Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says the last general election in Nigeria further amplified the country’s fault line and deepened the mistrust among the citizenry.
Speaking on Monday at an induction organised for elected governors in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala urged the governors to focus on rebuilding trust as nation-building is impossible without it.
She said “a lot of trust” was broken following the general election and that no government can achieve growth and progress “without first of all building trust”.
“If taking the wider global context into account is one prerequisite for successful nation-building, another prerequisite is trust and a sense of common purpose,” she said.
“I remain convinced that a better future is within our collective grasp. But to move ahead and seize it, we will need political and business leaders at the state and national levels to form a compact in pursuit of pro-growth and pro-development policies.
“We ought to be seeking to double our growth rate and sustain that higher growth until we attain upper middle-income status. We can also aim to double Nigeria’s share of world trade from 0.33% to 0.66% within a decade. To build such a compact, we need trust.
“Nation-building is impossible in the absence of trust — perhaps especially so in Nigeria. Even before independence, the generation of leaders that led us to freedom identified how important trust would be to our nation’s success.
“Honourable governors, let us be candid: trust in Nigeria has always been fragile but following the election, a lot of trust has been broken.
“Nigeria is a country with no social contract, meaning that Nigerian political leaders have never been able to agree with each other to stick to a common set of principles, values, and policies that consistently deliver for their citizens regardless of ethnic group or political persuasion.”
The WTO DG said the governors-elect need to rebuild trust through their policies and programmes to regain the support of Nigerians.
“Excellencies, you have a lot of healing to do — within your states, and between them. Through your words, deeds, and policies, you need to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are equally loved. That they can settle and do business in any part of the country without fear. I love Nigeria deeply and I want to feel welcome in any part of this country,” she said.
“Just as different states need to rebuild perceptions among people across Nigeria, we collectively need to rebuild the Nigerian brand in the wider regional and international economy.
“Narratives about countries matter for capital allocation decisions — especially for emerging markets and developing economies. When we have presented a positive story in the past, backed by a credible reform trajectory, foreign investment has followed.
“When we have shown that we are cognizant that we account for around 70% of the West African sub-region’s GDP and 23% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, and we have run our country and economy responsibly to benefit not just us, but the region and sub-region, we have garnered respect.
“We must continue to recognize that Nigeria has an outsize role to play at home and abroad and we must manage our country better not just for ourselves but also for the rest of Africa.”