Developing minds, developing nations – Part 3
On predictability, it does not require high mathematical and engineering ingenuity to work out a dependable timetable for electricity supply to neighbourhoods (now that we don’t have enough to go round), and communicate same through text messaging to customers to know hours of the day that public electricity would be supplied every day. Equity requires that I must not be denied public electricity only because my neighbours are not willing to pay for electricity, which does not make sense. Value for money, because I must not pay for what I do not consume.
Until government intervenes to address these, nothing has changed, or rather things have turned out worse. Africans must create development models that accord with their cultural values of private enterprise lubricated by communal ownership. It is not either-or. A child born in African communities belongs to the whole community; but he still bears his father’s name. Although the land belongs to the individual within the community, the whole community must be involved at the time of sale or transfer of ownership. These examples suffice. “Privatization” simply means selfish ownership, a trait that is deplored in the African community or lexicon.
Local “Contributions Banking” within African economies is fast threatening modern banking today. Loans from them come at minimal costs, shorn of sundry charges that obtain in modern banking. Few days ago, I warned a banker who came to my office that with outrageous lending interests charged by Nigerian banks, they were increasingly losing relevance among Nigerians in Nigeria’s development efforts. For instance, in the 2016 budget proposal, the Federal Government plans to push N500 billion (five hundred billion naira) to cooperatives for lending to members at small interest rates in order to encourage entrepreneurship. This means a large number of small-scale businesses would be grown without inputs of commercial banks in Nigeria! Bank lending has dropped, and shall drop yet further.
We have some exciting examples of good exercise of the African mind. In the global community of sartorial fashion and design, Nigerians rank among the very best. No wonder, among the top three richest black women on earth is Nigeria’s fashion icon, Folorunsho Alakija. Their creativity in textile designs within their rich cultural heritage has won global acclaim. In this area, we can confidently say Nigeria is developed. It is about the mind, its creativity, flexibility and appetite to absorb knowledge. In the music industry, Nigerian artists have won global and continental awards and attention. Their fusion of lyrics and instrumentals is quite appealing. Here too, we can confidently say Nigeria is developed.
We have areas of human endeavour where Nigerians are not developed. But it is all about the mind. We have not been able to create a governing system that suits us. For instance, among some nationalities that make up Nigeria, there were kings ruling in kingdoms without deputy kings. Have you got my point? A king only chose among the council of elders those that would represent him when unavoidably absent from the business of governing for a season. In others such as the Tivs and Igbos that practised gerontocracy, elders governed. We have suddenly adopted an expensive American system of government, which we don’t practise well nor is it in agreement with our culture; and it has become a burden threatening our union because, for us, traditionally, “zoning” is a way of life, which ensures equity when the elders or kings share benefits in our communities. But does the American democratic system recognize “zoning”?
We pretend to be a constitutional democracy, while our constitution does not recognize “zoning”, which we have come to introduce informally but controversially into “democracy”, whose definition is in conflict. And do not our culture and experience prove that the four-year tenure we have, without cultural or social basis, copied from the U.S, besides being cost-additive, causes more attention to be focused on the next election soon after than on the next development accomplishment? As long as we remain stubbornly attached to western democracy bereft of cultural modification or adaptation, so long will allegations of marginalisation last and our journey toward Country Development be delayed. Our kings are today simply called “traditional rulers”, with no constitutionally defined roles. But do we call, for instance, the Queen of England a “traditional ruler”? We don’t.
• Shilgba contributed the piece via firstname.lastname@example.org
The resources and infrastructure in the domains of our “traditional rulers” are usually not in their care, so how do we expect them and their subjects to care about them while the same resources are being exploited by those they consider outsiders, with their environment being destroyed in the process? Normal people don’t destroy or steal what they know or feel belongs to them; and collective ownership usually instigates collective protection. How proud can we be as a people when we cannot even fashion a governing system that is harmonious with our culture? Do we realize that in Nigeria, the people listen more to their kings (whom we derisively call “traditional rulers”) than they do to even the country’s president? But under the present arrangement, even the governor of a state can remove a “traditional ruler” in his state from the throne, and there will be no adverse consequences? We have lost touch with our history, so how can we make progress?
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