By Bayo Fasunwon
Nigeria’s quest for development predates the birth of military and or militarised regimes. Every government in Nigeria had made it a goal while politicians have exaggerated on their ability to turn the nation around within four years. In the literal sense of the word, their vision was to improve the lives of the ordinary citizens on the streets. This perception of development is the first bane of the nation’s development agenda.
Development in the real sense of the word is not the improvements in the lives of the people on the street. Gigantic buildings, window dressing, or the adoption of foreign living styles and cultures does not evidence it. As developed as Japan is, they still eat with chopsticks. Development, unlike what the rebased economy of former President Jonathan’s school of economics wanted us to believe is not the mere increase in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product without an attendant improvement in per capita income. Development is not the use of exotic cars and latest technology without knowledge. Politicians’ notion of development can be likened to an unemployed Nigerian who borrowed clothes and make up in order to take a picture meant for Instagram. Development is not packaged slaying.
Development is a positive enduring change in the quality of living of a people. It implies a better lifestyle void of avoidable stress and inconveniences. A country would be deemed developing if the living environment is such that promotes ingenuity and improved productivity. An environment not only supports wealth creation but also promotes wealth utilisation in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. A nation becomes developed when an individual can become what he chooses to be. It is a nation of the free and the brave.
Thoughts are the basic blocks for a change in life, hence the Bible enjoins one to ‘guard your thoughts with all diligence; for out of it proceeds the issues of life’. The Japanese culture also believes in the doctrine ‘good thinking, good product’. Development takes its foundation in good thoughts. Any nation that seeks to develop must first promote a change of thought amongst her citizens. This is where education takes a vital role. Right from kindergarten to the university, the nation’s education curriculum should be developed to instill developmental thinking. The way and manner Nigeria handles the education sector is pitiably and at most destructive. Lack of resources to this sector had mortified primary education, muffled secondary schools, and truncated tertiary education. Education institutions now churn out ‘brilliant’ but unintelligent products. That is a group of people who can read to pass examinations but cannot reason. For development to occur in Nigeria, a twenty-year-state of emergency should be declared in the education sector, to revamp this entire system, regulate private institutions and enhance the public schools for better products. Some have opined that the reason for the dilapidation of education sector is traceable to the fact that Nigeria’s leaders (as allowed by the constitution) have been people of limited education. Since you cannot give what you do not have, education to such is a ‘waste of government resources’. In this 21st century, there is a need to upgrade the constitution of the federation, to require higher degrees to higher positions in Nigeria. As such, Councillorship position should not require anything less than a passed secondary school certificate, and higher certificates for higher levels.
The development agenda of Nigeria has a top-down approach. The development and growth of cities have been erroneously conceived as development. Therefore, Governors of different States and at different times have concentrated efforts at ‘developing’ the capital cities to the neglect of the suburbs. However these ‘developments’ are nothing short of beautifying the State Capitals. Thus, it is not surprising to see gigantic, beautiful and capital consuming monuments such as statues, fountains, flowers, pedestrian bridges, divided (not dualised) roads amongst others that add no value to the living conditions of the people in the capital cities. Some schools of thought have argued that these state embellishments are publicity-packaging stunts of politicians aimed at deceiving visitors to the State. The concentration of development efforts at the centre (as witnessed in Abuja), without the development of the suburbs and rural areas have led to the congestion at the centre. Population explosion, increased crime rate and unemployment, food scarcity and development of slums have categorized the Nigerian cities thereby destroying the beauty intended by myopic leadership.
Nigeria has to take a cue from ancient China and old Oyo Kingdom in a bid to have wholesome development. Real development efforts ought to commence at the grassroots. The grassroots houses the land and raw materials needed for industrial development. Many lands are wasted, uncultivated, and unused in the local areas. These could have been good sites for industries and factories. However, due to the poor communication and road networks many investors have abandoned the rural areas, thereby adding to the congestion of the cities and high productive costs of their products. The federal, state, and local governments should revive the Directorate for food, roads, and rural infrastructure. The road networks in the rural areas must be developed, agricultural and resource-based industries should be sited in these areas with good modern communication networks. When villages and towns can give better living conditions to the people, the cities would be decongested, and development can spread throughout the whole nation. Thus, villages and local government can leverage on their comparative advantages to contribute their quotas to the development of the nation.
Finally, investments and development agenda thrive in the presence of good laws, prohibitions, and allowances. The laws in Nigeria have become archaic. Most of the laws were made to subdue local ingenuity and freedom of enterprise. The land use act inhibits large-scale agricultural and industrial development. Goat stealers bag fifteen years jail terms, while looters of billions of naira get three years jail term. Nigeria laws have to be investment friendly. When the law of the land is too harsh, foreign investors would shun the country. At the same time, the laws must not enslave her citizens and subject them to slavery in order to attract foreign investors. Anti corruption, laws should be such that deters corruption, rather than such that seeks to punish the corrupt. Regulations on all aspects of human lives should be such that promotes ingenuities and creates a conducive environment for development of local and small-scale industries. To this end, there is the need to review Bank laws and regulations. Interest rates on investments ought to be reviewed, and government should intensify her efforts at provision of capital, subsidies, and incentives to local entrepreneurs.
Finally, every country that seeks development has a creed, an inspirational code that fires the ember of success. The heterogeneous and divisive democratic nature of the nation however may not achieve a unified creed. This is where religious organisations come in. They meet to indoctrinate followers at least once in a week. Religious bodies must be encouraged to instill in their followership, the zeal for honest labour, brotherliness, and entrepreneurship. These bodies must desist from brainwashing their adherents to faith of the possibilities of wealth without labour and hatred for neighbors. They must encourage followers to leave a better world for others to come. While preparing for heaven, all hands must be on deck to make the earth and nation a better place to be.