By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Last week, my focus was on ‘Moving Nigeria to greatness’, and in that piece I drew from specific examples of how other nations moved from backwardness to greatness and the point I stressed was that what those nations did to become developed countries can be replicated in our own circumstance to achieve same result if not a far better one. This would be possible if those who lead us would be students of history and where they are not, have the ability to find those who can, to do the job. We need history to do the job of transformation and to do it very quickly; by now, it should be clear to any critical observer that the delay in recreating our society is becoming too costly both in material and in human terms. Today’s article is no different from the ones of the last few weeks. All of them have been about developmental strategy for our nation and it flows from my conviction that more than any other issue, the question of proper development of our nation should henceforth tower well and above every other matter of state.
In the preceding articles, I mentioned the various factors that we need to take into consideration if we want our nation to move from Third to First World; I outlined both the intangible and the tangible. Under the invisible I mentioned factors like desire and resolve. These are instruments that cannot be seen or easily quantified in physical terms, but from experience they are such that without them, no progress would even start, let alone talking of completion. I recall also making serious issue of discipline, development of agriculture, productive economy and reordering of the educational setup and curriculum. Under the latter I fell short of saying outright that what the nation needs is the education that can make our children thinkers and inventors, job creators, who would have little or no need for government. Apart from factors I mentioned in the past two articles, there are other weapons backward societies like ours can deploy to hasten development; but before I go into them, I want to take liberty to make certain observations clear. Moving a society like ours from the point where we are into greatness as I always say is a very easy task but the work has got to be through a complex process. One of the biggest tasks any change agent in our nation would have to grapple with and win would be the ‘war’ over the mental state of the leadership class and the people. One of the difficult assignments for a change agent anywhere is to have to deal with a leadership class and people who have become accustomed to seeing wrong vices as virtues. In the nation today, nearly everyone believes that cutting corners is the right thing and from what we know it is a sweet thing to do when the power equation offers us some peripheral advantages.
But it becomes a soured grape when the tide turns and those who flagrantly abused due process become victims. This is why those who wield advantages and power often want to do everything humanly possible to stall change. The existence of imperialism has added to the problem of change for our kind of society. For those who don’t know very well, retreating colonialists weaved imperialism to replace colonialism and under this all the exploiting power needs do is to raise low esteemed locals who are ready to subvert their land and people for selfish gains, encourage them through various incentives to have a firm grip of the governance and economic processes. Nigeria like some other nations has so many of this kind in our midst and if the truth is to be said, this group constitutes the biggest hindrance to any genuine nationalistic progress; they are never bright and would never allow any intelligent citizen to raise his head. This group is often behind the confusion, conflicts and wars experienced in developing nations. In fact a key weapon in their hands for retaining power and economic control is conflicts and wars, and for them it does not matter what level of ruin is visited on their society or how many lives are lost, all they care about is either consolidation of power or decimation of change agents.
Military interventions in Nigeria as in elsewhere were not accidental occurrences, they were eruptions deliberately instigated by imperialist forces to distort nationalistic development which obviously would have been a threat to their economic wellbeing. If even the military boys they sent had altruistic motives. Their sponsors knew that military and democratic temperaments were at variance with each other and when the military come in, impunity becomes the culture. Impunity became our tradition slightly after independence and the forces responsible have held the nation on the jugular since then. They have been responsible for changing from British political system to American system and in the end leaving us neither with the American or British system, they have also been incapable of thinking out a new model suitable for our peculiarities. On the economic front, they did worse; they changed from welfare, went near socialism and at the instance of their paymasters embraced full capitalism without proper understanding of what it is all about. Today, our capitalism is not about initiative or creativity but about importation, high prices and high taxes with little or no services offered.
Any change agent must know about the points made earlier and take them seriously. Diplomacy and military might are important assets in changing the fortunes of a nation. American, Spain, France, Russia, Germany and Portugal just to mention a few fought very frequently in the past and the basis of friendship depended on how much each was ready to grant the other one trading space within their nation. For them nothing went for nothing; If Nigeria were to be any of those nations, intervening on behalf Southern African countries under apartheid or in Sierra-Leone and Liberia would not have been without clear benefits. The same way military might is a precursor to big respect and peace, study Iran and you get what I’m saying; unfortunately we are helping to destroy rather than build the army by how we handle them and the assignments we expose them to. I insist our nation can be developed within 20 years; what we require is vision, capacity and the resolve to do the needful irrespective of the initial pains that will naturally follow intense surgical operations. Somebody said I must recognize restructuring as a strategy, of course we have promoted waste by the way we have configured our administrative units and organs. I know for instance for agents of imperialism created states, local governments to compensate wives, concubines, friends and godfathers; Tom Ikimi even admitted during the last Edo governorship election that it was for his sake that the two Etsako LGs were created. I’m sure such aberrations were worse elsewhere, especially in the northern part. Sustainable change should go with equity.