...By: Tijjani Muhammad Musa
Nigeria is undoubtedly the most populous black nation on earth with over 120 million people. Made of about 300 ethic groups, diverse languages, rich cultures and traditional heritage, multi-religious practices, coupled with breath-taking tourist attractions and festivals make it one of the most interesting places to visit in the world. Its vast human and natural resources also positioned it as one of the most endowed countries on the planet. Everything a nation requires to achieve greatness is abundantly available, yet after 43 years of independence, the country which holds so much potential is listed as one of the poorest and the second most corrupt nation in the world. As a citizen, one wonders why, what happened, when and where, to have caused such an unforgivable abuse of opportunities? Can the situation be remedied and subsequently reversed or is it too late? If not, then how do we start the process of restructuring the system? What will be the cost implications? Who and who would be needed to facilitate the mission? What are the sacrifices required? How long would it take? Fellow patriots, its time to THINK.
Everybody in this country wants to become a hero and possibly get his picture emblemed on our currency note as a mark of recognition, so that he is remembered for all times. Be among the chosen few, referred to in our National Anthem “The Labour of Our Heroes Past…” He dreams of becoming a local government chairman or state governor or even ultimately the president of this “great” nation. He desires to be trusted with responsibility by the people. Some become so obsessed with the ambition; it blinds their thinking and transforms into a ferocious monster that devours their conscience and soul. It simply becomes a “do or die” affair; mind you the “die” aspect is not for them, but for who or whatever stands against their goal. But each time such a person gets an opportunity to fulfill his burning ambition; he ends up betraying the trust, making the people’s lot worse than he met it, but not without stupendously enriching himself and his 10th generations to come in the process. He achieves absolutely nothing except invite condemnation and curse of the people and unfortunately the wrath of his Maker.
The reason for this is simple. Most of these people do not have the background cultivated, the foundation built into their thinking about community development or collective goal achievement. Most of us always think of the letter “I” instead of the word “We”. It is now “my government, my project, my goal” and not “our government or our plan or our aim”. Each of us must ask himself if he has ever done anything worthwhile for his immediate community first, before ever thinking about assuming any leadership position.
Most of us have never done anything towards the progress of our blood brothers, neighbours, streets, wards, local governments or states, yet we demand to represent our people at the national level. Nobody plans to get something good for himself and at the same time desires same for his next door companion. Each person wants to make it alone, escape alone, set himself alone free, while everybody else remains shackled in ruin. Yet he alone might be the only one blessed with the insight to the way out for that generation. Imagine what would have happened if Abraham Graham Bell has kept his invention of the telephone for his private use only. Where would the GSM of today be? I would have loved to sight a Nigerian inventor, but they are so few, so unknown, so uncelebrated and so unrecognized, so discouraged by their own people. If you want an example, where is the gentleman who designed and tested the aircraft in Maiduguri during the early 80’s? Or the young man who invented a radio station in one Kano Village, which was on loud and clear test transmission, before he was forced to shut down or the recent Jet Competition Kano secondary school entry of a local made burglar-alarm system that uses infrared technology?
Mind you, the electronic devise came second to a cooking stove that uses sawdust and firewood instead of kerosene, yet we want to achieve technological advancement. Can imagine what would have happened if the Wright Brothers experimental flight tests were stopped by the American Government, where the aviation industry would be today? Until we start thinking about believing in our abilities, supporting our own inventions and making it together, collectively, freedom for all and everybody, we will all end up where we started, at the very beginning, with a capital P. Primitive.
Has anybody tried to figure out why we are so discouraging, disbelieving and envious of each others discovery and inventive efforts? I mean our sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, analysts, thinkers, intellectuals etc and committed their findings into written documents for reference and mobilize the people (I deliberately did not say the government) with a definite action plan. Oh sure they have, except for the action plan part. In fact any ordinary Nigerian can tell the exact problems bedeviling the country and even propose a list of brilliantly thought out solutions, demonstrating his or her intellect, ask him what he is doing to actualize the solutions. End of discussion.
Most of it ends in the talking form, which always remind of the inherent truth in Pappy Gray’s quote “They will keep talking, talking, talking, achieving nothing, nothing, nothing.” Deep inside their minds, most Nigerians are convinced that making the slightest effort in that direction would be a waste of their “precious” time. Request that they write down their observations in form of an article or proposal, he is too “busy” to bother. Tell him to organize a team to address the issue, he asks you where are the resources (money, manpower, time, accommodation etc) He wants everything at his disposal, ready for use, without making the slightest effort in acquiring them. Give him all he needs, he goes on an ego trip, embezzles the money, waste the resources and ground the process, giving excuses instead of results at the slightest opportunity.
The main problem with Nigeria is our mind-set. Our negative thinking. Our psyche is in dire need of re-orientation. We must change the way we think. As a people with a collective destiny, we must stop thinking about “my graduate son, or my brother, or my niece, or my grand daughter” only, but must start to plan for “our graduates, our people, our country” as a whole, disregarding all kinds of affinity. There is gross disbelief in our collective vision as a nation. We are convinced or have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed, that we can not change. So attempting to, has remain elusive. We must of essence embark upon a de-brainwash mission, if we are ever to succeed in moving this nation forward.
We must patronize our concepts and insist it has to be “Made in Nigeria” or the “Ikemefuna Formula” or “Dawakiji Approach” or “Adetuntun Way”. If there is a standard problem with our Nigerian products, we must insist that the quality be improved by the manufacturers concerned, by buying only from the few producers whose products are better. And the rest of their competitors must upgrade their product to measure up to the improved standard or be forced to fold up or fade out. We must challenge ourselves to start producing according to acceptable standards, then progress to meeting the international standard. We must stop being envious of making each other rich by refusing to buy a product from within. Refusing to buy a product because it comes from the Nupes, Okrikas or Kanuris even if they are better at making the product than us will only ensure not progress for us, but confinement to perpetual under-development and ultimately oblivion. Different regions and people are superior and naturally favoured with producing certain stuffs that none can dare to compete against them. We must each identify those potentials in our locality and adopt their production as a regional source of income and pride.
Another thing that must stop is the envy. Has anyone noticed that if there is one shop-owner on a street, he would hate to see another person opens a similar shop next to his; possibly selling the exact items the first shop-owner trades in, yet at the end of their daily commercial transactions, both will go home with enough profits. And if a third or fourth or the whole street gets lined up with people selling that particular commodity e.g. a computer accessories shops, the area becomes a specialized location with clients and customers coming from various part of the town or different states of the country to purchase goods from that street, which might become so popular as to earn its own unique name “Computer Avenue” or “Digital Zone”. All of the shop-owners would end up smiling to the banks with enough returns on a daily basis. Yet initially, they were all envious of each others presence.
Each of us must participate in a project either initiated by him/her or by someone else as a demonstration of our desire and resolve to transform our community, our society into a better place. Those of us, who can, must think, then present an idea, develop and execute it against all odds. We must realize that in most cases, the person who gets the idea might not necessarily be the one to transform it into an invention, and those who manage to invent might not be the ones to develop it into a mass product, who might not be those to transport it to various destinations, where some others would bulk-purchase and sell it to retailers, who would in turn sell it to customer outlets before it finally reach the end user. There is a naturally instituted division of labour in it all. So what is required of us is to identify where one belongs and perform his/her role.
We must not forget to start documenting our experiences and participations, thinking all the time of how we can make it even better, then go ahead and improve upon the mistakes of the last edition by employing our new thought-out approach. If it works, we must disseminate the knowledge to every nook and corner of the country. And it must be adopted by all as a standard or the new improve way of doing that thing, until a better method has been discovered by someone else. We must challenge ourselves and our subordinates towards achieving a desired goal. We must not forget to start keeping track of our journey, by consistently writing down how each step was contemplated and the eventual outcome for posterity. We must start to research into new and modern methods of production, producing not just raw materials but finished products as well, thereby striving towards industrial perfection.
When an idea occurs to us, we must not allow procrastination (ref: Habu Dawaki’s inspiring piece “A book is not a book….” Pathway to Destiny, Weekly Trust Nov.1-7, 2003) to take effect, becoming so pessimistic about it and refusing to utter it out, talk less of sharing it with somebody else. We complain that people would reject our ideas, when we have not bothered to test their response to it. We jump to conclusion that it is useless to even try. We must stop accepting defeat even before we start. We have created and formed part of the flow, the problem. And where someone is able to overcome the initial set back of his pessimism and develop a proposal, the next group of people he takes it to, would ensure it does not get past them by all means, as cited above. They either discourage the idea developer, who usually is in a very poor financial state or collect the proposal and frustrate all his efforts by sitting on the idea, hoping he forgets about it, so they can give it a different name and format and then cash in on the proposal. Only for them to abandon it midway, leaving the originator hating their very existence for stealing his idea and not achieving anything with it despite denying him the opportunity to actualize it, which he gladly would have done to the best of this ability, given the necessary encouragement and financial support.
We now believe ours is an impossible society, country, continent and race. Nobody wants to agree or accept or cooperate or participate or contribute towards accomplishing the dream or vision of anybody else. Thus we end up abandoning our very progressive essence, our great future as a people. We act like a group of people who happen to find themselves in a wide, deep pit. No one on his own can get himself out, and if anyone succeeds in almost getting out of the hole, the others would reach out and pull him back in. So they remain perpetually in that stagnant poor state, frustrated, impoverished, hungry and wretched. But if they were to cooperate and help one person to get out and once outside the hole, he in turn finds a strong rope, tie it to a nearby tree and then extend it back into the pit, all the others trapped in the hole could have used the rope to climb out, so in the end, all will gain their freedom. Then they can ensure no one ever falls into the same situation again by collecting some sand and fill back the pit. Again that word “Cooperation” is also another scarce commodity among us Nigerians and blacks in general.
This is among the reasons why blacks are regarded as backward and unintelligent by the white race. But indeed this is not true, since individuals among our people who are “lucky” to find themselves where the environment is enabling are able to meet up to any challenge in every field of human endeavour. The rational question is why the word lucky. The solutions are there, so emphasis should be placed on seeking and exploitation of knowledge, for indeed not only are we lazy in our search for knowledge, but we are even more so in the application and implementation of what we have learnt or discovered. Nor are we curious as a people to investigate how anything works. This attitude must change. We constantly enumerate the excellent achievements of our past heroes like Awolowo, Zik, Sardauna, Murtala etc yet no one is making the slightest effort to consolidate their achievements and possibly succeed our historic greats. We have convinced our selves’ once again that those people are beyond emulation. So nobody is making any attempt to equal or surpass their records. The competitor in all of us has been murdered.
Ours is an intellectual poverty. Reading ironically, is our most detested engagement. The reading culture is so bad, almost dead, except for a minute few, who end up doing absolutely nothing with what they have gained from the exercise. I once had a friend who can read and write, but will always want to enquire from others what a news item contained. When he is given the newspaper to read, he would claim that it amounts to double wahala. That is why we are where we are today. Though this has been identified as a major problem, yet nobody is doing anything about it. It is said if you realize there is a problem, you are half way into solving that problem. The other half remains in thinking and strategizing on its possible solutions and embarking upon the implementation of the resolutions. Better half way than not at all.
We must think of a new approach to providing qualitative education for all in the cheapest means possible. This is because “Knowledge is Power”. For those of us who believe in religion, recall what God Almighty elevated the status of Adam with, despite just arriving on the scene of creations, HE taught him the name of all things, which the angels knew not, so God requested that they should bow down to Adam. Meaning because man has acquired knowledge he deserve to be respected. So that’s the secret of all scientific, technological, social, commercial, industrial, military and spiritual advancement. Knowledge. Nigeria must embrace this quest and utilize it to the fullest.
We must commence without further delay application of what I call the “E3 FORMULA” which stands for EXPLORE, EXPOSE, EXPLOIT. This simply means we must explore our vast human resources and search for ideas, talents, intellects, potentials, possibilities etc wherever they might be, with whoever in the country, then expose these ideas and talents by acknowledging, enumerating and fully documenting their potentials and advantages and finally provide the necessary infrastructural facilities and opportunities for their full exploitation and utilization, thus giving individuals the chance to develop these ideas and talents for our collective progress.
During the last general elections, there were so many presidential aspirants, each trying to convince the masses to vote for their party. And there was the Media Presidential Debate. It naturally attracted my attention. I was hoping to see an innovative approach by any of the ambitious candidates. Most especially I was particularly curious about their response if asked about the state of the economy and how they intend to turn the shamble economy around. Most of the aspirants fed us with the usual political rigmarole and brouhaha. Empty. I thought to myself, if only one of them would storm the venue with a set of ordinary Nigerians of different occupations e.g. a civil servant, tailor, welder, a market woman, cobbler, carpenter, teacher, driver etc. and in response to the above question one presidential candidate would request for a rim of A4 paper, when presented with same, he would commend the quality and praise its Nigerian manufacturer, only to be informed that it was imported.
He would express shock and dismay and out rightly reject the paper and insist on another, but this time around a ‘Made in Nigeria’ be brought to him immediately. He would further express horror at the poor quality of the paper brought to him as Nigeria’s. So he would instruct the civil servant to inform the paper company and all other manufacturers in the country to improve the quality of all their products to international standards, for the Federal Government has adopted a strict “Use Made in Nigeria Only” policy, with a few unavoidable exceptions. He would then call on the tailor to sew his clothing with Nigerian fabrics, sourced from our local textile industries. He then checks his shoes only to realize that they are foreign too, so he removes them and call the shoe maker to produce some high quality Made-in-Aba, Nigeria wears for the president. To the teacher he gives his five children and demand that the best quality education should be given to the youths of this great nation.
When it is time for a lunch break, he gets served Nigerian rice, only to grind stones in the process of eating it, He continues all the same and inform that either the engineers invent a machine that can process our locally produced rice or their leader might ultimately die from appendicitis. He acquires a headache from running the affairs of his beloved nation and immediately request for a Nigerian medical doctor, who conducts a check up and advices that a foreign trip is vital in order to cure the ailment, but he respectfully rejects the suggestion and demand that standards in the health sector must be raise to favourably deliver the quality of medical service he would pursue abroad. There is also a purely Made in Nigeria car being developed at Centre for Automotive Design (CAD) in ABU Zaria, the president hopeful would acquire some for his official use and insist all Government Ministries and Parastatals must use same.
He and his ministers would proudly receive their international dignitaries in them, informing any of the august visitors that the car is in evolution and forms part of our long term vision of achieving greatness. If we have any complain about its looks, let some industrial designers and interior decorators take up the challenge to produce some exquisite shapes and textures. And if it’s the performance, let some engineers get handcuffed to the problem until they come up with a satisfactory solution, then the private sector of the economy should invest and participate fully in marketing the end product. We must take it as a challenge to brainstorm and proposes all the answers, better designs and perfect solutions.
The presidential aspirant would then instruct his ministries to meet all the necessary requirements and create the enabling environment for the manufacturing sector to deliver the several challenges, so that a strong and vibrant economy would patiently be developed from scratch. In the interim all products used in all government offices, homes and occasions must be Made-in-Nigeria, appealing to all citizens to bear the low quality and fully participate in raising the standards of our products until the desired target is achieved. So it becomes a continuous driving force towards the final goal of our self-reliance.
Also all ministers should be made to follow his example and the private sector and the youth must form an intricate part of the movement. State governors should also support the campaign by adopting the same strategy. Finally the presidential aspirant would appeal and indulge the whole Nigerian populace to adopt the same attitude. The media must project the very best images of this project as it unfolds to the whole world. It is time to stop all the North-South media campaign of calumny nonsense. I believe we have reached a matured stage, where the fire that needs to be fed is that of nation building and not some ethic hatred or regional chauvinism. For our media outfits nation wide, there should be a brand new slogan in vogue, “THINK NIGERIA FIRST”.
As a lay man, I would like to ask our economic planners; wouldn’t this turn our fortunes around? I bet it would, assuming all external forces interested in our perpetual incapacitation would allow this to work. But we must solicit for their willful understanding or put up a fight for our assured future. If only one, just one of them Aso Rock Hopefuls would have responded in this manner at such a debate, I would have given him my vote and my whole being, body and soul, to be used towards actualizing such a Project Nigeria. Wouldn’t you?
Its time to THINK. Excuse me!
(c) 2003 Tijjani M. M.
All Rights Reserved