The pains of underdevelopment
We feel the pains of underdevelopment every day, that is, the pains of the Third World. Whereas in Christian eschatology the Third World is paradise, for us in the present system of things, it is the world of death, squalor, abject poverty, misery and pain. For us underdevelopment is not an abstraction; it is not a theoretical thing, not a subject you go far away to look for or research into. It sits with us in our homes, nuclear or extended families, as we walk the streets or drive away from home, as we get to the office or when we get our pay cheques. It sits with us when we travel within towns and villages, from one town to the next, right inside commercial transport or in the sweetness of our private cars. For us underdevelopment is lack of infrastructure support for the things that we do in order to live; not to live well, but just to live, trying to be happy and fulfilled – what the developed world takes for granted.
We feel it when we have to change the car shock absorbers too soon, and when we have to change car tyres because of bad roads. The road is either undeveloped or underdeveloped; the police whom we encounter on the way and the fellow passengers who jostle with us even when we fly are all signs of underdevelopment. It slaps us badly when we fall ill, or when we start primary education or move on to secondary school or enter the university – when a thousand students sit in a lecture hall and listen to teachers without a public address system. We feel it when we eat carbohydrates without protein. My brother, underdevelopment is brother to the African, brother to the Nigerian, and brother to the Black man, that is.
What we find difficult to understand is why our leaders have adopted either by design or default the underdevelopment model. Is it to make them big and the rest small, insignificant? Is that why when they are sick they go abroad for treatment. When the ordinary people are sick they die. If it’s real a emergency, any Nigerian, rich or poor, would die. This is one of the reasons God is very popular and present in Nigeria. Uncertainty about our environment, about our future, our children, makes God the real Helper; it is the reason so many millions run to religion. Which is tragic, sad and unfortunate.
We encounter underdevelopment when we open factories and ask manufacturers to depend on power generating sets, when we export our stolen funds to banks in England and America, when we sponsor our kids to expensive schools in the Western world and pay in dollars and pounds, when we wait for President Donald Trump to endorse our elected leaders and we begin to dance skelewu along the wild streets of social media. What about when we visit the office of the Big Man in our community? Or when we have to lobby for our entitlements after retirement and pension? Or when we are compelled to fund the police to effect an arrest? Or when a policeman has to buy his uniform?
And when the Nigerian feels underdevelopment sometimes he curses the current leadership, that is, the people in power. He fails to realize that our country has been host to underdevelopment since after independence. It is true that the early politicians made plans for tomorrow, made plans for ten years, for twenty years even thirty years. They made plans for steel development, for electricity stability, for rail development, and for expanding education. It is also true that when the military ‘misadventurers’ came they cancelled all those plans and introduced ‘with immediate effect’ into the national lexicon. We all sang ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’ as the slow, cantankerous ways of the politicians were discarded and thrown into the dustbin.
Before long, we came to see that whereas the inimitable Walter Rodney wrote ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,’ we were compelled to write ‘How the Military Underdeveloped Nigeria’ in the silos of our hearts. But it was too late. The head was already severed from the body. There was no bitterness when we came to that conclusion though. There was no bitterness because we had actually egged the military on while their starched khaki impressed our sensibilities. I remember how one prominent, misled vibrant and influential journalist wrote that ‘military change is our equivalent of democratic change because they spoke for us! We were so happily foolish in our understanding of development.
You see, in the General Hospitals the doctors tend to perform routine tasks, simply responding to fever with treatment for malaria. In our innocent state of mind, a fever can only be symptom for one ailment – malaria- the greatest scourge of the continent. By the way, malaria is very familiar to all of us, rich and poor, high and low, dark or light in complexion. It is ever present. Malaria kills more people than any other disease in Nigeria yet we have not devoted ALL our energies towards eradicating it. In our innocence we wait for the White saviour of the Black world to help us eradicate it. Pray, how would they, why should they eradicate malaria when billions are harvested out of our collective tragedy every year? Indeed, we have inherited the foolishness of our always-laughing ancestors!
The one that baffles me the most is the education sector. We send our children to schools to seek education where there is no power to light up their classrooms or power computers where they have some units. The Internet is not available. Even the small bulbs in the schools don’t work. The most terrible buildings in communities are the structures which house our primary schools. So when it rains the children get unsolicited blessing from rain water. Their teachers crouch in one corner, wondering why they chose this miserable profession. The teachers are not well paid. They are the first to be denied salaries once there is a hiccup. We look down on them; we don’t even allow them to be our tenants. Yet we want the kids to be leaders of tomorrow based on the education which we give them. Underdevelopment is in our genes my fellow compatriots.
Every day of the week, we run into churches to pray and pray and pray so that God will make a miracle and transform our land, we believe that ‘great God will come from the sky and change everything’. Among the prayer warriors are scientists and economists, physicists, bankers and medical doctors whom God has given the brains to develop their world. No; these must run to Him and order him by fire and brimstone to come down immediately to give us power supply! How patient God has been with us! The mindset that God will come do everything for us is another form of underdevelopment. I remember the parable of the talents which Christ the Perfect Master once gave humanity!
Sadly, when millions of Nigerians examine the queue of leaders jostling to lead the land, there is hardly any with the proper vision to holistically deal with the problem of underdevelopment. This is the real tragedy- the feeling that the jostling will not bring any change, will not give us power twenty-four hours, will not stop the foolish, senseless killings taking place across the land, will not create jobs for the young and vibrant people of our land, will not make a better world for retirees, will not vigorously call for a re-structuring of the Nigerian polity, will not alter the equation of things! My brother, underdevelopment is a pain!
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