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late Prof Claude Ake memorial lecture

Posted by John Bibor on Feb 22nd, 2013 and filed under Business.

The immediate past Executive President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and current Secretary General of the African, Pacific and Carribean Countries (APC), Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas is expected in Port Harcourt, today for the second annual memorial lecture of the late Prof Claude Ake.

The Claude Ake memorial lecture was instituted by the Amaechi-led administration in 2011 in memorial of late Prof Claude Ake, who died in an ADC plane crash in 1996.

Briefing newsmen in Port Harcourt last Wednesday, the chairman of the lecture organising committee, Mr Gogo Levi Charles said that Dr Chambas would be speaking on the topic ‘ Combating the Resources Curse: Strategies for Economic Transformation in  a Natural Resources Rich Economy.

Mr Charles, who is also the state commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning said that the topic was chosen in view of the negative effect of a monolithic economy on the development of the state.

He said that the late Prof Ake was before his death, an apostle of economic diversification, contending that the situation was now being  felt more than ever before.

The committee chairman also said that the state governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi would endow a professional chair at the cost of N25million in honour of the deceased.

According to him, other facilitators of the event which holds at the Rivers State House of Assembly auditorium today will include Mrs Efebu Omoibi Okari, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo and Dr Ukoha Ukiwe of the University of Port Harcourt.

When Claude Ake Came Alive

The Horizon.  By Kayode Komolafe, Email:kayodekomolafe@thisdayonline.com

Foremost political economist, Professor Claude Ake, died 15 years ago in a plane crash. It was to be a flight from Port Harcourt to Lagos, but it turned out to be the eminent scholar’s last journey.

However, since the huge loss, Ake’s ideas have been alive and well. He was reputed to have made original contributions to social science.

It was his preoccupation with the production of ideas for people-oriented development that led to the establishment of the Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS) based in River State.

In a way, Ake came alive last Friday through these ideas. The occasion was a memorial lecture on his 72nd birthday.

It was organised by the Rivers State government. The topic: “Doom to Boom: Re-engineering the Political Economy of Rivers State for Citizens Prosperity – Lessons from Botswana”. Giving the lecture, former President of Botswana, Mr. Festus Mogae, summed up the widely acclaimed Botswanan experiment in the following modest words: “ we did a few ordinary things in the interest of ordinary people”.

Botswana has become a model in converting non-renewable natural resource to social capital. Natural wealth has been admirably used to develop human capital.

Relating the success that Botswana has made in the management of revenues from mineral resources, Mogae appropriately reminded governments in Nigeria that  “oil exists for the people and not the people for oil”. When Mogae was awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership three years ago, the elements of “stability and prosperity” were emphasised among his accomplishments in governance.

The lecture itself was richly spiced with quotes from Ake’s writings on democracy and development.  He was more or less confirming to his hosts that some of the ideas needed for development had been generated by the radical scholar from Omoku. Mogae was quite humble in sharing with the audience the experience of Botswana.

According to him, the Botswanan experiment is a proof that “it is possible to manage natural resource endowments in a way that generates economic growth, promote welfare of the population and also being environmentally friendly and sustainable”.

Botswanan leaders have been wise to learn from the lessons of the resource curse afflicting the African continent.

The continent is rich in natural resources but its people remain poor as amply demonstrated in the lecture. About 10% of global oil reserves are in Africa. The continent is also the home of about 40 % of gold and between 80 and 90% of Chromium and Aluminium deposits.

The Democratic Republic of Congo hosts a quarter of Diamond reserves in the world. Yet that nation is also the home of many of the poorest people in the world. Against this unenviable background, Botswana, early enough, categorised natural resource as a “common heritage for the present and future generations”. The state has direct shareholding in the extractive industry. Revenues thus generated in the form of taxes and royalties are invested in education, healthcare and infrastructure.

This is the formula that Botswana has employed to effectively transform itself from being a poor country at independence to a middle-income country today.

To achieve this, some ingredients became indispensable for the political economy to function in people’s interest. First, the government has made accountability and transparency principles of state policy. Institutions exist to bring this about.

These include the office of the Auditor-General, the Directorate of Public Prosecution, an independent media and a robust civil society. There is also the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board. Secondly, there is “zero tolerance” for corruption.

In fact, in Botswana, corruption is “a high risk and low return undertaking” because of the awesome mandates of the anti-corruption agencies. The fight against a corruption has become a national duty. Thirdly, the legislature and the judiciary are independent and constitute a check on the executive. In formal terms, similar provisions in law and structures to the foregoing also exist in Nigeria.

The difference is that in Botswana there is political will under a committed leadership to bring about results.

In comparison, Mogae observed the huge investments in education, healthcare and infrastructure in Rivers State and urged the state government to continue on that path of development. His admonition: governments in Africa should reverse the culture of rent- seeking and strategists of development should look “beyond oil”.

The animated discussion that followed Mogae’s presentation was such that Ake in his profound thinking about the dialectics of democracy and development could have readily approved of them. For instance, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi called for the publication of the details about the quantity of oil sold and greater transparency in the industry.

According to him, the struggle over the wealth from oil should benefit the people and not just a few leaders.  Monsignor Mathew Hassan Kaka introduced another dimension to the discussion by emphasising the importance of how leadership emerges.

According to him, it is evident from Mogae’s presentation and more so his rich profile that development in Botswana is not an “accident”.  The leadership that gave the direction for the development is nurtured and well prepared for the job.

The preparedness of leadership for governance still remains a great challenge in Nigeria. The Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamusdeen Usman, who was the chairman of occasion, rose in defence of the integrity of the official statistics. He dismissed allegations of official mismanagement of data.  If development is to be planned, credible data are crucial to the process.

It was a befitting honour done to the memory of Ake by his home state. The tone and tenor of the debates that ensued were also appropriate in a typical Ake occasion.

In his book, Democracy and Development in Africa, Ake argues that: “the assumption so readily made that there has been a failure of development is misleading. The problem is not so much that development has failed as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place”.

Botswana has shown that development can indeed be put squarely on the agenda in a democratic milieu. To achieve this, politics should be for the purpose of development.

At present, politics is under- developing Nigeria due to prohibitive costs of governance, corruption and lack of accountability. The dominant political orientation is not towards combating mass poverty.

Instead, politics serves the interest of a few that have access to power and can influence resource allocation. This is made worse by the fact that there is no popular control of power. All these are challenges of development.

The primary lesson from Botswana is that the small country is succeeding in scaling these hurdles on the way of development. To turn doom to boom, governments in Nigeria at all levels must also tackle these obstacles to development.

Prof Claude Ake: Well Done, RSG

Posted by admin on Mar 2nd, 2011 and filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry.

About 15 years ago, precisely on November 7, 1996, the cold hands of death snatched away Professor Claude Ake from this earth.

He died along with 141 others in the ill-fated ADC plane crash in Ejigbo, Lagos State, on that fateful day.

Though Professor Ake is dead, but like the icons and great works of stars and artistes, his message, teachings and thoughts, being indelible are ever more relevant today than they were at the time of his death. And these remain afloat in the waters of our fertile minds and those of many generations yet unborn.

The development of Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular was one passion that consumed his adult life. He held to this passion through writings, public lectures, and policy discourses and debates, through which he provided the panacea to the many woes that, have befallen the African continent.

Yet, despite his numerous contributions to the intellectual development of students and scholars who passed through him in America, Europe and Africa, no government had deemed it fit to immortalize this great son of Rivers State, whose intellectual prowess had no boundaries.

It is for this reason that we view the decision by the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to immortalize the late Professor Claude Ake as a step in the right direction.

The administration has instituted an annual memorial lecture in honour of late Professor Claude Ake, the first of which took place about a fortnight ago in Port Harcourt, with the former Botswana President, Festus Mogae, delivering a lecture titled, “Doom to Boom: Re-engineering The Political Economy Of Rivers State For Citizens Prosperity; Lessons From Botswana”.

Speaking at the occasion, Governor Chibuike Amaechi noted that Professor Ake was an intellectual colossus that can only be immortalized by deepening democracy in Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular.

He stated that the next edition of the annual lecture would hold outside Rivers State, to reflect the international pedigree of late Professor Ake.

Governor Amaechi also assured that the Centre for Advanced Social Sciences (CASS), which was the creation of late Professor Ake through which he maintained the intellectual tempo for positive national political and economic growth, would receive the state government’s attention.

This, is indeed, very commendable.  CASS had degenerated to a point where it could no longer carry out its functions as instituted by late Professor Ake.  The centre existed more in name than action.

Therefore, the promise by the Rivers State Government to liaise with the Board of CASS to reinvigorate it is a welcome development. This, in our mind, is a befitting honour to this great son of the state.

Interestingly, Governor Amaechi also at the occasion promised to continue to honour other Rivers indigenes that have excelled in various fields of endeavour as a way of encouraging the youths and upcoming generations to emulate their good works.

By this step, Governor Amaechi has again demonstrated his desire to see that honour is given to whom it is due. Our inability to honour great achievers in our society has been a sour point in our development process as a nation. People hardly see role models to emulate. Rather, recognition and honour are lavished on those who in no way have made positive impacts on society.

Rightly, in his lecture, the ex-Botswana leader said of late Professor Ake: “We are here to celebrate the life and contributions of one of Africa’s intellectually productive sons”.

Ake, it would be recalled, combined deep intellectual erudition with prophetic insights, and clearly but courageously articulated these in numerous essays which have turned out to be important references in the study of political economy of resource-rich sub-Sahara Africa.

He was a “fearless intellectual who combined a blend of pragmatism, radicalism and progressive scholarship with both intellectual honesty and vigor”, said ex-President Mogae in his lecture.

Professor Ake was born February 18, 1939 in Omoku, Rivers State.  He attended Kings College, Lagos between 1952 and 1958.  He also studied at Columbia University, New York and later became an Assistant Professor in 1966.

He was appointed a professor of political economy at Carleton University, Canada at the age of 31. He lectured there from 1969 to 1977.  Professor Ake also lectured at the University of Port Harcourt, where he became the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, before his sojourn to establish the CASS.

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