“AUN is a center for learning, research, and most importantly, a catalyst for development,” said Dr. Olufunke Iyabo Osibodu.
The Managing Director of Benin Electricity Distribution PLC was the Keynote Speaker at the 11th Founder’s Day Celebration on November 19.
Dr. Osibodu noted that the unique brand of world-class education at AUN makes it a suitable place to deliver her keynote address entitled: “Beyond Oil: Sustainable Development For All Nigerians.”
The Harvard Business School alumna called on Nigerians to reflect on the country’s limitations and current realities while working towards reducing the rich-poor gap and develop a sustainable future for all Nigerians.
Using statistics to drive home her point, Mrs. Osibodu noted that 49 percent of Nigeria’s population is women who are not income earners, 62 percent are below 25 years of age, and 29 percent of Nigerians are graduates without jobs. “Is there any wonder that the nation suffers insurgencies and militancy in the North and South, and a lot of youth unrest?” she asked.
Dr. Osibodu, a recipient of The Financial Times of London list of the top 50 Women in the Business World in 2011, said, “We do not produce enough to increase our revenue; over the last few years, inflation has increased. We cannot ignore foreign exchange issues and power.”
The keynote speaker lamented that Nigeria is moving away from prosperity and has engendered an economic institutional environment where wealth is extracted from a small subset of the population, and the existing elite resist changes that will make institutions more broad-based and inclusive, allowing people to hijack the system to perpetuate political tyranny, and creating a pariah state.
In the case of power in Nigeria, Mrs. Osibodu explained that about 14 percent of power generated is lost due to poor network infrastructure and nearly 36 percent is lost through commercial theft, illegal consumption, or non-payment of bills. Roughly 30 percent of electricity supplied to households is wasted due to inefficient management. Another limiting factor she said is the constant vandalism of gas pipelines in the Niger Delta.
After painting a vivid picture of the current realities in Nigeria, Dr. Osibodu charted the way forward, urging, “...government to create an enabling environment and build on existing past governments’ projects rather than abandoning projects with each new government.”
The citizens themselves were not spared as the speaker encouraged Nigerians to be patient and vote wisely for leaders who will propagate inclusive growth.
As for institutions of higher education, Dr. Osibodu called for the implementation of community growth in their curriculums. She urged AUN to start the process of working closely with other universities to engage in sustainable growth. She challenged youths to, “take over, and learn from the mistakes of their leaders.” To AUN students, she urged, “Begin to demand more from your lecturers and challenge existing theories.”
By Nelly Ating