The Author says time will not wait for Nigeria to develop.
Martin Luther King Jr, over 40 years ago, was quoted to have said: “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too late”.
You can easily see the embossed image of Nigeria deep in those lines. Somehow we have developed an incredible attitude which suggests that with time development will come, as if it is a natural thing. We have convinced ourselves that since it took America 200 years to develop, it should take us about the same time or even more; hence, the plea that we should be patient until things work out. And we have been. But how long are we expected to wait? No one is prepared to say. And even if we are told, we may find it difficult to believe it.
Thus, we need to ask a more generic question. How long does it take for a country to develop? 50, 100, 200 years. Unfortunately, there is no specific answer to that question. Development is influenced by a myriad of factors (internal and external) which in turn determine how much time it takes for a country to develop.
However, the dynamics of development change over time. Countries that developed early on in the 18th and 19th century went through the most cramped path to development. They had to booth strap by creating most of what they needed as they went along. Today, most of the tools required for development can be bought off the shelf. Specialists of all kinds can be hired from around the world to assist locally available ones. Training for various development professions are quicker and easier now than they were 100 or 200 years ago.
The book: “From Poverty to Power” (an Oxfam International publication) stated that, “advances both in technology and in our understanding of how to provide services mean that success is now within reach of even the poorest countries.” The book goes on to say that: “Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Kerala state in India, for example, have within a generation made advances in health and education that took industrialised countries 200 years to achieve”.
The veracity of the above statement can be seen from the spectacular development that has taken place in the United Arab Emirate in the last twenty years. Countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, Mauritius, Botswana, Vietnam, South Korea, and Egypt have all made stunning progress in certain indices of development.
Yet Nigeria, our Nigeria, “remains a puzzle to the curious; an object of derision to some; and a subject of bewilderment to yet others”, according to a former CBN deputy governor, Dr Obadiah Mailafia in an article titled the developmental state.
Public officers don’t need to go to Harvard to learn how to develop their states. If public officers need less than a year in office to know how to move money illegally around the world, they can as well use the same creative capacity to do the right things for their constituencies.
Nigeria as it is today has all it takes to undertake what is called the “big leap” in economic development. We have the resources whether natural or human. But this comes with a caveat. Resources, on their own, may be meaningless with respect to the speed of development. Countries that have little or nothing compared to what Nigeria has have made great progress, so much so that it is now widely believed that natural resources instead of being a blessing might actually be a curse or trap.
Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at Oxford University in his latest book, “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It”, argued strongly that the presence of oil in Nigeria may have led to a “natural resource trap” for the country.
That argument can hardly be faulted. When combined with other factors such as corruption and wastage of public funds, Nigeria is becoming a less effective state, something that may ultimately lead to a failed state.
Those who think that we can take all the time we want to develop are living in a bubble. Someday, they will emerge from that bubble to the realisation that the world has moved far ahead that catching up will be an undoable task. There are countries today whose economies are so hopelessly disoriented that recovery will need the help of all the angels in heaven. I hope Nigeria is not treading that path.
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