The interconnectedness between politics and the economy has been a major area in the context of nation building. Dating back to History, the nature and legacies inherited from the former colonial masters, and to an extent still is, a major factor for the endemic problems of instability, especially the elusive quest for national integration in the emergent African nation-states after independence. During the colonial period, especially on the eve of the exit of the colonialists, nationalist leaders and their followers had an illusion of political independence being the solution to most of the problems confronting states. In the Gold Coast (modern day Ghana), the search for political freedom was epitomized in Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s philosophy:
“seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else
shall be added unto you”.
The above are indicative of the popular illusion among Africans about self-government. it was believed that with the attainment of independence and the control of African destiny in their own hands, it would be easier to promote national integration, economic development, social justice and the like. Beyond that, it was hoped that greater continental unity would be achieved and neo-colonialism effectively combated.
The case of Nigeria was not different either, however what dominated post independence was ethnic based politics, “politiking” and “politricks”. It was and is still valid to say that political parties far less national in outlook. The second Republic leaders also failed to heed to the warning of Chief Obasanjo, despite warnings of the importance of being nationalistic both in objective and practice.Ethnic politics has led to divisions, severe internal wranglings and widespread discontent among Nigeria’s various ethnic groups. This has also been further exacerbated by the emergence of ethnic militia groups either vying for political positions or special privileges which is not in the interest of the overall public.
There is therefore, no gainsaying the fact that political instability in Nigeria has immensely hampered economic development and national transformation. One reason for the consistent political instability and heated polity is lack of focus on long term goals for national development. A vehicle without direction cannot get to the proper destination. Likewise it is important to determine the capability, proficiency and quality of the driver of the vehicle. for example a car driver cannot fly an aircraft except he or she is trained to do so. What Nigeria needs now is genuine leadership more focused on both short and long term issues of national interest. Elections will go and come and key issues will persist, except they are been addressed.
This takes us to the next segment which are the key issues:
1. Political parties, civil society groups, the media and other international partners should form a synergy against the forces that threaten national security in Nigeria, Africa and the wider world. Although, it is the primary responsibility of government to protect its citizens from external aggression, however, as it seems the Nigerian government does not have all the resources (most importantly intelligence and tracking down) to deal effectively with insecurity in the North East. This is why it is not sufficient alone to designate a group as terrorist, but more importantly to pool resources together to fight the surge. In a situation where sentiment prejudices, biases and parochialism begins to hold sway in national security matters, then there is bound to be gridlock in collective decision.
2. Infrastructure is key to economic breakthrough. The Nigerian economy cannot be revitalized without the provision of critical infrastructure such as power, road, rail etc. No other nation imports and fuels generators the way Nigerians do. Even the current reduction of fuel prices does not give an inch of relieve to the problem of petroleum and power. The refineries are not in good condition, even those that are available are been run either by exploitative multinational companies or the oppressive members of the elite. Poor discourages foreign investors coupled with the uncontroversial fact that cost of production will certainly increase with poor power supply. Government with the private sector should draw a road map for the power industry, regulate and monitor the storage and supply of power. They should look at how much power is needed in the country hand in hand with the consumption rate. i also advocate that alternative means of power supply should be explored such as solar, coal and mines.
3. Economic growth is a means not an end in itself. The focus on government should be on human development. Human capital is an inestimable driving component of national economic development and transformation. Some of the reasons why the economy has not moved considerably in terms of stability is because human and natural resources have not been sufficiently explored. That is why though Nigeria boasts of the highest GDP in Africa, unemployment persists. The solution to this is for government to increase its investment in human resources with the partnership of the private sector. Mass Adult literacy, vocational and technical training as well as robust programme to revitalize the educational sector will prove to be effective antidotes to reduce poverty. Government should establish a special National Human Development programme at the grassroots level which will remain inconsequential of whatever government is in power. This will provide wider access to formal and informal education, which will empower the masses irrespective of academic qualification, sex or ethnicity.
4. Politicking and politricking are divisive methods used by politicians to fool the electorate. If a leader fails to stick to his manifesto then he is not fit for national duty. Nigerian politicians come to election day with mouthwatering promises but never fail to deliver, this is because the desire to rule overrides the responsibility and drive to lead. The “do not sell your votes” or “your PVC is your power” are not as key as the mental/psychological transformation of our national leaders. A leader must be transformed before it can positively impact those he is serving. although servant leadership seems to be absent in some circles of political leadership in Nigeria, it will be wrong to generalize that it is generally absent. The crux of the matter is that leadership is not to lord over others, it is leading others to become better people through self actualization.
My advice to political leaders vying from various positions is, remain humble, focused and tenacious about the national project. Fifty-four (54) years of politiking and politricking must stop. to my fellow citizens, Let us imbibe the virtues of selfless service to our nation Nigeria, which is the only country that we have. We do not have to be in position of political office to change things. Leadership is not determined by position but by character. To make Nigeria better, we must all be change agents. Through non-violent measures, we should voice our disaffection on how public resources are been handled. We must go about our lawful duties, carrying out our civic duties as expected of us. We must be law-abiding to show that we truly respect the constitution of the Federal Republic which we have all agreed to be binding on us as one truly indivisible nation.
Excerpts from the 1st Prof J.A Atanda Mmemorial Lecture Series No.1, The 1914 Amailgamation and the Challenges of National Integration in Post-Colonial Nigeria by S. Ademola Ajayi, PhD. Delivered at Jugor Centre, Ring Road, Ibadan. Saturday April 27, 2013.
All other views are independent thoughts and personal opinion
Economic Historian, Public Policy Analyst and Campaigner for Good Governance
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