NIGERIA AT 55!: The making of a truly great black African nation-state

17102015C Buhari inauguration Abuja 4

BACKGROUND: It seems it is axiomatic that the man of colour is destined to be perpetually “the fetcher of water and hewer of wood.” It also seems axiomatic that the man of colour seems to accept that that really is his pre-ordained destiny. Some will even go so far to support this position by saying that most of the poorest nations in this world are in Africa.

This proves nothing. Besides the Almighty God created all men as equals and for some preordained purpose. It is left to each group of people to take their destiny in their hands, either in pursuit of their own self designed wayward ways or humbly along the path preordained by the Almighty God Himself to show forth His glory.

Thus there is a purpose for creation itself as well as a specific purpose for each created entity and person. Should the man of colour not then take a cue from the mind-boggling natural and mineral resources the continent of Africa is endowed with to know where his destiny lies? In our own specific case in Nigeria in our own self-designated wayward ways, after over 100 years of coming into being as a nation, we still do not seem to have a clear idea of what we want to be as a people and as a nation.

Major achievement

We wake up every morning, surprised that we still exist as a nation. We even elevate survival as a major achievement. For the pleasure we seem to derive in taking active part in the national pastime of undercutting one another as a people and as a nation at every turn, should it be a surprise that we still exist as a nation?

As a people and as a nation who seemed not to have set any particularly high national purpose for us to aim at, should it be a surprise that we have elevated survival to the level of a major national achievement, in spite of our mind boggling human, natural and mineral resource base.

Our destiny is in our own hands. Let us from now on, with Nigeria at 55, make the right choices and take the right decisions and follow the right path to take our rightful place in the front seats in the comity of nations and association of societies and in any gathering of peoples and organizations anywhere in the world to make our country Nigeria and all men and women of colour proud, to the glory of God.

Vision: Against all conventional wisdom and in spite of ourselves, to see our dear country Nigeria being transformed and sustained as a truly great Black African Society and Nation-State.

Mission: To put in place, contextualize, give life to and make functional, effective and sustainable in our country Nigeria all the ingredients and positive characteristics of truly great nations, societies and institutions of the world.

Strategy: First, we go back to basics by seeking knowledge through:

Identifying the ingredients and characteristics of truly great nations, societies and institutions of the world in times past and as of now and as these are distributed according to the known groupings of the areas of development action whose combined sum transmutes to national power and prestige, e.g. nation building; state building; civil society evolution/development; social development; economic development; political development; the prudent management of the physical environment; cultural evolution/development; moral, ethical and spiritual development; defense, intelligent and security; national survival; diplomacy, foreign policy and international relations; grassroots communities and rural development; infrastructural provision and maintenance; maintenance of law and order; conflict management and resolution and peace building; science, engineering and technology, information and communication technology; research and development, indigenous technical knowledge; etc.

Technical knowledge

Identifying the detail components of each area, and for each area we further identify the actors and change agents as well as its major and minor stakeholders and strategic partners and well-wishers. For example, in nation building who are the actors and change agents, who are the stakeholders, who are the development partners, who are the well-wishers.

Distilling this body of knowledge and extract, contextualize, adapt and adopt what we need, to produce a specific and unique Nigerian brand of African greatness in each area of development action and whose total sum will be comparable to other world acclaimed brands of greatness in other continents. To keep it tight we also identify our indigenous actors and change agents who will help us produce this unique brand of our target African greatness, our Nigerian stakeholders that will keep our actors and change agents on their toes, and our strategic non-exploitative partners and well-wishers who will urge us on with their vital contributions as we strive towards our goal.

Seeking knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment we identify the qualities and characteristics of the people, the societies and the institutions of great nations: their range and power of vision; their focus, patience, perseverance; their harmonious relationship; their coherence, tolerance, mutual respect; their understanding, spirit of forgiveness, compromise; their inspirations and aspirations; their worldview; their ideals and ideas, concepts, principles, value systems and attitudinal orientations; their work ethos and ethics; their unity of purpose and action; their national morale and political will; etc. that propel them to transform themselves and their nations, societies and institutions to greatness.

Distilling, extracting, contextualizing, adapting and adopting, innovating and where possible improving on these personal/individual, societal/group and national characteristics to help us build our society, institutions and nation to greatness.

To this we should add, giving of the best from our hearts, minds and spirit, the best qualities and characteristics that underpin, undergird, reinforce and motivate what we ourselves think, what we write, what we do, what we say as individuals, as groups of peoples, as associations, as institutions, as a nation, etc as we strive to build our truly great Nigeria Society and Nation-State, for indeed a very large number of Nigerians also hunger for a truly great Nigeria.

Mind boggling resources

This is a hunger reinforced by the frustration of the paradox that our nation is still in a sorry state at 55 in spite of its mind boggling resources and the availability of all we need to know to make our country a truly great Black African Nation-State.

Stopping to ask why true greatness has continued to elude us. As a necessary condition for true and sustainable greatness we must now take remedial and corrective action on all already well known and identified shackles that have held us down, since the after effects from the days of slavery and colonialism, through the pre and post-independence and military governments eras, up through to this present democratic dispensation; not to forget the undermining reality of neo-colonialism and the seductive trap of globalization as well as the fact that we are a people apart in a very divided and divisive Nation.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. We ask: Do the majority of us in this country, not just those who hunger for it for patriotic reasons and not just those who thirst and salivate for it for their selfish reasons, really, really want to be citizens of this nation? ; Do we want to live in it in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign (Nigeria) Nation under God…” and not just because our Constitution (a man-made document) says so? If the majority of us really want to, will the majority also agree that we make this country a truly great Black African Nation-State, comparable to any other great Nation-State in any other part of the world? It is very important that we resolve these two issues before we proceed any further because a lot of work will be involved.

If the majority resolve both issues in the affirmative, we then lay out a very detailed roadmap and decide in practical measurable terms, with milestones, how we should actually move from where we are now to where our agreed target Nigerian brand of greatness says we should be in each component of each area of development action that have been identified in and for each epoch.

From the above detailed roadmap of our commitment to achieve true greatness, we task all the already identified actors, change agents, social engineers, development activists, stakeholders, etc with what each should do, where, to what standard, with what resources, how, for what purpose, for whose benefit, within what time frame; etc to achieve the agreed desirable results for each component of each area of development action and coordinate them towards true national greatness and its continually increasing national power and national prestige.

National prestige

We then get into the serious business of doing all that we need to do as a people and as a nation to strive towards achieving our target of greatness and when we get there to strive even harder to sustain and remain at that level to continue to be competitive at the world stage.

Apart from allowing ourselves to be led by the fear of God and putting all our heart and all our mind and all our strength and all our soul into this effort, from now on we should without fear or misgiving, judge all we do, say, think and write by the yardstick of whether we are moving towards target milestones or moving away from them or even worse, retrogressing.

The above requires the setting up of an efficient and effective performance monitoring, analysis and evaluation system as well as putting in place a near real time overview system to check/ascertain progress, focus, sustainability and competitiveness. Now the big question; With whom do we domicile this potentially ground-breaking national effort? With the People? how? With Civil Society? how? With Government? how? Remember, Government has led us since Independence! We, the People, including Civil Society have as much a claim to our country, Nigeria, as those who are in Government. It is everyone’s birthright.

Everyone’s birthright

In the interim, can the media organize itself and take temporary custody of this effort? Or do we  set up a Board of Trustees, comprising a group of very knowledgeable, non-controversial, cool headed, highly respected, very broad minded, highly principled, very patriotic Nigerians to oversee this long overdue effort; overdue since our flag Independence in 1960? This is without prejudice whatsoever to what this present Government has in stock for the nation.

This nation needs a lofty, all embracing long term positive target to strive towards, not the usual short term goals we pursue at the instance of Government as well as Government’s knack for policy somersaults, directional change or even complete abandonment of strategies and goals for capricious reasons, laced with petulance and outright impunity from time to time. For the avoidance of doubt, let the transforming of our country, Nigeria, into a truly great Black African Nation-State be this lofty, all embracing long term positive target, under which we should judge in terms of value addition, all we do, say, think or do not do, say or think as a people, as a society and as a nation.

Meanwhile a number of things we all know, need to be emphasized:

That transforming our country Nigeria into a truly great Black African Nation-State is not for us Nigerians alone. It will be a great boost for our immediate ECOWAS Sub-Region, for our continent Africa, for all of the world’s demographic Black Race and for our children’s children and generations following them, and even for the whole world.

That the majority of us, We the People, seem to have forfeited our birthright to be active participants in the development of our country, the direction this development takes, including even decisions that directly affect our livelihoods and survival. There is just far too much dependence on government, including allowing government and its agencies to take us for a ride, times without number. We should reclaim our birthright for all of us to be active change agents in the development of our country.

That the absence of an all embracing and ever inspiring yet attainable and sustainable national purpose has not helped matters, indeed rendering our ship of state virtually rudderless. It is hoped this effort contributes to fill this near tragic omission.

That the absence of a clearly articulated national interest to reinforce the national purpose as well as the absence of nationally accepted strategic culture/core values to keep us on the proper track to pursue the objectives of our national purpose and national interest could easily be some of the underlining causes of the ever sorry perennial state of our national affairs.

Love of nation

That as a people and as a nation and at both the level of our leadership and followership we need to have and show far more love of nation. We also need to have far more confidence in ourselves and in our nation and learn to undermined and overwhelm ourselves and our nation far less.

That as a people and as a nation we are very uncoordinated, everybody working in virtual isolation: government, the people; government at various levels, communities even in the same Local Government Area or even of the same ethnic stock in the same neighborhood, not to talk about the major hegemons virtually ever at each other’s throat and at the jugular of the nation or the elite ever ready, it seems, to pauperize and traumatize the downtrodden masses and to subvert the nation, with the support of that part of the international system that thrives on exploitation. We also lack continuity and perseverance as a people, as a society and as a nation.

That we need to do something very drastic to greatly improve our currently very low level of personal, group, institutional, societal, and national disciple.

That we need to take this huge national task away from the stranglehold of partisan politics. We need to make it a truly national effort to which we can all contribute to the best of each individual’s ability, capacity, state in life, role, function:

All Nigerians, with any drop of Nigerian blood, male, female, young, old, all tribes, all tongues, in whatever place of abode in Nigeria, in Diaspora; Civil society, all its components; Government, all its branches, Tiers, all their components; the media, in all its configurations, electronic, print, social, secular, religious, any other; The Organized Private and Informal Sectors, the large army of the unemployed, the physically challenged; All Professions, Development Activists, Social Engineers, Change Agents, etc.

We also need to warn, with the greatest sense of responsibility, that the levels of poverty, underemployment and outright unemployment, particularly of youth unemployment, are dangerously high and still rising.

We also need to state, with the greatest sense of responsibility that as a people and as a nation we have not given agriculture the very well-coordinated seriousness it deserves to make our country, major staple foods, self-sufficient and overall food secure and accessible.

A lot has been said and written about corruption. It is still very much with us. It is said that it has moved from its alleged 10% days in the 1960s to its current unimaginable levels, multiplied exponentially by very high levels of greed and selfishness. The fight on corruption must be truly all embracing, all-encompassing and truly national. It should not and must not be a Buhari war. A President who is determined and has the will power to lead the war is an excellent rallying point for what should be an unrelenting, sustained, all-out, no holds barred war and irrespective of whose ox is gored. Unless we do this, corruption can easily bring to naught all our efforts to strive for greatness.

At the organizational level it has been said by most serious minded Nigerians that a large member of our State (Government) institutions are weak and not resilient, often times operating outside laid down rules and regulations and at times unwilling or unable to implement policies effectively and efficiently and that transparency and accountability are mere buzz words in most government institutions. Striving for greatness on the layer of weak and unreliable state and private sector institutions will amount to trying to build on shifting sand.

At the social level, we need to emphasize what we all know, namely, that among other things that the human person is very much a social being. Therefore that at the primary social level a strong and harmonious family and community life is very important. That we must therefore defend with all we have the current virulent attack on the family as a natural institution, and including its very fundamental core of marriage between male and female only. We should unite against intra and inter community unrest and community conflicts. At higher levels we should emphasize inclusiveness, participation, cooperation, cohesion, mutual trust, not discrimination, division and distrust.

At the political sphere, we need a truly free, fair and transparent electoral process. We are not there yet. While commending the immediate past Administration for creating and allowing the enabling environment for bring us this far, the current Administration should not do anything to draw the hands of the clock back. It will also be very useful to have two truly strong, national, well focused, political parties whose primary purpose for being is to offer real, well thought out alternatives for the development of the nation, not opposition for the sake of opposition. We must therefore welcome the emergence of APC even as we help the PDP reinvent its formidable self to give APC a run for its money for the good of our nation, an enabler the PDP did not have.

At the spiritual level, whether we believe it or not there is an Almighty God and the human person is as much a spiritual being as a political being, an economic being, a social being, a cultural being and an environmental being. So a people, a society and a nation who do not genuinely put the Almighty God in the centre of all their endeavors will not go very far. The reason? That God, the only One True Eternal God, the Almighty Creator is Love, is the most Gracious, is the most Merciful. That God created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. That each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. That there is a Divine Purpose for each and everything that is created. That there is solidarity among all creatures because they are created by the only One True Eternal Almighty God. That God wills the interdependence of all creatures. That man is the summit of God’s creative work. That man alone has the knowledge of God, thus uniting the spiritual and material worlds. That God created everything for man but man in turn was created to know, love and serve God and offer all creation back to God.  These and many more we are told.

In sum, love God, love Neighbour. Be gracious. Be merciful. Savour our richness and diversity. Create order, not chaos.  Look for the goodness in each created thing. Emphasize our solidarity, our interdependence, including our physical environment, our communitarainism not destructive individualism, greed, selfishness and self-centeredness. Seek enlightenment to pursue the divine purpose for which each and every one of us is created. In effect be the best each can be: as individuals, family and community members and as a people, as a society and as a nation. Seek the best at all times, with God’s guidance, for each Local Government Area, each State, including the FCT, each Geopolitical Region and our dear Nigeria, Nation-State.

Now we come to the SUCKER PUNCH. It is said that about 70% of our country’s population lives in the rural area which incidentally also holds the bulk of the nation’s natural and mineral resources. This is also where the bulk of the nation’s food and agricultural raw materials can be produced and poverty and unemployment more effectively tackled. Most of the nation’s over 100,000 grassroots communities are also in the rural areas. These grassroots communities are also where most Nigerians trace their ancestry to and to which a majority also has a great sense of affinity with and for. If we are really serious as a people and as a nation this is where we should learn how to horn our skills to begin not only to solve our problems of hunger, poverty and unemployment but also among other things to learn how to harness that huge rural population and the over 100,000 grassroots communities and the massive rural landmass and the enormous natural and mineral resources therein to begin to lay a very solid foundation for transforming our country into a truly great Black African Nation-State.

Two manuscripts, ‘THE CASE FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT’ with the subtitle, ‘The Foundation For National Development’ and ‘ARISE GRASSROOTS COMMUNITIES’, when completed and published will provide very good background not only on the “why” but also on the “how” of grassroots community and rural development. Hopefully before the end of this year a book on what the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure was all about and what it did will be published to serve as a further background for rural development. Sponsorship for these publications will be most highly appreciated.

Sponsorship or no sponsorship, what will emerge by Jan/Feb, 2016, drawing from the above manuscripts and all the background work of about three decades on development matters (from 7 Feb,1986) will be a very detailed national road map for grassroots community and rural area transformation, growth and development. Some of the features of this very comprehensive grassroots development  package include highly recommended development objectives for virtually all areas of development action listed in earlier paragraphs as well as suggested broad outlines of how communities can drawn up for themselves a simple 30-Year Community Perspective Development Plan, a 3 year Community Development Rolling Plan and an Annual Community Development (1 year Budget) Plan, after conducting a simple Comprehensive Community Development Benchmark Survey. There will also be simple tips on how community members can re-orientate and motivate, organize and mobilize themselves and effectively execute their development plans.

It is strongly recommended that all States and Local Governments working effectively with community members, this time, take full advantage of this effort to develop all their constituent grassroots communities and rural areas in a more holistic, well-planned, logically-sequenced, time-framed, all hands on deck, all systems go, all-inclusive manner with clear milestones as against the usual knee jerk, ad hoc, personality influenced selective manner and even at that, only equating rural development with just agricultural development and/ or rural infrastructure provision alone. Remember the primary aim here is not just to develop the grassroots communities and rural areas as an end by itself but also to use it as a strategy to lay a solid foundation at that level for Local Government Area, State, Geopolitical Zone and National Transformation.

Meanwhile a Centre for Grassroots Community and Rural Development (CCRD) is being set up in one of the leading universities in our country as a part of this effort to transform our country into a truly great Black African Nation-State. As a pilot project, this Centre will attempt to position the knowledge industry, using its current Nigerian leading edge, the university system, to effectively contribute to the laying of a very solid foundation for this transformative effort, starting from the grassroots communities and rural area levels. It is expected that this Centre will take off effectively before the end of this year, as a lot of preparatory work has been done. The Centre is expected to have five Units/ Divisions, namely: CCRD Research, Planning, Data and Statistics; CCRD Training, Capacity Building and Development; CCRD Intervention, Outreach, Extension and Support Services; PME, Development Momentum Maintenance and Sustainability; and Advocacy, Networking and Strategic Partnerships.

As an extension of this pilot project, it will be useful and indeed immensely beneficial if such a Centre is firmly established in at least one university in each of the nation’s six geopolitical zones. As we all know, knowledge in all its various configurations and manifestations has been one of the major driving forces of man’s movement from his very primitive stages of development to its current phases of phenomenal advancements in virtually all aspects of human endeavour, and still surging forward. Naturally the knowledge industry in Nigeria with its leading edge, our university system is expected to be permanently and effectively plugged into the world’s knowledge superhighway. If this is so, with anything between 2000 to 3000 university professors, which itself is said to be about 15% of academic staff strength in the university system, we have a very significant knowledge base which should be more effectively, directly and strategically deployed to contribute optimally to all aspects of our nation’s development process. Besides, it is said that there could be as many as one million young men and women, in the youth age bracket taking National University Commission approved courses at various levels in our universities. How much character moulding is going on there? Will they also finally graduate, infused with the proper reorientation and equipped with proper skills and competences to be productive citizens of the nation or just be owners of beautiful certificates to join the unemployment queue? Within the four years or so that each group of these one million young people will pass through the university system, is it not possible that we could groom a few sports men and women who can compete at the world level, instead of losing some of them to cultism and other anti-social behaviours. Universities, please take your more rightful place in the nation’s development process.

For a full picture, notice is also herein served that the total strategic thinking and the natural and logical progression beyond the Centre is to continue the build-up for the emergence of a truly great Black African Nation-State with an equally well thought out and better coordinated Local Government Area Development, State Level Development, Geopolitical Zone Level Development, Nigeria Nation-State Level Development, as outlined by this effort (and for which an abandoned manuscript with the title Let True Development Begin… Back to Basics will be dug up), ECOWAS Sub-Regional Level Coordinated Development and Africa Level Linkage Development. We owe ourselves, Africa and the Black race this initiative.

Let all those Nigerians who have the heart rally round. Let more knowledgeable Nigerians take over from here. What stops other Black African Nations to do the same? What stops all Black people scattered all over the world to support us and by logical extension, support themselves.

Come, fellow Nigerians, let us take our destiny in our own hands; namely, transforming our country, Nigeria, into a truly great Black African Nation-State. Others have done it for themselves, some are still doing it. So we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from others. Yes, the G-7 Nations had a head start. China, an ancient nation with a huge population lost its glory, pulled itself up and now is surging forward. India, another nation with a huge population is also pulling its weight. Brazil is up there. The Asian Tigers have left us behind. Botswana in African, our Africa is highly rated. We do not have any excuse whatsoever to be languishing at the lowest rungs of virtually all the world’s indices of genuine growth and development. Let true development begin… True development?

A colleague in DFRRI shared the following with us in a paper Mobilization Through Action in our early start up DFRRI days. It stuck. It is worth sharing again and again:

“True Development must mean the development of man- the unfolding and realization of his creative potential, enabling him to improve his material conditions and living, through the use of resources available to him. It is a process by which man’s personality is enhanced; and it is that enhanced personality- creative, organized and disciplined – which is the moving force behind the socio- economic transformation of society. It is clear that development does not start with goods and things; it starts with people – their orientation, organization and discipline. When the accent on development is on things, all human resources remain latent, untapped potential and a society can be poor amidst the most opulent material resources. On the contrary, when a society is properly orientated, organized and disciplined, it can be prosperous on the scantiest basis of natural wealth.”

[Ministry of National Planning, 1980, pages 20-21.]

Profound words, profound thoughts. Except that after a thousand and one other equally and even more profound words and thoughts and decades after, the state of our nation Nigeria at 55 leaves far far too much to be desired. We do not even want to see ourselves as belonging to one nation. Apart from wrong doing, there are still those who will not even follow a leader simply because he/she is not of the same ethnic group and/or religion. At the other extreme are those who will follow a leader not based on performance but simply on the basis of ethnic and/or religious affinity. In the middle is the proverbial silent majority: some thinking that is destiny; some thinking things should be better but do not know they can do something about the situation; some just itching for someone to lead the way.

Man, the summit of God’s creation acting in faith, hope and charity supported by good works, remains fittingly, both the prime mover and prime beneficiary of all aspects of the development process. While we wait most patiently for this Administration to reveal what it has in stock for us and the nation, let us not remain idle. Let us, WE THE PEOPLE, get back to work too. There is no contradiction there. It is our birthright. Let all those who are convinced that striving to transform our country Nigeria into a truly great Black African Nation-State is what we should be aiming for now at 55, seek ourselves out and get to work to lay the required solid foundation for this effort at the grassroots ancestral community and rural areas level. Let us take advantage of all the work that has been done in this regard. Heaven they say helps those who help themselves. Only those who dare, overcome! Let us dare.

Happy 55th Independence Anniversary Nigeria! May we also begin to soar as a people, as a society and as a nation! To God be the Glory!

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