Almost a decade ago, the article “Hope is not a Strategy” was presented in this column. The article you’re about to read is a revised version of that article. “Precisely in 2006, 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 accolades but also generated a strong debate within the entire College community for almost three days. Most debaters were not sure if Africa was prepared to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. All debaters gave varying opinions as to why Africa was not ready to be a permanent member of the UNSC.
It was during the plenary that a professor from the Strategy and Policy Department of the College stated cleverly in his copious closing remarks that “hope is not a strategy”. I pondered over this phrase for many years. With contemporary events in the domestic and international arenas, I am convinced that ‘hope’ can not be a survival strategy for any society.
There was a time in history when Egypt was the most economically developed nation on earth. At that time, the Egyptian pyramids 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 in many countries poverty has replaced wealth, while mediocrity has replaced political sophistication and intellectual progressiveness. These scholars would have been worried as to why Africa is lagging behind those continents 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 defined. 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.
What is strategy? The term strategy has always meant different things to different people and has defied absolute definition. It also depends on prevailing international situations, technological advancement, ideology, traditions, culture, and the perception of those defining it. In its broader sense, the strategy covers both military and civil aspects of societal survival. It is the civil aspect of strategy that is of relevance to this article.
Any hope in strategy? 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 2 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 in Africa. The second phenomenon is that in most cases, strategy is misconstrued to convey negative survival instincts of an individual as against the overall benefit of the society”.
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For those developed nations and Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) that are already operating in the technological age, hope cannot be their strategy for survival in the international community. Although there is energy in hope, policymakers have to clearly articulate their objectives, as well as state the ways and means of achieving their goals. Thereafter, they are to 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 solutions.
It is, however, heartwarming that ‘hope’ was not the strategy applied during the Ebola Virus attack. All hands were 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 plans on what the Federal Government would do and what was expected from individuals and families. Can we handle other issues of national importance the way we did in the case of Ebola?
Covid-19 dealt a severe setback to the world economy. Nigeria witnessed two recessions within a decade. Local and international Debt skyrocketed. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) did not provide the needed economic stimulus. Security was severely compromised in the last decade. Only to be told by one of our leaders that more than 200 million people who lived on “hope” are difficult to rule. What? For many years have we underrated or misunderstood hope? Yet, some scholars believe that there’s energy in hope.
We 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 the tenure of the government. 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.
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Public intellectuals can help us assess how far we have gone.
Will industrialization precede the provision of infrastructure in Nigeria? I don’t think so. 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 the 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. A multidisciplinary approach must be adopted as a strategy towards providing solutions to our development challenges. Although, there is energy in hope, certainly, “hope” cannot be the wealth-generating strategy for a population of over 200 million people.
We’ve got to work diligently and remain focused on our survival.