To say that Nigeria is a peculiar and particularly fascinating country is to say it light. Happy people; suffering people. But in spite of the difficulties and challenges of the moment, there is hope; there is always hope. And it is in the very nature of hope to be indomitable. Writing about hope, Nnamdi Azikiwe has it that:
it is the principal antidote which keeps our heart from bursting under the pressures of evils, corruption and oppression. Hope is the manna from heaven that comforts us in all our extremities, the unfailing friend that caresses us in the worst of times, with the expectation of better times in the bosom of futurity. Hope is the last thing that dies in a person.
If done, the following should move us to the next level:
1. We must smack down ethnicism and promote meritocracy. If multi-ethnicity is a curse, then Nigeria is a very cursed land. But ethnicity is a blessing, which is one of the reasons why we can be really proud of who we are as a commonwealth of nations. Having to be a country credited with over 250 diverse peoples is a gift. Variety is the spice of life, remember. However, ethnicism is the evil that ethnicity can bring to the table, thus making ethnicity a potential cog in the wheel of national progress. We are obviously off the track whenever we conduct matters of state along ethnic lines or appeal to ethnic sentiments for validation. The federal character arrangement is a child of circumstance. It became necessary to seeing that everyone is carried along at the same time, thus checkmating the tendency of naturally dominant groups hijacking the entire cake. But federal character could be exaggerated to a fault; meritocracy should always retain its place as a core value that it is.
2. We must empower the Nigerian citizenry, especially the youths. It is fatalistic to think that empowerment of the citizenry should always bother around economic empowerment. Whenever governments and her agencies think empowerment, they think of skill acquisition and distribution of machines to the unemployed. Whenever they think of gender empowerment, they come up with something similar. The Obasanjo administration, for instance, initiated the Keke NAPEP in its poverty eradication bid. These are welcome developments, but misdirected, to say the least. The root of every empowerment, and empowerment means ‘giving power’, is knowledge. The thinking of the English philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon, has remained true: knowledge is power. And so, the empowerment of the Nigerian citizenry must begin from education. It is a national embarrassment to designate any single Nigerian graduate as unemployable. How did he graduate in the first place? By the authority of the senate of that university, and by the Act of the National Assembly establishing that university, that fellow was certified worthy in character and learning. How then should the President or a high ranking public office holder dare say he is unemployable? That he is unemployable could be a fact; that something is very wrong with the system that produced him is a fact.
3. We must beef up security. This is exactly the very first job of every government; to secure the lives and properties of her citizenry. Beyond this, the function of government is little. The most awful feeling comes from leaving the house in the morning with coming back later in the day left to chance; not because God will call one home but because the borders are so dysfunctional that someone could come in from Yemen to detonate a bomb in Abuja. How on earth! With all due respect, the impact of the Nigeria Police remains below expectation. No matter what the boss brags about from his Abuja posh office, I see his men pick N50 from bus drivers on my way home every single night.
4. We must diversify. And diversify. And diversify. The economy keeps crying for help. It used to be agriculture, and then when oil showed up, we parted ways with agriculture. What if we explored the huge economic potentials of both fronts? And we have the human resources to make that happen. What if we made our educational sector good enough to attract foreigners? You might want to call that ‘exportation of education’. You might as well want to inquire from the UK, the US, Canada and Australia how much they rake into the national coffers for educating foreigners. We might also want to consider ‘exportation of expatriate’, to at least other African countries and rake in foreign exchange in the process. As a nation, amassing as much wealth as possible is not an option, as it appears to be the only way of securing the ‘good life’ for the Nigerian citizenry.
5. We must task our intellectuals to produce. The powerhouse of every civilization is its academia; the various world cultural and scientific revolutions kick-started from the ivory towers. America did not take over from Great Britain just like that. That take over was powered by intellectual capacity. At least, more than five of the topmost ten universities on the planet are in America. We must end the culture of incessant strikes and entitlement claims and get into the era of churning out relevant and transforming researches that will drive national progress.
6. We must get our regulatory agencies on their feet. The roles of regulatory agencies like NAFDAC, EFCC/ICPC, NUC, SON, etc. are critical to national progress. At a time when universities are springing up from all corners of the country and in all shapes and sizes, one begins to wonder what the NUC is up to. Given loose hands, we know that capitalists, and even simple human nature, have a way of taking advantage of the situation. When products and processes conform to minimum standards, progress is in sight. Of course, we already know what mess the ‘former NNPC’ made of the oil sector.
7. Government at all levels must deliver. Before JFK tasked Americans to utmost patriotism, America had already fulfilled a large part of its end of the social contract bargain. When Nigeria asks her citizens to be patriotic, to what would Nigerians owe that huge favor? Most Nigerians will say that Nigeria doesn’t deserve their patriotism, and they may have a point there. The federal, state and local governments must be performance-driven, so as to occupy the moral ground on which patriotism can be requested.
Our nationbuilding is a peculiar project, and for the singular reason that Nigeria is the only place on the planet we can proudly call home, all hands must be on deck to get that project done. And what is worth doing, they say, is worth doing well.