Developing minds, developing nations – Part 1
Nations are not labelled “Developed” just because they have world-class infrastructure, which are after all only by-products of development but because of the amount and quality of knowledge that they have created through exercised developed minds, by which I mean minds that are able to diagnose society’s true problems (without being distracted by symptoms or consequences thereof), trends and requirements, project society’s fate, and figure out appropriate therapy for society’s ills. The shape, topology, and organisation of society are veritable indicators of the maturity and development state of the mind of her citizens.
An incontrovertible evidence that the mind of a people is undeveloped or at best developing is that they believe foreign ideas more than the home-grown. They surrender the task of thinking and imagination to foreigners, whom they hold in deifying reverence. They lose pride in their own heritage, and fail to understand their generational role in the natural expectation of improvements. To improve the quality of thought is an important societal duty, and the process is called “Education.” This process instigates knowledge creation, whose aim is to fulfill man’s divine task of dominating his environment. In so far as society fails in this task, it has betrayed the purpose of living.
As a citizen of the biggest black nation on earth, and reading my readers’ comments, which is my adopted ritual, I can report with sadness that the contemporary black man, to a considerable extent, believes he is lost without the guidance, patronage and protection of the white man or the “developed world”. He is so afraid of the potential imagined reprisals from the white man on his actions in self-interest that he literally waits for permission from him to take them. I am getting really frustrated by this stubbornness of the mind, which has remained inured to this self- deprecating disposition.
Let me provide some exhibits of this chronic black diffidence: For Black scholars to ape out western proposition that “developing” countries (a category in which all black nations fall) must devalue their currencies, as a solution to their economic problems, to me, is indicative of lack of imagination and sense of history. To such scholars, whatever the World Bank or IMF says is an unimpeachable doctrine. Since the 1980s when many black nations, out of lack of imagination, started devaluing their currencies, only because the white man said so, and those currencies have since been devalued by thousands of percentage points (for instance, the Nigerian naira, officially, is now worth only about one-two hundredth of its 1980 value!) their economies have reaped no benefits from this devaluation doctrine. And without learning from history, some black scholars (even economists) are still calling for further devaluation of their countries’ currencies as an economic “solution”, because the IMF says so.
The “privatization” of our commonwealth is un-African (e.g. the take-over of black lands, communal heritage, by whites in some African countries has provoked violent reprisals or the signs are there that they will occur). Whenever social ownership re-engineering conflicts with the inherent culture of a people, resistance and failure are bound to happen. In African communities, it is an abomination for an individual to take over ownership of property that belongs to all community members. In some African communities, such individual may lose life in strange circumstances not long after. In others, only the king can claim ownership of lands (the most important possession of an African after children) in his domain. Even at that, the king would dare forcefully take someone’s property and give another only in exchange for violence, talk less of taking the community’s commonwealth and handing over to an individual or group of individuals in the name of “privatization”, an individualistic economic coupling that is, to the African, a chimera.
Many black scholars see “privatization” as the silver bullet for economic woes and claim that “Government has no business in business.” African culture encourages private enterprise without sacrificing common ownership enterprise; and so government (elders and kings) has business in business. In African communities, members help each other in activities such as farming, building of houses, preparation for marriage rituals, even as they collectively own schools and other enterprises. They would vehemently resist handing over of those ventures to individuals in the name of “privatisation”.
Nigeria has “privatised” her electricity infrastructure: six generation companies (GENCOS) and 11 distribution companies (DISCOS) have been sold (“privatised”), while the only transmission company, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is being managed by a private firm. About three years after (since November 2013), what is the result? We now have more darkness than before, more outrageous bills for prolonged darkness than before, and poor billing standards or, may I say, more “estimated billing” that is not based on any imaginative or scientific basis? What more? Those new owners have been given “bail out” of billions of naira, supposedly belonging to “taxpayers”; and they have responded by hitting the taxpayer with poor services and unjustified bills!
Here is the excuse: The electricity business is a capital-intensive venture, and investors need to recoup their investment. Unfortunately, even the present government has bought into this narrative. Does it make sense to call extortion recouping of investment? Do you call estimated billing recouping of investment? In most towns and villages in states in Nigeria (Bayelsa State being a classic example, where Otuoke community of uncle GEJ has not enjoyed public electricity since January 2016, and has received no electricity supply since their governor claimed at a campaign debate last year that he had paid some money for gas to power the Imiringi turbine that was built by former Governor of the old Rivers State, Melford Okilo more than 30 years ago, the only source of electricity to the community until 2013, when it was shut down and failed to release even a flash until during governorship campaigns of late last year when it coughed out some electricity for only few days while the campaigns lasted), it is a policy of DISCOS to not deploy electricity meters!
• To be continued
• Shilgba contributed the piece via firstname.lastname@example.org