Capitalism cannot flourish in the absence of big governments. Governments have the money to attract the best brains, fund research, both short and long terms, and create markets for the products and by-products of these researches. It is at these success junctures that the private sector normally steps in. But what do our leaders in Nigeria do? They take the gospel of capitalism to heart but decide that government will fold their hands and watch every entrepreneur or small business owner struggle and fail. The Federal Government would create Research & Development agencies everywhere, staffing them with bureaucrats and clerks, but refuse to employ top-notch brains into these institutions, and finally starve them of funds. In simple words, the government does not understand what research is all about. How can they? Look at what they have done with our public universities. They have no respect for our citadels of learning. Sound familiar?
Our leaders do not understand that good infrastructure is the first requirement of a vibrant economy, especially an agrarian one. You need good roads, good power and water supply systems to move your produce and process them for markets here and beyond. Not many people know that we have a Federal agency called the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI). Yet we will build asphalt paved roads over swampy terrains. That is the struggle of the Ministry of Works on the East – West Road from Port-Harcourt to Warri. This losing battle had been going on for over 30 years. So, I ask, “what is the input of NBRRI? On the other hand, and for reasons unknown, we also think that transportation infrastructure is a mutually exclusive venture such that when you have roads, you can ignore your railroads and water ways. That is criminal.
All forms of transportation ought to be developed as complimentary arms of each other. Our over-reliance on road transportation has burdened the existing roads that we are always rebuilding and not adding to the existing. Trains were meant for heavy and quantitative haulage, which will ease undue load-bearing and traffic density on our roads. As for water transport, this does not exist in a country that lies in the tropics. That is a monumental failure. In its foray into air transportation, the government failed woefully, and having deregulated the sector it folds its hands and watches the operators struggle to death. Air transportation is expensive and high risk. Government ought to aid these corporations with soft loans, tax breaks, and financial guarantees to allow them to grow. The rewards to the government will be immense.
In all our years as an independent nation, where are our inventions? How have we worked towards becoming part of the developed world? Why do we acquire knowledge only to do nothing with it? The problems lie on our governments, we are bound to say. But governments are not abstract objects that are programmed to act in certain ways. Governments are made up of our leaders, and in a democracy these leaders are the people we have voted into power with the promise to do what we want. We need to learn to hold our leaders accountable. That is how they can become responsive and productive. If they do not represent us well, we make sure they do not retain power in the next election cycle.
Why then do we believe our ancestors are to be blamed for our misfortune? Instead of giving life to the lies of the conquerors, we should try to change the world or our perceptions of life and its development. Rather than spend time binding and casting out ancestral curses we presumed have been passed to us, we should practise patriotism at all levels of our lives.
It is alright to hold the people who invaded our lands, kidnapped, captured and sold us as slaves to blame. Our women were raped, pregnant women were fed to sharks, the weak were killed, just as those who were rebellious. Many of us in the diaspora cannot locate our roots anymore because our ancestors who were slaves never made it back home. Their roots are lost forever. However, we must look for a way forward, engage in and live the lives that we have presently, improving it as we go along in years. By so doing, we can put ourselves into positions where we can ask for restitutions from those who have wronged us.
If there should be anyone crying or lamenting about curses, it should be the slave traders and their masters. They are the ones who murdered, raped, stole and enslaved their fellow humans. We must not drown in self-pity and be at the mercies of other nations when we have the potentials to be standing strong with our heads held high in the clouds. The cruelty of colonisation and slave trade robbed us of our written history, our developed minds, our arts, and literature. To emancipate ourselves we must begin to chronicle our lives in prints and arts. We must document all that happen contemporaneously, teach our history and stories to our children, all versions of it, both the good and the ugly. Most millennials do not know the true history of Nigeria from 1914 to the present. The civil war is not even taught in schools.
We are not preserving records, so how can younger ones learn? In the technological world, we live in presently, it is so easy to document and preserve records. We must embrace these practices. The developed countries today made this much progress because their citizens thought, explored and were creative with ground-breaking inventions. Above all, they documented their various steps along the way. We can do the same. It is the only way.
There is so much goodness for all when we become patriots of our nation Nigeria. This corrupt lifestyle of ours is not sustainable. We cannot bequeath rascality, robbery, kidnapping, famine, unemployment, poor infrastructure, and anarchy to our children. Those cannot form the history that we leave behind. The biggest mistake we can make is to stop looking into the future. We need to have a plan to be the nation that we can be proud to call our own. When we do, we must move with determination, love, and fervour to execute the plan. No stopping.
I want to conclude with this quote from Henry C. Link; “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior’’. Let’s tarry no more.