Dr. John Abhuere
Nigeria is a country in need of love, patriotism, hard work and commitment of citizens to her unity and development. It is a country of uncommon paradox: so much wealth and sprawling poverty/ under-development. With a huge population of over 150million and large geographical size of 923,768 square kilometers stuffed with rich natural resources including oil, Nigeria has all it takes to play in the big league of rich nations and remain on top there. However, the unpatriotic and anti –nation attitude of her elite has not allowed her to soar as expected. I have travelled wide, lived long and read extensively enough to know where the nation’s shoe pinches most and why: mass-poverty. Our dear country is not imbued with national-unity conscious, development –oriented, public-spirited and patriotic elite to galvanize available resources and generate the necessary sentiments for the progress and well-being of society. A nation can ignore the role of its elites only at its peril.
Features such as infrastructural decay and deficiency, unemployment, poverty, underdevelopment, hunger, high crimes, wild riots, corruption, tribalism, etc, are signs of elite failure. There is a great contradiction between ‘what ought to and what is’ in Nigeria .As you transverse fatherland you must wonder whether there is some curse and why are things so bad and opposite to expectation. For instance why poverty, under-development, hunger and food importation, unemployment on a large scale in a country with vast fertile land and with so much work to do and potential wealth to transform to reality?. With seeming endless opportunities for decent living and positive participation, why so much negativity- violence, kidnapping, sectarian rioting, political vandalism in the land? All you see is yawning development gap and the need to invite all hands on deck for the unity and development of our country. The Nigerian elite are to blame here for not waking up to the challenge of nation-building.
Nation –building is not a tea –party. It tasks the imagination, creative ability and commitment of citizens especially the elite and their friends to its cause. To some, nation building is about the ‘unification of people within a state in order to make it politically stable and viable’. To others, it concerns efforts of newly independent nations, to grow and catch up with the modern trends of the western world. It is also about the effort made by leaders of former colonial territories to ‘mould people of different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups into one nation state, sharing common values and aspiration. For this purpose, attempts are made to create common symbols of unity such as national flag, national career, national stadium, national sport festival, etc ,and to promote collectively agreed values in order to promote common national identity for all citizens. The sad thing is that beyond the initial euphoria of independence, the Nigerian elite have not been able to achieve these- build enduring institutions, foster national unity and promote appreciable national development.
While we can easily trace nation building in Nigeria to 1960 when Independence was won and the baton of power changed from white to black elite, there is little or nothing to show for collective development . Nigerian elite appear ill-equipped for nation-building. Some have argued that the task has been difficult, because of the way Nigeria came into being. Here the 1914 amalgamation is blamed for bringing heterogeneous people together to form a country of vast cultural diversity. However such argument should be dismissed as lame excuse for elite’s failure and appalling performance, betraying a lack of creativity, imagination and ability to wrought meaningful development over time. This writer believes that nation-building is as possible in Nigeria as elsewhere- notably Singapore. The elite need to wake up and change gear: Nigeria which attained her Independence since 1st October, 1960 is still very poor, backward and just crawling today.
Many have blamed the embarrassing situation on poor leadership . This may be true but without modification it could mislead by shielding the culprits –the elite who harm society. The conventional understanding of leadership tends to elevate the leader to the level of the super-natural-the all able and all –knowing being and to heap societal problems on his shoulder. While this has been a major weakness of most past analyses , it is worth emphasizing that no leader, no matter how brilliant and powerful, can do governance alone. He needs able hands in leadership. This is as applicable to a dictator as it is to a democrat. Thus, leadership must be understood for analysis of public affairs in its larger plural sense as a process in which many actors play their parts. And it is the collective action of the ruling group- the elite that determines the fate of any society.
The elite’s question is important to the Nigerian situation. The elites are wealthy, knowledgeable, highly connected and are either in power or have easy access to it. They have the means to make or mar any situation, broker peace or cause war with words and actions and to remain in the corridor of power perpetually . This explains why some faces of leadership of the 1960s and 1970s are still there today. According to relevant literatures, every society has its elite who ‘define the life and death’ issues of that society. As a recent observer notes, the problem with the developing countries is the selfishness of their elites: they often build and nurture institutions and make policies, which promote their own interest rather than the collective group’s. The Nigerian elite appear to be most guilty as their story has been a sad account of extreme poor performance in nation-building. They must be held accountable for the poverty and stunted growth of the country. They can do better by cultivating the right attitude, doing those things which make nations great and prosperous and taking issues of morality, rule of law, fair play, justice and hard work seriously.