By Jerome-Mario Utomi
We recognize that the engine of growth and development for any developing nation today lies in the ability to strategically cultivate and harness private as well as public sector efforts’
– Babatunde Raji Fashola – September 15, 2008
I remember reading soberly sometimes in 2008 a report of how Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) then Executive Governor of Lagos state while commissioning the reconstructed Ajose Adeogun street in Victoria island made the above remark.
I have also at different meetings and conferences listened with real curiosity to some public office holders defend governments insufficiency in scope to develop the nation both economically and infrastructurally without support from the private sector and civil society groups.
But each time such plea is made, for practical and moral reasons it elicits two sets of reactions within me- First is the jigsaw: If it has been said that the government has no business in business, what business does the private sector has helping government to do its business of providing quality governance to the populace?
The second point is that the hope of building a productive partnership in the country will continue to be at infancy until our leaders set the structure and context furnished with conditions that will ensure that investors operate both successful and profitably in the country.
There are possible explanations for these reactions.
Fundamentally, apart from the fact that factors that impeded collaboration in history are still alive and active on our political geography, I hold an opinion that; government decision in most to be a ‘captain instead of a couch’ in the drive for public-private partnership sets the stage for transparency challenge. As it promotes personal interests among public officers who already have the view of their positions not as an opportunity for the public good but as an avenue for private gains.
While this should, however, be of concern to all is that the same partnership undermined here on our shores is what accelerates socioeconomic development of other nations. This indicates a challenge.
As an illustration, when one questions some of the theories associated the traditional Corporate Social Responsibility and analyzes the history of successful public-private partnerships in the world; it leaves a shocking impression about the quality of successes recorded. It is, however, no overstatement that this scope and results have been limited on our shores.
In the light of this reality, I must clarify why Nigeria as a nation must openly admit, support, and adopt the initiative which has become a ‘lingua franca’ of the sort for all nations desirous of development.
Increasingly by choice or by accident, government at all strata can no longer single-handedly shoulder the crushing weight of infrastructural and economic development in the country. It was this fact and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about the 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims promote and carter for people, peace, planet, and poverty.
And, currently preaches partnership and collaboration at its centre and clearly specifies that the scale and ambition of this agenda calls for smart partnerships, collaborations, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.
Very instructive also, this needed partnership between the government and private sector will require finding an ‘urgent need for creative and innovative thinking by all strata of the society-public and private sector and civil society-to promoting sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, and environmental protection’.
Though some organizations have appreciably demonstrated commitment in this programme, but not without challenges and for the nation to succeed on this job, the source of the problem must be understood before any meaningful solution can be found, and the crucial issues brought to light without the risk of overlooking anything important.
Given the above demand, I need not pause to know that the crisis has its origin rooted in transparency challenge and instability of policy made by the government-a factor that instill doubts in the minds of corporate organizations.
Notably, transparency will remain a challenge in the country as no corporate organization or civil society group feels comfortable in an environment devoid of transparency and accountability.
To succeed in this job, both the government and private organizations must first recognize that any growth or development without a focus on building the capacity of the people is a mere waste of time.
Also, the FG must be ready to learn from those who have met with the problem we currently face, how they tackled it, and how successful they had been that’s on one part.
In addition to the above, the government must help this country to earn new respect by developing a framework that will promote transparency, and encourage the private sector to partner with government.
In the same breadth, corporate organizations apart from supporting the government in the race for infrastructural development must recognize that profit should not be pursued without due consideration of the societal norms.
The civil society groups as change-agents should develop the people’s capacity to welcome new ideas and build a hyper-modern society while as the voice of the people help identify and fill the information gap in the society.
Finally,“ as a condition for victory in battle”, the sovereign and the generals must be synchronized, the sovereign manifests the vision, while the generals appraise conditions, determining how the conditions can be carried out”.Joined together, this makes the victory’.
The same principle is required to enable us to win the war against our current socioeconomic and environmental woes. The government of Nigeria as the sovereign, should summon the political will, seize the initiative, develop the vision and approach our corporate organizations. Then, appraising the condition and determining how to achieve the vision will be the responsibility of the corporate organizations. That for now remains the best way out.
Jerome-Mario (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Lagos-Based Journalist.