The Men Who Built America is the title of History.com’s docudrama chronicling how America, as we know, admire, and even adore it today, came about. Although America prides herself as God’s Own Country, men it was who built it. And, interestingly, the men showcased in the docudrama were not the ‘many men’; no, they were just five (5) in number: Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Henry Ford. Of course, there is no doubt that the rest of America’s manhood had their hands on the nation-building project, but it was the combined weight pulled by those titans at their respective stations that sealed America’s development fate.
Vanderbilt University speaks to the very first of them all – Cornelius Vanderbilt. He was more. The Commodore, a nickname that accrued from his shipping exploits, was the indisputable king of America’s rail transport, a industry he’d push to the limits. And its trickle down on the economy was massive.
The Ohio oilman, John D. Rockefeller, ran the American oil industry as a near-monopoly, given that he owned about 90% of oil refineries in America. He made so much money that he stands as the richest modern American. And, of course, the Rockefeller Foundation still ministers to present societal needs.
America grew vertical on Andrew Carnegie’s steel; he made the building of skyscrapers possible by flooding the market with steel.
There is today a giant financial institution in America called J.P. Morgan; that’s him. His influence on America’s financial life was so profound that “Morganization” is a valid economic concept (meaning: to install order in a chaotic or overly competitive industry). Morgan was the one man who had the capacity to financially bail out the US government. The Panama Canal is reputed as one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by human beings; Morgan’s US Steel it was that did it.
Ford Motors and the Ford Foundation came down to us from Henry Ford. It is said that he democratized automobile, making it possible for the average American to afford one.
However one tries to see it, the hand these men bore in building contemporary America can never be over emphasized. And because America is home to the amazing discoveries and inventions that revolutionalized the planet, we can say, by extension, that the men who built America built the planet.
The point of this seemingly lengthy exposé on the men who built America is to arrive at this one particularly peculiar trait that was common to all of them: the government didn’t exist. They provided for themselves whatever infrastructure they needed for the smooth running of their business. I repeat: government is one word that didn’t matter to them. And when a particular presidential aspirant, William Jennings Bryan, came howling threats at them, hinting a clampdown on big business if he’s elected, these men came together at a roundtable, and there adopted Morgan’s suggestion: We buy our president. And they did buy William McKinley.
Time to face home: Nigeria. That this house has fallen is no news. Achebe aptly captured it in these words: This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. And so, time spent on further exposing or lamenting the situation amounts to time wasted indeed. Focusing on the way forward will serve us better.
The most important question anyone can ask in or about Nigeria right now must touch on the way forward for our national experience. It is essentially this: Who will rebuild Nigeria? The men who built America already said how: ignore the government. This point owes its truism to the fact that the government and its policies has become a good reason for inaction to many a Nigerian citizen. Here, it is always the government to blame, and the name Buhari is probably the most castigated name on the planet, second only to Jonathan – his immediate predecessor.
Come to think of it, what difference will blaming the government make? It can at best constitute an inexcusable excuse. And, don’t get me wrong, I know that the government plays the backbone role in the country’s body, especially in the economic sphere, but who says those with backbone problems can’t use wheelchair to cruise around town. Trust me, you can do it the Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and Ford’s way.
Finally, the men and women who can ignore Buhari and his change agenda are those that can rebuild Nigeria. And you really never know how much of a rebuilder you can be until you give it a try. Just try; you never know.