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The fair side of COVID 19: Good thinking (not necessity) is the mother of invention

Too much has been said and written about the current health emergency plaguing the world, in the name of Coronavirus. I did not want to join the team of wailers and lamentation crew to analyse the political-social and economic consequences that will naturally follow the sad event – the many lives to be lost to the crisis and all of that. Still, there are very few people who have the time to focus on hard economic information right now, except the many economists, real and pseudo, dishing out data all over the place, especially on social media – nothing wrong in their efforts. What one is more likely to find though is that most people, even in the information overload to which the social media has subjected them, do not want to read hard stuff right now. So, I decided to do something that will not appear too unmindful of the situation at hand, but at the same time, not wailing loud as many are. I settled on looking at the other side of the global scourge.

We already know the future will be gloom after COCID 19. We also know that companies will go burst; people will lose their sources of livelihood (they have already started) and even nations will be in arrears of their obligations, to put it mildly. What else could we expect? Could any of the events subsequent to the scourge be good for human consumption? I believe so but that is only if we agree that invention, like any creature, had two parents – necessity and good thinking; and that necessity has died following advances in Technology. Invention now has only one parent – Good Thinking.

In my recent book, “Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development”, published last year (2019), there is a section, which literally bore the title of this article. It reads “Good thinking is the mother of invention”. In that piece, I tried to reminisce over the efforts we made in the Ministry of Finance, in the early 1990s, to set up a mortgage refinance institution for Nigeria. That effort followed our federal government sponsored understudy tour of certain key institutions in the agricultural and housing sector in Malaysia and Indonesia. We had recommended the establishment of this institution, following our visit to KAGAMAS, the Malaysian government-owned mortgage refinance corporation, which helped to drive the exponential growth in the housing stock of that country in the late 80s and early 90s.

That effort failed, probably because we did not think deeply and properly about the dangers of the rising homelessness in the country even as we write this stuff. Of course, there is serious problem of homelessness in Nigeria. This problem has been masked, like many s, by the ever-present brother’s keeper spirit of Nigerians, embedded in our extended family system. Many people in this country would have been under the bridge, and many are, though, if not for the extended family system.

Certainly, too many good things have long since come out of Nazareth, beginning with Jesus. But can we say the same thing of COVID 19? This is where the issue of good thinking and not necessity being the mother of invention comes in

The idea of a mortgage refinance institution that would work with the primary mortgage institutions and the Federal mortgage bank, to act as an exhaust system or off-taker of mortgages, and thereby allow the creation of more housing loans, came at the same time the reforms that brought the primary mortgage firms into being came. But it took over a quarter of a century to be understood and materialize, when the federal government, under the leadership President Goodluck Jonathan (the one you called clueless), and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made the commendable decision to finally establish the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Corporation. I had long since commended them on that. I contended in that piece in my book, and still do, that most inventions of this day and age, do not appear to have come out of necessity. Rather, they seem to have come mostly from the superior thinking of men who, while others either slept or kept awake to format ways to cheat their country, burnt the midnight oil in “laboratories”.

The current COVID 19 pandemic seems to be all about sickness and death and the potential of a global economic crisis of gargantuan proportions, which appear already signed and sealed ready to be delivered to mankind. Can anything to the contrary happen, for which humanity would rejoice? I think so. And this is the time to begin to think, not outside any damned box, but away from any form of box whatsoever.

A Biblical story about Jesus helped me to set the tone of this discourse. “And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Some of us may recognise this quote from the Bible. It relates to the conversation between Phillip and Nathaniel when the former told the later that they had seen the one of whom Moses and the prophets had spoken – Jesus. Certainly, too many good things have long since come out of Nazareth, beginning with Jesus. But can we say the same thing of COVID 19? This is where the issue of good thinking and not necessity being the mother of invention comes in. I believe it is possible to turn this patently bad situation to a good one by looking at the other side of the scourge.

An old and well-acknowledged adage has it that necessity is the mother of invention. We are not going to be able to change the finer fibres of that adage. It was ascribed to Plato and it has served the world well. However, if necessity is the mother of invention, how come Africa has not invented its way out of poverty as did China and the Asian Tigers? Necessity may have helped North Korea to become self-sufficient but they are not the only ones going through rejection or things of the sort. Some other countries could have continued to look for the easy way out and to enjoy the good life, instead. Have we been able to reduce our taste for foreign luxuries in order to diversify our economy?

Even as the exchange rate moves violently against our national currency, we are in a hurry to buy the last edition of all kinds of foreign goods rather than say: enough is enough, lets damn these foreign goods and support our own. Not even the leaders, whose duty it is to diversify the economy, want to miss one foreign goodie to change the destiny of their future generations. Necessity may be the mother of some inventions made mostly in the ages past. Today, good thinking is the fertile bride. Necessity has gone barren,

 

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