Almost a decade ago, I was privileged to be one of the 53 participants representing 48 countries at a prestigious college in the USA. On this fine day, it was my turn to deliver a paper on a carefully selected topic that x-rayed the international environment and security challenges at the time. My presentation was to give an African perspective on the international environment and security challenges, and one of the recommendations was that Africa should be represented as one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. My presentation received accolade but also generated a debate within the entire college community for almost three days. Most discussants were not sure if Africa was prepared to be in the UN Security Council. It was during the plenary that a professor from the Strategy and Policy Department of the college stated in his copious closing remarks that “hope is not a strategy”. I pondered over this expression for a few years. With contemporary events in the domestic and international arenas, I am convinced that ‘hope’ cannot not be a survival strategy for any society.
There was a time when Egypt was the most economically developed nation on earth. At that time, the Egyptian pyramid and temples were rated as sophisticated architectural structures in the world. It is on record that world renowned European scholars such as Plato and Pythagoras amongst others were students in Egypt.If Plato and Pythagoras were back to the continent of Africa, they would have been perturbed by the reversal of development where poverty has replaced wealth, while mediocrity has replaced political sophistication and intellectual progressiveness. They would have been worried as to why Africa is lagging behind those classified as developed. Perhaps, they would have concluded that Africa’s decline is due to the fact that it can only boast of a few leaders who actually understood how the world works.
Hope is defined as the “feeling of expectation of a thing to happen”. It is a feeling of trust that our leaders will upgrade our society to a status befitting Nigerians as the world’s most populous black nation. Unfortunately, it has not been so and this reflects the weakness in hope (not the one in the Holy books). No society can achieve economic development through hope as the dynamics of the global arena change rapidly.The term strategy has always meant different things to different people and has defied absolute definition. It also depends on prevailing international situation, technological advancement, ideology, traditions, culture, and the perception of those defining it. In its broader sense, strategy covers both military and civil aspects of societal survival. It is the civil aspect of strategy that is of relevance to this article.
It was Henry Kissinger, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations who sees strategy as the “mode of survival of a society”. Kissinger’s observation explains two major phenomena of strategy with respect to society. “The first is that the failure of any society to recognize the importance of strategic thinking and professionalism accelerates its own decadence. Thus, lack of strategic coherence and continuity of policy is the bane of most developing nations especially Africa. The second phenomenon is that most strategy is misconstrued to convey negative survival instinct of an individual as against the overall benefit of the society”.For those developed nations and Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs) who are already operating in the technological age, hope cannot be their strategy for survival in the international community. This is because they clearly articulate their objectives, as well as state the ways and means of achieving their goals.Thereafter, they ensure that their plans are sustained and logically concluded.
Regrettably, most African nations are still operating in the theological age, while their individual or collective strategy for national development is often hinged on ‘hope’.This is because in most African countries, we still use spiritual means to solve problems that require scientific solution.Most of us are specialists in this area. It is however, heartwarming that ‘hope’ was not the strategy applied during the Ebola Virus attack. All hands have been on deck to launch a counter-attack on the deadly virus at state and federal levels. States were reported “to have mapped out Ebola containment strategy”. At the Federal level, the Minister of Health was briefing Nigerians daily and marshalling out plans on what the Federal Government will do and what is expected from individuals and families. Can we handle other issues of national importance the way we did in the case of Ebola?
It has been observed that a few Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have a master plan. We need to examine these plans singly and collectively to ensure they are achievable within given time frame. Just like other master plans, the infrastructure master plan and the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) are very important to the nation’s development. The NIRP is to develop Nigeria industrially in 5 years (2014-2018), while the infrastructure master plan will take 30 years (2014 -2043) to implement. Will industrialization precede provision of infrastructure in Nigeria? Which model is this? The nation’s strategic thinkers should look at all these plans before we commit huge resources to implementation. In the Twenty- First Century, all plans must take into consideration numerous international and domestic factors, including political, economic and cultural influences. Planning involves preparing for the future and there is the likelihood of considerable uncertainty as to preferred strategy for implementation. There will never be enough resources to satisfy all the nation’s wants. Consequently, we must make strategic choices, establish requirements, set priorities, make decisions, and allocate scarce resources to the most critical needs. Above all there must be continuity in the implementation of these master plans. Multidisciplinary approach must be adopted as a strategy towards providing solution to our development challenges. Certainly, “hope” cannot be the wealth generating strategy for a population of about 173 million people.