Ezekwesili: We must discuss our failure as a country, even if painful

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Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, says the “diplomacy” with which Nigeria’s failure is being treated must stop.

She said the nation must discuss its failure with a “fair sense of urgency”.

Speaking at a plenary session at the Nigeria Economic Summit (NES), which ended in Abuja on Thursday, the former World Bank vice president for Africa said Nigeria’s failure is too bad, adding: “we must discuss even the most painful of it.”

“The diplomacy around failure must end. We must discuss our failure and why we must stop failing. Then we say, is it better to be building small borders or a large population that works?” she asked.

“We are now at the region I call unsustainability of failure. This failure cannot be sustained. The fair sense of urgency that must underpin the way we are looking at the challenges we are dealing with should factor into the speed with which we are identifying the obstacles to our growth, development and our shared prosperity.

“This country is ripe for a conversation but the conversation must be about the economics of a functional Nigeria because a Nigeria that functions economically is a Nigeria that gives everybody a stake in it.

“When people feel a sense of stake, there is no exclusion. When people feel a sense of stake, it basically mobilises everyone to the level of productivity that it can generate. For as long as we don’t do this, what we would have is occasional improvement; and we think we are fine, but look at our data.”

Ezekwesili further said Nigeria’s economy is not expanding enough as “three to four million young people enter the unemployment market every year (while) only 10 per cent of them will be absorbed”.

She said while a country like Singapore has more than 92 per cent literacy level, Nigeria has 52 percent.

“There is such a wide gap,” she said, adding that “without that knowledge quotient of stock of people with knowledge, it is going to be difficult to make this country as productive as it should be.

“You look at what we have produced with all the factors that we have available to us, the growth that comes with the factors and frontiers of possibilities that we have, it gives a GDP per capita of about $2,400, compared that to perhaps Singapore, which is at almost $60,000.

“Then, you say to yourself; these factors that create this divide, can they not be addressed? That is where the conversation becomes absolutely necessary.

“Data tell us that it is better to be a large nation that works. If it were not so, Rwanda would be an amazing economic magnate because on the economic side, they have done a lot of things right but it is still a small economy. It cannot pull it. We can but we must be a country that works.”

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