• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria: Nation-building strategy (Part1)

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VONENHACH

In my last week’s comment entitled ‘The dire need for a nation- building strategy’, I made three statements that are so fundamental that it’s important to restate them here. The first statement was that a nation must be built. The second statement was that a nation can only be built by crafting and implementing the right nation-building strategy. The third statement was that the greatest disservice that any nation can do itself is to allow the politicization of its nation-building even to the slightest extent.

While the first two statements are fairly straightforward and self-evident, the third statement is obviously a paradox because politics is very much an integral part of nationhood. It’s in view of the prominent role that politics plays in the lives of all nations that it’s expedient for the crafting of a nation-building strategy to begin with the proper understanding of the paradox of accepting politics in nationhood while insulating nation-building from politics!

The big question that I’ll attempt answering is this-Why and how can nationhood include politics while nation-building must be insulated from politics? I’ll begin answering this question by illustrating with a political couple. And so allowing politics in nationhood while insulating nation-building from politics is like saying spouses can play politics to any extent that they desire provided they both have the ability to permanently insulate their marriage from politics! A good example of highly-political spouses who have successfully insulated their marriage from politics is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is a Republican and his wife who’s from the politically-famous Kennedy family and so remains a devout Democrat. During the last presidential election, the governor supported John McCain who was his party’s flag-bearer, his wife and children were staunch supporters of Barack Obama who was the Democratic flag-bearer. Interestingly, the governor saw nothing wrong with his wife and children pasting Obama’s campaign posters around their home as they did!

Beyond the maturity of Mr. and Mrs. Schwarzenegger who remain the happily-married members of opposing political parties is the fundamental fact that this political couple chose to insulate their marriage from politics primarily because they recognize that it was their love and sincere commitment to each other and not politic that drew them into a sacred union as husband and wife and therefore, that their union is too sacred to be exposed to politics of any sort for any reason.

I need to emphasize that Mr. and Mrs. Schwarzenegger’s main reason for insulating their marriage from politics is not because of the divisiveness of politics-no. Instead, they insulated their marriage from politics mainly because politics has no place in marriage! Mr. and Mrs. Schwarzenegger continue to demonstrate the understanding that though family members can play politics to the extent of aligning with opposite parties, the marriage upon which the family is built and by which it’s held together must never be politicized. Such is the paradoxical relationship between insulating nation-building from politics and freely playing politics on the platform of nationhood. Just as marriage is too sacred to be politicized even though spouses are free to play politics, so nation-building is too sacred to be politicized even though citizens are free to play politics!

The logic of putting nation-building far ahead of politics and insisting on nation-building being insulated from politics is premised on the simple wisdom that a cake must first be baked before it can be shared, eaten and enjoyed! The reality is that it’s a nation that provides the platform upon which politics is played and so the nation must first be built in order to provide a basis of politics. Like the cake, a nation must first be built before it can be appropriated and enjoyed by its nationals whose politics and all other individual and group national practices must both reflect the highest respect for and demonstrate the greatest commitment to nation-building. One of the fundamental doctrines of nation-building is that one can neither have nor belong to a nation he or she has not participated in building.

Therefore, it cannot be over-emphasized that what makes one a true national of a particular nation is his or her specific commitment and contribution to the building of that nation rather than the mere fact of his or her birth or naturalization therein!

However, beyond the sacredness of nation-building is the highly osmotic nature of politics which is so strong that it can overtake the original purpose of whatever it touches. Thus, the mortal danger is that wherever politics is allowed to take precedence over nation-building, nation-building is bound to be reduced to little more than political expedience which has repeatedly resulted in monumental under-development as can be seen in the majority of post-colonial African nations which have been left far-behind by countries among the Asian tigers with some of whom they gained independence at about the same time! You know what? The Asian tigers successfully transformed from mostly rural, low-income economies to highly-developed and highly-competitive high-income economies between the early 1960s and the 1990s because they had such visionary leaders as Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Dr. Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia who early enough recognized the need to insulate their nation-building from politics! Dr. Mahathir’s strategy for insulating Malaysia’s nation-building from politics was based on his understanding that nation-building thrives on strategic partnership rather than politics and so his Malaysia Incorporated Concept was designed to achieve what he termed ‘Smart Partnership’. Dr. Mahathir once said, ‘…How else can we describe the partnership between the civil service, the private sector and the so-called political masters? The partnership is implied in the deliberate policy of trilateral cooperation. And the partnership is smart because it yields results, results which are shared without exception by everyone, not only the three parties, but the people and the nation as a whole’.

Finally, while Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Mahathir Mohammed may never be remembered as the best politicians of their time, they remain two of the biggest nation-building icons of the twentieth century to whom their nations will remain eternally grateful!