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‘The issue of state of origin in the Constitution should be totally removed’

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Dr Omano Edigheji is founder and CEO of Institute for Africa’s Progress and Prosperity, (IAPP), Pretoria, South Africa. He holds a PhD in Political Science with a specialisation in the political economy of development and  is one of Africa’s leading experts on the developmental states with more than a decade of research and policy analysis experience in institutions of higher learning, statutory research bodies and policy Think-Tanks.
In this interview with Richard Ihediwa, Aminu Imam and Abdulwahab Isa, he gives his insights into South Africa and Nigeria’s  developmental strides in governance in this era of globalisation vis-à-vis long-term development planning and institutional design. Excerpts:

How can you describe the current relationship between Nigeria and South Africa in light of recent happenings, particularly the recent diplomatic face-off between the two countries?
We have to take a historical perspective in terms of the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa. During the apartheid period, obviously, Nigeria had no diplomatic relationship with South Africa. If you recall, Nigeria was at the fore front in the fight against apartheid, though it was not located in the South African region but was regarded as the front line state because the role Nigeria was playing in the continent and the international arena.  Nigeria played a critical role in calling for sanction against the apartheid regime.
By 1994, when the democratic non-racial government led by the ANC overpowers, the major tragedy we had was the military dictatorship in Nigeria in the form of the Abacha administration and the Nigerian people led by the human right and people democracy movement, pressured the ANC led government not to establish a diplomatic relationship with South Africa but with the advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the civilian government in Nigeria and the democratic government in South Africa naturally established a relationship. This relationship has grown as you see a lot of citizens of both countries moving to one country to the other and also in terms of businesses. You also have number of Nigerian professionals living in South Africa. The most significant part was the articulation or a framework for African development in the form of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) which was championed by Nigeria and South Africa. Thabo Mbeki and Obasanjo worked tirelessly to articulate that agenda and I think it was an agenda that could have given impetus for African renaissance as Thabo Mbeki would put it. The second significance is that it enables the continent to position itself to be regarded as equal partner with the developed world and even with other global countries.
I think for some years, the continent really spoke with one voice on critical issues and Nigeria and South Africa were at the fore front of that articulation but there had been some issues between the both despite the diplomatic relationship and as a political economist, my role is to analyze why that had been the case. The crisis manifested itself in various ways; the visa dispensation. Initially, it takes about two days for South Africans to get a Nigerian visa but the same was not the case for Nigerians and I think the conditions Nigerians were getting visa were dehumanizing. I have friends and family members; I also read the Nigerian newspapers when people have to queue for hours to get a visa and this is really dehumanizing and unacceptable but at the same time. The corruption of the society and the decay of the Nigerian state pose a problem, I can say some of these things because I experienced them. People always go to the embassy to apply for new passport; I have been in that country for many years but I have not lost my passport any day but they always lose their passport because they have double identity and they involve in shady deals.  This makes it difficult for the South African government to accept some of this conduct because they are intelligent. Coupled with this xenophobic attitude, it is evident that South Africans are xenophobic, which manifested in the 2008 xenophobia riot where other black Africans were killed and some properties destroyed. In spite of what was happening at the governmental level, on ground was the tension of the issue of mistrust but also recall that the question of xenophobia in South Africa is not peculiar to South Africans. if you look at any society, taking Russia as an example, after been in an enclosure for number of years, once you open up, you fear the others and in the context of high poverty, the foreigners that are coming in that looks like you with more skills, you think they are coming to take your job. All of these helped to create a quite unfavourable environment.
There is also the bigger case of the permanent seat of the UN; if Africa has to get a permanent position, which country should have it? Naturally, South Africa is the biggest economy in the continent; therefore, it is worth to have it right? Nigeria has the highest population in the continent and in the next few years, it is going to biggest economy of the continent, so it has also aspired to have it. So some of these things will result to some tension but coupled with some of the things I said earlier on, then we have change of government in both countries from the Thabo Mbeki administration to Jacob Zuma administration in South Africa and from Obasanjo’s to Yar’Adua/Jonathan’s administration in Nigeria and I think when you look at the relationship between both countries, they were more collaborative during the Obasanjo/ Thabo Mbeki era compared to the Jonathan/ Jacob Zuma era.
Look, I think that if you look at Obasanjo’s work, he understands the continent, I think he is a nationalist and pan Africanist to the core. You can say the same to Thabo Mbeki; he has more exposure and engagement with the continent. I think these two leaders have a better understanding of the continent and they recognized the need for them to work collaboratively for the benefit of the continent the two countries rather than in competition.
The point is that the leadership orientation has changed. The crisis showed lack of leadership, they are unable to show leadership that they have to work together and even to represent the continent in international  arena and as a result of that, we had the yellow fever crisis that resulted to the deportation of the 125 Nigerians.
First, one of the things not coming up in the discourse so far, the corruption in Nigerian society is unacceptable. If you acquire your yellow fever illegally, its short and one the things the Nigerian state government, should have done was to investigate if the people acquire their yellow fever illegally should be prosecuted. The way the deportation happened was mismanaged by South Africa but from an outsider, you will think it was a coherent response by the South African government to Nigeria but it was not. The Nigerian equivalent of department of foreign affairs was unaware and any such deportation; the department should have been aware and would have contacted the Nigerian mission in South Africa. The department of health closed the health center at the airport where you could be vaccinated without the knowledge of the department of foreign affairs; the people responsible for the deportation in the department of home affairs should be responsible because they man the borders so they deported.
When the South African government came out with a statement, both the department of health and home affairs were been blamed and that tells that it was not a coherent response by the South African government towards Nigeria and once this came to light, the South African government apologized to Nigeria.
One of the lessons of this is that both countries have to seat together to review and manage their relationship in a mutually beneficial way. Rivalry, is unlikely to benefit both countries individually and collectively and the continent because it will undermine the continent agenda for revival. It is the continent that suffers because of the inability of Nigeria and South Africa to be able to have a common approach to issues including the crisis in Liberia and Cote D’voire.
Many Nigerians  are of the opinion that South Africa apologised to Nigeria because of its business interests in Nigeria, we recall the Nigerian parliament had started calling for the closure of South African  businesses like MTN, Stanbic etc…
(cuts in)..my reading of the situation was that Nigeria reciprocated the gesture by South Africa and the exact reason I read Nigerian newspapers was to follow what was going. They said their papers were not correct, they did not point to yellow fever. If you acquire you yellow fever card illegally, you will be prosecuted and I doubt that that was what happened in the South African case but the Nigerians, when they reciprocated, did not say the exact.
In terms of your substantive question, there is always self interest in global relation. There is no doubt that South Africa has a substantial economic interest in Nigeria and that could be a possible reason why South Africa apologised but another was that it was not a cohesive South African response to deport Nigerians. Some people could also hypothesise that what happened was because Nigeria was opposed to the South Africa candidate for the AU chairperson position could be a reason.
Every country has to protect its economic and political interest, so, if South Africa is protecting its business interest in Nigeria, there is nothing wrong with that. The question I think is more relevant is what Nigeria is doing to have a cohesive policy position on foreign investment in Nigeria, which is not peculiar to South Africa where you have a policy on foreign direct investment; In our country, do we have any? If you have industrial policy, where you decide which sector to target, their contribution to GDP, how many jobs it will create, how it will contribute to infrastructural development, how it will contribute to human capacity development, it will enable you to be strategically engaged with foreign direct investment, like MTN in the country, but there is no such policy in Nigeria. Looking at the petroleum industry, it can’t be resolved and it happens to be the most important sector for today that earns the country its highest foreign exchange reserve, it contributes to a substantial part of the country’s GDP. It is lingering if Nigerian government have a sense of urgency and have any purpose for the country’s development, that bill should have been finalised within six months but it seems the leadership, not just talking about the current government but the successive government, hate the country and Nigerians, they put their private interest above every other interest; if not, it should have been resolved quickly. We need to have an industrial policy; we import junk; Nigeria will require a democratic developmental state which put development first in its agenda, and by development I mean trying to expand the industrial capacity of the country and other productive sectors including enhancing the human capabilities.  The Nigerian state needs to be transformed that is, it needs to be restructured.
The present global economic depression has highlighted the challenges of regional integration, like in the European Union, where some countries were demanding to pull out from the union. What lessons are there for African, particularly the African Union?
When you take migration as a starting point, Africa is not integrated. Trade among African countries is less than 20% and there are number of reasons for these; there are no complementarities among African economies, they sell the same thing or basically produce things that they don’t need and the consume things that they don’t produce. Integration is a necessary condition for Africa; if you integrate more in the financial sector and you don’t more in the real economy, then there is a challenge.
I want to stress this that every part of the Nigerian society and state is parasitic; the value addition is next to zero. Government officials tend to point to the role of telecommunication with its contribution to GDP more recently that it is growing but it is not a product of any systematic policy in place, it happened by default.
Power is part of the economic infrastructure that you need, so if you don’t have that basic ingredient, it makes it problematic. How can set up a manufacturing company in a place without power? There will be a need for power sector reform but to quote Barrack Obama ‘it must be done with a sense of the fearful urgency of man’. If you are a developing country, you must see yourself in an emergency room. We need to tighten up our judicial system to ensure that if you commit a crime and prosecuted with a criminal record, you can’t get a public position. In this country, the abnormalities have become the norms. 
Another challenge of integration is insecurity and in Nigeria the Boko Haram insurgency seems insurmountable to government. How, in your opinion should the FG tackle this current threat?
I don’t work on the security sector but there is a high correlation everywhere in the world where two things lead to socio-political instability; high poverty and high inequality. We also have a context whereby 70% of our people live before the poverty line of about a dollar a day; those are very rare conditions to foster socio-political crisis that is manifesting in various form of militancy across the country. We have the Boko Haram, Niger Delta and some forms also in the south west because I don’t think militancy is limited to any particular part of the country. So to address that, we have to address the source; in the context of high rate of unemployment what do you think? So, you have to do something that will enable them engage in production income generating activities. That is one area that government needs to address. You can have the best intelligent military intervention in the world, if you don’t address that context, there will continue to be socio-political crisis in one form or the other.
The fundamental problem should have been tackled which is the underdevelopment of the Niger delta region rather than giving cash for engaging in actions that are mounted to criminality.  an important lesson even in resolving the Boko Haram problem; even if they were going to be given amnesty, it should be they that they confess what they have done and to commit not to repeat the same  and the state will have find a way to integrate them into the society. One thing that cannot be part of the equation is giving people cash; you can set up businesses where they can be employed but cash component is an eccentric to encourage criminality.
There is no scientific approach to development, if you do that, it’s like following the World Bank approach where they think what applies to you will apply to me.  We have to know the context and in defining the context, we have to ask ourselves the implication of the continuation of the subsidy for the Nigerian economy. If the subsidy is removed, how can it contribute to improve the lively hood of Nigerians? How can it contribute to enhance the productive component of the Nigerian Economy?  Following the debate of what happen, the issue per say was not subsidy but the corruption of the subsidy process and that was what should have been addressed. You don’t punish everyone because of the activities of the few people; they should have been prosecuted rather than removing the subsidy.
Nigeria is being touted as the fastest growing economy in the world but which is doubtful when viewed from the prism of actual development of the Nigerian people. Do you think this growth is actually real?
Growth is a component of development;  Development is about human freedom. It is a condition where citizens are able to enjoy economic, political and social freedom and being able to live in a non-hazard environmental condition. Our politics should be issue-driven rather than been based on personality, money, primordial sentiment, religion and ethnicity. We should know if the political parties have programs.  The issue of state of origin in the Constitution should be totally removed; if I am born in Sokoto, I should be allowed to contest for an election in Sokoto without caring about where my parents are from; what is at stake is the contribution I can make to that state; if I can be able to aggregate the interest of that community, then I should be allowed to contest. I don’t think any political party in Nigeria has a political conference that is dedicated purely to policy issues. If any party says it has, I need to see that policy. That is one thing Nigeria needs to develop. In terms of economic development, without an industrial policy, it will be difficult for Nigeria to develop because we are in a competitive world and we cannot longer depend on oil.

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