The choices we make, the road we take – Part 2
What about us all, individually and in our various demographic groupings, striving to follow the dictum of Love of God and Love of Neighbour and using the more beneficial instruments of genuine nation-building and all-round, all-inclusive and sustainable national growth and development, to provide the greatest good for the greatest number and in the process simultaneously prospering the Nation itself and all its constituent parts and sections? Choices, choices and choices.
This is a particularly sobering thought because each individual is endowed with the ability/faculty to reason, think and understand how things are and the unimpeded free will to choose between different courses of action, to think, talk and act the way he or she decides. Each individual is also endowed with a conscience that tells him or her what is good and what is bad.
Indeed, it should even be more sobering and provoking of deeper thought that the Almighty Creator in His Wisdom allows each individual the unfettered free will to think, talk and act the way he or she decides. Furthermore, since God and Allah are One and the same Supreme Divinity, His specific Purpose for bringing all individuals into being cannot be different for any group. Yet further, since the Almighty Creator is Love and Goodness, and everything positive, can any individual claim that the Purpose assigned to him or she is negative?
In the context of the above, how does each person interiorise and practicalise the concept of Love of God and Love of Neighbour and in the context of providing the greatest good for the greatest number and in the context of each individual’s unfettered freedom and freewill to rationalise and actualise? Remember also that the Almighty Creator is Immortal. So, for Man to love the Immortal Creator, Man himself must also have an endowed component of immortality, which means that there is definitely life after death. (A most sobering thought, if not the most sobering thought, the way we carry on in our NATION as if there is no tomorrow.)
Each individual person practicalises his or her Love of God and Love of Neighbour by Service, that is by providing, at the very basic level, a satisfactory productive outcome in whatever he or she is thinking of, talking about or doing, in whatever area of human endeavour or activity, in whatever calling, vocation or profession, in whatever capacity, in whatever station, in whatever status, in whatever time frame, out of a sense of duty and responsibility and, even better, out of a sense of Love of God and Love of Neighbour. Naturally, at the human level on a day to day basis on the love of neighbour and nation, the more knowledgeable, skilful, creative, disciplined, organised, better motivated and more efficient use of resources, the more satisfactory will be the productive outcome of the service provided by each individual.
Being knowledgeable in terms of providing productive service outcomes will include a proper understanding of what needs to be done, how it should be done and having the skill set(s) to get it done satisfactorily. Furthermore, can one provide service to and love God and Neighbour one does not know? So there is a further requirement for each individual to go out of his or her way to really know and understand God and Neighbours as much as possible. The same applies to Love of Nation and Love of Environment, the Common Heritage the World shares with Generations Unborn. (Otherwise, the person is an impostor, a charlatan.) Choices, choices, choices.
There is a Day of Reckoning, a Day of Judgment. Recall a story of the last day: I was hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, in prison, etc. These are clearly the basic necessities of life – food, water, clothing, good neighbourliness, health care. Prison, may not necessarily be only physical imprisonment in a correctional centre. It can include freedom from poverty, want, deprivation, expansion of life opportunities, life chances and positive choices. So, indeed, all very basic necessities of life. Very simple and straight forward, and when periscoped to higher levels, serves the objectives of nation-building and an all-inclusive national growth and development process and by extension, the Eternal, Universal, Divine Purpose. Simple, yet very challenging – for a most resource endowed Nation. Choices, choices, choices.
Yes, the Universal, Divine Purpose is Forever Positive for all Times and for all Peoples. There are however pitfalls, right from the beginning of creation. Inveigled by the evil one, our first parents disobeyed the Almighty Creator, leaving each individual human being with a wounded nature, inclined to disobedience, wrong choices, wrong desires. The evil one is still prowling the world, using all sorts of baits, tailored to each individual’s major areas of weakness. However as the light will always overcome darkness, good will always triumph over evil. Each individual has the unfettered free will to choose the courses of activities that will conduce, rather than impede, his or her strivings in life, in line with the Universal, Divine Purpose. Choices, choices, choices.
To further complicate the matter of choices each individual makes in life, no two individuals are exactly the same and therefore each individual is a unique, special and specific human being. Even in this uniqueness, no individual even fully understands himself or herself, not to talk about fully understanding others. Why such diversity, particularly in the context of each individual’s in-born unfettered free will to think, talk and act the way each chooses. Life itself is unpredictable, thus adding to the complication of making choices. Is this not a recipe for chaos? Recall the story of how from a formless dark void the work of creation began. (Order.) Recall also the story of the Tower of Babel. (Disorder.) Inspirational lessons from the Almighty Creator Himself? So, more choices, choices and choices and therefore so many more challenges.
Since the Almighty Creator is Love, Goodness, Wisdom, Mercy, Faithfulness, Justice, Eternal, Immortal, etc He has also, out of His Love and Goodness, imbued each individual with, various degrees of these attributes, in line with each individual’s assigned purpose in life, and particularly in the specific era, environment and circumstances into which he or she is born.
How does each individual use these attributes to strive to perform optimally in life, as an individual and as a member of society and as a citizen of the Nation and of Mother Earth? What about the aspects of being specific, special and unique, with the connotation that each person is tailor-made and equipped with latent abilities and skills and capabilities and capacities to be used to produce positive outcomes in whatever he or she is doing? For example, if one is in the teaching profession, there will be other teachers in the educational institution he or she is employed in.
He or she will be assigned specific duties, just as other teachers will also be. How will his or her own effort, focus, dedication, commitment, etc to the assigned duties help produce beneficial outcomes for his or her students, the institution and the Nation? The Creator, in His Wisdom, has given him or her the power of free will to think, speak and act as he or she wishes. Supposing one is not employed in one’s specific area of training, should he or she not use other endowments to be positively useful to self and others and the nation? Is banditry, kidnapping, cultism, hard drug use and trafficking, etc as specific gross anti-social behaviour any redeeming features? Choices, choices choices.
Being human beings with a wounded nature but still exercising the unfettered power of free will, individuals will from time to time, deviate from the Creator’s assigned Purpose. These deviations will range from the minor to the very grave, either out of lack of focus, poor orientation and motivation, letting guards down, an attitude of anything goes or the end justifies the means, a spirit of sheer meanness or of outright wickedness, pride, ego, envy, anger, inordinate ambition, covetousness, lust, etc. Remember the Creator is also Justice and Mercy and therefore will naturally demand that each individual takes responsibility for his or her acts of commission or omission.
But will this not be contradictory, since the Creator Himself does not restrain an individual’s free will to think, talk and act the way he or she wants. The Creator is Constant/Unchanging and therefore cannot contradict Himself. Freewill is the power to decide, to choose from possible options of right or wrong and once the individual does, he or she must take responsibility for the decision or choice. To ensure the individual knows exactly what he or she is doing, there is still conscience, which is that inner voice of God, implanted way deep inside every human being, which he or she must obey, and which tells him or her to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil.
At some points in time, either from internal or external prompting, when some specific personal unsatisfactory state of life, etc occurs, prompted by conscience, the individual resorts to some soul searching or introspection to identify the root cause(s) of the problem, with one’s conscience (if well-formed and developed) arbitrating in a very fair manner. Once the root cause(s) or even just the major symptoms are identified, the serious-minded individual accepts responsibility, expresses sorrow (ashes/repentance), decides on the right actions to take to change the unsatisfactory situation or condition to a better and more satisfactory one, to attain greater stability to produce the outcomes in his or her life’s efforts that are more in line with the Creator’s Purpose.
What are some of the further actions the individual needs to take to attain this greater stability? Our major challenges of life usually revolve around our relationships with one’s own self (and immediate family members) and with other people, (particularly neighbours, colleagues at work, friends and acquaintances in social, economic, religious, cultural and recreational circles) in the ways we think, talk and act over contestations about material things, popularity, power and authority, control and domination, ego, overindulgence, greed, etc. To this we must emphasise the challenges of our relationship with the environment, whose deleterious effects over time, now demand very urgent action. To this, we must also add the specific economic, social, cultural, political, ideational, polemical, etc environments we interact in. There is also the especially most challenging area of our relationship with the Creator, since the very beginning of creation.
At the personal level of rectifying a disrupted good relationship with one’s self, activities will include a sincere personal resolution to avoid a bad habit, the reoccurrence of an unsavoury tendency, the replacement of personal negative choices and missteps with positive ones, the living of a more prudent, temperate and disciplined life, particularly the avoidance of overindulgence, prejudice, anger, temper, greed, obsessive materialism, a showy lifestyle, etc. It will also be useful for each individual to be constant in the pursuit of doing the right things at all times. A lot of premium is also placed on character and integrity.
To rectify a disrupted good relationship with others, particularly neighbours, colleagues, friends, acquaintances, activities will include the same personal solution to restore normalcy, through direct person to person dialogue or through the use of appropriate intermediaries. Restoration of normalcy will include the need to replace the material loss and/or repair damaged image or restore the good name and reputation of the person or persons concerned and a general commitment to maintaining positive relationships rather than negative ones with people one comes in contact with. Other options may include a general tendency to be understanding, helpful, accommodating, forgiving and supportive to others. It also includes showing empathy to those in sorrow and sharing in the joy of others. A general pleasant disposition is always an asset.
The restoration, from time to time, of each individual’s broken relationship with the Creator is the master key. It is the Creator that gives life. Since the requirement to love God and love Neighbour is the Creator’s Purpose for each and everyone and since no two individuals are the same, each person is supposed to carry out this Purpose in a special, unique and specific way to, serve within a specific lifespan in a particular place and time frame of the world. It is the Creator that that also decides the specific family, ethnic stock and nation as well as the specific era and the specific condition and circumstances of the nation in which he or she is to perform. In effect, life is about each individual, in his or her own allotted lifespan, producing positive outcomes in a particular place at a particular developmental level and challenges, in a particular era in the world, in line with the purpose of the Almighty Creator. Why does each individual not just allow the same Almighty Creator to guide him or her to do His Will? Is this not what we pray for from time to time? His dos and don’ts have also been in the public domain from time. What about Peace through Submission/Surrender to the Almighty’s Will? (((So why not allow Him to lead?)))
To perform as expected, each individual has to be appropriately nurtured, orientated, educated, trained, etc, to produce positive outcomes, appropriate to each stage of his or her life, from infancy, but particularly from the age of being able to reason to the point at which he or she can choose to be or not be a productive citizen of the country and a worthy member of the society. To ensure this, apart from guiding laws, rules and regulations, the family and community, religious, educational and training institutions, recreational associations, voluntary associations, business institutions, ethnic groups, society and the nation-state itself must all play their individual and collective appropriate roles, to ensure each individual performs as expected, by pointing the right way. If they all, individually and collectively, perform their roles well in nurturing, educating, training, orientating, motivating, organising and mobilising all individual persons well, the society and the nation-state itself will perform BECAUSE it is these individuals as individuals and in various demographic configurations that will run the nation and all the institutions of its society. On the contrary, society and nation that thinks very little of this fundamental and foundational obligation will hardly make any appreciable progress in nation-building and overall national growth and development.
In relation to the above, we need to recall a quotation about true development that DFRRI shares ever so often: “True Development must mean the development to man-the unfolding and realisation of his creative potential, enabling him to improve his material conditions and living, through the use of resources available to him. It is a process by which man’s personality is enhanced; and it is that enhanced personality-creative, organised and disciplined-which is the moving force behind the socio-economic transformation of society. It is clear that development does not start with goods and things; it starts with people-their orientation, organisation and discipline. When the accent on development is on things, all human resources remain latent, untapped potential and society can be poor amidst the most opulent material resources. On the contrary, when a society is properly orientated, organised and disciplined, it can be prosperous on the scantiest basis of natural wealth.”
(Ministry of National Planning,1980, pages20-21.)
The responsibility of each individual Nigerian
A lot of emphases has been put on what is expected of each individual person in life endeavours : nurturing; personal work ethics; spiritual, ethical and moral value systems; handling of intra and interpersonal relationships; proper use of the attributes each person is endowed with, to produce positive outcomes in whatever he or she is doing; capacity to correct missteps; the reality of life after death and the inescapable requirement of accounting for how life was spent; etc.
We have a tendency to blame all the ills of our Society and the Nation on our leaders and on our institutions, rightly or wrongly. Questions. Is a leader, first and foremost, not an individual human being? Is it the leadership function that corrupts the individual human being or the human being that corrupts the leadership function? Are institutions not run by individual human beings? Who corrupts the other, the institutions or the human beings that run them? If most of our leaders and most of our institutions are performing at some satisfactory level, how come our Nation is not, across the board, where it ought to be, given our huge resource endowments? Is it a matter that we have a very low level of accountability and transparency in the conduct of our national affairs or that we set very low standards of expectations for ourselves, for our institutions, for our leaders and for our Nation? Or is it a combination of both? (To ensure this does not become a matter of individual assessment, let any group of people take any number of national development indices of the world and see where we are in each of them.)
Each and every one of us as individual human beings must take a position, namely, to do our individual optimal best, wherever we are at any particular timeframe in life: as individual members of a family, father, mother, siblings; as individual residents in a neighbourhood, being good neighbours, covering each other’s back, showing a good example to the younger ones, fixing things that can be fixed in the neighbourhood; as individual children, teenagers, youth, young adults, etcat various levels of the formal and informal education and training institutions and as individuals who work in these institutions as educationists, administrators and managers, headteachers, principals, provosts, vice-chancellors, chancellors, owners, etc; as individual members of peer groups; as individual members of social, recreational and sports clubs; as individual members of our nation’s religious institutions and other faith-based organizations;
As individual members in whatever capacity of the entire workforce engaged in both private sector and civil society organizations and institutions; as individual members of professional councils, institutions, bodies; as individual members of vocational associations, cooperative societies, skills and trade guilds; as individual members of all those operating in the huge informal sector of the nation’s economy;
As individual members of the nation’s highly respected traditional rulership system, both age long and new; as an individual man, woman, youth of our nation’s 200m population; as individual members of our grassroots communities, village areas, ilu, ama, obodo, autonomous communities, clans, ethnic groups; as individual members of our nation’s very massive public sector, with its branches and their huge bureaucracies and institutions, spread far and wide at all tiers, please add value to your assigned duties and responsibilities at whichever grade or level you are in the mainstream and for those appointed or elected, to whichever appointment title or elected office at whatever level and at whatever tier. As individual members of our almighty media.
What is the point of all this? The point is simple. This is to call attention to the fact that engraved deep down in each person’s heart is the faculty to know which thought, talk, behaviour or act is good or bad. So, if the majority of individual persons in each of the above groups commit to thinking and doing the right and proper things, life will better for each person and for all of us individually and collectively as a people, as a society and as a nation and in all our institutions. Can we commit? Are we predisposed to commit? Are we self-starters? Are we self-motivated? Do we all have a satisfactory amount of self-discipline? Choices, choices, choices.
What about being an individual member of our nation’s very large army of the unemployed and underemployed? We do not have any option other than to find some meaningful employment for them as quickly as possible, after we have disaggregated them into those who really want to work and those who do not, for whatever reason(s). Choices, choices, choices. It is hoped that the suggestions being made in this effort and in subsequent ones will contribute to producing more job opportunities for some of those who really want to work.
Let us all commit, as individual human beings, either singly where we can or jointly with others, to fix the ills of our institutions, our society and our nation. Choices, choices, choices. Just talking or complaining about even those ills a person can fix is not good enough. Ignoring what is wrong is a copout. Living in denial to conform to a particular position, in spite of clearly manifest evidence, is even worse. Let each individual take necessary action in all areas he or she can, to make each challenging situation, however small, better for self and others. Choices, choices, choices.
Demand for Lifespan Accountability
Before we leave this section, there are two areas we all need to pay some special attention to, in terms of the choices we make in life. This has something to do with the Concept of Life after Death and the Concept of the Day of Judgement on one hand and on the other hand, how we handle both concepts at the individual personal level and at the group level. At the individual personal level, whether we believe it or not, we all will stand on our own as individual human beings, to give an account of what we did with the life the Almighty Creator gave to each of us. The paragraphs above we just read are relevant here. Choices, choices, choices. The bottom line is that each individual will be judged as an individual on what he or she did on earth.
The group-level aspect is even more intriguing. If God in English or Allah in Arabic is the same Supreme, Divine Almighty Creator, is Heaven (English) and Aljannah (Arabic) not the same Holy Abode for all those whose final destination is THERE? If so, why do some of us carry on in this Nation as if they are heading to different Places, at the end of their individual lifespan! More intriguing, will they not all be enraptured together in Eternity by His Divine Eternal Love, even if they had chosen not to see eye to eye while on earth? We really do not deserve any of the acrimonies we suffer in the name of religion in this nation and in the world. Choices, choices, choices.
Lent and Ramadan certainly point in the right direction. Life, including the Holy Books, is replete with stories of all manner of persons turning a new leaf, from outcast and vagabond to pillar of community and society, from sinner to saint, from the despised of the society to the motivator of the same society. We are told that turning from a bad person to a good person is good but that turning from a good person to a bad person is not good, however long the person had been good before. Choices, choices, choices, particularly in the context of life after death.
Some Areas That Demand Greater Attention
Yet still on fundamentals, apart from the ugly stories of kidnapping, banditry, abductions, cultism, drug trafficking and abuse, human trafficking and sex slavery, herders/farmers crises, insecurity, massive bloodletting, discriminatory promotions and appointments to high public office, etc some of the trending events in public domain discourse include human rights, democracy, multi-party politics, women and girl child rights, not-too-young-too-run, labour/government and academic unions/government face-offs, etc. These are all worthwhile issues. However how much serious attention are we, as a people, as a society and as a nation and all our governments, giving to the foundational and indeed the fundamental need to develop our grassroots communities and our rural areas? This is where the majority of our people live. This is also where the bulk of the nation’s food and food materials can be produced to ensure we are food and nutrition secure. How much, in this context, are the Organized Private Sector and Civil Society organizations contributing to the development of the grassroots communities and rural areas? What about the nation’s knowledge industry, particularly our academia, research institutes and highly trained professionals? What about labour? What about the media, in its roles as the fourth estate of the realm, conscience of the nation, agenda-setter? Most critical of all, how much attention are all our governments at all levels giving to the grassroots community and rural development in this nation, in the true sense of the term, implying real and sustainable growth and development of all our nation’s over 100,000 grassroots communities, truly transforming them into dynamic fast-growing and developing entities?
In a closely related context, how much attention are we giving to our work ethics as a people, as a society and as a nation as well as our individual and collective spiritual, ethical and moral value systems to properly conduct our affairs of nation-building and an all-inclusive national growth and development process to produce productive outcomes? (((What is all the talk about we being a different people with different ways of life. How come when it is about commandeering a significant percentage of the commonwealth, all the talk about being a different people is pushed to the background?))) How much attention are we giving to the concept of forging a very strong partnership between government and the people, in pursuit of all positive development goals and objectives? (((Do we do this even where those in government and those they govern are more or less of the same ethnic stock?))) Must we continue to look for the people only when it is time for elections? At another level, we pay great attention to, indeed demand, Positive, Proactive and Knowledgeable Leadership. What about Positive, Proactive, Knowledgeable and Alert Followership?
Lessons to draw
What are the major lessons we can draw from all of the above to help us build a more united and stronger nation, to embark on a more reliable growth and development pattern that caters for the interest of all the peoples and all sections of our nation? Here are some, but not in any particular other: Positive Choices matter. Institutions that perform and produce Positive Outcomes as Designed matter. Positive Individual and Group Purpose matter. Positive Vision matters. Positive Processes matter. Positive Strategy matters. Inclusivity matters. Avoidance of Favouritism to any Particular Section matters. Opportunities for each Individual and each Section’s Optimal Development matter. Aggregation of Positive Interests of All Sections and All Groups matters. Thinking about Life After Death matters. A Life of Genuine Love and Service to Neighbour, Nation and the Almighty Creator matters.
A regular and genuine Personal and National Self Interrogation for better and more Positive Outcomes matter. Sustainability matters. Individuals that are Positively Orientated, Motivated and Mobilised to Produce Positive Outcomes in Life matter. A Positive Strategic Public Sector/People Partnership (PPplP) matters. Grassroots Communities and Rural Areas that are well PRIMED for All-Round Growth andDevelopment matter. A Positive Strategic Public Sector/Grassroots Communities Partnership(PGCP) matters. A Society that Always demands Positive Outcomes matters. Knowledgeable and Positive Leadership matters. So also does Alert and Positive Followership. A Nation with an agreed Common Bond and an agreed Positive National Purpose and an agreed Positive Strategic Direction of Movement matters. A Nation that Has A Long Term Perspective Plan that outlines how to remain on its Positive National Purpose Strategic Direction of Movement matters.
Mixed bag of choices made in the past
Will it be far from the truth to say that most of the traumatic things we experience in our nation these days are results of the choices we made in the past and continue to make, as a people, as a society and as a nation? Recall the very debilitating Dutch Disease that had stunted and has continued to stunt our overall national growth and development, on our discovery of oil, breeding across the board, official laziness and huge bureaucracies as well as nation-wide massive corruption and greed and a culture of entitlement. Most of the Nations with whom we were at GDP par or near or even below our GDP ranking at our Independence in 1960, are leaving us behind. (((For example, Taiwan and Iran that were about at GDP par with us in 1960, are now far above us; Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea that were below our GDP ranking level in 1960, are now far above us.)))
Recall the post Independence years of our three (and later four) Regions and how well the nation was fairing then in our overall growth and development. Recall the watermark events of January, May and July 1966, the abolition of the regions, their replacement with a unitary system of government, the creation of states (1967), our civil war years (1967-1970). Recall, the steady concentration of power at the centre from 1967 to the detriment of the sub-national levels, the heavily constitutionally skewed allocation of functions in favour of the centre, the heavily skewed current revenue allocation formula that gives the Federal Government 52.68%, the 36 States 26.72%, the 774 Local Governments 20.60% and the Oil Mineral Producing States’ Special Allocation 13% Derivation Fund. Recall the urban biased development strategy we have adopted from time in our nation to the virtual detriment of our grassroots communities and rural areas development, even with the 1976 local government reforms and even though some of our local government councils themselves are in rural areas.
Recall we had never really adopted a people-centred national development strategy that enables us, whether they live in the urban centres or in the rural areas, to partner with them to meet their basic needs of food and nutrition, basic infrastructure(roads, however, described), water and sanitation, energy (however described), shelter, quality education, full employment, self-esteem, etc., using the entirety of our humongous human, natural and mineral resources. Recall the PPP strategy we adopted at some point, except for very, very few instances, was itself hardly ever pursued with the rigour and great transparency needed to make it an all-around huge success. Recall that before then, the mantra was for the public sector to control the commanding heights of the economy. Recall that the public sector itself, over time, began to lose its vibrancy and real value-addition to genuine, sustainable and robust national growth and development. Recall the implementation of the Jerome Udorgi’s1972Public Service Review Commission recommendations that fully implemented the payment of the increase in the salaries of public servants but did not implement other very weighty recommendations with equal zeal. Recall the Civil Service reforms of the Obasanjo years. Recall our various Economic Emergency Legislations. Recall the battle we fought before our huge national debt was forgiven in2005.
Recall the change of government on Saturday, 31st December 1983 and the fight against corruption, indiscipline and other very serious ills of society and nation. Recall also the efforts that the government made to streamline and focus better on the functions of Civil and Public Service institutions. Recall the change of government on Tuesday, 27th August 1985 and SAP (1986) and that government’s attempts (one of the primary focuses of this particular effort) to once again set a new course, paying some attention to the happenstance (?) of the Month of February, particularly the 7th. 7th February is the day the government, in 1987, declared as our Nation’s Rural Development Day. That itself was a year after the then Military President in the 1986 Federal Budget Speech announced the establishment, in his Office, of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI). The 7th of February, 1986, was also the day the then Chief of General Staff inaugurated, on behalf of the Military President, the Board of DFRRI, with the sound bite injunction for the Board “to come up with programmes that will stand the test of time”.
There was also the DIRECTORATE OF FOOD, ROADS AND RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE DECREE NO 4 (6th February 1986), officially gazetted 10th April 1987. The Decree stipulated a wide range of functions for the Directorate, with the centrality of grassroots community and rural population organisation and mobilisation for sustained rural development activities; for promoting greater community participation and greater economic self-reliance; for promoting greater social participation. In spite of its name, in operational terms, the guiding mantra in DFRRI was grassroots community and rural development. Indeed, one of the major tasks, in addition to the heavy Presidential emphasis on the provision, rehabilitation and maintenance of rural feeder roads (90,000kms) and the provision and maintenance of other rural infrastructure (water, electricity, etc), was DFRRI’s identification and codification of all the grassroots communities(over 100,000)in the Nation. Indeed, common sense dictated that the development of the rural areas, must of necessity involve the development of the grassroots communities therein.
DFRRI found out from the very beginning of its operations that the Presidential emphasis on rural feeder roads and other infrastructure was very well thought out and very well received in the rural areas. However, by themselves, these were major time and funds consuming tasks, which definitely contributed both directly and indirectly to the improvement of the quality of life and material conditions of living of the rural dwellers. However beneficial to both national and rural development, these efforts did not leave enough funds for the simultaneous execution of DFRRI’s well thought out Direct Participation Scheme (DPS) whose central objective was the involvement of community members in productive activities, which would have helped them not only to benefit from the infrastructure that was being provided but also to help them to further improve the quality of their lives and material conditions of living as well as to produce wealth for themselves, and by extension, for the Nation. The involvement of and direct participation of community members in producing wealth for themselves and for the Nation was intended to be for DFRRI, the litmus test for Grassroots Community and Rural Development. DPS, the intended DFRRI flagship programme for this effort, had offered grassroots community members a choice of over 700 individual wealth-producing activities to pick from. That was how comprehensive DPS was. Indeed it was launched in some States between16th July 1992 and 29th July 1993, before DFRRI was most unfortunately scuttled and Rural Development re-bureaucratised gradually in a line ministry, beginning in 1994 and finally in 1996.
Undaunted, post DFRRI efforts(Arise, Grassroots Communities; Again, A Case For Rural Development; The Import of Rural Development on National Development, etc) have further strengthened the fundamental cause for our Nation to adopt a most robust National Grassroots Community and Rural Development Strategy. The current very dire challenges we now have nation-wide, of widespread poverty, hunger, insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, massive population displacements and other issues that threaten our very survival, should tell all those who love themselves and the Nation that we need to do some very serious soul searching about our current National Growth and Development Strategy.
The Nation will derive immense benefits from this specific prioritization, if it is done properly in the meticulous and all-inclusive manner it is planned, to help us to begin to confront in a most serious manner, some of our nation’s growth and development and even nationhood and survival challenges. If we do this, our mood in the Nation today would be closer to a more truly authentic Valentine spirit, than the predominantly current mood of gloom, fear and distrust.
The drums of war, whether genuine, intimidatory, grandstanding, posturing, show-boating or politicking, are heard from all parts of the country. We do not deserve any of this. We must change course. We must move from the toxic negative to the vivifying positive. In 1999, we transitioned from military government to the more world-widely acceptable civilian government. We continued with the more expensive presidential system and as we do with most concepts we copy, we gradually turned ours into something else. See also what we now have as our practise of democracy. In spite of our limited resources as a third world nation, it is politicking, politicking, politicking, politicking; most development activities now seem more geared towards meeting some political objective. Even before one election is over, plans are already in high gear and pitch for the next. Politics is big business, indeed it seems to be the main business in the nation now: in some places as many as twenty contestants in political party primaries, (at times, with each contestants paying twenty millionnaira); about the same number of political parties contesting in state governorship elections; about the same number of court cases after governorship elections, at times, about five of such court cases going all the way to the Supreme Court.
To get a proper bearing, we must continue to remind ourselves that we have not given sustainable growth and development its due place of priority in our country. We must. Politicking, particularly the Nigerian version is very negative, divisive and excluding. Maiming and killing are not even abhorred. In contrast, true sustainable growth and development cannot but be positive and inclusive. We must also continue to remind ourselves that growth and development do not take place only at the official national, state and local government areas’ levels. It takes place also at the grassroots communities and rural areas’ levels. That, for growth and development to bear sustainable fruits, all its institutions at each level must not only do what each is assigned to do but must also do it most diligently and efficiently. We must also continue to remind ourselves of the equally fundamental roles of the Private and Informal Sectors, Civil Society and Society itself as an Entity, in our Nation’s Growth and Development Process.
The role of the People in all of these is most fundamental. Apart from their roles as Individuals and Members of Society and as Citizens of the Nation, it is Individuals in their various groups that run all the Organs of the Public and Private Sectors and Civil Society. They are also the People in the entire Informal Sector Chain. Even most germane to this effort, it is People as Individuals, Family and Community Members and Rural Dwellers that will constitute the main group of the frontline workers in our envisaged grassroots community and rural development battlefield.
We really need to change course, beginning from the base of the pyramid, namely, our grassroots communities (over 100,000), our massive rural landmass and the bulk of the nation’s population living there. What began in DFRRI should now morph into the Nation’s Grassroots Community and Rural Development Strategy. (((((As a reminder in parenthesis, let us recall what Chief Obafemi Awolowo did in the Western Region with a well balanced urban and rural development strategy, among other things.)))))
How do we do this? We begin by asking a few questions. How many people in this Nation still remember anything specific about Rural Development in our Nation in the last one or two decades? We continue to hear about Agriculture and Agricultural Development, within this period. Is Agriculture still playing its role in this Nation with the same intensity it used to before the discovery of oil? Will it be inaccurate to say that Agriculture was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned after the discovery of oil, to the detriment to its usual massive contribution to the Nation’s GDP and to the detriment of Rural Development, National Food and Nutrition Security and the wealth of farmers and even growth and development at sub-national levels? (Recall that before now, Agriculture used to be a full-time vocation and occupation at the grassroots community level, engaging all the extended family members including the youth. Not anymore in most communities.) Furthermore, has Agriculture always used the entire range of the arsenal in its weaponry to advance its development? Is Agricultural Development even in this diluted form the same as Grassroots Community and Rural Development? More fundamentally, how many people still remember the conceptual distinction between the two? Why was DFRRI established in the first place, when there was, in existence the Federal Ministry of Agriculture?
A major difference between the two is that while Agricultural Development is sector-specific, Grassroots Community and Rural Development is multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary. Agricultural Development concerns itself mainly and primarily with crops, fisheries, horticulture, livestock, agricultural raw materials, agricultural support services, agric-business, etc. On the other hand, Grassroots Community and Rural Development span the entire range of the economic, social, cultural, defense, intelligence, security, environmental, etc. and the support services of all of these. (See Arise Grassroots Communities and Again, A Case for Rural Development.) As DFRRI itself used to strongly espouse, Grassroots Community and Rural Development is the totality of all the development actions that should and must take place in a Nation but usually at the micro-level in each and every one of the nations over 100,000 grassroots communities and the entire Nation’s rural landmass. (See DFRRI’s DPS Information Brochure.). Even more germane, DFRRI had always asserted that the central aim of its grassroots communities and rural development programme is to contribute to the transformation of each and every one of the Nation’s over 100,000 grassroots communities, and their adjoining rural landmass, into the dynamic and fast-growing and developing entities.
(((. …..Again in parenthesis, those who fly a lot to Europe should tell us whether they see over there, the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of land nobody had set foot on as we have here. Should we not worry that this is a huge part of our natural resource that will remain unused profitably for the next hundred years?))))
Consequently, DFRRI had always insisted that Grassroots Communities and Rural Development is intrinsically a very solid foundation of National Growth and Development. And because we embarked on an urban biased development strategy from time, we ended up with our current dichotomous dual urban and rural areas aberration which must be corrected. So subsuming Grassroots Community and Rural Development under Agricultural Development a line Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will continue to stunt the development of both. They should be separated so that both can grow and develop faster. Choices, choices, choices.
There are other areas of challenge which compel such immediate action. COVID-19 with its pandemic disruptions, banditry and kidnapping compounded by the unrelenting menace of Boko Haram and their co-travellers and all the other unprintable traumatic things happening in all parts without exception, are virtually bringing the Nation to its knees. We may as a people, as a society and a nation, wish to continue to live in complete denial to suit some political position. Alternatively, we may wish to summon the willpower to change course, to begin to do the right things, to get us in line to begin to move us more steadily and assuredly to our true destiny.
We need to do this, not only because of the very dire circumstances we currently face all around but even more so because we are continuing to stunt our holistic growth and development in a very critical area. We need to take a critical look at the current tragedy of Grassroots Community and Rural Development and its constant debilitating and continuous subsumption under Agricultural Development.
For emphasis, as a very urgent first step, we need to separate Rural Development from Agriculture Development in the line Ministry both are sequestered in now. Thereafter, we need to refocus each of them properly so that they can each strive much harder to begin to progress much faster and to add greater value to our overall national growth and development.
Agriculture Growth and Development
For a start, let our Agricultural Sector go back to the role the Nation has assigned to it, namely:
a. Providing adequate food and nutrition for an increasing population, to ensure both national and sub-national food and nutrition security;
b. Constituting a very major source of employment, wealth creation, poverty eradication;
c. Constituting a major source of foreign exchange earnings (by exportation) and savings (by producing what we can, instead of importing);
d. Fully utilizing all the resources of agribusiness;
(e. Using the production of food and agricultural raw materials, on the basis of comparative advantage, to positively emphasize many of the things that tie us together and thus conduce nation-building and the consolidation of our Nationhood. New Addition.);
(f. A fast-growing, developing and expanding Agriculture Sector, broadening the rural economy, producing more food, creating more employment opportunities and wealth for rural people leaves less disgruntled individuals and groups for recruitment by anti-social elements. New Addition);
g. Contributing ever more substantially to our Nation’s GDP;
h. Supplying progressively more agricultural raw materials to encourage our industrial sector to grow much faster, so that agriculture itself will be encouraged to produce more agricultural raw materials;
i.Providing a market for the products of the industrial sector.
The interaction between the agricultural sector and the industrial sector will then force both of them to grow and develop much faster because, with the use of machines and equipment (even in subsistence farms) provided by the industrial sector, agriculture will produce more commodities and raw materials which in turn will force the industrial sector to expand, to cope with the task of processing the consequential greater volume of commodities and raw materials from the agricultural sector.
Agriculture can do all of the above and cover the entire nation adequately by doing a number of things: tackle head-on, the four broad categories of the perennial challenges and constraints of the sector (technical, socio-economic, organisational and institutional (See National Policy For Agriculture, 1987); vigorously encourage states and local government are as to make excellent use of the principle of comparative advantage; vigorously encourage nation-wide, agricultural value addition; vigorously encourage nation-wide use of agribusiness, and drawing from its huge resource base to accelerate the growth and development of the sector in the entire nation. This resource base includes:
a. The various National Policies on Agriculture the Nation had formulated, but which were mostly ignored; the numerous Agricultural Programmes that had been announced, most of which were implemented haphazardly or abandoned when there is a change of guard, who then announces new ones, usually without much regard to previous ones, whether or not there was any merit in them, and thus also losing the sector’s institutional knowledge, nationwide;
b.The huge Federal Ministry of Agriculture; providing leadership and proper policy direction; vigorously encouraging most efficient and effective coordination of agricultural growth and development at all levels in the Nation;
c. Ministry of Agriculture in the Nation’s 36 States and the Department of Agriculture in the Federal Capital Territory by doing the following: From the National Policy(ies) in Agriculture and by paying attention to the local general and specific circumstances prevailing in the state, formulate each state’s agriculture development blueprint; using the principle of state comparative advantage and depending on the local edaphic condition, ensure the execution of state agricultural programmes covering crops, horticulture, fisheries, livestock, agricultural raw materials; ensure the provision of agricultural support services, particularly agricultural extension services, etc. It is strongly recommended, as it is explained in a separate paper, that this Ministry be renamed in each state, as the State Ministry of Agricultural Development, Raw Materials Extraction/Production and State Food and Nutrition Security. What is in a name? An awful lot. A well thought out name focuses attention directly on what is expected to be done.
d. The 3 Federal Universities of Agriculture in Nigeria at Abeokuta, Makurdi and Umudike;
e. The over 20 Agric Research related Institutes in the Nation;
f. The Faculties of Agriculture in a large number of our tertiary institutions: When will agriculture be one of the top priority areas of study in this Nation? When will each Faculty of Agriculture in the nation’s tertiary institutions have a well-run commercial type farm as a practical training ground for its students, as well as for research and expanding the frontiers of agricultural knowledge?
g. The Agriculture Departments in the 774 Local Government Areas: When will all of them have local government agriculture demonstration farms as well as when will there be state government demonstration farms that they are overseeing? What support services are they providing for the development of agriculture in their respective local government area, particularly extension services, LGA cropping calendars? What assistance can they provide for people who want to establish commercial farms in their LGA? When will they themselves have their own few agriculture commercial farms to help them improve their IGR? When will they be the primary source and/or depository of agricultural information, data and statistics in the local government area?
h. The over 100,000 grassroots communities: using the principle of comparative advantage and guided by local edaphic conditions, what is the variety and quantum of agricultural activities community members are engaged in the areas of crops, horticulture, fisheries, livestock, agricultural raw materials extraction/provision, etc in our over 100,000 grassroots communities as they are spread in all of our Nation’s agro-ecological zones? How many farms (with specific hectarage and geographic location) are in each community and of what types? What is the progressively higher level of production and productivity in each farm? How fast are farms moving from lower to higher levels? If the reverse, what are the challenges and how fast can they be fixed? How effectively and efficiently are agricultural services made available in each community? How are the skills of those in the various subsectors of agricultural practice, including literacy levels, farm management and financial knowledge skills and capacities, being regularly upgraded?
i. Bank of Agriculture, Agricultural Loan Guarantee Scheme, Microfinance Banks, etc.
Equally fundamental and as a corollary, we have a fairly good idea for the education sector, the number of educational institutions and a rough idea of educationists, whichever way categorized, at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and for the health sector, the number of medical institutions and a rough idea of medical personals at various levels. How many farms do we have in each community and LGA in this country, large scale, medium size, subsistence, etc? Should we not find out? Can we specifically locate each of them? In addition, how many genuine farmers (not the briefcase-carrying, smart-aleck type) do we have in each community and LGA in this country? How are farmers trained in serious-minded nations? How do we train our own farmers? How do we upgrade our farmers in modern farming techniques? Most times, they just do what great grandparents, grandparents and parents have been doing from time. What percentage of our youth, literate or not, are operating in the agricultural sector in our grassroots communities? When will the use of modern equipment, machinery and technologies, etc in our farms be ubiquitous in our Nation? When will we stop depending on rain-fed agriculture in our country, even in riverine communities? When will extension services come alive again nationwide, in our country? When will something as simple as a cropping calendar be available in all States and Local Government Areas in our country? Then the million naira questions – when will all our farmers from all parts of the nation go to their farms to ply their trade without fear of loss of life or limb? When will all farms be safe in our country? When will we resolve our current raging farmers/herders crises? There is indeed a lot the Nation should expect from our agricultural sector.
For the sake of this country, we must bring back agriculture to its original pride of place in line with its assigned roles, with the Federal and each State Ministry of Agriculture providing the necessary drive. State governments on whom the Land Use Decree vests land in each state can do a lot to prioritize agriculture. Apart from reference to the National Policy(ies)for Agriculture, it must be emphasised thatthere should be a blueprint for growing and developing agriculture in each State. Furthermore, a lot more could be done for agricultural development in the Nation, if all the States in each geopolitical zone, which most times coincide with the Nation’s agro-ecological zones, endeavour to coordinate their agricultural growth and development efforts. We really have no business with hunger and food and nutrition insecurity in this nation. Not only that, we should be a major exporter of food and not a major importer.
Grassroots Community and Rural Development
Let us pause agricultural growth and development there and move to Grassroots Community and Rural Development. On the part of Grassroots Community and Rural Development, we need to recognise the Nation’s huge landmass (923,768 km2), the Nation’s over 100,000 grassroots communities and the over 50% of the Nation’s population in the rural areas and in these grassroots communities. We have seen what DFRRI did in the period it operated separately from the Ministry of Agriculture.(See There Once Was DFRRI Vols One and Two). We have also seen the low level of Grassroots Community and Rural Development activities since DFRRI was captured as hostage by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (1994) and once again (1996) by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The truth is that being line Ministries, neither of them can really move beyond the narrow confines of each Ministry’s Sectoral Mandate. It will not be too far from the truth that the capturing has more to do with the potential for greater budgetary allocation.
For the sake of the Nation and Grassroots Community and Rural Development and our current ragging problems of very high levels of poverty, hunger, unemployment, food insecurity, rural-urban migration, banditry, kidnapping and other antisocial behaviour rampant in the Nation, we should re-launch DFRRI, in whatever name we want to call it.
To obviate the necessity for or even the usual national tendency of trying to reinvent the wheel, as if nothing has happened before, all that DFRRI did will be put in the public domain. This will be done as follows:
The 3–Volume THERE ONCE WAS DFRRI effort:
Volume One (DFRRI’S ANNUAL NATIONAL MEDIA BRIEFINGS (1987-1992). This is already published and will be released very soon.
Volume Two (DFRRI’S 7TH FEBRUARY NATIONAL RURAL DEVELOPMENT DAY/WEEK BROADCASTS/LECTURES) will be out, God willing, in the next month or so.
Volume Three, in Two Parts, Parts I and II – of DFRRI’s Concepts and Postulations of the WHAT, WHY AND HOW OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT, a much larger effort, would take a little more time to be put in the public domain. This is because of two major challenges, namely: the challenge of financing and the challenge of the constraints imposed by the status of publishing in this Nation at the moment.
The DFRRI Experiment 1986-1993whose 437-page manuscript of what DFRRI did when it was in existence, was completed in August 1997. It is yet to be put in the public domain because of a number of unanticipated hurdles. It is hoped that it will be available in its published form in a couple of month’s time.
Also lined up are 2 supporting manuscripts: ARISE GRASSROOTS COMMUNITIES and AGAIN, A CASE FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT, should, God willing, be available in their published format by the end of the year.
There is a lot more than DFRRI did that is no longer immediately available. This is a strong plea to anybody who has anything on DFRRI to please make it available.
Meanwhile, from the experience of working in DFRRI, the following should constitute the major functions of the organization that will be in charge of Grassroots Community and Rural Development :
a. Grassroots Community and Rural Development (GCRD) Awareness Creation(vigorously emphasise nationwide, why Grassroots Community and Rural Development is a national necessity), Advocacy (nationwide, public sector, private sector, academia, civil society organizations, traditional rulership system, community leaders and members, political parties, women groups, youth groups, philanthropic individuals, other stakeholders and the almighty media), Mainstreaming (need for all those involved in nation-building and national growth and development to mainstream Grassroots Community and Rural Development in all their Activities),GCRD Information Gathering, Collation and Dissemination;
b. GCRD Organisation and Mobilisation-Grassroots Communities listing, codification (by State/Senatorial District/LGA)and mapping, formation/strengthening of Grassroots Development Institutions and Organizations, Physical Planning and Environmental Management, Community Resources/Factor of Production Surveys, Mobilisation of Credit, Community Development Baseline Surveys, Community Development Plans formulation and execution, etc.;
c. Provision, Rehabilitation, Maintenance of GCRD Infrastructure (see DFRRI Listing);
d. Promotion, Coordination and Inter-linkage of Economic Development, Social Development, Science and Technology, Tourism and Cultural Development, Environmental Management, Recreational, Entertainment and Sports Development Productive Activities etc.;
e. Collaborating with all appropriate Federal, State and Local Government MDAs and all appropriate Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations and Grassroots Community Members: Ensure Food and Nutrition Security; Ensure Improved Housing, using Preferably Locally Available Materials; Using Comparative Advantage, Produce Progressively Higher Tonnages of Food and Agricultural Commodities and Raw Materials for the Market and for Industrial Processing; Progressively Produce, from Rural Industrial Activities, Higher Quantities of Intermediate and Finished Products for the Market; Aim for Full All Year Round Employment; Arrest and Progressively Reverse Current Rural/Urban Migration; Accelerate the Improvement of the Quality of Life and General Material Conditions of Living of All Rural Dwellers.
In terms of institutional arrangement, just like for Agricultural Development, there should be for nationwide Grassroots Community and Rural Development :
A National Directorate of Grassroots Community and Rural Development, in preference to a Commission, the National Policy on Integrated Rural Development Commission recommended (Sept, 1991Provisonal Approval);
A State Directorate for Grassroots Community and Rural Development in each of the Nation’s 36 States (Ready to dialogue with States on this);
A large number of Research Institutions, well funded and staffed, to provide support for the Nation’s Grassroots Community and Rural Development effort;
A Department of Grassroots Community and Rural Development in each of the Nation’s 774 Local Governments Areas. Because of what will be going on in the Nations’ grassroots communities (see sub-para e.below) our Local Government System itself will need to be reformatted from what it is at the moment.
The over 100,000 Grassroots Communities in the Nation where the entire range of grassroots community and rural development activities should, and indeed must, be taking place, covering: Economic Development; Political Development; Cultural Development; Moral, Ethical and Spiritual Development; The Management Of The Environment; Nation-Building and National Survival; Defense, Intelligence and Security; Diplomacy and International Relations; Science, Engineering and Technology; Grassroots Community Domestication of UN’s MDGs and SDGs; Special Groups, Areas, etc to be Targeted In Grassroots Community and Rural Development Programmes(Women, Youth, Children, the Elderly and the Retired, the Handicapped; Disadvantaged Regions, NaturalDisasters and Emergencies; Enhancement of National Cohesiveness); Planning, Research, and Data; Co-ordination and Periodic Policy Review; Performance Monitoring And Evaluation; the Maintenance of Grassroots Community and Rural Development Momentum;
Establishment of a Centre for Grassroots Community and Rural Development in at least one University in each state and if that is not possible, 3 Universities in each geopolitical zone, to provide research backing, training and capacity development, outreach and other support services to enhance Grassroots Community and Rural Development. (Ready to dialogue on this.)
The specifics of what Grassroots Community members themselves will be doing to enhance Grassroots Community and Rural Development can be gleaned from the National Policy on Integrated Rural Development (1991), DFRRI’s Input into the National Rolling Plan (1991-1993), the Grassroots Community and Rural Development Objectives outlined in Arise Grassroots Communities and Again, A Case For Rural Development and the List of Programmes being promoted under DPS. There is a lot in there for members of each and every one of the Nation’s over 100,000 Grassroots Communities to pick from, to formulate their individual Community’s 30-Year Long Term Perspective Community Development Plan; their 3-Year Medium Term Community Development Rolling Plan; and their 1-Year Short Term Community Development Plan (Annual Budget). Ambitious? Not really. The idea here is to take each grassroots community, from whatever level of growth and development it is now, to higher levels, in a progressive manner as dictated by each Community’s Long Term Perspective Development Plan.
(((Let us have from grassroots communities, a few volunteer community members who fall into each of the following groups to kick-start the process: those who command respect in the community; those who are not afraid of ideas; those who can get things done in the community; those who can mobilise community youth to get things done; women leaders.)))
Recall Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s well balanced Urban and Rural Development Strategy and where the States of the then Western Region are today in our Nation. Are we saying that we no longer have people with such vision and guts in this Nation anymore?
In this respect, one appreciates the reported news that the Governor of Borno State is embarking on providing a 25-year Development Plan for his State. With some extra effort, this can be cascaded down to grassroots communities in the State. Genuine people with love of Nation can do alot to help. Let us find them. Grassroots community centred sustainable growth and development is also a very potent warfare strategy, in addition to its primary role of accelerating overall growth and development. In line with this, let the Nation be assured that within the next year or so, it will be possible for very many grassroots community’s members to formulate their 30-Year Long Term Perspective Development Plan, 3-Year Rolling Plan and 1-Year Development Plan (Annual Budget). A proposed outline for doing this is in the Arise Grassroots Communities manuscript.
In support of all of the above, a most comprehensive grassroots community and rural development programme that has been put together. Let us put it in to use in a conscious, deliberate, systematic and unfettered manner. What is there to lose?
WHICH WAY NIGERIA?
Which way Nigeria? To re-echo Sunny Okosuns, but in a slightly different context. The most truthful answer that may surprise many Nigerians is: Nowhere, except maybe further downhill, if we are unlucky or just going round in circles, if we are lucky, taking a cue from the manner we have been conducting our affairs of nation-building and sustainable national growth and development. The current rage of corruption, greed, kidnapping, banditry, cultism, insecurity, etc are just symptoms of major fundamental problems of our Nation. They are indeed many, complex and multi-dimensional.
One of our major fundamental problems is that we do not have as yet, an honestly debated and agreed vision of what this nation should be in existence for and an honestly debated and agreed strategy of how to achieve the objectives of the agreed vision. So first, we need to hav ean agreed national vision/purpose in which the major interests of all our constituent parts have been aggregated. Then, second, we need to have an honestly debated and agreed general direction of movement and each constituent’s contribution towards the achievements of the objectives of the agreed national vision/purpose.
From this agreed national vision/national purpose and agreed direction of movement, the nation and all sub-national areas, all branches of government, all institutions, the leadership and followership in all areas (including traditional, religious, economic, social, environmental, political, etc) and at all levels, the middle class, all professional groups, and their associations, the private sector, civil society, all ethnic groups, all citizens, all women, all youth, we, the people as a collectivity and as individuals, all urban dwellers, all grass roots communities and rural dwellers, etc, can take their individual bearing.
Mobilizing the nation to work together in some unity of purpose, in some common bond and understanding, and in some agreed general direction and prudently and sustainably using our humongous resources, will then become far less problematic generally and definitely less traumatic as it is with us currently.
WE can then vote political parties in and out of power, depending on where they are taking us to, in view of our agreed NATIONAL VISION/NATIONAL PURPOSE and GENERAL DIRECTION OF MOVEMENT. Right now we are just running around in circles, chasing after symptoms, leaving the fundamental problems unresolved and letting all those who can and who want to, take full advantage of us all and the Nation.
LET TRUE DEVELOPMENT DEVELOPMENT BEGIN…….SERIES
In view of the above, the LET TRUE DEVELOPMENT BEGIN… SERIES was initiated. Its Series Statement will be put in the public domain very soon, after a few people take a look at it. The immediate plea here is that when it gets into the public domain we should, as a Nation, as a Society and as a People take a critical look at it. This is very important and most strategic to us because the central objective of the LET TRUE DEVELOPMENT BEGIN… SERIES, is for us to embark on our most critical and very urgent task of striving to trans form our Country, NIGERIA, into a TRULY GREAT BLACK AFRICAN NATION-STATE. The details of this are available in a separate effort, BACK TO BASICS, Some Starting Fundamentals. This is what this Nation deserves. It is unifying. It is all-inclusive, requiring everyone and every section to make some contribution, for the benefit of all and for the benefit of the Nation and all its constituent parts and sections. It is positive. It is exemplary. It is what the entire Black World expects and looks up to us for. This is our manifest destiny. Nothing less. Not the current divisive, unproductive, buck-passing choices we make at the moment.
The re-launch of DFRRI, in whatever name we want to call it, has taken into consideration all of the above requirements. Let us give ourselves and the Nation a fighting chance to succeed. Let us build on what all of us, dead or alive, have done in the past and are still doing now. Good or not too good, they all constitute our total NATIONAL EXPERIENCE. Let us all agree to strive most strenuously for A True Nation-Building and an all-inclusive National Growth and Development Process, to begin to transform our country, Nigeria, into a Truly Great Black African Nation-State, that all of Us, Nigerians and all People of Colour in the World will be proud of.
2021-2030, OUR TRANSFORMATION DECADE
Let us therefore use this 2021-2030 Decade to begin this Transformation by building the very much required solid foundation for the process, from the base of the national growth and development pyramid, namely, in each and every one of our over 100,000 grassroots communities, in our local government councils’ areas and in our huge rural landmass. This is where to forge an effective Public Sector/Grassroots Community Partnership (PGCP). Recall the central aim of grassroots community development and the entire range of the areas this will cover. Done properly in a meticulous, conscious, deliberate and sustainable manner, with proper cooperation between public sector officials and community leaders, organizations and people, a lot of transformation can be effected in a decade.
Furthermore, the bulk of our population lives in our grassroots communities. Our local government councils constitute the tier of government nearest to our people. So, this is also where the most productive public sector/people partnership (PPplP) arrangement must also be forged and fully utilized. We must also realize that government must work in mutual good faith with our grassroots communities and with the people to achieve any agreed set goal. On the part of government, proactiveness, transparency, accountability and effective communication are required. On the part of the people, proper work ethics, positive value systems, stable relationships with self, others, and the Creator, self, and group motivation to truly grow and develop are some very essential requirements.
We should also recall with emphasis that before the discovery of oil, agriculture was the mainstay of our Nation’s economy and the major contributor to our GDP. Even more germane to this effort, before the discovery of crude oil, life in our grassroots communities revolved around agricultural activities. So our grassroots communities and their adjoining rural areas should also be the most logical place to bring agriculture back to its former top priority status. This, however must be put in its proper context. This prioritisation is in line with the fact that community members are very familiar with some specific aspect(s) of agricultural activities that had taken place in their area, for decades. Urging and encouraging them now to include other sub sectors of agriculture that existing local edaphic conditions can accommodate, will not be too much of a challenge. The immediate and long term benefits of expanding the agricultural base of their community will be obvious, more so, if they adopt the concept of no waste integration of various agricultural sub sectors.
However, in this Decade of Grassroots Community and Rural Growth and Development Transformation, Agriculture, even with expansion in width and depth, will not be the only player ever in the economic field, which itself is only one of many parts of the envisaged huge grassroots community and rural growth and development arena. (((In this connection, we should also not forget the devastation ocean surge, the exploration and exploitation of crude oil, soil erosion, desertification, etc have done to agricultural and community development in the Nation.))) In the economic field, rural industrial activities, particularly agro-processing, art and craft, technical skills and trades, etc and service sector activities will give expanded agriculture a run for its money, no pun intended.
In the social development sector, all basic, post-basic, career development, mass literacy, adult, functional and non-formal sub sectors of education and human resources development must all come alive. Other areas in the social development sector that also must come alive include: the full range of primary health care services and facilities, including properly researched traditional herbal medicine and practices; basic sports development; general healthy sports and recreational facilities and services; etc. As the primary custodians of our authentic culture, all its major aspects must also be utilized. We talk a lot about our natural resource endowments and our physical environment as mere academic topics of discussion. We behave as if MDGs and SDGs are too exotic for ordinary mortals to be involved in direct implementation. We need to bring all these and many more productive activities to our Grassroots Communities rural areas level to ensure that each rural dweller can engage in at least one or two productive activity all year round. Development Objectives and much more have already been outlined in Arise, Grassroots Communities; Again, A Case For Rural Development; List of Programmes being promoted under DPS; etc.
The entirety of the above emphasises why Grassroots Community and Rural Development cannot be subsumed under the Ministry of Agriculture. It must however be emphasised that Agricultural Development is a very important aspect in Grassroots Community and Rural Development.
Other urgent requirements in our Grassroots Communities and Rural Areas in this Decade of Transformation include all season feeder roads, power, water and sanitation, jetties (where needed), etc in all our over 100,000 grassroots communities. See the DFRRI Experiment, pp 147,148. Remember we are talking about building a solid foundation for national growth and development.
Habits do not die easily. Music, while you work. It has been some hard work coming this far. So, let us leave you with the following four: The 99 Names of Allah (Omar Esa) and Good Morning, Heavenly Father (Gladys Knight and the Pips), Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Madonna) and Lord You Have Come To The Seashore (Tim Lewis). The first two look up, to beyond the skies. The third looks towards our Nation and the fourth towards self. What is your own selection like?
Meanwhileletusmakeour2021-2030DecadeofTransformationcount.It is going to be a Decade of very hard but most rewarding work. Some will move faster than others. Indeed at the grassroots community level, some are already way up the ladder, while a large number are at the lower rungs of the ladder. That is what growth and development is all about. It is not a-one-size-fit-all process, we all know. However, if the faster moving, lend a helping hand to the not-too-fast, in true brotherhood, we will all move steadily forward. This is far better than those who like to hold others back so that they can catch up or those who like to keep others down or shut out, so that they can enjoy alone, whatever benefits that are available, without even adding anything new.
For those who are way up at the grassroots community level, pulling others far and near along, in their striving for accelerated growth and development, the next battleground even within this Decade of Transformation will be at the Local Government Areas’ level. At this level, some of the challenges of nation-building begin to manifest. At the grassroots community level, the majority of community members are usually of the same ethnic stock, striving for growth and development along lines recommended here or along similar lines, guided by age long traditional ways of settling disputes and/or arriving at decisions by consensus.
At the Local Government Areas’ level, more often than not, there would be people from more than one ethnic stock, striving for growth and development, using most times resources available in the immediate environment. Competition for such resources will no longer be on the basis of people of the same ethnic group but on the basis of people of different ethnic groups and therefore more fierce and without the guiding hand of brother and brother negotiations.
Here we get into uncharted territory. We do not have an agreed National Vision/Purpose from which each unit is supposed to take its bearing. We have also not developed our nation-building skills to any significant level. So we tend to use heavy-handed divisive means, including might is right tactics, burning of farms, sacking of communities, maiming and killing of community members. We have to begin to learn from the primary LGA level, inter-ethnic group conflict resolution skills to negotiate positive outcomes between different ethnic groups’ confrontations and contestations over resources, territory, power and influence. These are some of the most recurrent banes of our nation-building and nationhood challenges which we must overcome, so that we can make greater progress as a nation, as a society and as a people. So in addition to laying a solid foundation for an all inclusive national growth and development process at the grassroots community level, we should also at that same level begin to learn (to develop) the skills to manage (for better) interethnic confrontations far much better than we are doing at the moment.
We should also look forward to the fine-tuning we need to make at the state, geopolitical zones and national levels, within this Decade of Transformation.
In closing, this effort has covered a lot of grounds. Without taking anything out of the rest of the entire effort, two things need specific highlighting.
1.The Responsibility of the Individual Nigerian in all aspects of the nation’s growth and development process.
2. The Critical Role of Grassroots Community and Rural Development as the foundation to help us build a more stable nation-state to accelerate our all-round growth and development effort as well as the contribution to develop the skills to manage much better the challenge of nation-building.
God bless us all, our nation and all people of colour.