NIGERIA@59: CAN A NATION DEVELOP WITHOUT RESOLVING THE NATIONHOOD QUESTION? By Law Mefor

The Nigerian nation state has, since inception, become a workshop in nation building. Many development rolling plans have been formulated by the past and present variegated regimes. Huge resources not even available to many developed nations have been haphazardly deployed with predictably erratic results.

You do recall the two broad objectives of Vision 20:2020 are to: Make efficient use of human and natural resources to achieve rapid economic growth and to translate the economic growth into equitable social development for all citizens. Both objectives failed. Any attempt to paper over and bypass national question to develop the country will remain prescriptions in palliatives and will not grow this economy in the main. You do not put something on nothing and expect it to stand.

Nation-building and national development are not the same, and the distinction between the two ought to be teased out at this outset of this treatise. Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. Since independence, this has not been achieved in Nigeria. According to Harris Mylonas, “Legitimate authority in modern national states is connected to popular rule, to majorities. Nation-building is the process through which these majorities are constructed.”

Nation builders are those members of a state who take the initiative to develop the national community through government programmes and actions. Nation-building involve the use of major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth. With near complete absence of federal infrastructure in the South east, it is clear that what has been going on is not really nation-building. According to Columbia University political scientist Andreas Wimmer, three factors tend to determine the success of nation-building over the long-run: “the early development of civil-society organisations, the rise of a state capable of providing public goods evenly across a territory, and the emergence of a shared medium of communication.”

National development, on the other hand, is: the ability of the nation to improve the lives of its citizens. Some of the measures are increase in gross domestic product, improving literacy rates, improving medical facilities, and so forth. The National Development Plan (NDP) offers a long-term perspective. It defines a desired destination and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play in reaching that goal. Nigeria does not have shared national super-ordinate goals. With these paradigms in view, it is obvious our nation is nowhere close the league.

Development is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components. Economic development is a critical component that drives economic growth in any economy, creating high wage jobs and facilitating an improved quality of life.

The trouble with Nigeria has colonial and historical origins. Britain never really set out to found a nation but an economic contraption to serve its purpose. That was why Nigeria was expected to fail soon after independence even by the colonial masters. India crashed soon after independence and Pakistan went its way. The same centrifugalizing forces visited Nigeria in 1967 and unlike Pakistan Ojukwu could not pull Biafra out of Nigeria.

The leader of the conquering Nigeria forces Yakubu Gowon declared the so-called 3Rs – Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. The policy failed for the simple reason that he left out Reintegration. South East has been developing based on self-help. Federal government presences in the South East have remained most minimal since the war unless of course for the ubiquitous, occupation military and police forces, dancing as pythons and the likes in the zone.

It is not therefore surprising to me that months after inauguration, Buhari’s Ministers are yet to find any rhythm and come up with discernible and concrete roadmaps to address the nation’s development crises in all sectors. As policy specialist and social scientist, one can tell us for free that the way the nation is structured as unitary system in an obvious federal environment, there is no magic the ministers will do to achieve any remarkable improvement in the economy.

What is at issue is the unresolved Nigeria nationhood question. That is the reason much men and resources are committed to fighting to keep the nation together by force rather by negotiation. We fail to see that no nation has ever been held together by force for so long, not even the ironclad USSR.

So much is going into fighting insurgencies, especially Boko Haram – funds that should have gone into development. Corruption is still gulping much and public service is still too bloated even as a centre of sharing national resources and not for productivity. Possibly, half of that money voted does not even go into the fight against terrorism. A general is standing court martial for four hundred million naira that developed wings under his watch and that’s not quite an isolated case.

The economy is in dire straits yes and there appears to be no direction from the economic managers for many related reasons. If you follow the nation’s economy, the policy prescriptions and applications have been mere palliatives. Palliatives are used to keep something terminally sick alive for as long as possible and not growing it. Nigeria and its economy need fundamental restructuring for the country to truly become a nation and a thriving economy. The point one is making is this: nation building and coherent national development is not possible in an environment where the national questions have not been fairly determined.

How the nation will move forward is simple: first resolve the national question; resolve why these centrifugal and separatist forces are fighting to exit Nigeria. Restructure Nigeria. Return the country to true federal governance and the economy will rev from comatose.

Recently the Chief of Army Staff called for spiritual solutions to the nation’s security challenges. The call was both alarming and amusing at the same time. Alarming in the sense that it sounded like capitulation. And one prays it is not. The Boko Haram fight is getting rather too messy and protracted for one whole decade and the way it’s going; one won’t be surprised if the nation spends another decade on it.

The reason is because the approach has not been decisive and deliberative enough. Sometimes, one wonders if some persons in strategic positions really want this war to end. It seems to have become a sort of goldmine to some. This is manifest in the vacillations and seeming lack of coherent policies and actions. Now, the nation has officially added prayers to the armory. One believes in efficacy of prayers but at governmental level, it is hard accept that the funds for procurements of proper military hardware to keep our soldier on top of the insurgency should be used to engage spiritists, prayer warriors and marabouts.

Nigerians have been trying to blackmail God with prayers. What the nation is suffering, including insurgency, are all self-inflicted injuries. It is toxic and callous leadership over time for failing to address the national question, created insurgency, militancy, and even herdsmen killing spree. Prayers do not stop or cure self-inflicted injuries. The people only have to retrace their steps. And worse things may happen if the leaders fail to face reality and resolve the nagging national question.

Nigeria cannot develop unless all the component parts are all pulling their weights in the same right direction under a patriotic nationalistic leadership. We cannot reinvent the wheel. We cannot give federalism another meaning, just as we cannot give democracy another meaning.

What’s going on at best, is just muddling through and muddling through occurs where only palliatives apply. Palliatives even in medicine, are just meant to keep something terminally sick alive while preparing for its burial. May this fate not be the lot of the Nigerian nation. Amen.

Nigeria is a good project and salvageable if Nigerians first answer the national question and end muddling through.

• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja-base Forensic and Social Psychologist, Author and Journalist; email: drlawmefor@gmail.com; Tweeter: @LawMefor1

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