2021: Government must rebuild broken social contract with the people – Alimi

By Henry Uche, Lagos

The year 2020 is over. Many have analysed the year under review and concluded in a positive note while others concluded their analysis in the negative for obvious reasons. To the Chief Executive Officer/Director General of Institute of Directors (IOD), Mr Dele Alimi, the social contract between the government and the governed has been broken abysmally, causing the people to give up on their leaders. In this interview, Mr Alimi noted that prompt implementation of the national and state budgets are critical to boosting the economy among other factors. On the economic outlook for 2021, he asseverated that both the government and the governed must work hand in glove to fix the collapsed economy.

So many things happen in 2020 – the global pandemic, insecurity, the nine months ASUU strike, retrenchment of workers, some companies downtooled while others wind up, does this in any way help anyone?

The challenges within the Nigerian economy outdates the COVID-19 pandemic. As you are aware the Nigeria economy has faced the challenges of poor infrastructure, insecurity, poor business environment, etc. 2020 and the advent of COVID-19 only complicated and further challenged our already fragile economy.

It was, therefore, more challenging in different ways because no economy was prepared for the challenges posed by the pandemic. Unfortunately, the inability of some organisations to quickly adjust systems and operations to conform with the new realities led to poor responses from such companies which led to job losses and shutdowns in some cases.

One must however allude to the fact that some sectors were worst hit, for example the aviation industry, the tourism industry and to some extent the entertainment industry.

But as we’re all aware, it’s only an ill wind that blows nobody no good. I believe quite a lot of lessons have been learnt and organisations are reviewing their Business continuity models to take due cognisance of possibilities of incidences like the pandemic. These models are looking at how businesses would continue to run virtually and how staff can work remotely without an adverse effect on productivity. For me, I think this is part of the many lessons and take away from 2020.

What is your economic outlook for 2021?

We are looking at 2021 with a lot of optimism. Though one is worried about the new spate of infection, which is now being regarded as a second wave of the pandemic, but we’re hopeful that with serious approach and quick intervention from government, this would be quickly nipped in the bud and we will be able avoid another lockdown of the economy.

We, therefore, hope that with the early passage of the 2021 Appropriation bill and the continued implementation of the 2020 budget up till the end of the first quarter of 2021, there would be robust spending and this would open up the economy to a large extend and encourage better liquidity. The Institute would continue to encourage its members and provide the support expected from us.

What advise would you offer the Federal Government?

It is quite clear that Nigeria needs to tackle its major challenges of infrastructure deficiencies, rising inflation, devaluation of the Naira and insecurity amongst others.

Government need to urgently work on the breakdown in the social contract between it and the people. The social contact between government and the people seems to have broken down completely and the people have almost lost faith in their leaders. There is, therefore, a need for government to work on rebuilding the confidence of the people through social security programmes and welfare programmes that would be easily accessible to the people.

The government need the support of the people to achieve its programmes and a well oiled and mutually beneficial social contract will go a long way to make that happen. Commitment must also be made to the reduction in the cost of governance as this is also impacting negatively on the availability funds for development of infrastructure.

Now how did COVID-19, insecurity and other unfortunate incidents affect you as an Institute?

As you are aware, IoD Nigeria is a membership organisation that is unique in various ways, a major one being that our membership is made up of Directors across public and private sectors and from diverse industries. Whatever affects our members, definitely affects our Institute. We, therefore, feel the pinch, when our members are challenged.

As an institute, we have responded by providing the support our members need. We organised programmed that addressed the challenges at these times and proffered solutions that members can exploit. We were one of the first organisations to embrace virtual learning as an alternative to physical classroom settings, even for our foreign programmes. We have, therefore, continued to run our Directors Development Programmes despite the restrictions. We have also adjusted the curricula of our capacity development programmes to accommodate specific contents that addressed the challenges of the pandemic.