No economic growth, no democracy
Virtually all those who study Western social sciences and related fields (political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, education, administration, law, etc.), are brought up to think that elections are all a nation needs to promote democracy. Nigeria has been democratising since 1999 because the nation has had many elections since then. Western education and related fields of study are devoid of a sense of history. It is for lack of a sense of history on the part of the Nigerian expert, especially lawyers and political scientists, that Nigeria made the grave error of adopting the British-type parliamentary system in 1960 and the less responsible American type presidential system in 1979, because the two systems are too advanced for Nigeria.
Young Nigeria does not have the corresponding knowledge-based institutions and the economic status that make the advanced political systems to function properly in Britain and America. Many people have been brought up to believe that the political equation of a nation must be solved before the economic equation. So, we hear Western trained experts say no democracy, no economic progress. Democracy would bring about rapid development, roads and bridges are fruits of democracy. But the true situation is: no economic progress, no peace; no true economic growth (mass participation in economic activities), no democratisation (mass participation in political activities).
When a society stagnates over a long time, violence is inevitable. Those who think that democracy is achieved before industrialisation are very wrong. History, logic and the Nigerian experience do not support the belief that once a nation organises elections and sets up national and state assemblies, economic development follows, automatically. All Western nations achieve industrialisation long before democracy. They all experienced bloody revolutions because economic growth was very slow. This article is written to explain why economic development precedes political development and what Nigeria must do to achieve rapid industrialisation and democratisation.
The relationship between the economic sphere and the political sphere in a nation may be likened to that between the coal-pot and the coal in it on the one hand and the kettle and the water in it placed on top of the coal-pot on the other hand. The coal-pot and the coal in it in this analogy represent the economic sphere while the kettle and the water in it represent the political sphere. It is the heat generated in the coal-pot over time that determines the temperature of the water in the kettle. Just as the heat generated by the coal in the coal-pot determines the quantity of heat received by the kettle and the water in it, so the status of the economy determines the nature of the politics in a nation. No nation without a strong economic base matures politically.
America, Canada, Germany and India are some of the federal and democratic systems cited frequently as those working well. Of these, India is the oldest, poorest and least stable.
America is probably the most stable because of its economic strength. Technology built America and made it a world power in a few centuries. In 1783, the United States having survived the Revolutionary War (the War of Independence 1775-1783), took its place among the free nations. Its future was assessed by Fredrick the Great of Russia, who dismissed it as a mere temporary freak. It would fall apart, it would not exist for a long time he said, because it was too large (Bulletin of Science and Technology & Society, 1984). The nation was over 800,000 square miles in area, four times as large as France, and had a population slightly more than three million squeezed into the Atlantic coast. Except for certain areas along the coasts, America was a trackless wilderness.
The problem was increased in 1803 with the purchase of the territory of Louisiana, another wilderness. The purchase doubled America’s size to over 1.7 million square miles – an area almost as large as all Europe outside Russia. New and better roads, railroads and canals were needed. When the American Civil War began in 1861 the prediction of Fredrick the Great met its ultimate test. It was technology that saved the Union. Were it not for the North’s industrial and technological superiority, the South would not have been beaten, and the Union would have fallen apart. Technology built America and proved Fredrick the Great of Russia wrong.
Through education, an ethnic society is converted into an educated society. An illiterate society cannot promote rapid industrialisation and democratisation. So, the first variable a young nation like Nigeria ought to emphasize is education. The second variable for promoting industrialisation and democratisation is training. A wise leadership trains the educated people to acquire complementary practical skills so as to create an educated and skilled society. Educated people not trained to acquire complementary practical skills will experience mass unemployment, high crime wave, poverty, corruption, do or die elections and other evils. This type of society does not promote industrialisation and democratisation. This is the type of situation in Nigeria today.
The third thing Nigeria ought to emphasize to promote rapid industrialisation and democratisation is full employment policy. Full employment policy is critical to promoting rapid industrialisation and democratisation. That is because our research works revealed that training and full employment policy play a special role in promoting sustainable economic growths, industrialisation and development (SEGID).
Education, training and employment are therefore, the principal tools for promoting rapid development, including industrialisation and democratisation. Full employment policy is also critical to the institutionalisation of a society. Institutionalisation of society is the fourth factor Nigeria must emphasize to be saved. There is a general agreement that the existence of some institutions is important and indeed indispensable to promoting democracy.
However, many authors of democracy do not know how the institutions are developed and sustained. Human beings and the groups they form, their activities over time, are the fundamental promoters of institutions. Buildings (sky- scrapers), roads and bridges, electricity generating plants and transmission lines and other structures, do not constitute democratic institutions. When knowledgeable and skilled people become employed, they form knowledge-based groups which later become institutions. It is the knowledge-based institutions that regulate the behaviour of citizens in functioning federations and democracies and prevent the citizens from doing what they ought not to do. The institutions are built rapidly when educated and skilled citizens are employed in a nation. Mass unemployment frustrates the development of institutions.
African nations must adopt high-intensity learning – education, training and full employment policies – to promote rapid industrialisation and democratisation in Africa.