Career professionals and politicians have corresponding roles to play in the struggle to set Nigeria on the path of sustainable development. Any effort to alienate professionals from politics may spell doom for the growth and development of the nation.
This was the submission of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Thursday when he delivered the third Faculty of Engineering Alumni Lecture at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
The Governor, in his paper titled: “Professionals in Politics: Panacea for Sustainable National Development”, established a convergence between politics and technocracy, noting that there may not be a significant development if career professionals don’t participate in political activities.
Sanwo-Olu described development as “consistent progress” in key areas of human endeavour, including industrialisation, life expectancy, human capital and infrastructure, stressing that public service required the expertise of technocrats to achieve growth in these areas.
He said: “Nigeria’s development will not happen outside of politics and political activity. All countries we look up to, deployed political leadership to take the decisions that set them on the path of development. This did not happen overnight.
“Politics in Nigeria definitely needs more professionals, because politics thrives best in the face of diversity. Different professional callings bringing different skill-sets and perspectives to the table. Professionals must stay engaged in politics at all times and resist temptation to stay aloof.”
The Governor said he did not subscribe to the view that a rigid line separated technocracy and politics, observing that the struggle for the nation’s independence was moved by founding fathers who left their professions to participate in politics.
Although Sanwo-Olu agreed politics is not meant for the faint-hearted and those who nurture trait of self-pity, he however said professionals in public service needed skills of empathy, negotiation, compromise, generosity and humility to make meaningful impacts.
He said: “As career professionals, we have been trained to follow procedures, to pay attention to standards, to anticipate risks and manage them. These skills must be carried into the space of politics.
“We have an edge in bringing our extra skills and capabilities to bear to make difference in governance. The political skills are of course always the most important element; no public servant can succeed with them.”
Since 1999, Sanwo-Olu said Lagos had a privilege to benefit immensely from the expertise of various professionals who offered to serve in public offices and helped successive administrations to implement development blueprints that stood the State out as centre of excellence.
He enjoined career professionals to offer themselves for governance and public service, urging them not be discouraged by the complexities and contradictions that defined politics.
Chairman of the Faculty of Engineering Alumni Association, Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu, said the theme of the lecture was timely, given the challenges being experienced by Nigeria in the area of infrastructure and human capital development.
He said politics should not be alien to career professionals, adding that technocrats could not afford to stay out of politics at a time the nation required their expertise.
At the end of the event, Governor Sanwo-Olu was honoured with a leadership award for his roles and contribution to the development of Lagos State.