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Alternative approach to Nigeria’s development

By Okachikwu Dibia
25 December 2009   |   12:11 pm
NIGERIA, greatly endowed and created 95 years ago has remained underdeveloped. Hence I have been reflecting on Nigeria 's current development approach and it appears to me that as long as this approach has kept Nigeria underdeveloped, it is not the appropriate approach. Nigeria therefore needs alternative ideas with which to develop. Meanwhile, let us briefly understand the existing approach, but a good insight is for you to check-out election posters or the newspaper pages by state governors on how they have developed their states.

Nigeria ‘s approach to her development has remained the same since independence in 1960. The approach is basically that of building infrastructure. Can somebody tell us what else Nigeria has done outside what I have just stated above? But the ideology that sustains this behaviour remains a secret. Ask Nigerians what could make Nigeria develop? Some say a developed Nigeria is where there is functional infrastructure and sufficient investment to move Nigeria ‘s GDP upwards. Others claim it is the existence of true democracy, respect for the rule of law, equal rights, justice and functional institutions.

Deceitful elite believe it is when we increase the derivation percentage, have resource control and create more states and local government areas, empower the youths, reduce or eliminate unemployment and corruption and manage Nigeria in a more accountable and transparent manner. “Uncritical patriotic minds” have claimed that it is only when a group of Nigerians who studied abroad are able to come back home and take over the leadership of Nigeria and run it professionally. Yet others say it is when we guarantee the well-being of Nigerians through visionary leadership expected to have the “big picture”. Thus, you will agree with me that there appears to be no consensus on what exactly is Nigeria ‘s development ideology and it therefore could mean that Nigeria has no development ideology.

This situation has been roughly and wrongly exploited by Nigeria ‘s leadership who now insists that Nigeria ‘s development is the building of infrastructure (to them the functionality of the infrastructure is immaterial and this goes to the heart of the purpose for building infrastructure: selfish greed). But this leadership has forgotten that infrastructure is merely a facilitator to development and cannot be development in itself. It has allowed the teaching of irrelevant education curriculum in Nigerian schools. It has institutionalized corruption through religious, ethnic and professional pretences and maneuverings. Such maneuverings include the current selfish attitude that has sold Niger Delta, the laundering of secret society and cultism into state and national politics in order to legitimize them and the huge amount Nigeria spends on imported goods and services etc.

This amount is the equivalent of the amount of underdevelopment we suffer. This underdevelopment approach ensures that Nigeria will forever lack capacity to develop herself and will continue to depend on the outside world to survive. One good shameful example of this is that Nigeria is now planning to ship her crude oil to Senegal for refining (see The Guardian and Thisday of 10th November 2009). This is called development dissonance; it breeds underdevelopment. Note that it took Senegal serious mindedness and discipline to build refineries that have excess capacity. It was not all about money as it is with every Nigerian government. It does not work that way!

So, what is the alternative approach to Nigeria ‘s development? An alternative development approach for Nigeria is one that first of all seeks to establish a relevant development ideology. This ideology must be concerned with how Nigerians can consistently improve Nigeria ‘s environment, talents, resources and occupations using her own processes and solutions. Note that the items of development (environment, talents, resources and occupations) are raw, hence they need to be improved upon, and this is the essence of the word “development”. Note also that the environment, resources and occupations are strongly related.

Precisely, Nigeria ‘s development must organically commence with the talents of Nigeria and who must be truly in-charge of their environment, having a free talent-based educational system that discovers and equips her talents to be able to transform and steadily improve their resources and occupations for the purpose of meeting their needs. This development ideology is called developmentalism. The driver of this development is the talent. This is because at creation, God put His works in the talents of the people, hence talents are the engine cells that propel the development locomotive. It is not absolutely that of Socialism or Capitalism, it is Talentism. Talent discovery and development must be the primary focus of Nigeria ‘s free and compulsory education. This will make Nigeria ‘s education relevant, connected to the talents of the people, and reduce unemployment and bring down employment from the potentiality realm.

Note that every true development is sensitively related to environment and resources. That is because different environments bear different resources and different talents needed in such different environments to develop the resources differently. This is the reason development must proceed differently from one environment to another to reflect the uneven distribution of resources and talents across the world. Hence it becomes illogical and unreasonable to seek foreign ideas and goods for the development of Nigeria ; and that is one reason that no matter the amount of funds spent to have such outsiders develop Nigeria , it hardly works. Similarly, Nigeria ‘s development must discriminate among the different peoples of Nigeria because they are not evenly endowed given their environment, talents and resources. So it will be frustrating to insist that Nigerian peoples should develop evenly in a united pattern.

Nigeria must allow the peoples of Nigeria self determination as their development right so that they can assert and take charge of the development of their environment, talents, resources and occupations. Such a right requires that the people’s development should focus on areas where they have comparative advantages in resource endowments. That is the reason it is proper that the development of the Tiv, Igala, Ikwerre, Etche etc be primarily based on agriculture; the Ogoni on crude oil and gas; the Ijaw on hydro resources and crude oil; the Yoruba on cocoa; the Fulani on cattle business; the Igbo on limestone and coal etc.

An example of development or a developed people is when the Ogoni has the capacity to preserve its environment and at the same time be able to discover, exploit, refine and produce petroleum products for its well being. Nigeria should as a matter of sufficient necessity allow her peoples their development rights to move up their lives. Abuja , the political capital of Nigeria , cannot give development to the nations of Nigeria . What Abuja should and can do is to ensure an enabling environment where the ethnic states can function freely and co-habit harmoniously as equals. Having sufficiently granted this right, when an ethnic state fails, it does not have any federal government or other ethnic group to blame.

To continue regarding the building of infrastructure as development in Nigeria is highly unfortunate and can never lead the country to any form of true development. The best Nigeria can get is to become the Dubai or Saudi Arabia of Africa and still be categorised as an underdeveloped country. Whether this is under Capitalism or Socialism is immaterial. Thus Nigeria will continue to spend millions, billions and trillions of Naira without development.