Towards Harnessing Intergenerational Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Devt in Nigeria – THISDAY Newspapers
By Olanrewaju A. Fagbohun
When we see things as they never were, and we ask; “why not?”… innovation and creativity may be the outcome. Olanrewaju Fagbohun
I have found over time that people are generally desirous of reforms, but, are not desirous of the pain that will usher in the reforms. The truth is reforms can never thrive side by side with tolerance of iniquity. Olanrewaju Fagbohun
Introduction and Context
Let me start by expressing my deep gratitude and appreciation to the Visitor, His Excellency, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, the Executive Governor of the State of Osun; the Chancellor, Dr. (Mrs.) Folorunsho Alakija; the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, SAN; the Vice – Chancellor, Professor Labode Popoola; the Council; Senate; Management; Staff and Students of the University for the great honour of inviting me as the 10th Convocation Lecturer of this great institution. When the Vice – Chancellor asked me if I would be able to play this role, I instinctively responded “yes”. The opportunity to be a part of the significant accomplishments of Osun State University is truly an honour and a joy.
This University which began academic activities on September 21, 2006 (exactly 15 years ago) and comprising six campuses located in the six geopolitical zones of the state was founded with a clear and deliberate mission – to create a unique institution committed to the pursuit of academic innovation, skills-based training and a tradition of excellence in teaching, research and community service. The vision is to be a centre of excellence, providing high quality teaching and learning experiences which will engender the production of entrepreneurial graduates capable of impacting positively on their immediate environment while being globally competitive.
Reading through the foundational information about the university, and seeing the significant transformation of the various campuses and the wonderful work that has been done in the last 15 years, in the areas of teaching, research and service, one will readily conclude that the university has been faithful to the ideals of its founding fathers, and is contributing effectively to meaningful change in a global society. In this respect, permit me to commend the legacies of the founding fathers and the astuteness of the various functionaries that have served at different times in the administration, management and leadership, right up to the current leadership. Their efforts stand out for commendation when it is considered that they have had to manage the institution to this enviable height despite the increasing decline in the government funding of higher education, of which the Osun State University is not an exception. A fundamental fact that I must note therefore is that the university has been fortunate to have a myriad of stakeholders, including Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, faculty, students, alumni and parents who believe in the institution and are willing to support her adapt to the demanding environment, optimise its mission and align its vision.
I have gone down the memory lane to briefly note the trajectory of growth of the institution to underline the fact that despite the continual flux that has characterised public universities, particularly in Nigeria, and the profound negative consequences that this has had on some institutions, Osun State University has remained stable, healthy, productive and sustainable. Let me once again therefore salute the Vice – Chancellor, Professor Labode Popoola. I am aware that this is your last Convocation outing as Vice – Chancellor of this great citadel. You are an exemplar of sound scholarship, creativity and excellence in leadership of this educational institution. You have demonstrated high esteem and commitment for which posterity will judge you right.
To our graduands, you are the stars of the 10th Convocation ceremony and I heartily congratulate not only your families and your good selves, but also our dear country. For you and your families, being able to develop yourself is an invaluable achievement. For the country, you have become a critical part of that group that will address the nation’s development challenges. However, unlike what it used to be, being a graduate today will not automatically open up the doors to rewarding careers as was the case with the past generations. No thanks to predatory leaders who profess egalitarian values to which they do not hold themselves, families and cohorts accountable. Leaders who have mastered the art of not only legitimising, but who also keep reproducing and sustaining the subordination of the majority. I will talk a bit more about what I see as solutions to entrenching accountability, particularly for public office holders and public servants in the course of the lecture given its importance to our discourse.
It is quite disturbing that our dismal social services, the challenge of insecurity, dilapidated infrastructure and the hues and cries of Nigeria is not working, has never worked and will never work are what you have been inundated with on a daily basis over the years. Anyone in your shoes will be dampened by the vociferous suggestions that what we need to do is disband the colonial heritage and the acrimonious entities that constitute Nigeria. These advocates posit religion, ethnicity, and the issue of restructuring the Nigerian federal system as the bane of our problem.
As already noted, not many will deny that we are far from where we should be as a country in terms of development. Often times, however, some of those who engage in this analysis only seek to give relevance to their personality. Some deliberately misrepresent and suffocate the real issues in ways that will suit their agendas as politicians or radical theorists. They also will over indulge in romantic analysis that are simply designed to feed on the vulnerabilities and grievances of their audience to polarise them. Some are confused as to the true nature of the issues at stake and are just uncritical of what they have heard; same which they are regurgitating to others. I will by no means play down the fact that we have serious issues confronting our great nation. The daily wanton destruction of properties and killing of innocent Nigerians in different parts of the country is disheartening. To say it has assumed a worrisome dimension is an understatement. In the midst of these struggles, we must individually and collectively be determined to win back our country.
Consider for a moment that Nigeria is thriving well. Will any Nigerian be bothered about who is the President, Governor, member of the National Assembly, House of Assembly and so forth, or the ethnic group to which they belong? Again, consider that looted funds (and there is so much of this) have been left in the public coffers and efficiently utilized in the development of the country to deliver the greatest possible returns. Those involved in misgovernance and perpetrators of corrupt acts are not restricted to any particular ethnic group or faith. These are issues relating to individual orientation and accountability. As noted by the highly respected Mike Okonkwo, the presiding Bishop of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission:
One of the things that have helped me concerning the political issue of this country is simply that I am not partisan; I am not interested in where you come from. I have no ethnic bias; I have no religious bias; I have no party bias and I have no personal interest. What is my interest? My interest is who will deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. If you like, be an idol worshipper; you will have my vote because Nigeria is not a church.
With regards to the issue of restructuring, I simply ask; where is the written constitution that is used to run the family unit, whether monogamous or polygamous, or that used to maintain congenial relations within our traditional communities? The answer lies in observance of the ethic of fairness and equity in the distribution of resources and affection within the governance process. The details of the constitution as complemented by other laws, rules and regulations are to guide and aid doctrinal consistencies. This is what distinguishes the ‘letter of the law’ from ‘the spirit of the law’.
For as long as leadership either at the Federal, State or Local Government levels continue to exhibit a lack of determination to act fairly and equitably, no amount of restructuring will be adequate to achieve the goal of nation building, integration and national development. Conversely, if all that is contained in our constitution are the wordings of our national anthem and the national pledge, and there is sincerity of purpose to the spirit of their wordings, they are more than sufficient as root upon which a strong and virile nation could be build. Rigorous accountability is what will then reinforce confidence in the system and ultimately eliminate suspicion and mistrust for peace to reign.
To our graduands, I have tried to highlight some of the disturbing issues so that we have a clearer understanding of them; and appreciate that despite the scale of the challenges facing our country, you should not despair. Rather, it should inspire in you greater determination to want to make your mark. As I have had cause to note at a different forum: Nigeria may be tough and narratives of the issues at times deeply troubling, the opportunities are still very many here, but concealed for the eyes of only those who recognise the changing nature of the work environment. In the face of these difficulties, migrating to other climes may seem an attractive option. I will however not fail to let you realise that being a second-class citizen elsewhere has deep consequences. Let me remind you of two things your education can do. It can serve as an instrument that will facilitate your integration into the present system with an intent to ‘join them if you can’t beat them’. It can also be the means by which you creatively and critically think of how you can be a part of the transformation process. The choice is yours but, it is a choice that will make the difference between a ‘bread and butter man’ and a ‘man of legacy’. So, you must be aware of selfhood.
You are a part of the new generation with understanding of new technologies and the high-level skills required to adapt, work flexibly, and participate in the future economy. Your institution’s ecosystem as an entrepreneurial university (both entrepreneurship of necessity and of opportunity) has provided you with significant technical, social and critical thinking skills the potential benefits of which you will realise over time. I am aware that Osun State University was one of the few public universities in Nigeria that maintained learning during the initial COVID-19 lockdown. I suspect that part of the efforts to deepen the orientation of your engagement with the concrete realities of the world informed the choice of the focus of this Convocation Lecture on the theme ‘Harnessing Intergenerational Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Development’. To bring the message home, I have entitled my paper, “Towards Harnessing Intergenerational Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Development in Nigeria”.
As a 21st century graduate, your appreciation of the dynamics of development will enable you to apprehend and comprehend the object of knowledge. You must be able to translate your real-life experience into knowledge and consequently utilise the already acquired knowledge as a means of creating new knowledge. I welcome you to a new awareness of what you represent for society and look forward to you making a profound impact in the struggle for national development.
Intergenerational Contract – Background and Build Up
Before I go fully into my presentation, permit me to acknowledge those giants who have at different times been privileged to occupy this platform. From Professor O. O. Akinkugbe, CFR who delivered the first Convocation Lecture; through to His Excellency Dr. Kayode Fayemi (2nd); Professor Toyin Jacob Falola (3rd); Professor Michael Faborode (4th and 5th); Professor O. A. Bamiro (6th); His Excellency, the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON (7th & 8th); and Professor Jeff D. Sachs (9th). While I certainly will lay no claim to being in the league of these great minds and precursors, I rather will say that providence has done me well bringing me before this great audience.
Intergenerational contract is at the centre of intergenerational collaboration and knowledge sharing from which intergenerational opportunities are derived. The relatively recent concept is hinged on the premise that one cannot fully understand the idea of intergenerational opportunities without an appreciation of ‘intergenerational contract’ and the background that led to it. Consequently, to de-construct the term ‘intergenerational contract’ and its derivatives, we must give clarity to the construct of modern capitalism that threw it to the fore. The origins of modern capitalism as an economic system date back to the 16th century. As noted by Robert Heilbroner, beginning in the 18th century in England, the focus of capitalist development shifted from commerce to industry. This witnessed the investment of capital accumulated in the preceding centuries in the practical application of technical knowledge during the industrial Revolution. The renowned economist, Adam Smith (1776) identified its critical features in his book, ‘An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations’, namely, liberalism which included the free play of self-regulating market forces, free trade, sound money, balanced budget and minimum levels of poor relief.
By the 19th century, opposition to the growth of industrial capitalism was beginning to manifest with the development of the factory system and the general miserable working and living conditions of workers. This was what inspired the revolutionary philosophy of Karl Marx and his prediction of the inevitable overthrow of capitalism in a proletarian-led class war. The Great Depression of the 1930s deepened aversion for capitalism and sympathy for socialism, particularly in Western Europe. In the decades following World War II, major capitalist countries adopted some versions of a welfare state, and this restored some measure of confidence in the capitalist system. By the early 1970s, rapid increases in economic inequality and inequality in distribution of wealth and income revived doubts in the long-term viability of the capitalist system.
According to the 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (July 2020) across 107 developing countries, 1.3billion people – 22% live in multidimensional poverty with half of these being children under the age of 18. About 84.3% of poor people live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Several contemporary scholars have therefore argued on the need to reject traditional models of development. Even when shrouded in such euphemism as ‘globalization’, it still promotes the hegemony of the few rich and politically powerful industrialised countries to the detriment of the majority. Jehani and Uprety (2003), captures the problem thus:
One of the many causes leading to the dissatisfaction is that the decision making under the current international system systematically focuses on asset revaluation and maximization. Rights protecting not only the generally conceptualised movable and immovable properties but also the intellectual, social, financial or economic capital, including such properties such as the right to transfer negotiable instruments, stock options and other derivatives, … all designed to serve the asset valuation. Rights are intended to be protected to control assets and remedies are intended to be enforced to control the protection of the assets. The politics, the power as well as the relations amongst states are all intended to safeguard assets… to achieve this unique purpose, the manipulation of policies and institutions, including the Law is commonplace…
In his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), the philosophical and revolutionary Paulo Freire makes the following observation about capitalism:
We need to say no to neoliberal fatalism that we are witnessing at the end of this century, informed by the ethics of the market, an ethics in which a minority makes most profit against the lives of the majority. In other words, those who cannot compete, die. This is a perverse ethics that, in fact, lacks ethics.
Notwithstanding the fact that the concept of free market continues to hold true, the contention that opportunities must be developed for the poor in the face of deepening poverty is also on the increase. One of the strands of this latter contention is intergenerational collaboration and knowledge sharing. For a country like Nigeria, the index of poverty statistics is deeply troubling. According to a 2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria report released by the National Bureau of Statistics, 82.9 million Nigerians are currently living in poverty. This figure represents 40.09% of the total population, excluding Borno State which has been ravaged by Boko haram insurgents. It is estimated that the number of poor people will increase to 90 million or 45% of the population by 2022. The 2020 European Union Global Report on Food Crises ranks Nigeria in the list of the worlds’ 10 hungriest countries. Statistics of the 2nd quarter of 2019 reveals that the employment-to-population ratio was 66.6%, meaning 33.4% of the labour force is unemployed. According to the World Bank (2020), the lack of economic opportunities is contributing to the rise in crime and insecurity in Nigeria.
In the context of development, the focus of intergenerational contract is that people of different generations should work together to address social problems. Rather than have philanthropy of the rich to the poor, intergenerational contract enjoins collaboration and partnership of different generations towards the achievement of a common goal of better living standard and equitable income. Intergenerational contract is holistic in approach and recognizes that the multi-faceted challenges facing the society require solutions that involve all generations within their different social support networks, working together in a coordinated manner to think fresh, spot opportunities, and creatively find new path to ensure the well-being of all.
The concept does not contemplate that generations must be related. Rather what it seeks is that the working together of ‘Traditionalists (1926 – 1945)’, ‘Baby Boomers (1946 – 1965)’, ‘Gen-Xers (1966 – 1980)’, ‘Millennials (1981 – 2000)’, and ‘Gen-Zers (2001 – 2015)’ will benefit in a reciprocal way each of the generations. Through the creation of a society for all ages where both young and old are involved in policy design, monitoring and evaluation, intergenerational contract seeks to develop new economic and social opportunities. This was the kernel of the statement credited to Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the effect that ‘without prosperity and opportunity that are widely shared, peace cannot last long, and democratic institutions cannot truly flourish’.
Intergenerational contract is what is captured in the popular adage of the Yoruba people: ‘Omode’gbon, agba gbon, ohun l’a fi da Ile-Ife’. It translates to ‘Ile-Ife (an ancient city regarded as the cradle of the Yorubas) was built on the wisdom of both the young and the old’. There is also, ‘Bi omode ba nge igi nigbo, awon agba lo mo ibi ti o maa wo si’ meaning, ‘If a child cuts a tree, it’s the adult that can fore sell where it will fall. These adages certainly are what we have reflected in the philosophy behind intergenerational collaboration and partnerships for inclusive growth. The drivers of intergenerational collaboration can be articulated as follows:
To meet the challenge of rising longevity, loneliness and social exclusion particularly in the western world, which has resulted in older adults having to depend on the support of younger generations for longer period;
To meet the challenge of younger people having to depend on their parents or grandparents for material support or housing provision in the face of growing unemployment;
To meet the growing digital divide challenge in the way it is separating generations;
To meet the problem of youth migration from rural settings to the cities with its attendant consequence of depriving traditional systems of opportunities to share indigenous knowledge;
To meet the deepening impact of intergenerational transmission of poverty in which poverty is passed down from one generation to the next;
Enhance increase of understanding of others in ways that help to remove/reduce negative stereotypes;
Support the development of new skills and competencies;
The recognition that different generations have unique competencies and knowledge that can be the subject of conversation in partnership -building; and
The recognition that different generations are key stakeholders in the development of the society (social impact and integration) and it is only through working together productively and respectfully that the system can leverage on their contributions.
The development of intergenerational relations has not just been informal or serendipitous. In April, 2002, Member States of the United Nations adopted the Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. The emphasis was on the mainstreaming of ageing and older persons into policies and planning. In 2007, the General Assembly adopted a supplement to the World Programme of Action for Youth. It among others proposed action on strengthening families and bolstering intergenerational solidarity. In 2009, United Nations International Experts Group meeting on ‘Family Policy on a Changing World: Promoting Social Protection and Intergenerational Solidarity’ recommended building partnerships and cooperation between youth and older persons organizations. In 2012, the Commission for Social Development adopted ‘Advancing Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity’ as one of the themes of the preparations for the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, 2014. Many issues related to intergenerational contract are also deeply engrained in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dimensions of Intergenerational Contract and Opportunities
Let me at this juncture crave your indulgence to focus my discourse more on Nigeria and in this respect identify the different dimensions of intergenerational contract and the opportunities that can result therefrom. A first point to be made here is that the implicit nature of intergenerational contract is such that different societies have different perception of it. For instance, in many Western countries, the dominant theme upon which intergenerational contract is grounded is different from the situation in Nigeria, and I reckon on a number of other African countries. Even though in Western countries reference is made to solidarity between generations, the rapid increase in the ageing population and a decline in birth rates is what is producing the fundamental changes. In other words, for them, the need to understand how to best cater to the needs of senior citizens and those in the later phases of their working lives is central to intergenerational strategies. On the other hand, for Nigeria and a number of other sub-Saharan African countries, the youth population is what is burgeoning and how to meet the challenge of unemployment and underemployment confronting these young adults is focus of attention. What this means is that policy evolution and strategies will differ from country to country. If policies and programmes are inappropriate, implementation will never lead to inclusive growth and development.
Second, intergenerational contract either as human resource management or potential diversity initiatives solution is largely underexplored in Nigeria in meeting the challenges of both inter-generational and intra-generational equity. This is not to suggest that there is a paucity of social issues and needs confronting both the older generation and young adults. For all generations, the day-to-day economic lives, and ensuring basic living standards are issues of concern. Specific to older generations are concerns relating to poor pension and the bureaucracy of getting their meagre entitlement paid regularly and on time. They are also concerned with health care costs, social security, and adult social care services.
For young adults, the issues are much more overwhelming. They are confronted with unemployment and job insecurity, rising housing costs, reduction in opportunity for human capital improvement, longevity risk, inflation risks, poor pay growth and the reality that both cultural values and human resource markets favour adult experienced workers over young. Young adults with degrees in the bid to make ends meet are shifting towards less secure temporary jobs with no prospect of on-the-job training and with the attendant risk of being trapped in a sequence of such temporary jobs as receptionist, uber drivers and filing station attendants among others. For those without a university degree, they are caught in the web of self-employment at very low operational levels of vocations such as tailoring, hair dressing, shoe mending among others, or engaging in street hawking, serving as driver’s assistant, motor touts or domestic aids. For young female adults, while they can celebrate better rights of women than their predecessors, the millennial women are faced with reconciling family commitments and work demands.
Foremost entrepreneur, investment banker and economist, Atedo Peterside noted as follows of the challenge facing young adults in Nigeria:
Our society is rigged against young people. They have got to be very careful in this environment. Most rules have been put in place to make it very difficult for young people to succeed. When I was young, it wasn’t like that… it’s almost as if some Nigerians, as they got older kept on pulling the rug along with themselves and the environment that enabled them to come in and succeed, they withdraw it so today’s young people can’t repeat what they did. I am sad that today, no young Nigerian can begin a bank at 33 the way I did. The rules won’t let him. If you have ten years’ experience and you want to come for a banking licence, they will throw you out.
Let me therefore reiterate the fact that an individual without a job will have identity crisis, be hampered in life satisfaction, and overtime, will be subject to undesirable social trajectories. Family units seek to give support, as best as they can, to the extent they can stretch the family purse. As is to be expected, there are significant constraints at that level in terms of what can be achieved. With the exception of few of the older generation that attained early business success and whose young adults can boast of inheritance wealth, as well as few affluent individuals, not many families can bridge the wealth gap and intra-generational income inequalities. At the level of the private sector, it has become increasingly fashionable for corporate bodies to adopt the mentor-mentee strategy of utilising the services of retired industry professionals to address the challenge of improving the skills and competencies of their young recruits.
However, the story appears to be different at the level of the State; this is where more has to be done if intergenerational contract is to be a meaningful vehicle for potential opportunities. There is no gainsaying the fact that the state, as the potent source of social impact projects and initiatives, has a role to play in harnessing intergenerational opportunities for inclusive growth and development. Where there is sufficient political will, the State has both the wherewithal and the capacity to not only engender social innovation projects, but to also serve as inspiration for others seeking to map out intergenerational opportunities.
It cannot be denied that successive governments in Nigeria have aggressively been seeking to prioritize employment generation by integrating job creation in major policies, projects and programmes. Reference can be made to the Poverty Eradication Fund; Special Programme on Food Security; Root and Tuber Expansion Programme; Conditional Cash Transfer Programme; National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy; the Food for Jobs Programme; the Economic Sustainability Plan; the N-Power Agro Program and the 52bn Special Public Works programme aimed at providing jobs for more than 750,000 low-skilled workers. Other initiatives include the Tradermoni Empowerment Scheme, the FarmerMoni Loan; the Market Moni Loan; the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund; the National Social Investment Programme and the Nigeria Jubilee Fellow Programme, a youth empowerment initiative between the Nigerian government and the United Nations Development Programme which was unveiled by the President on 6th September, 2021.
Some State Governments have also tried to bring on board initiatives that can complement those of the Federal government. It is also not open to denial or even to doubt that successive governments, both Federal and State, have tried to improve on infrastructure and public services in the form of transportation, roads, sanitation, education, access to mobile telephony and drinking water. These are avenues that can open up new employment and training opportunities for the most disadvantaged, and thereby promote inclusive growth and equity objectives. They are initiatives and projects that can create opportunities for all segments of the population. Where appropriately designed, these are initiatives on which successful intergenerational relationships such as intergenerational learning of intellectual, practical and transferable skills; community intergenerational mentorship; intergenerational intercultural learning; intergeneration intrapreneurship; and intergenerational research (capable of providing solutions to social and political problems) can rest to produce remarkable opportunities.
Looking at the significant funding and efforts that has been directed at youth and other employment initiatives at the Federal and State levels, the fundamental question then becomes why are these initiatives aimed at addressing the multidimensional challenges of inequality facing Nigerians not producing the desired results? What are the factors undermining the expected outcomes and prospects on different segments of Nigeria’s population? If we fail to understand these undermining factors, attempts to strengthen current approaches using the intergenerational lens will be superficial and worthless.
Since the development we seek is what will foster inclusive growth, it will be helpful to understand what the concept of ‘inclusive growth’ entails in order to properly situate those challenges that have continued to deepen the gap between the rich and the poor.
The Notion of Inclusive Growth
The concept of ‘inclusive growth’ is a new approach to economic growth that aims to improve living standards and share the benefits of increased prosperity more evenly across social groups. Some literatures identify pro-poor growth policies aimed at delivering high income gains for low-income groups and in so doing, help to reduce inequalities in living standards as the core of inclusive growth. Some others see productive employment which is able to generate the jobs needed to absorb growing populations and meet the demand of the private sector for skills and competencies as the base. Yet, not a few others consider it to be a combination of economic and non-economic opportunities generated by growth, and sharing the benefits of growth in terms of quality of jobs, education, and the health status of the population and/or the skills of the labour force.
From the various definitions given of the concept by international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Europe 2020 ten-year strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, we can pin-point the following as critical indices of the concept of inclusive growth:
a rapid pace of economic growth that is broad-based across sectors;
equality of opportunity in terms of access to markets, resources, and unbiased regulatory environment for businesses and individuals;
a growth that not only creates new economic opportunities, but, also one that ensures equal access to the opportunities created for all segments of society, particularly for the poor;
a process and an outcome that ensure that everyone can participate in decision-making in the growth process as well as in benefit sharing;
empowering people through high levels of employment, investing in skills, fighting poverty and modernising labour markets, training and social protection systems so as to help people anticipate and manage change, and build a cohesive society; and
opportunity for all and distribution of dividends of increased prosperity (monetary and non-monetary terms) fairly across society.
Elusive Development – Unending Mutations
A deep scrutiny of the above indices of inclusive growth would clearly reveal that Nigeria is some notable distance from the targets of inclusive growth. My first point of reference in this regard will be the various scandals that have trailed some of the employment generation and job creation initiatives, but which are hushed up and never given credible explanation. A case in point is the alleged fraud involving billions of naira made against the Chief Executive of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture Lending (NIRSAL). It was a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiative to catalyse the flow of finance and investment into fixed agricultural value chains. Since that allegation became public knowledge, the response from the CBN and NIRSAL has been abrupt and incoherent. First, NIRSAL described the allegation as nothing but campaign of calumny. Thereafter, there are reports that CBN has halted all further disbursements. This was followed by counter reports by NIRSAL debunking suspension of disbursement. At the minimum, one would have expected a formal release from the CBN giving a clear indication of what the facts are and what investigations are being done. Similar reputational concerns characterised allegations against government functionaries and former Governors who were arraigned in court for siphoning funds allocated to the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), and also, with funds allocated to the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants.
My second point of reference is the fact that, in the context of information released to the public, it is either the beneficiaries of a number of these initiatives are few and far between or the processes for their selection are opaquely conducted. Initiatives like this cannot thrive without public trust.
Invariably, there is apparent gap between promised reforms and real-society outcomes. One is left to conclude that the challenge of opportunities and the failure of projects and initiatives that can deliver these opportunities are a culmination of inefficiency, lack of transparency and systemic deficiencies that are deeply rooted in self-interest or utter disregard for positive outcome. To put it more poignantly, the State in many situations has become private profit concerns. The self-enrichment instinct of those who wield political power and the idealistic aggressiveness of their cronies have consistently guided the utilization of public resources, with the result that the general welfare of the people is now treated as a by-product. The predominance of self-interest and the continual lust for more has in most cases been the bane of wrong decisions and, the reason why projects and potential laudable initiatives consistently fail to promote empowerment. In their design, projects and initiatives are masked as inclusive, but, in implementation, they fail the attributes of justice, namely, transparency, equity and fairness.
Rather than take action that can create opportunities for all segments of the population, cartels of government and private interests create monopolies and situations that keep the status quo ante. This state of affairs pleasures them here and now while mortgaging the future of the country and her entire population. Whether it is dismal social services, decrepit infrastructure or other uni-directional/bi-directional corrupt activities, the story is the same. The untoward consequences of the wrong decisions have been the reason why investments from global value chains and foreign investors that can open up new employment and training opportunities for young adults have continued to decline. It is also the reason why multinationals and other entities seldom agree to have Nigerian law as applicable law, or stay within the jurisdiction of Nigerian courts or arbitral bodies for dispute resolution. Despite our huge youth population, employment-intensive corporations prefer to locate in other countries like India for their production, yet, benefit from our huge domestic market. According, to the UNCTAD 2020 World Investment Report, foreign direct investment flows to Nigeria in 2019 decreased by 48.5% compared to the previous year.
It is for the same reason of self-interest that we daily witness policy somersaults, lack of respect for rule of law, avoidance of due process, and outright scorn of guidelines, processes and procedures. There are too many examples of these scandals of self-interest, and just two cases here will buttress my position. In the famous case of The Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Process & Industrial Development Limited (2020) EWHC 2379 (Comm), where Nigeria is seeking to challenge an arbitral award of US$6.6billion in damages and approximately US$4billion in costs and interest, the English High Court found among others that:
Nigeria had a strong prima facie case that gas processing agreement between Nigeria and P&ID (the GSPA) was procured by bribes paid to insiders as part of a larger scheme to defraud Nigeria; and that perjured evidence had been given which P&ID had relied on in the knowledge of its falsities;
Nigeria had a prima-facie case that the jurisdiction and liability stages of the arbitration were tainted by the conduct of Nigeria’s counsel, based on evidence of payments made by him to senior public servants who were connected to the arbitration, and which payments could have been to purchase their silence in respect of his conduct of the arbitration and settlement discussions.
The withering scathing indictment made by the Learned Judge is quite striking:
However, what persuades me of a prima facie case of dishonesty in Mr. Shasore’s conduct of the arbitration are his payments of US$100,000 each to Mrs. Adelore and Mr. Oguine. Their salaries as public servants according to the Attorney General, Mr. Malami were some US$5,000 per annum.
The expectation would be that a case like this will be speedily investigated, and violators brought to book to face prosecution. Interestingly in Nigeria, ‘investigation is always ongoing’.
Again, reference can be made to the financial scandals that rocked the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in relation to the period between 2010 and 2016. There were different strands to the alleged monumental frauds: that involving the erstwhile Chief Executive, and that relating to other members of staff. In relation to the staff, some officials claimed that millions (about N36m unremitted cash) were swallowed by a snake; some other officials claimed that sales records of e-facility and change of course cards also running into several millions were either stolen or burnt among other frivolous stories. For the erstwhile, Chief Executive, how do you explain the huge difference between the pittance (average of N80million annually) that JAMB was remitting to the coffers of the Federal Government before 2016 and the over N5billion annually now being remitted since the assumption of office by Professor Ishaq Oloyede? Yet, Professor Oloyede finished his first terms of five years and no end in sight in terms of culpability or otherwise of his predecessor in office and several other functionaries that were allegedly involved in these frauds.
The insights of a frontline columnist and literary critic, Chidi Amuta, are pertinent:
Those paid to protect the guardrails of democracy hardly look in the direction of the courts for enemies. Nor do most people suspect that judges could become facilitators of authoritarianism and subtle promoters of anarchy. As custodians of the rule of law, judges and the courts over which they preside are the insurance for democracy’s ultimate good. The entire edifice of democracy thrives because the judicial system is expected to act in a manner that reassures ordinary men and women that the excesses of politicians will not be allowed to endanger law and order or the presumed equality of men. That at least is the standard expectation and the reassuring assumption… Curiously, however, in Nigeria’s fledgling democracy, the judiciary has lately been operating more like an unregistered political party, one that towers above all the other parties.
As has been noted in different studies, there is a high positive correlation between the perceived effectiveness and timeliness of the criminal adjudication system and the extent to which people respect the system both in terms of commission of crime or victims’ resort to violence to redress disputes and grievances. The weak and slow enforcement of laws against violators is at the core of the pervasive lack of accountability and the impunity with which people violate rules and regulations. Nigeria currently stands at a crossroad. We need restraints of a more dramatic and decisive kind for decency and sanity to return.
It is also for this same reason of self-interest that more than 10 years after the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010 (NOGICDA) was introduced, it continues to struggle in the bid to achieve its goal. The in-country values that NOGICDA was intended to create through the utilization of indigenous capacities are monetary gains from contract, job creation and linkage of the oil industry to other sectors of the economy, and to encourage research and development activities. A Bill is currently being proposed to repeal NOGICDA and enact the Nigerian Content Development and Enforcement Act. The goal is to extend the local content principles and philosophy to other sectors of the economy such as Information and Communications Technology, Power, Solid Minerals and Construction. It is my view that for as long as its monitoring and evaluation is not fully participatory and inclusive, and results regularly disseminated widely on project-by-project basis, the commitment that will spur the initiative to fully achieve its objective will continue to be lacking.
The challenge posed by this excessive pursuit of self-interest, resulting in the majority seeing a small group prospering while they continue to suffer grinding poverty is what breeds social resentment, political instability and the high level of insecurity that the country is witnessing. Our society is fractured with no agreement on common good. People no longer trust the government to fulfil its primary purpose of security of life and properties, thereby leaving opportunists in the cloak of activists, religious leaders, ethnic jingoist and all manner of people (also for their own selfish interest) to feed fat on ethnic, tribal, regional, and religious narratives that can cause disaffection. I stress these issues because they have serious impact on the Nigerian environment. Intergenerational opportunities can only thrive and achieve inclusive growth and development when there is an enabling business environment. Reforms can never thrive alongside the tolerance of iniquity.
Tragically, the “law” and its enforcement mechanisms in which the people should ordinarily have a watchdog are no longer neutral in their relation to both value judgement and social stratification. The social circumstances that the country has found itself have significantly corrupted certainty of law. The current situation is one where members of the society do not enjoy the same kind of rights and protection under the same law both in relation to their aspirations and needs, and the actualization of remedies that should guarantee their rights. Consequently, the people now look to politics and the influence of personality, and no longer to rules and legal reasoning to determine what to expect from the law.
With the oligarchs in control of key institutions, it is difficult to expect these institutions to creditably deliver on their mandate. The natural question to ask therefore is how then do we galvanise responsibility and accountability of public officers, public servants, and others who render public service? The future of Nigeria may be problematic, but, I do not subscribe to the fact that she’s doomed. Much as the doomsday protagonists may have justification for their position; the nation’s abundant human resources and the resilient spirit of most Nigerians, much more than anything else, give cause for hope for a greater Nigeria.
From a practical standpoint, attempts to correct the challenges across all sectors at the same time will remain futile. On the contrary, if we can make our judicial system accessible, efficient, effective and reliable as a dispute settlement mechanism, it will significantly impact on all other sectors. Currently, it takes years to determine simple contractual disputes courtesy of needless adjournments and technicalities the weakness of which is exploited by litigants to the hilt. Same with other violations of law. Frivolous reports made against judicial officers have left many of them demoralised and marginalised in their courtrooms, and thus, unable to boldly play their roles of promoting the rule of law.
How can we encourage and strengthen judicial officers to take control of their courts and mandatorily report and recommend erring practitioners to face disciplinary actions? How do we ensure that such reports are not allowed to stagnate, but, are promptly dealt with? Very recently, a Federal Judge in Michigan, United States, Judge Linda Parker, ordered a group of nine attorney who filed a legal challenge seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory to pay all legal fees incurred by the State of Michigan and the city of Detroit’s attorneys. The Judge mandated them to take legal education courses and further referred them to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission for investigation, which could lead to potential suspension or disbarment. The Judge described their suit as a ‘profound abuse of judicial process’. Such Suits are regular occurrences in Nigerian courts without consequences whatsoever.
In a similar vein, how do we monitor to ensure that judicial officers not only sit on time but also adjudicate in line with settled legal principles and interpretations? Innovative technologies can play a major role in improving the current judicial system. While I concede that technology will not come without its challenges, I will equally hasten to say that this is why adoption of technology must also be participatory and inclusive. It is gratifying to note that the Nigerian Bar Association and the Justice Reform Project are already in discussions to launch a Court Monitoring Scheme which will provide an objective basis for evaluating judicial performance.
Corruption and lax standards will continue to degrade the integrity of our justice system until we entrench judicial ethics and accountability; strengthen court administration, efficiency and transparency to speedily sanction violators; and regularly conduct assessments of judicial reform efforts. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Tanko Mohammed, must be commended for his tough stance on recent conflicting court orders. Beyond administrative admonition of the lower courts, however, the Supreme Court must also lead with decisive pronouncements that will denounce judicialization of politics.
At the level of the Supreme Court, we have had, in recent times, some judicial decisions that particularly relates to administration of criminal justice. Some of those decisions did not go down well with the public on the ground that the apex court relied more on technicalities than doing justice. My view is that the Supreme Court as the apex court, should not shy away from taking activist decisions that will strengthen public confidence in it when the need arises to remedy clear and extreme cases of injustice, oppression or violations of the rule of law. As once observed by Lord Devlin, ‘the judicial qualities which the public singles out for praise are common sense and humanity; devotion to law is less admired than a willingness to strain it’. This is the only way to advance the conception of justice and good governance.
To close this segment of the presentation, it is also my view that we must evolve a different approach to dealing with financial crimes. Without doing away with the presumption of innocence, we must be bold enough to embrace some aspects of the inquisitorial system which gives opportunity for the court to vigorously interrogate a defendant to substantiate his defence. The challenge of the current adversarial system where the prosecution and defence are more or less competing against each other is that the judge who oversees the process, most times, sees the loopholes and gaps in the case of the prosecution, but, is not able to do anything about it. The whole process even to the unlearned end up making a mockery of the intertest of the State in apprehending and adjudicating offenders. The abuse by rich business leaders and personalities with political influence of the adversarial system in the way it seeks to protect the rights of these defendants has become so pronounced to the detriment of the search for truth. Change may be tough, but, where financial crime has become the norm with overwhelming negative impact on institutions already challenged by staff and resources, then, we must rethink in order to embrace processes that are less bureaucratic or riddled with exploitable vulnerabilities.
The Promise of Intergenerational Opportunities
What promise can intergenerational opportunities offer inclusive growth and development? As earlier identified, intergenerational opportunities is a model that enables the interaction of different generations for the mutual benefit of the different generations. At the heart of it is a sense of mission and purpose: to move away from the current paradigm which provides limited opportunities for interaction between generations to a setting which provides limitless opportunities for interaction, and which in turn results in better physical and mental health for the older generation, ability to learn and grow for the younger generation, and higher levels of satisfaction for all generations.
Business cycles always begin from the ideation phase before gradually settling into the maturation phase. There are a number of micro, small and medium enterprises seeking to offer a myriad of highly innovative goods and services. Many of them for reasons of high operating costs, mismatch of human resources, lack of business strategy, inadequate knowledge of the business environment, inadequate operational skills, lack of financial resources and the general harsh economic environment are not able to effectively take-off or are forced to shut down. Would-be entrepreneurs from the poor strata of society and women face greater barriers. According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, small and medium scale enterprises in Nigeria have contributed about 48% of the national GDP in the last five years. The co-mingling of generational skill sets and perspectives can be a game changer to the advantage of all parties in the marketplace, and can greatly improve the contribution of micro, small and medium enterprises to the country’s GDP.
Charlotte Japp, the founder of CIRKEL, a platform that connects professionals across stages for mutual growth and co-mentorship has given an amazing testimony of the possibilities that intergenerational exchanges can unlock. According to her, when she started her platform, it had no significance, but immediately after the launch, she had this to say; “I was surprised with how many were interested in starting conversations with people much older or younger than themselves”. The result was that she evolved her platform from a local event model in New York City to curated virtual introductions in 14 countries across four continents. According to her, she had benefited from two-way exchanges with other professionals, and she found those conversations missing after she graduated from college and began working.
One cannot be exhaustive on the promise that intergenerational opportunities can deliver across different sectors. However, one particular sector that I should not fail to mention is the agricultural sector. This sector remains the top sector of employment for young people. While the opportunities in the technology space and entertainment sector may, for instance, be so glaring, the usual social stigma that young adults attach to agriculture should not becloud the immense opportunities that intergenerational collaborations and partnerships can give across the agricultural value chain of production, distribution, transportation, processing, packaging and consumption of products. The value-chain emphasis (beyond primary production) brings into sharp focus the wide range of possibilities for intergenerational conversations. The participation of the older generations will, among others, help to deepen understanding of best practices and the historical challenges of the sector, particularly in the face of climate change. The younger generations on their part, will bring to bear innovative technologies that will improve efficiency and give market competitive advantage for the benefit of all.
The leverage of intergenerational opportunities for inclusive growth and development is not new to Africa and in particular, Nigeria. For instance, up to Harvard University, the Igbo apprenticeship system of South-eastern region of Nigeria (locally known as ‘Igba–Boi’) has been the focus of research. Under this apprenticeship arrangement, a man trading in the city returns to his traditional community to pick young adults (usually boys) from poor families and trains them in the line of his business. They would serve him for some years, and during this period of apprenticeship, they are not paid. He feeds, clothes and houses them. Upon completion of their apprenticeship, he invites his kinsmen, business partners and others to a ceremony where he “settles” the young adults, that is set them up in business. He sends them business opportunities to ensure that they thrive. By the time these young adults are stable in the business, they also go back to the community to bring other younger adults.
Ndubuisi Ekekwe (2021) describes the Igbo apprenticeship system as a construct through which business elevates the interests of communities, workers, consumers, and the environment alongside those of shareholders. It is an arrangement which demonstrates that markets could deepen management accountability, competitiveness, and profitability, while at the same time, anchoring shared prosperity. Participants cooperate to attain economic equilibrium. The key focus of the system is to prevent poverty by mass scaling opportunities for everyone. The philosophy in Igbo language is ‘onye a hana nwanne ya’ meaning ‘don’t leave your brother behind’. Going by the experience of the Igbos after the civil war, not many will deny that through this apprenticeship system, the Igbo communities have built collective wealth.
Reference can also be made to the “guild system” also known as ‘Esusu’ that was prevalent within the Yorubas of the southwest of Nigeria during the pre-colonial period and now modernised into different variants. The guild system is a capacity-based contributory scheme designed to enhance the economic empowerment of its members. Most of the guilds were organised on the basis of what they produced or manufactured, or the services they provided on their articles of trade e.g., pepper sellers, fish sellers, cattle dealers, etc. The women folk played a dominant role in the operations and activities of most of the guilds and the State exercise some form of indirect control on the activities of each of the guilds. Through their organised contributory schemes, the guilds were able to financially support members, increase their capital and facilitate their trade. The report of Clapperton, (1829) on the Akesan market in old Oyo is quite interesting on the guild system:
The market had more than 6000 black men and women… We were surprised about the order and arrangement of the tent, the different quarters for each kind of merchandise, the peace and order which existed among a people who had been thought to be incapable… The market had sections for traders of tobacco and pipes… of dyed cloths; … of mat traders and basket; … for sellers of boiled fish, palm oil and cooking pots; sellers of legumes and fruits; for sellers of yams and grains; for sellers of cotton cloths; for sellers of goats and livestock; for sellers of salt and pepper; … Everything in the market is arranged in a manner to give pleasure, without confusion and full of orderliness.
In Ghana, there is also the tradition of gifting small trading businesses to younger female household members in exchange for reciprocal support arrangement for themselves. The older women continue to operate a small doorstep trading business from the home, generating a small income, and also providing childcare and household services for the younger women working in the market.
We may look at the above instances as archaic models or at best historical artefacts. I dare say they are much more. African traditional models and the policies and rules guiding them reflect not only the moral and ethical principles of the social order in which the models operate, they also integrate the spiritual needs and aspirations of their intended subjects. This is what gave legitimacy, and ultimately effectiveness to the models. In this respect, we cannot address the critical issue of intergenerational opportunities for inclusive growth without putting at the core the interpretative framework through which the recipients would make sense of their own behaviour, as well as the behaviour of collectives in the society. For too long, policymakers have continued to transplant interventions in line with what operates in other countries and without much reference to the common values and social practice which underscore our cultural belief system. Models such as the Igbo apprenticeship systems and the guild system may have imperfections, but the ethical, cultural and social order guiding them are invaluable. We must understand them, and appropriately fine-tune them in the context of modern-day realities.
Road to Harnessing Intergenerational Opportunities
The notion of intergenerational contract at its starting point was more nuanced around environmental law and policy in the context of sustainable development. In recent times, it has been extended to deliberations aimed at addressing widening inequalities in order to achieve inclusive growth and development. Inequality of opportunities across the various strata of the society is not only detrimental to growth and well-being, it also portends great danger for societal stability. I have underscored some of what I believe Nigeria must do if the country is to improve her law enforcement in order to have an enabling environment where intergenerational opportunities can thrive for inclusive growth. This is particularly true with respect to curbing naked abuse of power by government functionaries which is the bane of our past and present unequal inheritance.
Our thoughtful probing of the dimensions of intergenerational contract, and the promise of intergenerational opportunities reveal the potential of an intentional and deliberate pursuit of the intergenerational thinking. Already, a number of countries are looking at how to harness intergenerational opportunities. Reference can be made to Italy and its 2016 Stability Law which is aimed at encouraging ‘intergenerational staff turnover’ in companies. The law allows for knowledge transfer from older to younger workers and a phased flexible movement into retirement for those close to the end of their working lives. The law also regulates solidarity contracts that allow employers to reduce the working time of older workers while preserving their social security benefit entitlement, so that new, younger workers can be employed on a permanent employment contract. France is also exploring the efficient age management strategy to strengthen complementarities between youth and older workers. Similar studies are ongoing in Canada.
For Nigeria, harnessing intergenerational opportunities will not come easy against the background of what I noted earlier that the fact of a law or policy working well in one jurisdiction is no guarantee that it will work well in another jurisdiction. The context of vastness of societal and national differences requires that law and policy making demonstrate cultural legitimacy as an exigency and not an abstract constant. In addition, some critics have argued that intergenerational contract do not increase the number of jobs in the system. They argue that where some older generations are retained to train incoming younger generations, the result is a reduction in available spaces for the incoming. Further, that the approach harbours a risk of retaining substandard hands to train a generation that has received a higher level of education.
My response to such criticisms will be that looking at their society, they may have a point. But, looking at Nigeria, that criticism is misdirected. Pause for a moment to look at the Igbo Apprenticeship system that produced the likes of Innocent Chukwuma (the founder of Innoson Motors), Ifeanyi Uba (CEO of Capital Oil and Gas), Cosmas Maduka (CEO of Coscharis Group) and several others like them operating at Onitsha, Aba, Nnewi, and Lagos. Now imagine inclusive and well-regulated guided deliberate, intentional backing by government of this system through one of its intervention supports. It will not only result in job creation, it will boost productivity in low productivity sectors, facilitate productivity improvement and lead to creation of new products. The promise is one of a significant shifts.
Thus, for me the traditional approach of cutting and pasting from other jurisdictions with which we have kept our jurisprudence alive for several years will not fully avail us the opportunity of harnessing intergenerational opportunities. We must pay attention to the social surroundings in which the opportunities are to be harnessed, otherwise, intervention will only further magnify inequities that are already present. Mapping and sequencing of the human genome in the field of science tells us that the genetic diagnosis of a patient is what should inform the doctor on how to treat the patient. In the same way, it is the outcome of targeted multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research that should determine Nigeria’s approach. Among others, research should focus on how Nigeria can bring her labour policies to support intergenerational relationships in the workplace; how labour policies with an intergenerational approach can improve employment opportunities and deal with labour and welfare crisis; and what macroeconomic policy choices Nigeria should make in the context of intergenerational contract.
As I round off my presentation, let me leave our worthy graduands with some words of caution and short-term solutions. You must not relent in growing your skills and competencies. Diversify your portfolio of skills. Aside your core competence, learn a bit of how to: identify and access job opportunities, identify needs and opportunities of the markets within which you are situated, grow business, and access finance. A number of such trainings you will find online at no cost. This is the way to prepare and be ready for opportunities and future employment prospects. Look for opportunities to diversify your mix of income (formal and informal opportunities with low barriers to entry). Keep your funds as much as you can by running away from wealth draining relationships while embracing wealth creating relationships. This is the right time to start growing investments (no matter how small) than investing in latest brand of phones and high street clothing and accessories. Beware of quick high returns that ponzi and similar schemes offer: always remember that not all that glitters is gold. Finally, run away from illegality and unlawful acts: they can cut short dreams in a twinkle.
I thank you all.
*Being the text of the 10th Convocation Lecture delivered by Olanrewaju A. Fagbohun SAN, Professor of Environmental Law & 8th Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University, at the Osun State University, Osogbo on Tuesday September 21, 2021