Seers (1969), one of the popular scholars of Dependency Theory of development said, if you want to know whether or not a country is developed, ask: “what has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality?” Nigerians have also been asking: why is it that despite the millions, billions and trillions Nigerian governments have received and spent, the country had remained underdeveloped? Check out the figures in Nigeria’s budgets, Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) statistics, World Bank records on financial support to Nigeria, AfDB’s investments in Nigeria, international grant and donour agencies financial supports to Nigeria, MDG‘s support financials, loans to all the levels of government, internally generated revenues from the state and local governments, loans and other supports from other countries of the World and funds remittances from Nigerians abroad. Nigeria is awash with millions, billions and trillions of Naira receipts and expenditures. For example, in the CBN Statistical Bulletin…2008 (pages 91 -93), total federally collected revenue from 1961 -2008 amounted to N41.463 trillion. Besides building of infrastructure, what else has Nigeria successfully done with this huge sum of money?
Oil and petrochemical refinery, Kaduna, NigeriaHow did we know that Nigeria is underdeveloped? We knew through data from reputable organizations and personal observations. From the Wikipedia website, the World Bank and the UNDP classified Nigeria in the low developed countries of the World with 83.9% of Nigerians feeding with less than two dollars per day. Nigeria occupies an unenviable 145th position in the Human Development Rating. Nigeria’s rate of unemployment is a staggering 19.7%, which translates to 27.6 million persons, who of course are mainly youths (and you want to have peace in the country). Nigeria has been investing handsomely in infrastructure building (because it is the major avenue for quick stealing of public funds), yet no city in the country is listed among the World’s Top 100 Livable Cities.
Through observation as a Nigerian of 46 years of age, it is true that Nigerian roads are not only not enough, they are bad; Nigeria’s electricity is being held by PHCN while Dr. Sam Amadi, NERC’s Executive Chairman, is busy increasing the kilowatt consumption rate from N8 to N14 when he knows that electricity is with PHCN, not with Nigerians. Water supply to Nigerian homes by public utilities boards across the country is a scarce luxury. Kerosine and fuel queues are ever here despite over four times increases in their prices; yet the refineries function excellently only in the sweet lips of the oil ministers. Lack of political solution to the Federalism Question (not Nationality Question) has been breeding intolerance, agitations, neglects and insecurity culminating in the minority agitations of the 1940s, the Ibadan political crisis in the 1950s, Biafra-Nigeria civil war, the Isaac Adaka Boro challenge, the Kano riots, the Tiv Riots, the clashes among the other ethnic groups in North Central Nigeria, the Maitatsine riots, the Zangon-Kataf war, the Ife-Modakeke war, the Aguleri-Amuleri clashes, the OPC, BAKASSI, MOSOP, MASSOB, MEND, Tiv-Fulani conflicts in Jos, Boko Haram, etc. Through these conflicts, Nigeria has been losing millions of lives. Who really cares?
I have also observed that Nigerians have become thoroughly ill-behaving as they lack so much in the basics of decent behaviours. Also, Nigerians are voracious consumers and meagre producers. As at today, the Nigerian labour is still struggling for N18, 000 minimum wage, while legislators in the National Assembly take home a minimum of N20 million monthly. Nigeria adopted the wrong development ideology called the Modernization Theory of Development. The Nigerian leadership hates ideas and discussion of issues as necessary processes for articulating sound development policies and decisions. Nigerians are very impatient people, hence we hate due process. Nigeria has an educational system that is irrelevant. Nigeria stubbornly neglected her traditional occupations that should be the springboard for her development. There exists a parasitic political leadership that is like a cult whose key ambition is to have unchecked access to the federal treasury (shouldn’t somebody check the Nigerian legislature?), thus negating the principle of checks and balances. Any country that suffers from this galaxy of inadequacies cannot smell development unless there is a bold change. So where is the solution to these fundamental issues?
Like Bob Gass, the author of The Word for Today, said in the current edition on page 36, “A lace maker was working on a very intricate design when she noticed a mistake at the beginning of her work… She worked all night, painstakingly unraveled her work till she reached the flaw, fixed it and started over again.” Nigeria’s fresh President Jonathan should be like this lace worker. He needs to go back and do a very serious retrospection of Nigeria to find out what went wrong and change it. Mr. President needs to pay very deep attention to the following five factors in Nigeria’s development: federalism, ideology, discipline, education and infrastructure. The order is instructive.
On the Federalism Question, the people of Nigeria must discuss among themselves to agree on how to live together. That discussion should take place in a sovereign national conference (SNC) made up of representatives of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. Uncle Wada Nas was wrong to say that the convocation of the SNC is illegal. The word “sovereign” as used here means that the participants are free to discuss how Nigerians can live together. No no-go-areas! The participants are nominated by their people on individual merit, not through a political party. So the only interest they are to protect is that of their people. They will be sponsored by their people and the federal government will only provide the venue and all other operational facilities at the venue. At the end of the conference, a draft constitution is produced based on the agreements of the conference. It is these agreements that will enable Nigerians to understand themselves, respect one another, love one another and protect one another. This will bring forth healthy competition in all spheres of life. This will consolidate the yearnings for self determination and development rights among the ethnic groups in the country. Surely, a sincere federal government can organize the conference and implement its agreements. This way, we can stop the strong agitations and demands that have led to the huge insecurity in Nigeria today.
Nigeria’s development ideology has been the Modernization Theory of Development which she inherited since 1914. It needs to be reviewed because it has not developed the country. It has kept Nigeria at the “periphery”; hence the country has remained dependent on the developed countries. It is therefore not right to continue its usage without reconsideration. Listen to Henry Clay, the architect of the United States of America’s System in his speech titled “In Defense of the American System, Against the British Colonial System.” He said: “Gentlemen deceive themselves. It is not free trade that they (Britain) are recommending to our acceptance. It is, in effect, the British colonial system that we are invited to adopt; and if their policy prevail, it will lead, substantially, to the recolonization of the States (that is, the USA), under the commercial domination of Great Britain.” This speech was made in February 1832 and it formed the basis for the unique processes that got them developed along their own original thoughts and ways. Today, they are better than even the British that wanted to impose Modernization Theory of Development on them.
With a disciplined citizenry, there will be serious reduction in corruption, waste, dirty ambitions that do not protect or add to the common good, deficit and dysfunctional budgets, infrastructure not built in context but just for the sake of it. Discipline will ensure that private wealth shall be based on genuine hardwork, national awards shall be based on verifiable contribution to national good, focus will be on relevant things, do-or-die politics will be reduced, opposing ideas will be appreciated, the culture of discussion of national issues before decisions are made will be enthroned. Ideas generation and discussions are the key processes for refining solution packages in order to enrich policy and shape things for the better. Without discipline, there will be no integrity in the administration of Nigeria. Civil servants will continue to hide files, kill themselves to get travelling allowances, eat and make noise in the office while idling away, kill work ethics with impunity and immunity. President Jonathan can simply start by reintroducing the war against indiscipline (WAI) and move it up gradually. The rot in the Nigerian society is too smelling to be glossed over and continue with whatever transformation we aspire. Nigeria needs discipline to carry that transformation; otherwise, the true transformation will not occur.
Education is the link between work and productivity/entrepreneurship. At creation, God had already put in everyman, the work to do. That work in man by God is called talent. For man to become truly productive as ordained by God, he needs education that should be able to discover his talents, grow them and equip them with appropriate skills. This will enable people to know who they are, their potentials and easily key into them. When a man is where God wants him to be, he excels easily. This way, unemployment will be steadily reduced. Man cannot create work or employment; it is only God who can. What man can do is to key into God’s design for work through relevant education. What is creating unemployment is that the educational system in Nigeria teaches skills without connecting same to talents. Hence Nigerians have become disconnected from their talents and become like a skilled electrical engineer who cannot produce electric bulb, only knows how to install and repair electrical appliances. This is not how a nation is developed. Nigeria’s development needs to be talent-driven in an orderly and rigorous manner. To have more Nigerians access to such relevant education, Nigeria needs a free, compulsory and quality education.
Finally, on the issue of infrastructure, Nigeria needs to have a positively logical attitude to the building of infrastructure. First and foremost, the presence of infrastructure is not development; but this has been the belief of Nigerian leadership. This belief arose from the misleading Modernization Theory of Development. Infrastructure only facilitates development. Therefore, if it must be built, it must exist in context, that is, to facilitate what is. “What is” refers to the environment, natural resources, traditional occupations and humans. Infrastructure together with relevant education should consistently enhance the capacity of Nigerians to create, invent, innovate and recreate things such that traditional occupations are improved, natural resources are discovered, mined and transformed into goods that can meet society’s needs and preserve the environment. This chain of events should be sustained by Nigerians. This is the meaning of development. But infrastructure should be built having resolved the federalism, ideology, discipline/morality and education issues, for these are the foundational ideas of any society. Otherwise, as it is the case today, it means building infrastructure for underdevelopment.
So, Nigeria must wake up to these issues militating against her true development. Ignoring them means that she hates to develop and will forever receive and spend millions, billions and trillions without development.
By Okachikwu Dibia