Nigeria: how to rebuild a nation

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Suppose I want to rebuild a nation that is already on life support and clinically dead. The population blames the politicians, past and present, for the predicament the country finds itself in and the politicians themselves blame each other. As the election approached, the politicians began their usual game of lies, trying to outsmart each other, promising heaven and earth in a bid to win over the people. Any body elected to any political office in Nigeria is only there for a fixed period of time, a term of four to eight years i.e. if he wins a second term and he is not a senator who will sleep, indefinitely, in the Senate. Now, as everyone knows, you can’t do much in a limited space of time – unless you are Almighty God. Recently, a presidential candidate boasted that he had put an end to insecurity in the country within 18 months! It is now impossible! Insecurity and lawlessness have taken root in every nook and cranny of the country and bringing them under control will require a Herculean effort from the security services that are not up to the task.

Bringing the Nigerian armed forces back to their peak of the 1970s, let alone now, when they had the trained personnel, equipment and motivation to deal effectively with all internal and external threats will cost billions and millions. billion naira and will take at least 15 years to procure the necessary equipment. 18 months? You can’t even teach a raw recruit how to properly use a gun in that amount of time! Another promises that the Naira will be on par with the dollar if elected. Another big big lie! Economics101 will teach you that your exports minus your imports (- and not to mention foreign reserves and investments) will determine the value of your currency and that doesn’t even take into consideration all the foreign borrowings that have been taken out and need to be repaid – with interest . With oil being the main source of income for the country, it is likely that the dollar will reach 800 to one in the not too distant future: Naira at par with the dollar? Unlikely in our lifetime.

Unemployment? If after 60 years the country doesn’t have the infrastructure – and the means – to provide continued employment for millions of its citizens, no politician can wield his magic wand and get there in 4 years.

“Lie, small, small” as our people will say and admit that some things just aren’t humanly possible. The current Buhari administration promised to do so much when it was on the electoral trail in 2015 and after almost 8 years in power, it has nothing to show for it. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances that prevented a lot of things from being done like world affairs, legacy issues and internal political struggles, but the common man in the street doesn’t know that. All he knows is that you promised to do something for him and now you’re giving up: that’s why there’s so much anger and frustration on the streets. Why not be honest with people and tell them that if you are elected to power you will ensure that there will be uninterrupted power the moment you leave office – that is ONE achievable goal instead of promising to do a thousand things that will never leave power. drawing-board!

In 1970, after the end of the civil war, General Gowon, then head of state, implemented the second national development plan which was to span from 1970 to 1974 with the aim of placing the country at the forefront rank of all other African nations. plan that was workable: the resources were there (it was 65 Kobo to the dollar), the military boys were disciplined – not kleptomaniacs – to do the job, and for those old enough to remember, the country has leaps forward. So if I were to rebuild a nation, any nation, I would start by applying the same principles that people apply for self-development: A. Have a clear goal as to where you are going. B. set a human deadline for achieving goals. C. have the right staff in place to implement the plan. Now, for all of our aspiring-new-presidents-2023, stop trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes! Let them know what you honestly can do and what you can’t do so I don’t want to hear you say you’re going to build an airport in my village when you know it’s a business that’s not neither feasible nor sustainable. Being honest with people on the ground means you won’t give them false hope like previous administrations have. No political leader in Nigeria, past, present or yet to be elected, has any idea where they are going or where they are running the country – they are making it up as they go!

If you don’t have a fixed plan and goal like Gowon did years and years ago, you will only have short-term plans that will crumble with nothing to back them up. As a result, growth in all sectors will stagnate as there will be no clear indication of what the future holds or how future policy will affect them. And that’s not even talking about a future politician taking office and undoing all the work of his predecessor. And that brings us to funding – MONEY! It’s all well and good to have grand plans, but if you don’t have the money to fund it, people will cry foul and hate the administration for not delivering on their promises. A country cannot grow on debt because it will forever be at the mercy of its debtors. At a time when the current administration is currently borrowing and borrowing just to meet its annual budget, there will be trouble ahead – especially for the incoming administration who will have to service the debt.

What is needed is to wipe the slate clean: no more external loans! And it will be a question of cutting your coat according to your fabric: live within your means! Accordingly, every penny must be saved – not wasted, not stolen and not wasted!

At a time when foreign exchange reserves are at their lowest, it is shameful to know that some politicians and legislators are paid in dollars and not in naira: it shows that the political elites, themselves, have no confidence in their own currency. To generate the funds the nation so badly needs for redevelopment, EVERYONE should be paid in NAIRA – imagine the savings, especially when you know that an ordinary Nigerian Senator earns more than the US President!

Another thing to consider is discipline and accountability: past military dictators were good at this (- ‘except for the last two!). Either you delivered or you were unemployed (often as a result of a coup). These diets were mostly more “do as I do” than “do as I say”. When General Obasanjo in the 1970s banned the use of imported lace, he himself, to this day, does not wear it. A politician these days will criticize teachers and lecturers for going on strike for better pay but secretly send his own children abroad to study or governors will loot their states blankly while demanding that petty criminals be hanged, quartered and drawn by lot.

Redevelopment and advancement can only begin when mindsets change: we are all in this together and want to change. China was only able to grow so rapidly because it had an authoritarian government that forced change and imposed it, welcomed foreign investment, provided the infrastructure necessary for it to function, and treated ruthlessly economic saboteurs (i.e. corrupt politicians). Everyone was the same working towards a common goal, no one was singled out for being special or elite. Everyone was a common person working for a common good.

Nigeria may not be a communist or socialist state, but the same principles can apply: everyone, in their own way, contributes to the advancement of the country, not just politicians who come and go: from great nations like Britain and America did not get where it is today relying solely on politicians: the progressive mindsets of the people and private enterprise did. Imagine where Nigeria would be today if it had a few Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Tesla companies under its belt (- but again you need to put in place the infrastructure to allow them to grow – good constant roads, electricity and telecommunications while ensuring that operators/investors are not kidnapped or blown up!).

What we have in Nigeria are politicians who are for themselves and not for the country and certainly not for the electorate.

Currently, there are two grandfathers and a dad in the forefront to be president of Nigeria in 2023 and the question we have to ask ourselves is whether they are here to fulfill a lifelong ambition ( i.e. check off the last box on their to-do lists), play the role of “anywhere-beautiful-face” to plunder the land dry or they really want to start something that will transform the country.

Taking all this into account, I would rebuild a nation.

2023 is fast approaching.

  • Ogunlowo can be reached at @Archange641

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