Ideas, think tanks, intellectuals in nation building – Part 2
The Ibo is seen as extraordinarily good in business. He has long transport routes (now reduced by armed robbers), he is good at electronics, spare parts, and building luxury houses in Lekki, Festac, Abuja, Port Harcourt, etc. He is an aggressive ambitious and achieving businessman. He seems to have social structures that encourage enterprises. So also has Hausa Fulani as shown by Dangote, Ismaila, Rabiu, Funtua, etc. The Hausa Fulani are courteous, helpful, and I would not be who I am today if help had not come from the Northerners.
Again, I asked, when bandits capture school girls in Chibok and Dapchi, are you enraged that these are Nigerian girls to be molested as playthings by a terrorist organization? Do you feel personally violated? What kind of ethics do we teach in school? In the West, there is the concept of fair play? Do we have it enough in Nigeria or is every issue politicized along with tribal lives?
The US constitutions start with a preamble (which we copied) that all men are created equal, have an inherent right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness: that all men are equal under the law; no one is above the law. These same precepts are in our constitution but do they hold? When George Floyd died by a white policeman choking him with his knee on his cortarouid vein, there were protests all over the US and other parts of the West. George Floyd was a black man but the protests which had lasted for eight months were made up of all shades of people, in fact, mostly white. I did not see too much of a protest against Chibok and Dapchi.
The Northerners are diplomatic, respectful but they are great money changers often outperforming calculators. There are values that we could find among the Ijaw, the Ibibio, the Itesekiri, the Urhobo, the Yoruba. Perhaps this is a job for think tanks collating our values and finding glue to them to make them Nigeria’s values.
Ambition is strong in all Nigerians; Nigerians want to succeed and would do anything to succeed: Walk across Sahara, enter a dingy to get to Europe, manufacture documents to get to the United States, go to work in South Africa, UAE, Lebanon, Belgium, France, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Iceland, etc Even the excessive spirituality among our fundamentalist Christians and Moslems (who am I to doubt the depth of their sincerity?) Is fired by ambition. But there seems to be a transitional relationship in the zeal and piety of the worshippers who call on holy ghost fire to destroy their enemies and swear haram to all unbelievers: all these people are waiting and praying for their epiphany. There must be some more good that can come from this desperate devotion.
When people see that the presidential appointments have been a little one-sided, I believe protests are in order, but it should be protested by all including those from the areas favoured. No Yoruba man should be happy if 70% of the federal and supreme court appointments are Yoruba. He should protest against such deviancy. The greatest good is contented people. If the head of the army, Navy, Police, Immigration, and Customs were all Ijaws appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan, I and a whole lot of Ijaws would protest.
A think tank can look into the functioning of the Political Parties, how policy is formulated, and how to implement them. Chief Awolowo was a Political genius – he saw that education was the most important tool of all development and started free primary education in Western Nigeria and that gap has never been filled. He wanted to give Nigerians a joyous life, a life of more abundance: a feel-good enhancement.
If you have the above, the blocks of your nation-building are there. In fact, they are there now but we pretend to be blind. Our contribution entrenched federal character; that you must resign your post if you leave your political party- Do we expect God to come to show us the light and the people will find the way? If it seems that Nigeria launches from one catastrophe to another, it is probably because there are no think tanks. Ideas move policy: policies move a nation: clarity solidifies a nation. Investigate adhocism spells doom.
We need think tanks on the future and price of oil and indeed all our agriculture products (compare with the Falconi Institute in Israel); what would be the position of oil and coal in the energy sector in the next decade or two when electric cars, electric truck, electric trains are finally launched? Will Nigeria ever have had a steel industry? If so, to do what? If not, what are the implications of not having steel? We have tried to have a steel industry since 1978; we have failed for 42 years. We tried aluminum and paper we failed.
What is the blueprint for growing our economy? It cannot be on the price of oil. What innovation have we brought into this most crucial of Nigeria’s lives? We have not but does that mean we cannot? If NNPC is notoriously expensive to run, what should we do? Suppose we had a study group to cut NNPC costs by saying 30%. Have these questions ever been asked? Inflation is rated at 13% at the moment. Can it not be reduced to what is average in the rest of the prosperous world to below 3%. Have these questions ever been asked? What are the values of Nigeria? How do you stamp these values into the Nigerian psyche and use these for development and progress?
It is good to have over 100 universities in Nigeria. But to what purpose? Are they the spigot of ideas that become useful in industry, commerce, science, etc.? What arrangements have been made for the hundreds of thousands of graduates produced? A sea of unemployed graduates is a certainty for political instability. If we had a think tank to which Government listens, we would never have closed our borders. Whoever does that when there is no state of war?
If Nigeria had an appropriate thinking machine and implementation ability, we would not be flaring gas since 1960, when the rest of the world woke up to the importance of gas, we abandoned our refineries- all not working despite the fact that they could produce substantial gas. We jumped on the bandwagon of fueling our cars in Nigeria from using petrol and diesel to using gas, whose conversion the Government promised would be free and now changed its mind to charging N250, 000 per conversion. What kind of drunkards do we have decided our policies?
In the South-South, Warri, Sapele, Burutu, Ports do not work. Warri refinery does not work. The Warri airport is sold and then closed. There are no good roads in South-South. What message is being sent to the indigenes of South-South?
Dr. Cole, OFR, is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil. He wrote a part of this article to commemorate Dr. Uma Eleazu, Chairman Think Tank, on his 94th birthday.