It is Nigeria’s independence day. It is 53 years since 1960, when Nigeria had its independence and the journey to being a ‘nation’ has been eventful. The State has come through periods of acute conflicts and moments of prosperity and calm. Nigeria has seen a civil war, and experienced several other violent conflicts between government forces and belligerent groups. Some of these conflicts have elements of ethnic strife, religious intolerance, and a struggle for resources. One of such conflicts the State faces, the Boko Haram insurgency, is currently raging. This conflict has come on the heels of the Niger Delta militant trouble. But violent conflicts have not been the only negative trend in Nigeria. There are issues of financial misappropriation, incredible budget allocations, unemployment, power problems….
One does not really need a scientific analyst to list all the troublesome events and trends that occur within Nigeria. Young and old men who frequent the news vendor’s stall can tell it all. There appears to be a definite look of frustration, despair and resignation in these people’s voices while they recount the woes of the country. One is worried about getting well fed in a day. Another is worried about getting his children’s school fees all paid. And a third struggles under debt burdens.
But what many people do not realize is that Nigeria is under transformation, positively. Quite a lot of Nigerians have not figured this out, even though they are a part of the change, simply because they have not really got down to think on what actually works in this country. But take a look: Nigerian graduates are increasingly looking away from seeking job placements to building their own businesses. They are going into the service sector and they are trying hard to make it fit with the web age. They are not only setting up businesses with a local market target but they are also looking beyond the borders. In his books, The Rise of the Creative Class and the Flight of the Creative Class, Richard Florida argued that the secret of America’s economic growth lay in the service or creative sector and that this economic line accounted for the largest share of income ahead of the manufacturing sector. Florida’s creative class includes people engaged in health care, business and finance, science, engineering, education and legal practice. Though Florida’s work is not a perfect indicator of economics [economics is not an exact science], but we can infer from his work that the rise of a creative class in Nigeria would soon translate into real economic growth, and a better share of capital and wealth among Nigeria’s great population.
Another trend to watch is the growth of several non governmental organizations who seek to stamp out poverty by organizing free workshops and skill acquisition programmes for a great number of uneducated Nigerians. This in itself is a plus for national economy, and the private financial lives of those involved. But I am considering the moral impact that such organizations are causing. For one, they are teaching the Nigerian citizen the ethics of good and smart work which translates into financial independence. They are also building up a culture of transparency. Life coaches, motivational speakers, financial educators and others are emerging and they are taking their services to secondary and tertiary schools, building up a uniform idea of what it means to be Nigerian- an idea that underplays the importance of culture and stresses the potential good that is in the human mind.
Though it is rather slow and painful, a new political culture is emerging. One in which people are beginning to participate in governance and asking very important questions that may trigger positive change. While a few are reporting to violent methods to question the order of things in the country, a lot more people realize that violence is counterproductive and are therefore taking the questions to the court of law. The rule of law is improving. And the legislature knows that it is prescribing laws for a growing well informed citizenry.
What of the message of church leaders? The message is more about empowering the individual to do great things for himself and country while abandoning silly superstitions. Indeed, churches have become patriots too, asking for good governance, encouraging participation in politics and making efforts to add to the economy and national growth. Many education centers and publishing houses are built and funded by large churches. The government is beginning to take note of even this and is considering taxing churches.
Then there is you, who reads Templates for Governance columns. All this trends point to a brighter future. Presently, the country is in a phase where it has to triumph over the old mindset and put on a new positive mindset of the State.
Happy Independence, Nigeria.