Nigeria at 61: Where do we go from here?
Solution-Driven and Forward-Thinking Approaches
There is no country on the planet Earth with a higher ratio of an aggregate of natural resource endowments to natural hazards and disasters than Nigeria. Nigeria has the best natural endowments to the natural hazards balance sheet in the world!
For the younger generation sitting here who may not know me, I am first and foremost an Environmentalist. I was Director-General of the now-defunct Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) and, indeed, I was privileged to be the leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto Japan in 1997 that set in motion the now-famous Kyoto Protocol. So, I should know what I am talking about.
Not only is our country more endowed with natural resources, the geographic area that Nigeria occupies carries about the least risk potentials from earth crust, water and/or wind-based hazards like earthquakes, landslides, tsunami, hurricanes, tornadoes etc. for any country on the planet. Nigeria is more endowed, more blessed, more geologically stable, more shielded from natural disasters and has more capacity to adapt to and/or absorb the impact of climate change. Our diversity (biological, physical terrain and culture wise) is second to none!
Our case, therefore, as citizens, is akin to the proverbial “akebaje” in Yoruba folklore. Nigerians are like Spoilt brats in the presence of God Almighty. As the Yoruba would say: Akebaje ti nba omo olowo je, meaning over pampering/undue indulgence is what has rendered the child of the affluent useless: First, you find him crying, and when he is asked “what is the matter”, he says it is because he is hungry; So, you instruct the stewards to serve him a good plate of food. Barely a minute after the plate of food has been placed in front of him, he bursts out crying again; and, patiently, you ask him what the problem is this time; and he answers, “the pile of meat in this plate is impeding the path of my morsel to the soup below”!
As Nigerians, we need to stop acting like spoilt brats. We must sit up and be responsible and appreciate the enormous opportunities that God has placed before us by virtue of our natural resource endowments, His protection over us from natural disasters, and the beauty of our triple intertwining diversities across biological, physical terrain and culture spheres. These are wholesome blessings that present themselves to us as opportunities as a nation; opportunities that will elude us when we embrace them otherwise with sectional agenda.
It is therefore imperative that our political leaders desist from promoting sectional but national agenda.
Sectional agenda gives only temporary/short-lived advantages. Sooner than later, the other groups will see through those agendas. Not only would such sectional agenda generate tensions, but our experience is also showing that sectional interests that have been adopted as policies in the past have, in fact, started to backfire. The evidence covers a whole range of policy issues that were products of our regionally divergent interests and attitudes, from family planning, child education, quota system, to mineral resource extraction, revenue sharing formula and even the sharing of political appointments. They are creating more challenges for the entire nation and, indeed, for those upon whom these parameters have hitherto conferred some seeming advantage.
I salute the courage of the prominent politician who went on national television to confess that rigging was a major tool for winning their elections and outlining the rigging pathway. It should not be difficult for us to link the multifaceted factors assembled to effect rigging of elections, the injustice perpetrated by the acts and the multitude of opportunities lost with, not just underdevelopment and poverty but, the security challenges now plaguing our nation. Of what benefits were those rigging, other than the acquisition of temporary political power? In the end, the successful riggers of yesterday will be out-rigged in the next elections and out-maneuvered in the courts to secure underserved justice. And the power brokers will begin to die off one by one, with the public announcement of their deaths rekindling memories of their atrocities all wrapped in rebuke and oftentimes curses. As the Holy Book says: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? Perhaps the personal confession of that politician (who has since passed on) was the atonement that he needed for his soul to be saved in the hereafter. Who knows?
Considering that the two-contending/polar regions of Nigeria have Islam and Christianity as their dominant religions, it is advised that our political leaders should, in earnest, learn to be guided by the tenets of their faiths. Incidentally, these tenets are captured in the Rotary Club’s 4-Way Test:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build Goodwill And Better Friendships?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all?
My own faith teaches that I should do unto others as I would want them to do to me. There is no doubt that by subjecting any of our desires for our respective sectional groups to this 4-Way test and making them pass the test of truth, fairness to all, goodwill and better friendships as well as being beneficial to all, we would be fostering peace and harmony and laying the foundation for the prosperity of our nation. This is the least that we should demand of our elites, the political class, opinion leaders, religious leaders, traditional institutions, and community leaders.
Those currently in government need to be reminded of the key requirement that government offices and agencies must be alert to their responsibilities and responsive to the yearnings of the citizens. In the face of the many local challenges that have begun to coalesce and snowball to national problems, this requirement has now become an urgent imperative.
The capacity for proactive initiatives is a defining key attribute of professionalism and leadership. It is an innate quality that sits at the nexus of inspiration and reflex. When it is lacking in people holding executive positions, the safety valve lies in their dual capacity for receptiveness to creative problem-solving ideas by others and the courage to leverage those ideas to take prompt actions. The current situations in our nation stem from an increasing pattern where all three qualities (proactive initiatives, receptivity to ideas and the courage to act) are lacking in many of those holding top executive positions in the country. Government is called upon to consider, without further delay, placing premium importance on the capacity for proactive initiatives, receptivity to ideas, and the courage to take prompt actions in making appointments into top executive positions in government offices and agencies.
This is my humble submission. May God grant us all the will to be receptive to ideas that will redirect our country on the path of unity, peace, progress and prosperity, the motto inscribed boldly in our Coat of Arms.
Happy Independence Day
Dr Adegoroye delivered this at Lux Terra Leadership Foundation town hall meeting, Abuja on October 1, 2021.