Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great People. Great Nation?


Today, all the states in our Nation Nigeria roll out the drums to celebrate the 49th independence anniversary of our dear nation Nigeria. Big budgets will be spent across the country to celebrate. As I sit writing this, I really wonder what we are celebrating. In my opinion, the only reason we should celebrate is that up till today, Nigeria still remain as one single entity and that we have not yet been declared a failed state! Our 49 years journey to where we are today is at best a sorry case, one whose mystery should be studied at a PhD level in a citadel of learning. How do you explain that despite all the things we are blessed with – human capacity and capability, immense natural resources, great weather- just to mention a few, we are still behind….far behind our contemporaries, even in Africa.

I remember that when I was growing up as a kid, there was an influx of Ghanians into this country. They were doing the menials jobs, the best of which was teaching. They were selling “puff puff”, cleaning and shining shoes, and all such things. Remember the “Ghana must go” saga? There was actually a national call to send Ghanians back to their country. Today, all that has changed. In the past one year, do you know how many companies have relocated from Nigeria to Ghana to set up? The number will shock you. The list is growing by the day. It is far cheaper, saner, and safer to run a business there than here. I hope there won’t be a national call in Ghana one day for “Naija must go”.

Did anyone see the Vision 20:20:20 document? While I am in support of long tern vision and all that, we are deceiving ourselves in this country. If we do not fix our foundational problems, then, there is only one way we can achieve our vision 20:20:20 – all developing nations of the world, should halt their development for the next 20 years! Mark Stevens, author of “Your Management Sukcs” joked that the most guaranteed way to become a millionaire in America is to go to the airlines business as a billionaire. In the same vein, that is our easiest access to reach our Vision 20:20:20. Others should halt their development. They should stop growing and developing! Then, we have a slim chance of being one of the 1st 20 economies in the year 2020. As long as others a progressing (and they are doing that at an alarming rate), then, our vision 20:20:20 will forever remain a mirage! It will be another avenue for people to siphon public funds into their private accounts. I am not trying to make a mess of the program. I am just stating the obvious.
If we do not fix our foundational problems, then, there is only one way we can achieve our vision 20:20:20 – all developing nations of the world, should halt their development for the next 20 years!
How on earth have we not been able to solve the power problem for example? In the year 2000 or thereabout, the Government of the day promised us the power problem will be solved. Infact, the then Minister of Power promised to transform the place in 1 year. All that is history now. In 2007, there was a clear commitment to give 10MW before the end of the year. That also is in the past. This year 2009, the government promised 6,000MW by December. Any right thinking Nigerian (who is not in government) knows that will only be possible in our dreams. Is that how big our power problem is? Has it defied all solutions? My best guess is that the technology needed to provide us stable power supply is much simpler than that needed to explore oil. Much more simpler! We need help!

I hear someone say “We know all these. What then is the solution?” You are right….very right. We will not come out of these problems by merely highlighting it. We will not become a prosperous nation by only talking about our problems without proffering solutions. We will die here, if we just sit down and fold our hands. Prayers alone will not solve our problems. We will need to do something about it

I spoke with my friend, Adeolu Akinyemi (www.deolyakinyemi.com) on the state of the nation at 49. Adeolu is very passionate about a new Nigeria. His passion for this country really encourages me to the optimistic about our chance to pull though all these and take our place among the League of Nations. Here is a summary of Deolu’s thoughts as we celebrate 49

How do you see Nigeria at 49?

At 49, we are still very close to where we started from. We are still slaves in our own country, still subject to new dimensions of indirect rule. We've been so blessed as a nation, but it currently does not show. There are two lenses to view Nigeria from, there is the lens of reality, it's the rear view mirror, it's small and we must only glance at it once in a while. Then there is the windscreen, it's a bigger lens that speaks of possibilities, but the person who is on the driver’s seat determines what we'll see per time. Nigeria at 49 needs to make a U-turn.

What do you think about the Governments 7 Point Agenda?

1. Energy: We need to solve the problem of power and energy – National Council on Energy to drive the energy policy and advice on power, energy and gas… energy emergency to be declared.
2. Security: Treating security as a critical Infrastructure.
3. Wealth Creation: 70% of all revenue comes from oil; need to keep this focused and extended to other areas.
4. Education: Need to address the various problems in the education sector.
5. Land Reform: To provide proper ownership and give a chance to take the land to capital market.
6. Mass Transit: To develop capacity for mass movement of goods and people.
7. Niger Delta: To implement the master plan already developed.

I think they are fantastic points in the Agenda. But I think Our nations leadership will be celebrated if they can simply achieve results on the first one.

What about Vision 20:20:20?

I think it's not very bright to compare ourselves with any other country right now. At least not where we'll be relative to them. Let's focus on having light, on getting more than 13% of our students to pass WAEC, on the very basic issues. Let's stop glamorizing nice sounding numbers 20:20:20 what's that? What happened to 2010? Who is measuring it?

If Nigeria is to maximize its potential, what should we be doing?

We need to focus our attention on the most powerful segment in this country. The one unit that has the capacity to do more than 100 times all our corporate or individual efforts - The Government. If we have correct political leadership in Nigeria, everything will transform! I hate to say look at Lagos, but it's clear, that right thinking leadership can achieve great results. Greater than any company, NGO, individual or social group. So I say let's get involved in our own leadership. Our silence is a political endorsement of nonsense.
If we have correct political leadership in Nigeria, everything will transform!
Any other thoughts?

Stop talking about a New Nigeria, as yourself what are you doing to make it happen? Are you making it happen at the highest level you can make it happen? Let's stop deceiving ourselves, the gap between what could have been and what is because we refused to get involved equals the sin of Negligence! When I was hungry... you didn't feed me. God will hold us all accountable for all those murdered by lack of electricity, dead on untarred roads, massacred by impure water. We will give account for what we could have done, you and I!

Feel free to share your comments. Happy Birthday, Nigeria!

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