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BusinessDay

Building a viable nation

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“Someone once remarked that “it takes a generation of committed leaders to build a great nation.” Since the time of Adam Smith, political economists have known that the wealth of any nation isn’t a function of the affluence of its rulers, but of the productivity and industriousness of its citizenry. For a nation to be viable in an era of globalisation, it must build strong institutions and values that are necessary to sustain it in modern times.

Building a viable nation doesn’t happen by accident, it is a product of conscious statesmanship. Building a viable nation is work-in-progress. It is a very dynamic process that needs constant nurturing and re-invention. In building a viable nation, true leaders aren’t tired, they are always confident of facing new challenges that evolve. Nations such as China and India have the largest populations in the world but they have emerged as important global players.

Building a viable nation doesn’t happen by accident, it is a product of conscious statesmanship. Building a viable nation is work-in-progress. It is a very dynamic process that needs constant nurturing and re-invention. In building a viable nation, true leaders aren’t tired, they are always confident of facing new challenges that evolve. Nations such as China and India have the largest populations in the world but they have emerged as important global players. Conversely, Japan, and Singapore, were once regarded as “third world” countries with few natural resources, but have long managed themselves into global economic driving forces.

Nigeria is seen and described by some analysts as the “giant of Africa.,” not because of the quality of our institutions and values, but because of our population and oil wealth. The greatness of any nation is earned, not determined by its population and abundance of its mineral resources alone. Today, the world measures the greatness of a nation by appraising its level of productivity, industrialization, competitiveness, and political stability.

Productivity, which is a measure of efficiency and a key determinant of long-term development, is increased in a nation where its citizens produce more for the same or less time, effort and resources. Increased productivity is achieved either through better ways of working, and or the use of more and improved technology. These conditions are not entrenched in the country because of poor industrial linkages, underdeveloped infrastructure, high tariffs, and the common management and production bottlenecks associated with manufacturing. Consequently, the cost of production is very high. Due to the high cost of production, Nigerian firms cannot compete with their peers in the international market, and thus, have no competitive advantage. These challenges make the hypothesis that “Nigerians are hardworking people and that the country is generously endowed with human resources,” a fallacy.

The political structure of a society when examined reveals how politics have influenced the society. Most Nigerians have said on many occasions that the nation is not structured to develop politically and economically. The long term political stability of a nation ensures healthy and long-term economic performance. On the other hand, erratic political activity has negative consequences on economic and political terrain. Hence, both economic and social institutions in an erratic environment are constrained by instability in the society. This is the fate of many countries in Africa, particularly Nigeria, which hasn’t reflected that we have thoroughly imbibed the democratic culture.

When tension mounts in a state, and political opponents are at daggers drawn because of secret agreements between political godfathers and godsons, then a battle line is drawn. A viable nation isn’t a product of political instability and thuggery.

When there is political instability, the institutions that are to formulate policies are destabilised. Policy monitoring and implementation mechanisms are systematically weakened. But the real question is why has it been difficult for our leaders to build a viable nation despite Nigeria’s abundant human and mineral resources? There are several reasons such as, socio-economic inequalities, constitutional challenge, weak institutions of governance, and the leadership challenge amongst others.

Nigerians must have common citizenship in order to build a viable nation. How is this possible when the quality of life of people in Zamfara, Yenagoa, Okitipupa and Obolafor, aren’t the same? Can Nigerians be said to have common citizenship when they don’t have equal access to health, education, and transportation? As a result of these inequalities, most Nigerians feel neglected and unmotivated to support any government. They feel marginalised that the society doesn’t adequately cater for their welfare.

Some analysts have argued that the Nigerian Constitution needs to be reviewed because of its imperfections. It’s an ongoing process. But as a people, we must be governed by the rule of law. We cannot successfully run democracy with impunity. However, we must address the issue of monopoly, marginalisation, and exclusion in bureaucratic and political positions. Moreover, the pursuit of the principle of federal character should not be at the expense of merit, or a substitute for equal opportunities for citizens.

Weak institutions of governance are a big challenge towards building a viable nation. We must set standards to measure the effectiveness and performance of our institutions. This would only be achievable if we set the rules; hire Nigerians with the technical and professional expertise as well as moral competence to interpret the rules; and ensure that the institutions inspire public confidence through transparency and accountability.

It has just been realised that leadership goes beyond integrity. Integrity is key for a good leader but not sufficient to bring about change. If Nigeria is to develop, we must have a leadership that is committed to the rule of law, demonstrates a sense of fair play and democratic tolerance. A leadership with ability that can see beyond the flamboyant splendour of government office. Most importantly, Nigerians deserve leaders who are democrats, having vision better than the one they inherited. Leaders who are reformers, who will lead by deeds, not by mere rhetoric. Leaders who are achievers, not deceivers. Nigeria earnestly asks for “leaders who will not only leave their footprints on the sand of time, but one, who by dint of hard work and fair play, dedication, and commitment, will live forever in the hearts of Nigerians.” Let’s join our hands together in building a viable nation. It’s for our own good, and for generations yet unborn.” Thank you.

The article, which has been reviewed, was first published by the author in this column on 13 December 2016.

MA Johnson, Rear Admiral (Rtd)