Opportunity to turn things around

These are not normal times. They are times that task the conscience and reason of any discerning Nigerian who has been watching the country move from one avoidable crisis to the other. As we look back to the promises of a great nation, united in its diversity, where tribe and tongue do not matter, a country that harnesses its abundant human and material resources and compare this dream to where we are today, one conclusion is inescapable. Clearly, we have failed in our attempt to achieve development, unity and progress. We have failed to make the best out of the available resources and talents. But, this is not the end of the road for Nigeria. We still have the opportunity to turn things around and change the fortunes of millions of people in Nigeria and across the Black race.

It is the position of this discourse that our current state of affairs is a product of our mindset, our philosophy and life values. It is a product of who we define ourselves to be – whether we see ourselves as masters, positively dominating and recreating our environment in our original image and creating sustainable values for generations unborn. It is about our ethics and what we hold dear to our hearts. Nigerians need to do a couple of things to kick-start our journey to development. We must understand who we are, our history, our heritage and how this has positioned us in the world compared to other people. We must determine what we want to achieve as a people in terms of improvements in livelihoods, development, economic growth, a new culture and civilisation that will be reckoned with amongst civilised nations. We will also determine whether we want to continue to be the laughing stock of the world; the proverbial people that live by the banks of a river and wash their hands with spittle. The third is an understanding that there are no quick fixes and short cuts to development; the need for hard and smart work and the inexorable link between sowing and reaping cannot be overemphasised.

In responding to who we are, the shocking statistics of the human development indicators show that we are at the bottom of the pyramid. Whether it is school enrolment, maternal, new born and child health, access to potable water, electricity, good roads, life expectancy, etc, we are down but not out. Thus, the notion of a rich country will quickly disappear from the window once we understand who we are and even the fact that our GDP per capita is nothing to write home about. Once this notion that Nigeria needs to work its way up the ladder is imbibed, the concept of leadership will change. It will be the leader as a servant, a builder, the first workman among the plethora of workmen. The current concept of leadership which is about rulership and positioning people to be served and giving them a carte blanche to loot will melt away. This will lead us to rejecting the present crop of leaders and substituting them through elections for men and women of nobility; who have a clear vision and passion for development. Understanding who we are will clearly unveil our position – of potential that have not materialised, the huge population which is now a good factor for development, the diversity, the raw materials yet to be tapped and processed.

We will know the positive things in our culture and religion that can propel us to the heights and accentuate them while discarding the negatives that hold us back. Indeed, there will be a reinvention of values and ethics. Who we are includes our backgrounds in slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, military rule, corruption, perversion of religious values, etc. But this historical knowledge needs not become a permanent apology and excuse for failures but a spring board to say; never again shall we lie so low and become easy prey.

The second issue is that of goal and target setting; not just the empty sloganeering of parties without a soul but a commitment to wealth creation, economic development, job creation, innovation and thinking out of the box, fiscal and monetary discipline, etc. This will create a generation of hardworking men and women who do not dream of easy money and easy virtues; who understand the link between money, physical and intellectual sweat. It will be a new culture of meticulous planning and execution of plans that are effectively monitored and evaluated to link up with reforms for greater value for money. Short term, medium term and long term goals will be set and will be implemented through various strategies irrespective of the party in power. Change of government will only occasion a change in strategy but the big picture remains the same. Within this context, a fantastic burst of citizenship energy will be unleashed which will first be dedicated to meeting up our peers in other parts of the world. Thereafter, the energy at work becomes an operation in overtaking, becoming the leader in the class and the benchmark for others. All these are possible within a relatively short time of 40 years. Releasing the creative energies of our people takes only honesty of purpose and nobility of vision in the leadership.

In setting our goals, we begin a process of political education that reaffirms the sovereignty of the people, their supremacy and ultimate responsibility for their development. This situation will fight corruption to a standstill and no leader will be permitted to play God. Our goals will help us redefine our relationships with foreign powers. The idea of attending meetings that simply herd African leaders to Japan, China, India, the United States for a summit that ends up delivering little or nothing in terms of new investments and aid will be reconsidered. We do not need to grovel for what we can get on our own if we put our house in order. It is imperative to state than no one will develop our country for us; all countries approach development cooperation from their economic, political or social interest. Essentially, there is no free lunch and any lunch that appears to be free is tied to invisible bait.

In understanding that there are no quick fixes to situations occasioned by years of rot and neglect, we shall also recognise low hanging fruits. For instance, it would not take more than four years to solve the energy challenge encompassing electricity and domestic refining of petroleum products. It will only take new laws and policies effectively implemented to appreciably and sustainably reduce the housing deficit in less than six years.

The bottom line is that another opportunity beckons and that opportunity is in 2015, although some part of it has already started in the ongoing governorship elections. It is not the opportunity for retrogression or the elevation of the new jurisprudence of “stomach infrastructure” to new heights. It is an opportunity for change, a departure from the things that have failed and do not work. It is up to every citizen to take a stand. Where do you stand?

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