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Taking ownership for development in dire times


Taiwo Odukoya

Taiwo Odukoya

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward,” Hebrews 10:35a

It was Napoleon Bonaparte who popularised the saying, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Napoleon’s quip has endured for generations, because at our core is a deep yearning for hope, without which our individual and collective survival, peace and prosperity would be impossible. To lack hope is to lose confidence, and to lose confidence in our future, even in the face of threatening challenges, is to lose everything. Confidence grows in proportion to our achievements in life, but we also need a healthy dose of it to achieve anything significant. The Chinese feat is a good example of this.

Decades ago, China was a dirt-poor country in the throes of communist dictatorship, until Deng Xiaoping, who escalated the Chinese local economy in an unprecedented way that inspired the people’s self-confidence. His first cardinal principle of emancipate the mind saw the Chinese looking inward and exploring their local capacity, subsequently making them one of the most powerful nations in the world.

Nigeria, on the contrary, with a handsome demography, but much less in population than China, is yet to understand this principle. The truth is that the only way Nigeria can become great is to look inward. To keep waiting in limbo for one foreign nation somewhere to help develop the Nigeria of our dream is to wait forever and to continue making ourselves a dumping ground for foreign goods and services. Where we even had something to export, it has been raw materials, which are then processed and resold to us at unimaginable prices. The result of this is a threat to our future beyond our comprehension and destruction of whatever little confidence we have towards our emancipation.

This is a wakeup call well past its due time. Leaders everywhere must rise up to pursue the genuine development of Nigeria. The federal, state, and local governments should be made to have some kind of key performance indicators (KPIs) that will drive for meaningful development in their different areas of influence. If this will require a necessary amendment to the constitution and a restructuring of the system, then it should be done. Every state ought to find its competitive advantage and develop a practical and sustainable economic blueprint that will allow the development of the potential and emancipation of its people. There is no reason why we cannot develop an intra-national economic model that will encourage inter-state trade of products and services. It is sheer leadership indolence on our part to keep waiting for money to be shared from the centre, which has been the practice for years. States have the human and material resources to develop manufacturing and service industries. There’s no excuse for not exploiting these possibilities.

In the past, when we had just four regions, we had huge manufacturing sectors. One wonders what happened to the textile industry. What has happened to the food processing industry, the rubber industry, to the tyre manufacturing sector, etc.? It is on record that we were one of Africa’s biggest exporters of goods and services at the time and were first in a lot of things in Africa; the first Olympic-styled stadium, the first skyscraper, the first television station, first in telecommunication, etc. What went wrong?

Today, it is an established fact that anywhere you go in the world you find Nigerians at the height of their professions. So, we have the human resources, home and abroad. What we now need is the leadership will to create the environment for our people, particularly the young, to evolve valuable goods and services that will make us less dependent on oil and put us on the map. The time to build a nation we can all be proud of is now. I believe we can do it.


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