Last week, I laid the foundation for today’s piece in a work titled “Breaking the chains of national backwardness.” What you are reading is a continuation of that discourse but in a more fundamental dimension. In that foundation, I touched on pillars of modern development, but today I would be specific in my examples, just to show that if we are serious about the proper development of our nation, and if we are ready to apply some innovative ideas, we can move our space from Third to a First World nation. I would have repeated the title of last week but decided against that for reasons I think are instructive and I would explain. Part of the problem of development in our nation has a lot to do with the spirituality of the leaders and the people. There is plenty of negative spirituality among the leadership and that has been transferred to the people and this has had corresponding effect on the people and the way we all do our things. Wole Soyinka was right when he said we move in a ‘circle of national stupidity’, we move round our failures and like to talk about them often.
The truth is that we have always desired before and after independence to build a nation that would compete with or surpass others but the hindrance has been on two critical areas. The first is that we have no clear vision of the ultimate destination. Successive governments never had a clear picture of the kind of nation the citizens desired; if they did, our roads would not be narrow as they appear to be, in addition to proper drainages our roads would have had pedestrian walkways, vehicle parking lots in the event of breakdowns; there would have been police posts and the median would be well tended in such a way they would be a beauty to behold. If our leaders had vision, internal rail network within cities and between cities and rural areas would have been a priority project; our sanitary condition would not be what it is. In fact since 1960, our leaders have done more to build slums than they have done to create habitable, congenial environment. The point I am making is that desire must meet vision and then energy for realization to be possible. Ours have rather followed an entirely different pattern, we desire but no vision, we have deployed energy but in the wrong direction, a case of work of the unskilled labourer, which ends up wearing everybody.
We have not made enough progress and this could be attributable to many factors – inability to think is one of them and because we have refused to apply our cognitive capacity, in rigorous pursuit of what we want, we have surrendered the initiative to outside forces whose only interest is the betterment of their own society. We have lived on free money since we became independent and like they say, ‘it is easy come, easy go.’ God gave us wealth but we do not have the ability to discover it. To do so, we require the white man and his technology, yet we have the universities and polytechnics, most of them offering courses on geology, chemical, electrical and electronics and mechanical engineering. When foreign ‘experts’ come, they come with bills in foreign exchange enough to build and equip a city in the most modern way, this just for exploratory purposes. Extractive activity is another area of big waste. Only God knows how much the nation has expended to explore for oil in the desert to achieve envisaged equalization to the detriment of genuine pressing issues of national development.
Dr. Mensa Otabil was correct in his book, ‘Buy the Future’ when he requested oil rich nations to explain why with the oil money they are still being regarded as Third World nations. To give insight, he propound the hunter mentality theory which says that the hunter people believe in hunting down the prey but they lack ability and patience to go through the refining process which is necessary to add value to their raw products. Our nation would have been well off if it had the ability and patience to explore her minerals herself, process same, keep some for domestic consumption and then export the surplus at the prevailing prices. Refining our products would give us other products to sell and at the same time create numerous skilled jobs for unemployed youth population that is growing at a geometric proportion. Our governments don’t think this way.
The truth is, if we take a look at the nation and the way it currently is, the likely conclusion is that nothing can be changed. The greater truth is that the situation can be reversed. If we have a visionary and dynamic leader, our transformation into a First World nation can happen within the next 20 years. But for this to be a reality, the resolve must be there and we must accept to take the lessons of history very seriously. America at independence was an agrarian economy, in fact her case was that of a monocrop economy – cotton; their leaders sat down to say this can’t help the nation and they came up with solutions. They introduced more crops, mechanized farming, established agro-allied industries and also built schools to train engineers who would manufacture required machineries. They fought for international trade routes and destinations; tariffs were a hotly contested issue between America, Britain, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Netherlands. What President elect Donald Trump plans to do is what the founders did.
China under Mao began as an agrarian economy; his successors merged agriculture and industrialization, a task anchored on science, research and development. I will not forget discipline and recreation of the Chinese citizen. China closed her society to the outside world and it’s over-indulgences. It is reported that over 70 million people had to die for the new competitive China to emerge. So change is not a tea party. Chinese are in my local government to build industries, you know what? Their Public Relations Manager, a Chinese lady speaks the local dialect, I don’t mean Igbo Language. China says it would be a football powerhouse by 2050; watch them you see they are making efforts to reach their goal. Great nations are not product of cheap talk; they are the outcome of the deliberate acts of visionary and committed men and women. Do we have such in this nation?