Some occurrences described as ‘’wonders of the century’’ have been witnessed in some parts of the world, particularly nations of the Far East. Peoples Republic of China, Malaysia and Singapore have recorded incredibly remarkable advancements in the last 60 years such that the whole world has been bewildered by the rapid level of ‘’rampaging China’’ that is engaged in a cut-throat competition for global attention and subtle supremacy with the most influential and powerful nation in the world, the United States. Developments over the past few decades have altered the configuration of economic trade and political relations. Competition by the two nations has resulted into a ‘Trade War’ between the Peoples Republic of China and the United States.
While these advancements are going on in these First World nations, Africa is engaged in several destructive, senseless and meaningless issues that add no values to the good of our society. I read in one of the tabloids today (Sunday June 30, 2019) that published the argument, consideration, or declaration for emergence of a president of the Federal Republic in 2023. I read the arguments canvassed and held my head in awe! I felt we shouldn’t inflame passions with such reactions. It is not because of the personalities mentioned in the report under reference, but because it seemed to me that we are still very far from civilization. And we may remain for long in this terrible predicament for as long as the type of sentiments canvassed, continue to be the guiding factors for the emergence of people who would rule our nation at the three tiers of government.
ELITE CLASS AS KEY PROBLEM OF NIGERIA: But we can do with lesser tension and strife. If Nigeria’s problems are carefully dissected, it would be discovered that they have been created largely by those who profit from such tribulations that have plagued our nation. I make bold to say that the ordinary Nigerian would not bother about who governs him or her, the ruler’s tribe, colour or creed, provided the culture of good governance is entrenched to empower the civil populace to be able to afford, and have access to basic necessities. It is true that there is no society without its own measure of tribalism and regionalism; even in the developed world. In Nigeria, the problem of state or place of origin, religion, ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism and related ills, have combined to constitute formidable barriers to development. We have not been able to give expression to politics without bitterness, and imbibe a spirit of tolerance and sportsmanship, in accordance with the philosophy of a political theorist, Edmund Burke, who once asserted that ”our patience will achieve more than our force.”
SALIENT ISSUES THAT SHOULD ENGAGE OUR ATTENTION: Nigeria is expected to be a land where all men are born equal and have access to the same opportunities without any form of discrimination. Avoidable conflicts have encouraged deep-rooted and congenital hatred among the political class which should lead the populace. Ostensibly, those who fan the embers of disunity, particularly within the political, religious and elite classes, profit from this dangerous development and would always be happy to promote issues that divide, rather than unite the nation. Against this background, our values and norms require a thorough examination. What for instance causes separatist intentions? Why have some of our pronouncements and actions been very disturbing, even in the face of the attendant possible unpleasant consequences? The answer has to do with self-seeking concerns and sincerity of purpose.
If the truth must be told, scourges of poverty and disease are products of irresponsible conducts of the elite class that constitutes the formidable part of our population with a strong and suffocating influence on those in government. One could argue reasonably that the journey to development has been negatively impacted by our inability to embrace the truth and be patriotic like those great nationalists who laid the foundation for a modern Nigeria. Generally, it is believed that our future may very well depend on the ability of leaders, elites and the general populace to evolve workable systems that would guarantee sustainable and viable cultures of governance and democracy. Twenty years after Nigeria returned to civil rule, we ought to have buried those issues that divide rather than unite us. It is particularly disturbing that we would continue to impede development, democracy and governance with thoughts of religion and ethnicity.
Why can’t we simply elect our preferences based on personal convictions and be cosmopolitan in outlook in national interest? It is dangerous to allow religious consideration to play dominant role like the newspaper publication under reference attempted to do. I am personally disappointed that like I urged them last year in a piece written by me, unbelievers never came out to lobby and vie for the position of Senate President and be sworn-in by affirmation; and adherents of the god of thunder failed to assert their constitutional right of requesting that the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives be zoned to their religions. They could now plead that they have been marginalized and ask for compensation.
COMMENDABLE UTTERANCES: What should ideally be of concern to reasonable Nigerians is how to move our nation forward. I have never met Babatunde Fashola. But this gentleman who was discovered by Bola Ahmed Tinubu dispassionately, on account of inherent capabilities demonstrated as chief of staff to the governor impressed me by some conducts, particularly his cosmopolitan nature. In his reaction at an inter-faith conference themed: “Peace, Religious Harmony and Good Governance Issues and Challenges” in 2015, Fashola argued, and rightly too that religion and good governance were two different things and democratic dividends had no religious colouration. He went further: “What will the preference for governor of one faith over the other even benefit us? “Will it give one religion roads that other faiths cannot use? Will it give them schools that children from other faiths cannot attend or will it bring water that only one faith can drink? “Will it begin to draw a very clear line between poverty and the faith? Does hunger know your faith?”
DANGERS: Former United Nations Secretary-General, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, from a broader perspective has asserted that: “If you address the root causes of conflict, and if you accept that conflict and wars retard development – in no continent is this more true than in Africa, because one of the main reasons Africa is behind the rest of the world is precisely because it has the largest number of conflicts. People are not going to invest in countries of conflict, and without investment, both domestic and foreign, as they are not going to have production; they are not going to have employment, and it’s a vicious circle.” Evidently, conscientious efforts, dedication and commitment on the part of Africans to build the continent as progressive societies and implement several initiatives capable of turning the situation around and confronting serious challenges attributable to a poor governance culture.
ELECTING OUR PREFERENCES: Our problems are multifarious and go beyond mundane issues of who governs according to religious inclination. The dangerous trend of ethnicity, religious intolerance, advancement of sectional interests, feelings of mistrust and intolerance pervade the atmosphere. Restiveness that could cause political conflagration is one of the problems that we should come together to resolve for the common good. The sad and regrettable occurrences that have occurred in various parts of the country are partly attributable to the influence of the elite class who have benefitted profoundly from these ills. The good thing is that all these problems are surmountable.
THE CHINESE EXAMPLE: By way of recapitulation, my experience in the Peoples Republic of China could be used as an example of visit to people committed to development via the execution of meaningful policies and programmes. A visit to the Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China proved revealing about advancements made in the sub-sector of Alternative Medicine. It is incredible that alternative medical practice and Western medicine in China are at the same level of development, which is one of the reasons why those herbal products are available in large quantities in Nigeria. We subjected ourselves to diagnosis akin to general medical check-up by alternative medical practitioners, who with the ordinary specialized touch of each of the three veins/vessels, through which blood runs through each wrist, diagnosed ailments perfectly. We were informed that each vein leads to, and services an organ in the human system.
Amazed by the accuracy of the diagnosis, we decided to test its authenticity. The following day, we repeated the visit for medical check-up at the same facility, for the purpose of ascertaining the genuineness of the results of our local medical examination. We met different alternative medical practitioners who conducted tests and issued the same results. Some of us thought the physicians were probably wizards and witches, imbued with spiritual powers. But we were very wrong. Traditional Chinese Medicine is deeply rooted in the hearts of the Chinese people China has developed its alternative medicine to such an extent that the nation has produced numerous professors in that field. Apart from conserving foreign exchange that would have gone into medical tourism, China is flooding the whole world with herbal drugs made from farm products in that country.
ANALOGY: The Beijing University of Chinese Medicine is a state level key institution under the direct leadership of the State Education Commission. Dongzhimen hospital, an affiliate to Beijing University of Chinese Medicine has a clinical research base with special focus on stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, nephropathy and other illnesses. Beijing Medicinal Botanic Garden is the Chinese herbal cultivation base of providing herbs for scientific research. There are over 600 kinds of medicinal plants in a 160- acre ground. The integration of Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine is generally practiced in some Chinese hospitals. Besides prescribing western medicine, doctors also make very good use of modern medical equipment in the process of diagnosis. This is the result of the implementation of policies of visioning and long range planning. We have highly qualified Nigerians here and abroad, who could perform similar feat.
PREPARATION: Those leaders of pre-independence Nigeria knew what they wanted and prepared very hard to locate themselves in strategic positions. History records them as having done well. They found their mission relatively easy to accomplish because they were very prepared: psychologically, emotionally and educationally. They had very broad horizons because they developed their intellect to be able to compete with just anybody in the world. They were matured in behaviour and practice as they moved the country to greater heights with increasing skills. None of them was 50 years old at the time they fought for Nigeria’s independence. There are feelings that these great Nigerians have an edge of aspiring leaders of this era because the equipped themselves properly by reading voraciously and with fortitude, while also having strategic plans for total development. Some schools of thought have argued that Standard Six – the terminal class in elementary schools before 1950; could easily be equated with a university degree of the current era.
VISIONING & LONG RANGE PLANNING: Given the importance of visioning and long range planning, it might really not be a bad idea for anybody aspiring to govern or lead in 2023, at any of the three tiers to have started researching into policies, programmes and plans and how to impact the nation. The Free Education policy of the defunct Western Region Government of Nigeria took Obafemi Awolowo and his team three years of serious planning before adoption as a policy. The proposals were presented to the Western Region House of Assembly in 1952, and the policy that evolved was officially launched in January 1955, as a cardinal programme of the Action Group in Western Nigeria. Any serious Nigerian who wishes to govern or seek election for a political office in 2023 at any of the tiers should by now be putting a team of professionals together for a blueprint. But this should not in any way hinder, or be allowed to disturb the workings of the incumbents. Any insider in governments, who wishes to serve on such bodies, should ideally opt out so that this does not cause crisis of confidence and disloyalty.
A UNITED & PROGRESSIVE NIGERIA: The consolidation of democracy and good governance are very two important factors of development that African nations are grappling with. The world is indeed changing. It is important for a definite political philosophy or a coherent set of principles to evolve that will give meaning and direction to a country’s political culture and institutions for development to be recorded. Apparently, there is no magic wand for turning the situation around, beyond good governance, leadership, viable democratic culture, planning and visioning, as well as commitment and dedication of the part of all Nigerians. Many countries of the Far-East, widely known as the Asian Tigers were at the same level of development as Nigeria in 1960; they have all now pulled far ahead and transformed their economies. Countries like China, Malaysia, India, Japan, and South Korea have performed economic miracles through massive investments in their human capital and have been able to develop their manufacturing sectors. And this is why my choice of leader would always be based on personal conviction
THE WAY FORWARD: Singapore remains a case study in commitment and dedication to the common good. Nigeria is still in search of a common set of values that all Nigerians can relate to. The Vision 2010 document points out that: ‘’What is required is a paradigm shift in the country’s political, socio-cultural and economic values’’ It concludes that “politically, Nigerians need to build a society that upholds and defends the principles and practice of democracy, respects fundamental human rights and the rule of law, cherishes and promotes unity in diversity. ‘’Socio-culturally, Nigerians need to build a society that emphasizes national identity and merit, rewards excellence, honesty, integrity, respect for the rule of law, caring for one another and the environment, as well as co-operation and harmony.’’
‘’Economically, Nigeria needs a change in philosophy in favour of a strong public and private sector partnership to achieve sustainable economic growth and development that is private sector-driven with the government as an enabler”. We must stop all those utterances capable of further disuniting Nigerians and making a mockery of our nation in the international community. It could be safely argued that the ordinary Nigerians on the streets, toiling hard to live would never mind who governs at local, state and federal governments, provided there is food on the table and life more abundant for all. We should aim at building a united and prosperous polity that would be the pride of even generations yet to come.
May the good Lord bless Nigeria.