Presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has dispelled arguments that Nigeria is a failed country, saying that despite its present predicaments the country still has "great promises" that could be converted to important gains.
Ribadu, who acknowledged various socio-political and economic challenges facing the country however submitted that he was not giving in to pessimism, "I strongly disagree with those writing off Nigeria as a failed country. Agreed, we could do a lot better based on what we have in terms of natural resources and demographic advantages."
The former EFCC chairman spoke Thursday on the topic, "Leadership and National Development: The Missing Link" as parts of the activities marking the National Independence Anniversary Celebration (NIAC) organised by the Shell Club held in Port Harcourt.
He said in the past 53 years, Nigeria has recorded significant milestones, and "survived severe cold similar to what that saw some countries sneezing to death. We remain standing, though someone wrote that we are standing still!"
Ribadu also lambasted those predicting disintegration of the country or those calling for its dissolution saying the average Nigerian poor does not believe in those permutations on regional and religious lines.
"Our people are bound by a common goal, the desire to have their lives improved. They are united in the same struggle to have functional public and private institutions because their sufferings, their poverty and deprivations, have neither ethnic nor religious identities.
"And the exclusive sufferings amongst them, like insecurity as a result of religious and ethnic differences, can as well be traced to our politics and ill-advised political decisions and indecisions," he said.
Making commentary on the state of the nation, Ribadu stated that "The country is endowed with abundant natural resources and brilliant human capital. Yet, the paradox is there is widespread poverty due to misused resources and untapped potentials.
"It is therefore true that wherever Nigeria is mentioned, what comes to mind is Boko Haram, oil theft, kidnapping and corruption. Nigeria also lags behind on every world index that signifies progress and development. Our lives are daily deteriorating in a frightening way."
To get back fully on the track, according to Ribadu, "we need to refocus our energies and commitment in cleaning up critical institutions. We need reforms that will facilitate evolution of institutions that are responsive to our existence and plights. Those institutions - public and private- should be exorcised from culture of nepotism which feeds the corruption cankerworm. In this age of competition and rapid transformation of everything, it is our own challenge to come up with out of the box ideas capable of changing our fortunes beyond the figures.
"To address our economic problems, we need to exploit maximum opportunity from the oil sector and invest heavily in agriculture and human development, that can provide alternative economic opportunities. The pathetic condition of the manufacturing sector would have to be overhauled by fixing the perennial problem of power supply, if we are to address the meteoric rise in unemployment. Fundamentally, we need to be creative with the oil sector. The challenge posed by shale gas should be a source of concern to all, as there is growing projection of crashing of oil prices in the near future. It is therefore for us to exploit the present situation and work towards innovative alternative for the future. As the mainstay of our economy, the oil sector deserve more than the present attention it gets, and the first step in reforming it is by instilling transparency in spite of the resistance from some elements. Lack of serious investment in the sector has hindered its efficiency, having us dangling within the same margin of production for decades.
"It is however pertinent to state here that our strength as a country is not in oil- which may not be there tomorrow, as it was not there yesterday - but it rather lies in our numbers and other demographic wealth which are anchored in our resolve to stay peacefully together.
"However, to drive all these we need honest and modern leadership that could be a rallying point for the citizens, and one that can tame the consuming tides of corruption. It is my belief that firm and sincere leadership is the precursor for industrious and patriotic follower ship, thus national development."