastructural challenges confronting Nigeria. He also proffers solutions to the crisis rocking the PDP. ANAYO EZUGWU reports

We have the various political parties going around making promises to the people; in your opinion, what are those fundamental issues that Nigeria should address and must constitute policy priority for those looking towards the 2023 general election?

I think it goes without saying that the issues you have mentioned are very true and it is even much more than that. But sometimes we tend to mix wood for the tree in the sense that we need to begin to look at certain philosophical issues because we must mix causes with symptoms. Many of the issues you actually highlighted are symptoms of deep underline problems in Nigeria. First and foremost, I think we do not have a very effective governance philosophy in terms of deciding where we want to actually take socioeconomic and developmental perspectives.

That is issue number one. Issue number two is the need for us to forge an elite consensus. Any number of people you speak to among the elite are likely to have different sets of answers. It, therefore, behooves us as a country for the elite to actually look at the interest of the nation first, put our selfish interest at the front burner and really do those things that great nations do in order to serve their country to the best of their ability and focus on fundamental long term development objectives. Number three related to that is shared values. It is very important that we actually restore discipline, decency, hard work, honesty and transparency back into our lives in this country. I believe that over the last 30 years, this is actually what has further decimated the country. Still speaking about philosophy, it is very important for us to agree on a macroeconomic philosophy for this country.

What I have seen particularly over the last 10 to 11 years is that we have performed tremendously in formulating a very robust macroeconomic philosophy that seems to provide a conducive environment. A conducive environment guarantees a very stable macroeconomic environment that is able to create jobs and increase output and savings. And macroeconomic philosophy is actually driven by two engines, one is fiscal policy and the other is monetary policy. We all know it as a fact that these two instruments are not working. Both sets of policies are actually designed to ensure that we are able to have sustained economic growth. But they do not seem to work in a manner in to complement each other. I think that there are also other issues philosophical in nature that are important. Our attitude to infrastructural development needs wholesale change by ensuring that we are able to collaborate with the private sector to build together a consortium of private sector investors both within and outside the country who will then be positioned to actually fund infrastructure development.

What we are talking about here are not elites but a big number of investors because we need an investment of about $35 billion per annum over the next five to ten in order to raise our total infrastructure assets as a ratio of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 70 to 75 per cent. Beyond that, I think we also need to implement a host of other measures and dealing with corruption is very important, dealing with the size of government is important, dealing with restructuring the country is important and all of these matters because they are big ticket items. And without actually getting them right, you cannot actually make sustainable long-term progress in my view.

So, anybody who is coming to office in 2023 needs to have that kind of ground vision and build an alliance around these issues, so that once there is an agreement, we can move forward. But I dare also say that it is critical that we address this issue of national unity. The nation is deeply wounded and divided. I think all 220 million Nigerians need to have a fair share and be fully represented in all of the institutions of government, and in the projects that are implemented and we need our leaders to actually speak to the people and try to understand the deepseated issues that afflict each part of this country. So, we need to bring everybody into the conversation.

But we cannot have all the things you have mentioned if the people do not feel safe and secure. What should the next leader do to finally get it right with our security?

It does seem to me that again we need to be careful here to try to understand the set of issues that have actually given rise to insecurity. I think at the root of it is a major economic and social meltdown that is informed mainly by two factors, one is grounding poverty and the second is the population explosion that has created a huge youth bunch. Another issue is social conditions in terms of erosion of values where people’s heads have been turned upside down informed by lack of employment, drug addiction and people simply being idle. And the fact of the matter is that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.

So, unless we are able to deal with these root causes, I dare say that in the medium or long term, we actually cannot deal with the issue of insecurity. What do you need to do? The first thing that we need to do is to have a community of stakeholders all of whom in one way or another are actually involved in solving the problem. Right from the communities in rural areas to the cities comprising government officials, traditional rulers, media, labour, academia, community leaders and national security people both retired and serving to understand the depth and breadth of this issue and come to terms with it.

In the short term, we do know that we are severally under-policed in this country and it does seem to me that we need to ramp up those numbers considerably, train them and equip them. As far as the military goes, the numbers also need to go up. They need to be equipped and we need to invest heavily in intelligence as well.

The next thing that needs to be done is to motivate them by making sure that they get paid properly for the services that they offer. And beyond that, I think it is important to also invest heavily in changing the minds of people. So, there are three things that need to be done in my view, one is the need for us to calibrate very carefully a very robust policy similar to what has happened in the Niger Delta to actually disarm, demobilise and reintegrate people into the society and then find an exit route for them so that they can find other vocations in their daily lives.

The third thing that needs to be done in the medium or long term in my view is not success by success. If only we can bake a bigger cake in which we all have a bigger share and the promise of even a bigger share for our children and grandchildren, many of these symptoms of insecurity are going to abate. Finally, it is important that we have a very strong law and order environment in which people who do wrong things are actually brought to the book in an open and transparent manner.

With the revenue crisis we are facing, how do we use our dead capital as one of the ways to revive our economy?

I think you are talking about a much larger problem and thank you for that. It seems to me that you are returning me to the macroeconomic policy, which is actually driven by fiscal policy and monetary policy. Fiscal policies include revenues, investments and tax. And monetary policy is all about money supply and using a number of tools to influence either the expansion or contraction of money.

Both tools are required for the purpose of expanding economic growth. And Nigeria is currently facing a monetary crisis and fiscal crisis. How do you actually get out of it? Number one on the revenue side, you are aware that almost 800 to 900 barrels of crude oil are stolen every day in Nigeria. Except in an animal kingdom, I don’t know any country all over the world that will allow these amounts of oil to be stolen not occasionally but on a daily basis. Is like armed robbers coming into our house to rob us of our daily wages every day. Second, I think is a need to expand our natural resources because we are sitting on a lot of oil and gas reserves in this country.

With very good management and skills, we can actually expand our gas industry. A lot of countries in Europe because of the war in Ukraine are actually looking for where to buy gas and Germany has just signed a deal with Qatar which represents about 2.7 per cent of its needs. If Nigeria can organise its institutions we can become an already-made market for that.

So, we can generate for export and serve other people’s needs. Three is privatisation. As you rightly pointed out, there are a number of assets that are yet to be either privatised, commercialise or concession. And mind you, you can also liberalise the economy by getting big-ticket transactions in certain sectors of the economy and, therefore, carry out an auction just like the GSM auctions. It is very important we auction some of the stranded assets to raise money for the economy.

Do you consider education as one of the big problems that we should consider going forward and the issue of women’s representation?

I will say that education or what I will call human development is actually at the very centre of the economic and social programmes of every country. First and foremost, the nature, case and character of things have changed over the last 30 to 40 years.

What makes a country successful is not your muscle but what is in your head and today we are living in a world that is based on a knowledge economy. And,therefore, getting people educated right from kindergarten through polytechnic and university is crucial. Nigeria will never be able to compete in this global economy without having its citizens educated because an educated person is an enlightened person. And when people are enlightened, they are able to not only get jobs but they are able to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. It also keeps them away from trouble.

So, education is central to our developmental strategy. Talking about women, I will actually combine that with the youth because many of us have actually attained a certain level in our lives that our productivity has declined sharply. We have a bunch of young men and women in their 20s, many with diplomas and degrees and unable to find jobs.

These are very energetic, dynamic and imaginative people and if we don’t take care in this country we will end up sending them into their old age without making meaningful contributions to productivity and innovation in this country. I couldn’t agree with you more that we need to make emphasis youth development and also women’s development. This nation has come a very long way and the world is running away from us. The issue of gender is so critical that in every progressive society is actually receiving a great deal of attention. So, we need to recalibrate these visions and give women the rightful place in our society that they deserve.

What will be your recommendation to the incoming leader on the issue of national unity?

This is an issue that has been overflooded since last year and it tends to come up all the time. My own views about this matter are very clear, I think that the kind of activity we see today unfolding is shaped by distrust and mutual suspicion but more importantly, people that have been elected into office including bureaucracy I dare say, are not delivering the goods.

As a consequence, people feel alienated and, therefore, recede into their regional or tribal cocoons. My own view is that if we are going to elect a leader, we should get the very best, the brightest, and the smartest, who understands the business inside out and who is fair, equitable and justice in all of his dealings with the stakeholders. It should be different for a Senate person, a governor or lawmakers. Once we are able to bake a bigger cake, develop this economy in order to deal with issues of poverty, and raise living standards, it doesn’t matter to me who actually is leading the country.

How best do you think we can promote national unity, so that everyone will feel included in the system?

As far as I’m concerned, the governor or president is the father of all. It doesn’t matter what his colour is or where he comes from because he raises his right hand to take an oath of office to do well to all manner of people to defend and protect the tenets of the constitution and he is able to dispense his duties in a way that is effective and puts everyone into the tent and that everyone gets to have a fair share.

When people are being hired and it doesn’t matter where they actually come from, I personally believe that in every nook and cranny of this country, you will get very bright and serious people who can actually deliver the goods. It is also very important to work off the campaign blueprint. It is important to pay attention to resource allocation to all regions of the country based on the very distinct needs of each of these regions. These I believe are actually more fundamental than getting worried about who is running this country.

A lot of people are saying the presidential candidate of your party should have come from the South in the spirit of zoning and that is the grouse of the G5 governors and the reason why your party is divided. What do you say about that?

The fact of the matter is that this issue is settled as far as I’m concerned because the rules were clearly defined. People went in and it was agreed through the various organs of the party that it was going to be open. Governor Nyesom Wike and others actually agreed to contest on the basis of that open primary to all parts of the country and the result is what it is.

That night, if you were there or watched on television, it was quite an open and transparent process. Having come out of it, I would say the following, number one, I do have tremendous respect for Governor Wike, he is a bright guy, he knows how to wipe a crowd, he has abundant energy, and he knows how to up forward issues and it does seem to me that there is a need for him and the chairman of the party to reconcile.

The chairman himself is somebody who is an intellectual of repute. He has certain deep-seated values and both of them are committed to the progress of this country and they are committed to the progress of our party and are interested in winning this election at all levels. What I think ought to happen is for the two of them to actually go into a room and sort out their differences. In order to do that, there must be good faith negotiation, all the issues should be put on the table and they should agree on all those things causing the crisis, where there are differences, we will find ways and means of working it out.

How do we build elite consensus in a country you said is troubled and divided and what kind of consensus because there seems to be an established consensus that the elite class in Nigeria is a rent-collecting elite. How do we transform this rent-collecting elite to consider Nigeria first?

I thank that is a very valid question because it worries me as well because when people are overwhelmed by problems, they lose hope and that hopelessness has a negative effect on the system. So, I’m not surprised that you have taken that particular view at this point in time but we mustn’t forget that at one point in time Nigeria was not like this.

At one time, Nigeria worked well it was governed relatively well and the kind of elite consensus we talked about existed. The next point I need to make is that what you are describing is statuesque of what exists today. People feel to have their own dreams about the future and with the kind of issues I have outlined; Nigeria would be at that exact spot you have described unless we actually unbound some of these attributes you described. Essentially, what I’m saying is that these are necessary undesirable conditions for us to be able to forge a strong and robust democratic structure on the basis of which we can actually bring about sustained and longterm economic and social development in this country. And talking about elite consensus, leadership, like Chinua Achebe had said, Nigeria’s problem is that of leadership.

I think this is a saying for the ages and unless we are able to get a set of leaders at all levels who are selfless, visionary, who have empathy for the common man on the street and who have the knowledge and the skills to take Nigeria from where it is today to where it should be tomorrow, we wouldn’t get there. And, therefore, it is my own well-informed view that if we do get a leader who has these kinds of qualities, he can then affect the polity by getting similar kinds of leaders who will be serving along with him in order to bring about this change of affairs. Let me say that this country has run out of oxygen and I do not see what other alternative we have other than dismembering the country if we do not run to the old reign of good governance.

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