I, and I was engaged as a lecturer in the faculty of law in November 1981…38 years ago. It was in Unilag that my world view was birthed and honed, my positions on public and social justice, my sceptism of purist and allegedly sacrosanct economic ideologies, my belief that the dynamism and immeasurable potential of human kind informs that the most crucial pillar of government economic policies must be on how to consistently improve the quality of Human Resources.
Permit me to share with you a bit of what I share at the Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos.
Nigeria’s prosperity means a decent existence for all. That prosperity so defined will be attained if we are able to address the issues of extreme poverty, productivity, corruption, the rule of law and the deficiencies in the quality of Human Resources caused by poor education and healthcare.
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This last point is possibly the most fundamental. How to ensure that we maximize the potential of the abundant Human Resources that we have. This implies that we must have a robust enough healthcare system that ensures that the average person is in good health, an educational system that guarantees education capable of preparing children for the opportunities and challenges of a knowledge economy, a thriving private sector led economy supported by a business friendly environment , a system of wealth creation options and safety nets capable of taking millions out of poverty and providing for those who cannot work. The wealth creation options must include access to cheap credit for small holder farmers, traders and artisans. The safety nets include government created job schemes for the unemployed and cash transfers for the poorest and most vulnerable.
In planning the path to prosperity we also took into account the age-old weaknesses of the Nigerian economy, and the illusion of prosperity that frequently distorts our understanding of the actual fragility of our economy. This means the economy rested on a tripod where two of the three legs were dependent on highly volatile oil prices and production. This shaky economic structure enabled Nigeria to keep growing as long as revenue from oil and foreign reserves were high enough and of course we celebrated this fragile growth structure.
We believe that creating an environment for productivity investment in hard and soft infrastructure is crucial. Soft infrastructure covers the whole gamut of the regulatory environment for business. For hard infrastructure we have focused on economically strategic roads, rail, power and ports accross the country.
Just to end, I want to say that our country is set for progress. There is no question at all that our country can prosper.