Akwa Ibom State is in a celebratory mood. The huge drums are being rolled out and so are the brightest red carpet. The one will be to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the creation of the great state, one of the nation’s real food baskets. And the red carpet will be to welcome some of the nation’s and indeed the world’s best and brightest. A good part of this best and brightest contingent is the distinguished alumni who governed Akwa Ibom State into glory. His Excellency, Udom Emmanuel, the sitting governor, expectedly, is the chief host.
But it is not all an exclusive game for the great and the mighty. Emmanuel, being a people’s governor, has made sure it would be an all-inclusive affair. In the words of a spokesperson, the celebration is an all-citizen fiesta. To give a hint of this, he said, the students, too, just like the rest of us, are involved. There is, for instance, an essay competition for young scholars. It is not just about the prize winnings alone. It is also, and more importantly so, designed to help the bright young minds join in marking the celebration. And it is not just a state, it is one they will soon be called upon to be its leaders.
So, the vision of Emmanuel is not just a celebration of the past. The greater legacy of the Emmanuel vision is to celebrate the past with an eye on the future, which belongs to the best and brightest minds of Akwa Ibom. This is Emmanuel’s salient message to youths. Build up your minds so that you can build up the state and make her the “shining city upon the hill.”
Perhaps, this is an opportunity for some reflection. On Monday, a professor at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, put a call to me. He was calling to “celebrate” me on my latest book, Nigeria: The Unreported Genocide. Important for this occasion is that he also commented on a chapter on the Akwa Ibom governor, titled “Is Udom the New Emmanuel?”
The prof was of the opinion, which is great by me, that my attestation of the theory of necessary things, TONT, of the governor is a bonus for development scholarship.
My specific joy is not that it is a matter of Emmanuel. My specific joy is that, as a scholar, a development historian, I was able to extract a modelling experience from among us, from among our leaders. Of course, I have always been against the idea of intellectuals fleeing offshore to Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, etc, to import poorly understood models.
Even if we allegedly have bad leaders, there is something that is called modelling anti-models. That is, you use the situation as is to generate a new model deflecting the deficits of the examples. The point of this is important. If you borrowed a model from offshore, by the very logic of this, it becomes toxic. Why? All models carry within them their idiopathic historical, and environmental local content. The point of their crossing boundaries makes these idiopathic essences toxic. And what is terrible is that these idiopathic bases are trace elements. They are often thought as non-existent or too insignificant at least at “eye level” diagnosis or modelling. So, if you copied a model, you are battling with a set of frame of references that are assumed away by the first practitioners. It is always best to deal with the local reality and beneficiate from there. The point is, models are like sweat. It must be endogenous. You got to work it out yourself, armpit to armpit, sole to soul. And, lest we forget, it is not just all politics, all reality too is local, idiopathic.
I am not writing this to humour any powers. Just about the other day, in my Facebook post, I stated as follows: Taken toe to toe, taken pound for pound, built on facts, Nigerian politicians have done more than Nigerian thinkers, if we ever had them. I repeat, built on facts, not trenchant accusations. A people fail for lack of knowledge, not lack of Caesar. (September 15, 2017).
And I stand by it. And some of the politicians and leaders who have really done us proud are doing it in the line of Emmanuel. In fact, it is the inspiration of his vision that led to the concept of TONT, an idea we guess is worthy of further development. Emmanuel is a prince of vision. It is because of men and leaders like him that we are reminded that development is an ecology of things, not a fine rifle shot. Congratulations to the progressive people of Akwa Ibom, and to the great helmsman, Udom Emmanuel.
History, the scholar and the vote gatherer
Any scholar who thinks the greatest history is made by those who act under the mandate of majority votes has lost his head. History has clearly shown that our greatest benefactors are men who wield pens, not the deadliest guns or majority votes. Counting from prophets to mathematicians, it is clear no politician, men who act on the mandate of majority votes, comes near our men of the mind. And worse are those who come in as thugs via coups, etc.
However, many marginal scholars point at the example of Singapore. They quickly underestimate one thing. Singapore is led by the Chinese people, as per majority (75 per cent of) population. And they have Indians as the third (9 per cent) in count. Both the Chinese and the Indians are literate (in indigenous languages) ancient civilisations. We are not. Forget what uninformed enthusiasms canvass. Much of Africa before Europe was pre-literate. And there is a limit to what orality can deliver.
It is thousands of years since the Indian ideas, of Buddhism and others, met and conflicted with the Chinese ideas, of Daoism, etc. And that was resolved into the world-famous Zen. The evidence and presence of Zen is proof that India and China (with their other cognate Confucian geographies) are a civilisational sphere. Nigeria is not a civilisational sphere in any sense of the word. We are in the North under Arewa/European/Arab influences, in South West it is Ogboni/European essentially. In the South East it is Ofo na ogu/European, etc. And, unlike the Chinese, we have not as a people resolved these differences into our own equivalent of Zen. If we don’t or can’t, we are lost and we have lost it.
The point of this is that 75 per cent Chinese plus 9 per cent Indian segments are essentially under one civilisational space. That is, Singapore is a 84 per cent one civilisational space. Singapore has a solvent population of 84 per cent.
(Solvent population as a tool to development is a concept we are pioneering at the Brace Institute, of which I am founder/director. The post may not explain it fully. We hope to flesh it fully out in a forthcoming book).
So the critical contribution of Singapore to development practice and theory is not in dictatorship or strongman rule. If it were, nothing would have happened. In fact, plain thugs would have done better than Lee Kuan Yew the celebrity founder Prime Minister of Singapore.
What made Singapore is a sense of freedom that Buddhism and Confucianism brought to them. That was what made Lee to have the courage to go along the path of the capitalist state, which was first pioneered by the Japanese. And it is interesting that the Japs never in their economic miracle years relapsed into dictatorship or incestuous need for strongmen. If you can, please see our book, Economists as Assassins, The Nigerian Connection.
The fact that the opposite of Singaporean strongmanship worked in Japan is proof that the active ingredient is not strongmanship. If it were, then the opposite of it won’t work. But it worked for Japan. So, what then is the active ingredient? It is in scholarship, axial scholarship, Buddha-deep scholarships and Confucius-wide quest for learning.
Perhaps the parallax point that deceives many is that the scholarship in and with both the Indian and Chinese countries is archaeological, if you like. Here, unlike with the wisdom of the Niger Deltans: “I get am before na property.” In fact, ofo na ogu has a finer insight on the matter. Their “slay” is ohia eri aku. The point is that the inestimable wealth gifted us from the Buddha, from Confucius, etc, can never be exterminated. At best they go dormant. And all that will be needed is to prime them back to life. And it was for Singapore, for Japan, etc. The rest is history, not miracles. The miracle is with those who think archaeology is not historical, that ohia na eri aku. Ahiazuwa.
The honest truth is that we don’t have this gift. Our ancestors never gave us much. And the only way to go is for our scholars to provide for us, to make up for these deficiencies. Our scholars, not our leaders or vote gatherers. First, the giving of this gift is absolutely above the brains and capacity of politicians or their gift to beg for votes.
So when next you see a scholar say the problem with Nigeria is leadership, that is shameless, cowardly self-capitulation. Like I said in my book, Economists as Assassins, what we need is how to develop an anthology compressing the essence of Aristotle to Sartre into one portable volume. What we need is not to compound Napoleon, Lee and Caesar into one Nigerian leader or tyrant. The time has come and gone for horsepower. We are in the era of brain-power. Anyway, mankind has always been. It is just that it has become too clear, too urgent, now and here. Apparently Biafra understood this but failed. But that is a matter for another day.
Yes, Achebe said the problem with Nigeria is leadership. As an opening gambit that assertion is tolerable. But under scrutiny it does not wash. So for a post-Achebe Nigerian thinker to be reiterating such is a scandal. Achebe has done his best to point out a question. His putative answers were damned wrongheaded. Nigeria has no leadership questions. We have an ecology and or cognitive habitat problem. Ahiazuwa.