Rethinking Peace and Development by Governor Amaechi

Rethinking Peace and Development

Rotimi-Amaechi-backpg.jpg - Rotimi-Amaechi-backpg.jpg
Policy & Execution By Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall the then United Nations Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, drew the world’s attention to the need for a new paradigm in international policy making: there is no peace without development and there is no development without peace.
It is not likely that peace can be maintained in the longer term without sustainable development. Similarly, it is unlikely that sustainable development can take place in a climate dominated by war, crises and the preparations for war.
In order to assess the prospects for both peace and sustainable development, we must take into account the broad global trends of our time namely political, socio-economic and cultural.
Nigeria is one of Africa’s most pivotal countries and globally considered as a strategic ally by most countries. The interest Nigeria is not only because of its vast resources and huge size but also because of its strategic geographical position and political relevance in sub-Saharan Africa.
In terms of population and diversity, Nigeria is the most populous African nation with a diversity of ethnic nationalities spread across its 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). These ethnic nationalities were forced to co-habit through the amalgamation of the British in 1914. Although there have been calls by some for a rethinking or restructuring of our living arrangements, it might appear that there is a consensus that there is strength in our numbers. The mere fact that one out of every four Africans is a Nigerian adds some impetus to the nation’s engagement with the outside world.
Multi religious and multi ethnic Nigeria has experimented with several forms of political governance with us finally settling for the presidential system of government. It is as different from the parliamentary with which we started.  Though a presidential system and a federation, the reality of the political structure is that it tends towards a unitary system of governance. Everything begins and ends at the centre, with the Federal Government wielding enormous power.
At the heart of contemporary Nigerian politics is the distribution of oil revenues. Nigeria’s mono product status has pitted the various regions and states against each other and further made the centre a dispenser of patronage and rent.
A prosperous Nigeria remains vitally important to global security, energy needs, democracy and trade. Western and other more developed countries have promoted the forces of globalisation that have opened the doors for capital to move freely to countries where the costs of labour are cheapest and the environmental regulations are most lax. Despite claims by Western leaders that benefits would accrue to the needy this “globalisation from above” has continued to shift economic benefit from the poor to the wealthy, and has not provided substantial increased benefit to the poor of the world. Nearly half the world’s population continues to live in conditions of poverty, characterised by inadequate food, water, shelter and health care.
Nigeria bears some of the brunt of this global economic imbalance. With its sweet crude, cheap labour and weak monitoring, the oil business is in full boom. Currently, the nation produces between 2.1 to 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. The oil companies take 49 per cent of the profit after deducting cost of business.
As the deep-water fields are exploited (and as new reserves are discovered), Nigeria could be producing crude oil annually far in excess of Venezuela or Kuwait.
But what does this translate to in real terms? Critical interest for the international community but for Nigerians, poverty. With our GDP largely supported by oil, Nigeria appears to be grappling with the curse of oil – a single product economy, corruption, poor governance and weak governance structures. The discovery of oil in Nigeria and the attendant annual oil revenues of tens of billions of dollars have ushered in a miserable, undisciplined, decrepit, and corrupt form of ‘petro-capitalism’.
After a half century of oil production from which almost $300 billion in oil revenues have flowed directly into the Federal Government’s coffers, Nigeria’s per capita income still stands at $2,748, abysmally low, compared to Ghana’s $10, 748 and Cameroun’s 10,758. Despite an impressive GDP growth of about 6.5 per cent, poverty is rife and the people can hardly feel any relief in their pockets or in their homes.
Indeed, for the bulk of Nigerians, living standards are perhaps worse now than they were at independence. For the vast majority of Nigerians, the belief is that the political class is oblivious to the economic realities and continues to live lives that are at serious disparity with the realities faced by the people they govern.
For instance, the Niger Delta remains desperately poor despite the growth of revenue to the Niger Delta states – now standing at 13 per cent. The region has a steadily growing population and accounts for more than 23 per cent, of Nigeria's total population. Rivers State itself has a population of 5.1 million people (2006 census figures). The population density in the Niger Delta is also among the highest in the world with 265 people per kilometre-squared (NDDC Niger Delta Master plan).
The population is expanding at a rapid 3 per cent per year and the oil capital, Port Harcourt, along with other large towns are growing quickly. The resultant scenario is one in which there is urbanisation but not enough corresponding economic growth. Some have argued that the initial agitations in the Niger Delta where I have lived all my life and now more recently the menace of Boko Haram in the North may indeed be linked to these feelings of dissatisfaction with the polity and our international friends.
The world is definitely experiencing a clash of cultures, but not along the fault lines of civilisations as Samuel Huntington has suggested. The opposing cultural trends that are most dominant are between those who define the world in terms of the value of massive accumulation and immediate use of resources (powerful individuals, corporations and the national governments that provide a haven for them) and those who define the world in terms of shared rights and responsibilities for life and future generations (most of the world’s people).
The former values, reflected predominantly by the economic elite in the United States and many other countries and constantly on display through various forms of media, do not promote sustainable development, wreak havoc on the poor of the world and invite retaliation.
The latter values are reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the growing body of international human rights law that has developed since World War II.
Certain trends have helped foster insecurity and impede development. Clearly no nation or government can make any progress without making a conscious effort to identify and change these trends:
•The attempt by the more developed countries to dominate the poorer and less developed countries.
•A downplaying of collective political responsibility (by the leaders and followership)
•Lack of accountability and an elite whose conscience has been seared by a rent culture (everyone’s hand is in the till)
•Growing and increasingly desperate economic disparity between the world’s rich and poor.
•Locally the feeling of political and economic imbalance among regions
•Commercialisation by a media that has become the architect of materialism rather than responsible governance.
•The cultural dominance of greed and selfishness portrayed by global media on a broad screen for all, including the poor, to see from throughout the world.
These trends are destabilising and unsustainable. They can change by democratic means from within democratic states or they can continue until the world is embroiled in conflagration. That is a choice that is available to us for a relatively short period of time as the trends are already quite advanced. The changes needed are:
•Implementation of a plan to alleviate poverty and economic injustice throughout the world, by providing employment opportunities and creating a more productive economy.
•A shift from dominance by a small group (the elite in this case) to a more inclusive arrangement where the people indeed have a say and can determine their developmental priorities.
•A shift towards implementation of international law in which the leadership are held to high standards of protecting human rights and the dignity of the individual.
I cannot end this piece without addressing our own modest efforts in ensuring peace and development in Rivers State.
Rivers State has a landmass of 11,077km².  Its capital city Port Harcourt is one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities in Africa. The state is strategically situated, making it an economic hub servicing the South-east and South-south regions. It has two major refineries, two major seaports, two major airports one of which is an international airport. The state is easily accessible by land, air, rail and sea.
The state is also home to Nigeria’s only Oil and Gas Free Zone, multinational oil and gas companies, and is Nigeria’s second largest economy next to Lagos State. Rivers State is home to at least 5.1 million people (2006 census.)
Rivers State like other states in the Niger Delta has a predominantly young population, and a literate population higher than the national average. Yet the state was characterised by massive poverty, high unemployment, infrastructural decay and a breakdown of law and order.
The need to address these problems by reflating the economy and fast tracking development became an urgent challenge for government and the political leadership.
Today, Rivers State has earned a very strong credit rating B stable from rating agency Standard and Poors (2010) and a 2009 Fitch rating of B+ and national long-term AA- rating.
With the right macroeconomic environment, which we are assiduously putting in place, Rivers State is on an upward curve to create wealth and significantly reduce poverty. Critical to achieving this is infrastructural development and providing a safe and secure environment both in physical terms as well as the appropriate legal frameworks.
These initiatives have secured long-term foreign and local currency ratings. The state was also the first state in Nigeria to receive a Standard and Poors rating of ‘B’ long-term credit rating indicating a “stable outlook based on improved transparency”.
Our vision is to be the preferred destination in which to live and do business in Nigeria, and we are changing our economic direction so as to create a robust economy that will meet the challenges of our present reality.
While building on our natural strengths of oil and gas, we shall return to agriculture. We are also making deliberate efforts to be the technology hub of Nigeria. By actively pursuing education, providing the requisite infrastructure and improving access to credit at all levels, we are fast tracking development. Also by encouraging commerce and entrepreneurship, we are restoring the values of our past while tapping into the gains of modern economics.
For us in Rivers State, this is a new dawn. While we clearly understand the need to tackle the twin problems of underdevelopment and poverty we are even more certain that building enduring structures and entrenching good governance are the only ways we can secure peace and guarantee the development of our state and our people.
Mr. Amaechi is the governor of Rivers State.


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