The priority of development

Taiwo Odukoya

For everything there is a season and a time… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

One of the greatest challenges and tragedies of human existence is the suppression and deliberate determent of the human potential like is happening in many developing countries. No matter what else we achieve, if people do not have an environment that encourages the development of their human potential, then we have achieved nothing significant. Indeed, nothing significant can be achieved, except people have an environment that allows for the flourishing of their potentials. Some of the world’s greatest leaders have understood this. The Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong was so consumed with upholding political theories; it was willing to let its people starve. But Deng Xiaoping, who took over from Mao, and set the tone for China to become an economic superpower by opening it up, saw things differently.

In his now famous words, “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” Deng pioneered an economic pragmatism across East Asia that prioritised development over political or economic theories and ideologies. Heavy central planning and government foresight lifted economies from Japan, to Hong Kong to Taiwan, Singapore and Korea. Most of the government policies that spurred what has today become known as the East Asian Miracle stood in stark contrast to the Western ideologies of short term consumer interests, free trade, democracy and civil liberties. But they provided local solutions that delivered sustainable development to the people.

“Sustainable development,” Ban Kii Moon said, “is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.” Leadership, at every level, has to ensure that differences do not stand in the way of development. No matter our colour, tribe, religion or creed, we all want to be able to put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads, afford basic healthcare and education, and live in societies that enable us make contributions to the world around us in exchange for value.

It is critical, as Nigerians, to keep this in perspective. At our core, we all want the same thing: a national development programme that provides basic amenities, infrastructure and equal opportunities for all. There is no tribe or religion against this. But there is a sense in which leadership, since independence, has been largely about everything but development. We seem to have been more concerned with whose turn it is to rule or about the religion and tribe of political appointees than about development.

This is in no way underplaying the importance of equal representation. In fact, we have written several articles on the importance of inclusiveness. But it is also important to note that the pursuit of one should not be at the detriment of the other. Hunger has no tribe. Poor healthcare systems do not discriminate. Potholes and the accidents they cause do not ask for your religion. Broken educational systems are robbing children from all over the country of an opportunity to compete in a globalised world.

It is time to get serious. We must push for restructuring. But its absence is not the reason why we are struggling with underdevelopment, and its presence will not automatically become the panacea. Leadership after leadership, like the colonisers before them, has exploited our differences to keep us in a cycle of mediocrity and underdevelopment. We do not mean to tar everyone with the same brush. Over the years, there have been pockets of genuine efforts in the leadership, both at the federal and state levels, working to make things better. But we have to agree on the need for more urgent steps toward development.

We have enough revenue to make Nigeria better than it is today. Let us continue to challenge those in leadership to deliver the goods, refusing to be distracted by every reminder of our differences. I believe things will get better. We have the capacity to be a lot more than we are. Nothing matters more than creating an environment that affirms our human dignity and allows our potential flourish.

Nigeria Has A Great Future!

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Nigeria@57Taiwo Odukoya


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