By GERALD ADEWOLE
GREAT nations do not emerge by chance or by the wishful thinking of passive citizens with sheer indifference to the cause of nation building. They come about through the committed hard work of dedicated citizens. National development is envisioned in the heart of true patriots and driven by the resolute, indefatigable and creative hands of men with passionate zeal and determination to break with tradition and take the hard, thorny path to greatness.
Development, whether personal or national, does not come on a platter of gold. It comes with soul-searing sacrifice. It took men and women of vision, courage and commitment to dream the American dream and to conceive, pursue and realise the American vision. From a conglomeration of people of diverse races and colour, through a vast society ravaged by war and racial segregation, America has risen to become a world super-power.
Those who conceived the American vision and made the solemn declaration that spurred in Americans a sense of burning determination to explore space and the marines to conquer and acquire for America, did not originate from the moon or the sun. Those who crafted the sacred testament of the dream upon which the United States was born were not angels from above. They were American citizens who dreamt great dreams and took the extra, patriotic steps to translate those dreams to reality. Today, when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold.
China presents another example of a people with the collective will to reinvent a nation. From the dark trenches of the global depression of the 1930s, through the Sino-Japanese war of 1937 to the Great Leap Forward Famine of 1957, China’s early economic history is dotted by tales of woes. In fact, between 30 and 40 million Chinese are said to have died during the Great Leap Forward Famine of 1957. With the coming of Deng Xiaoping and the revolution that followed, China’s economy grew at an average of 9.5% to 11% between 1978 and 2013, thus exceeding the East Asian Tigers. Today, China is the second largest economy in the world.
Nigerians do not require a clairvoyant to know that the nation is going through turbulent times. Within the last one year or so, the price of crude oil, the major livewire of our economy, has crashed by over 50%, thus reducing our foreign exchange earnings by about the same proportion. The value of the naira against the dollar and other foreign currencies has also depreciated nearly by half. While the prices of goods and services continue to skyrocket, the foreign exchange needed to do international business and import our much valued foreign goods is becoming increasingly elusive.
Indeed, the current economic situation in Nigeria appears desperate. Yet, it is certainly by no means irredeemable. Even the advanced nations of the world have had to follow this path at one time or the other. America went through the path to become a super-power. China went through it and today, it is an economic wonder. Singapore, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Brazil all went through the storm of economic hardship to break the yoke of under-development. History has shown that tough times do not last, but tough people do.
The economic realities in Nigeria today present ample opportunity for us to look inward and take the destiny of our nation in our own hands. It is a test of our faith and commitment to our nation.
This is not a moment for blame game. Opportunities may have been squandered and huge resources mismanaged or looted outright in the past. We can never recreate the past by bemoaning what we failed to do or did not do correctly. The past can only serve as a compass to guide us as we navigate the murky waters of the moment towards the beautiful promises and prospects of the future. We must, therefore, work together to reposition our nation on the path of growth and development.
This is also not a time for political posturing and grandstanding. The time we are in calls for genuine statesmen, committed patriots and dedicated citizens who are willing and ready to sacrifice their time, energy and resources to salvage our nation. We need to eschew armchair criticism and come on board with workable pathways to a new Nigeria.
The task to rebuild Nigeria is not about the President, the ruling party, political leanings or ideological orientation. It is about Nigeria and Nigerians. Long after the exit of the military from the political scene, Nigeria remains as a nation. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) all came and left but Nigeria did not leave with these political parties and their leaders.
What is of paramount importance to us is how we can contribute our quota in growing Nigeria, our common heritage, irrespective of our places of birth, religion or political affiliation. Nigeria belongs to us all and it is our collective responsibility to make the Nigerian project work. Nigeria is the only home we can call our own.
n Dr. Adewole, Director, Public Education and Mass Mobilisation of the National Orientation Agency, writes from Abuja.