It gives me great pleasure to be at the great Obafemi Awolowo University, here in Ile-Ife, where legend says creation began. I must therefore thank the South West Zone of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA) for the kind invitation to the 2017 NPSA South West Conference and my designation as the Host Governor.
Politics is central to humans. This is why Aristotle described it as the ‘Master Science’ from which every human activity emerged. This is because the state is that which looms large over the individual. No man can escape the state. For good or bad, its policies, decisions and actions will have effect on all elements within its territory. While we can escape all other associations, we cannot escape from the state, as long as we have human community. And as Aristotle again once said, to be able to live successfully outside human community, one must be a god or a beast.
Regrettably, the profundity of this assertion is lost on most of us. Politics is the primal activity. Any society must get it right first before any progress can be made in governance and nation building.
The reality of this cold truth is that progress is not made by the abundance of human and material resources present in a given society but by the politics of the people. It comes to good reason therefore that we need to get the politics right.
For this reason, your organisation needs to be more relevant by playing a more visible role in politics and administration through academic intervention and participation. Your voice needs to be heard loud and clear by the leaders and the people. You must be able to offer independent, scientific, non-partisan and well distilled views and opinions on politics, governance and administration.
For instance, it is baffling how the entire world was misled on the outcome of the American presidential election last November. It is undeniably a failure of political science. The question to ask once again, as asked by your very own Prof Bayo Adekanye, is whether the political scientists have lost their science and become political.
Political science research findings should be made public, not just for obtaining promotion and professorial chairs. Any academic discipline must be relevant and responsible to the society.
In the developed world, progress comes from application of knowledge in science and technology, administration and other academic disciplines.
You should also find a way for robust intercourse between town and gown. Political scientists should get more involved in politics and administration in order to enrich their knowledge base. Sound theory added to sound practice equals sound knowledge. On the other hand, well-practiced politicians should be appointed as faculties in political science departments to be able to share their experience through teaching, research, seminars and publications.
The theme of your conference, ‘Democracy, nation building and development’ is very apt. A philosopher once observed that we keep making the mistake of reshaping and fine tuning the instrument, long after the objective has been forgotten.
Winston Churchill, the unforgettable war time Prime Minister of Britain once made the famous statement that democracy is the worst form of government, only better than the rest. This raises the question of why do we prefer democracy to the other forms of government? Democracy and its ideological twin sister, capitalism triumphed in the late 20th Century over competing ideologies of monarchical absolutism, fascism, communism and all forms of autocracies, including military dictatorship.
This prompted a perceptive American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, to assert that we had arrived at the end-point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government – ‘The End of history?’ – as he asked in his 1989 seminal article in the National Interest. Of course the jury is still out as to if humanity has come to the end of history.
Back to my earlier poser on the desirability of democracy. It is clear now that democracy is not just desired for its own sake. Democracy, denuded of any intrinsic value, is just is a system of leadership recruitment by adults voting. This on its own does not guarantee anything. Under a democratic system, Chief Obafemi Awolowo could not win presidential election in Nigeria while some fella won elections twice and probably thrice, if given the chance.
However, democracy offers the best opportunity for governance and nation building if we are able to support it with the necessary values and ethos.
A leader is just not elected to massage his ego and be put in a position of dominance over other competitors for power. He or she however is given political power, to be able to exercise it responsibly for the development of the people, state or country. To bring justice, security and promote the welfare and wellbeing of the people on a scale not possible by other forms of government. Democracy, ordinarily should promote merit if the people are educated and well informed enough to make rational decisions. Its greatest merit is that it makes government to emerge from the consent of the people through periodic elections and make the leaders accountable to the people, through their elected representatives in parliament, the media and pressure groups and a system of the rule of law through the courts.
When I sought political power as the governor of my state, Osun, I was very clear on my mission. A key concept in society and development is productivity.
Productivity is the ability to alter any state of matter or service, alone or in combinations into a more desirable form –product or service. The process of bringing about that alteration, or the effort we put into achieve this, is called work.
The initial condition or base material for these processes, is often as freely set by nature, while the derived output or product is as contrived by man in his imagination. Thus, sound notes put together productively equals music, otherwise its noise. Rubbles put together constructively is a house, otherwise it is just a dump of rubbles.
The dominion of man over his environment to produce such goods and services as to constantly improve his quality of life is the measure of his civilization.
The various interactions of the principal change agents of life – man – in these production and associated processes, is what constitutes trade and exchange.
Just like man must eat daily to stay alive, living and the life of society, must be fed daily with productivity for the quality of life to improve, otherwise we fall into decay, as expressed by rampant corruption, social strife and abject poverty.
The medium of all trade and exchange in goods and services is called money. We must use money in directing national production by properly valuing output.
The bureaucracy created to ensure that the valuation process is done with equity, has been rigged against the people it is supposed to serve, for quite a while and has become self-serving. That has been the failure of governance, in living memory.
We have refused to strengthen linkages that help the daily productivity necessary to make us live, rather than just exist.
Work does not pay and access to capital, energy, water, land and the various factors of production, have left a lot to be desired.
On assuming power, six years ago, my administration sought to correct these distortions, even though hamstrung by settlement and spending round arrangements in the centre, which have made drastic change to these production processes difficult.
The asset base of society must be carefully built through the widest possible engagement in productive work, which is why we initiated the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O’YES) under which we engaged 40,000 youths in public works. We began building 170 schools and providing school uniforms, to provide a conducive capacity building environment, in order to make our children productive adults of the future.
A school feeding programme to ensure that the very young are not distracted by bitter and debilitating hunger as they learn the primer of education and an ambitious road network programme to smoothen and ease the transportation of goods and services and many other initiatives we are running are designed to improve productivity in our sub-national setting.
My wish is that more people understand the odds stacked against them and become persuaded by the nobility of our vision so they are better informed in their individual decisions.
Going forward, our administration will do all in our power to conclude the projects we begun and become more imaginative in our use of volunteering, drawing on our popularity to build an enduring asset base to defend our commonwealth and civilization. The best is yet to come.
Once again, I thank you for inviting me here. I wish you fruitful and successful deliberations and pray that you will come up with ideas and solutions that will deepen and develop our democracy, enhance governance and lead to nation building.
I thank you all for your attention.
Osun a dara!