BEING TEXT OF SPEECH BY PASTOR ‘TUNDE BAKARE AT THE OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY (OAU) , JANUARY 28, 2015
THEME:NIGERIA BEYOND 2015
I stand here in celebration of an institution whose commitment to the Nigerian ideal is etched indelibly on the pages of history. The pride of place occupied by this university in the educational landscape of our nation and continent is one reserved for a select few; a league of universities that have earned the right to the epithet “Great!”
The import of “Great Ife”, as this ivory tower is fondly called, lies not in the serenity of its physical environment nor in the sophistication of its laboratories and Information Technology centres; it resides not just in its towering academic records nor in its consistency among the top ranked universities in Nigeria; it consists not merely in the fact of its location in a city that also plays host to Yoruba historical and cultural heritage, nor is it defined just by its belonging to the class of tertiary institutions dubbed “first generation universities” conceived and birthed by the founding fathers of our nation in her glory days. Rather, the import of “Great Ife” lies in the revolutionary spirit that birthed it and has characterized its interaction with the social, political and economic landscapes of our nation since its inception.
The revolutionary gene was infused into the DNA of this university when it was established through a stroke of political activism by the Action Group under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in defiance of the report of the Ashby Commission which had recommended that the University College Ibadan, a federal university, was sufficient for the Western Region. Rejecting the Ashby recommendation, the leadership of the region, in its characteristic proactivity and prioritization of education as a tool for development, conceived and established this university from funds generated within the region.
I am therefore pleased to be among you as we consider this very weighty matter that pertains to the future of our nation as encapsulated in our theme, “Nigeria Beyond 2015”. At a time when power brokers are locking horns in partisan politicking, when vested interests across party lines are facing off ahead of the planned February elections, and when politicians are preoccupied with electioneering, sloganeering, and “manifesto engineering”, I consider it statesmanly and a demonstration of a sense of responsibility for the occupants of Angola Hall and the Students’ Union Government of this great university to have looked beyond the euphoria of the election season to the weightier matters of nation building.
Having said that, I must let you know that I come before you today with the solemn realization that Nigeria is on the verge of what will go down in history as a most crucial moment in her journey to nationhood. I speak to you with a weight of responsibility knowing that I am addressing a generation whose future is at stake in this pivotal moment in our nation’s history; a generation that is caught up in the complex paradoxes of our nation; a generation that is outwardly confident in itself yet lost in the frantic search for individual and national identity, seemingly optimistic yet disillusioned by the failed promises of its country; despised in the social, political and economic equation of its nation, yet in possession of the latent power to determine the destiny of that nation. I speak to you of the future that is possible for our nation Nigeria – a future that you have the power to create.
What is it about 2015?
At the turn of the millennium, the year 2015 was marked by the international community as a landmark year. In September 2000, world leaders met at the United Nations headquarters in New York to make projections for the community of nations. The 189 world leaders at the summit agreed on 8 development goals, better known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a deadline for accomplishment set for 2015.
That same year, in Dakar, Senegal, the international community set a 2015 target for attaining its goal of meeting the educational needs of children, youths and adults – the “Education for All” goal it had set ten years prior but failed to meet.
It is necessary to point out that most of these goals were set with Africa in mind given the relatively disadvantaged state of the continent at the turn of the millennium. While we wonder why 2015 was chosen by the international community for the attainment of its broad range of developmental objectives, I would like to take you to other pertinent projections that make 2015 crucial for our nation and indeed our continent.
In December 2000, under the direction of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the United States of America, and with the support of a range of non-governmental institutions and experts, the Global Trends 2015 report was published with a view to highlighting the major drivers and trends that would shape the world in 2015. While noting that those drivers would include demographics, natural resources and environment, science and technology, the global economy and globalization, national and international governance, future conflict and the role of the United States, the report had the following to say of Nigeria:
Criminal organizations and networks based in North America, Western Europe, China, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia will expand the scale and scope of their activities. They will form loose alliances with one another, with smaller criminal entrepreneurs, and with insurgent movements for specific operations. They will corrupt leaders of unstable, economically fragile or failing states, insinuate themselves into troubled banks and businesses, and cooperate with insurgent political movements to control substantial geographic areas. Their income will come from narcotics trafficking; alien smuggling; trafficking in women and children; smuggling toxic materials, hazardous wastes, illicit arms, military technologies, and other contraband, financial fraud and racketeering.
The report also identified the possibility of Nigeria, among other states “of major concern to US strategic interests”, failing “to manage serious internal religious and ethnic divisions” leading to crisis “over the next 15 years” – 2015 being the expiration of that 15-year projection.
Earlier on in November 1997, at a time when Nigeria’s leadership role in the West African sub-region was strongly felt through the instrumentality of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the NIC predicted the following in a publication titled Global Trends 2010:
Nigeria and Kenya will not have the potential to play the role of leaders in their respective regions. Nigeria’s economic mismanagement, corruption, and political instability will not be resolved over the next 15 years.
In December 2004, the National Intelligence Council, again, based on consultations with non-governmental experts around the world, released a publication titled Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project. While projecting economic ascendancy and influence for China, India and other Asian countries, the report said little about Sub-Saharan Africa and seemed to relegate the future of Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries to negative phenomena including HIV/AIDS, organized crime, and brain drain by the year 2010.
Subsequently, in January 2005, the NIC convened a group of top US experts on Sub-Saharan Africa to determine how the 2020 projections would reflect in Sub-Saharan African countries by 2015. This led to a March 2005 report titled Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa’s Future, a futuristic view on the sub-continent that not only showed little optimism on the prospects of Sub-Saharan Africa enjoying the projected global economic gains but also painted a gloomy and chaotic picture for the continent. In what was referred to as “downside scenarios”, the following possibility was projected for Nigeria by 2015:
Other potential developments might accelerate decline in Africa and reduce even our limited optimism. The most important would be the outright collapse of Nigeria. While currently Nigeria’s leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja. The most important would be a junior officer coup that could destabilize the country to the extent that open warfare breaks out in many places in a sustained manner. If Nigeria were to become a failed state, it could drag down a large part of the West African region. Even state failure in small countries such as Liberia has the effect of destabilizing entire neighborhoods. If millions were to flee a collapsed Nigeria, the surrounding countries, up to and including Ghana, would be destabilized. Further, a failed Nigeria probably could not be reconstituted for many years—if ever—and not without massive international assistance.
This downside scenario is what is often quoted as the projection by the United States that Nigeria would break up by 2015. Even though the United States government has sought to distance itself from this report, it is noteworthy that the National Intelligence Council (NIC), the body behind this projection, supports and reports to the Director of National Intelligence who is officially the principal adviser to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council on intelligence matters. A disclaimer to this report by then United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terence McCauley, therefore seems like a typical case of “plausible deniability”, a strategy officially adopted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) since the 1960s in the days of Harry Truman in which security documents involving controversial actions are managed in such a way that if they become exposed to the public, the president is adequately shielded.
In the year 2005, while I was unaware that such sessions had been convened by the American intelligence community, I was taken in a vision to the war room at the White House where I saw President George Bush plotting against Nigeria. I confronted him and asked him to leave Nigeria alone but he simply told me to help myself to some breakfast.
Young leaders of this nation, I am bringing this information to you to let you understand the global environment within which your country exists and to let you realize that, long before this time, the year 2015 had been identified by the international community as a crucial year for Nigeria and, by implication, the rest of Africa. I am doing this to challenge you to become responsible for your nation and continent. You will observe from these reports that governments and institutions of other nations are taking the time to strategize about your nation and, by implication, your future. I want you to become righteously indignant, not towards those nations, but towards your government for failing to take responsibility for the fate of your nation. I want you to begin to ask what the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) are doing in terms of mapping the future of our nation and its strategic interests. I also want to let you know that the world does not expect much from you, your country or your continent even though it reluctantly admits that you have great potential and indeed fears what you could become if your country were to get the fundamentals right. I am here to challenge you to rise up and take your destiny in your hands. I am here to inspire you to reject the stereotypic limitations that the world identifies you with and to summon your full potential towards making your country and your continent the best they can and must be. I do this because I am persuaded that there is hope for our nation and continent despite the gloomy picture painted by the world and regardless of the fact that they have been written off by a cynical, skeptical and pessimistic international intelligentsia. In spite of the mess brought upon the nation by an unpatriotic and self-seeking political class, I am confident that there is a future for our country and continent because a people who once sat in darkness shall see a great light (Isaiah 9:2, paraphrased).
At this point, it is necessary to point out the intrinsic factors that make the year 2015 crucial for Nigeria and that might have informed some of these projections by the international intelligence community.
Factors That Make 2015 a Crucial Year for Nigeria
First, 2015 marks Nigeria’s first post-centenary year since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914, which became the precursor to the formation of the Nigerian state. There have been allegations that that colonial action was intended to be a 100-year experiment purportedly designed within the framework of a secret document called the Tinubu Square Edict or the Accord of 1914. Although the propagators of this so-called agreement do not specify the parties involved, it is claimed that it was signed by Lord Lugard. While the logical reaction would be to dismiss such insinuations on the legal ground that British colonies were created by an Order-in-Council and not by treaties, it is instructive that former Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), at the January 31, 2013 launch of 2 books in honour of Professor Bolaji Akinyemi who had served as Minister for Foreign Affairs during IBB’s tenure as military president, stated that even Lord Lugard gave Nigeria a lifespan of 100 years. Coming from a former Head of State who had access to relevant intelligence, such statements should not be taken lightly. It buttresses the fact that the colonial administration regarded the act of amalgamation not as an integration of peoples but as an administrative arrangement for the economic interests of the British Empire. It also suggests that the colonialists, at the point of the amalgamation, had no definite plan to transition the colonies from dependent territories to independent states but had hoped that within 100 years, the resources of these territories would have been exhaustively exploited under a colonial arrangement for the benefit of the British Crown, after which the colonial peoples would be left alone to decide their fate under a new international order that would keep them in perpetual subjugation. However, subsequent events, particularly the Second World War, would destabilize the existing international order and weaken the colonial empires, including Britain. The Second World War also facilitated the coming of the United States of America into the community of nations and its ascendance to global power status as well as the rise of the Soviet Union and the threat of communism. With Britain relinquishing its world power status to the United States and the world subsequently becoming bipolar, pressure from the new world powers in addition to agitations within the colonies forced Britain and the other European colonialists to gradually concede independence to the colonies.
Nevertheless, in the post-colonial international order, Africa has been merely nominally politically independent and has remained largely economically dependent on the West which scholars have termed neo-colonialism. The international legal order, from the structure, composition and power dynamics of the United Nations, to the various international trade regimes, has been largely disadvantageous to Africa. The multinational corporations, with the connivance of the corrupt and self-serving political administrations of Africa, have simply continued the pre-independence order that was characterized by the exploitation of African territories with the collusion of local chiefs.
Therefore, whereas Nigerians are treating the 2015 projections with levity, it appears that the international community is already acting in anticipation of the downward scenario which is, indeed, a nightmare scenario. As one analyst put it, it appears the international community is “working to the 2015 answer”. If these projections are considered against the backdrop of the Lugardian timetable for the exhaustive exploitation of the Nigerian territory and the subsequent expiration of the so-called amalgamation experiment, it would appear that the Western powers have not jettisoned that timetable. To buttress this point, observers have pointed out the following developments:
Since 2011, insurgency in northern Nigeria has escalated to international proportions from what started as a small religious sect. The escalation of the sect’s activities to the level of insurgency just a few years before 2015, in such a proportion never before experienced in Nigeria’s history of religious conflicts, is worth pondering upon. There have been reports alleging that the escalation is part of an international plot to balkanize Nigeria. One of such is an article by Gordon Duff, reportedly a national security specialist and an editor for Veterans Today, a US magazine. Duff’s article has been referenced in other Nigerian dailies including Daily Trust and Vanguard. In his allegations, which were made a couple of years before the crisis reached its current alarming state, Gordon Duff described Boko Haram as “the construct of outside powers who plan to balkanize Nigeria”. Although the veracity of Duff’s claims may be challenged, reports from other sources such as News Rescue have linked the activities of the sect to foreign powers operating through Middle Eastern proxies in such a way that even the perpetrators do not realize who is driving the wheel. Some analysts are of the opinion that this was the characteristic manner in which Al-Qaeda was created in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine. It is also interesting to note that fifteen years after the Global Trends 2015 report, the Boko Haram insurgency has been linked with the narcotics trade and trafficking in women and children among other criminal activities projected in the report.
A couple of years before 2015, major Western multinationals, especially in the oil and gas sector, began to divest from Nigeria as though in anticipation of an unconducive environment for business. It is noteworthy that a top ranking official of a multinational oil company with a major stake in the Nigerian petroleum industry was named among the experts that produced the report titled Mapping the Global Future, the subsequent review of which led to the projection of the 2015 failed state scenario for Nigeria.
Between 2006 and 2008, after the NIC projections, the United States established its United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) with the aim of protecting US interests across Africa. When Nigeria opposed the creation of AFRICOM and asked instead for US assistance in the creation of a Nigerian-owned and controlled military base in the various sub-regions of the continent, it was projected by intellectuals that relations between Nigeria and the US would turn sour and that, in its characteristic manner, the US would begin subtly interfering with Nigeria’s internal affairs in a bid to ultimately force Nigeria to comply.
A 5-day war game was simulated in Pennsylvania, USA in May 2008 as reported by the African Security Research Project. Tests were conducted to determine how AFRICOM could respond to a possible crisis in Nigeria projected at 2013, in which “the Nigerian government is near collapse, and rival factions and rebels are fighting for control of the oil fields of the Niger Delta and vying for power” in the oil-rich country, which was at that time the sixth largest supplier of America’s oil imports. The report further indicates that at the end of the war game, the participants drew up a set of recommendations for then Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, to present to President Bush, and that General Casey decided to brief the presidential candidates at the time, John McCain and Barack Obama, on the results of the exercise. It is instructive that one of the major catalysts fuelling political rivalries ahead of the 2015 elections is the existence of 92 oil wells in the Niger Delta, the allocation of which will be determined by whoever wins the elections.
In April 2014, following the abduction of the Chibok girls and the ensuing international outcry, the Boko Haram crisis eventually opened the door for AFRICOM’s entry into Nigeria.
In 2014, America completely cut off oil imports from Nigeria. Although it was presented as a policy aimed at stopping US-dependence on foreign oil and promoting clean energy, a December 2014 report by The Guardian suggests that America’s imports from other traditional oil suppliers, including OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, actually increased when the US halted imports from Nigeria. This suggests that the policy on Nigeria could have been a targeted measure.
The Nigeria-US relationship has remained sour in the lingering war against Boko Haram with Nigeria calling off the training arrangement it had with US soldiers. Furthermore, the US has refused to sell weapons to Nigeria citing human rights abuses by the Nigerian forces. It is however noteworthy that the US has a history of support for undemocratic partners as was the case with Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan whom America supported with $300 million worth of military aid despite his implication in allegations of human rights abuse.
These developments would make the observer wonder if the world is getting set for the downside scenario for Nigeria in 2015.
The second intrinsic factor that makes 2015 crucial for Nigeria is the February 2015 elections which seem to further provide the incubator for the hatching of the dreaded scenario. Speaking on the theme “The Gathering Storm and Avoidable Shipwreck: How to Avoid Catastrophic Euroclydon” in a state of the nation broadcast at the Latter Rain Assembly on Sunday the 4th of January this year, I alerted the nation on seven signs that point to the looming storms ahead of the forthcoming elections. The signs include:
Poor Level of Election Preparedness
Safety and Security Risks
Likely Minority King-Making
Looming Constitutional and Legal Crisis
Impending Post-Election Tension
Looming Economic Collapse
Potential Religious Confusion, Betrayals, Scandals and Persecution
In reaction to the speech, the government and the electoral body have attempted to clarify certain issues raised and have taken certain measures aimed at boosting election preparations. However, the signs still loom and the nation has thus far turned a deaf ear to my proposals for a horse-before-the-cart approach. Instead, we are plunging headstrong into the storms, carrying out a volatile transition process without laying the necessary foundation for the sustenance of our democracy. In what is turning out to be the democratic paradox, it appears that we are acting out the script for the downside scenario and setting ourselves up for the fulfilment of the 2015 failed state projections. Do I hear you say God forbid? Hmmm! Hmmm!!
This address is, however, not about the elections. As far as those are concerned, I have sufficiently warned the nation – let him who has an ear hear what has been said. Instead, this speech is about the great nation that will rise out of the rubble of the old one that is going down; it is about the part of the unfolding Nigerian story which international pundits are not privy to even though they realize the existence of a part of the Nigerian puzzle that beats linear projections and confounds prognosis. This address is about that wild card in the equation, the ace in the puzzle. It is about the God-ordained destiny of our nation and what we must do to get there. At this juncture, it is necessary to find out what it is about Nigeria that has warranted such attention from international pundits in the first place.
The Nigerian Potential
In its report titled Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa’s Future, the NCI publication I earlier referred to, it was noted that“the ability of African countries to continue to muddle along despite high levels of violence should not be underestimated”. It was further observed that Nigeria had succeeded in maintaining its democratic façade despite the fact that 20,000 people had been killed in the country, according to the report. This capacity to defy expectations was admitted in the report when it noted that “if Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan—three of Africa’s largest and most important countries—actually began to use their revenues from oil in productive ways, these states would become stronger, tens of millions of Africans would benefit from reduced poverty, and the impact on the region might be significant”. The Global Trends 2015 report had earlier projected that “South Africa and Nigeria, the continent’s largest economies, will remain the dominant powers in the region through 2015” and that “the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the SADC [Southern African Development Community] will be the primary economic and political instruments through which the continental powers, Nigeria and South Africa, exert their leadership”. In April 2014, Moody’s, an international rating agency, projected that Nigeria will have one of the 15 largest economies in the world by 2050. A similar projection had been made by Jim O’Neill, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, as reported in the Business Day newspaper of March 21, 2014. O’Neill had said that whereas the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – would be the next phenomenon after the G7 economies, the MINT nations – Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – would emerge after them. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), in its projections published in 2013, saw Nigeria as the 13th largest economy in the world by 2050. It regarded “Vietnam and Nigeria as potential fast-growing ‘wild cards’ outside of the G20”. In its growth projections, it had this to say about Nigeria:
“Nigeria could be the fastest growing country in our sample due to its youthful and growing working population, but this does rely on using its oil wealth to develop a broader based economy with better infrastructure and institutions (e.g. as regards rule of law and political governance) and hence support long term productivity growth – the potential is there, but it remains to be realised in practice”.
Furthermore, using the National Power Index, the Atlantic Council and International Futures have predicted that Nigeria will be the 19th most powerful country in the world by 2020, the 18th by 2030, 16th by 2040 and 14th by 2050. Also noteworthy is an October 2013 study by the French Institute of Demographic Studies which predicted that by 2050, Nigeria will overtake the United States as the third most populous country in the world with a population of 444 million, behind China and India.
Although we do not have to base our confidence as a nation on these international projections, it is worth pointing out that even among international pundits, our potential for greatness has been widely acknowledged.
Some Factors behind the Nigerian Potential
Population/Demographics: Not only is Nigeria the most populous country in Africa, it has a very youthful population. Whereas only 16% of the population in Europe and 25% of the Asian population are below 15 years, 41% of Africa’s population is below 15 years. The population of Nigerians below 15 was 44% in 2010 while over 60% of Nigerians are below 35 years. This implies that Nigeria has a large potential workforce compared to some of the world’s developed countries. I must add that this potential workforce includes you, students of this great university.
Natural Resources: Apart from her oil reserves and natural gas reserves, Nigeria is endowed with 34 solid minerals and each state of the federation is endowed with one or more minerals with significant trade and industrial potential.
Investment Attraction: In 2014, a United States-based economic advisory firm, Frontiers Strategy Group, identified Nigeria as the preferred investment destination among other African countries despite the security situation. This phenomenon, which is not unconnected to the nation’s vast endowments, implies a great potential for capital inflow.
The Nigerian Spirit: Although there is currently no index to lend empirical credence to what may be referred to as the Nigerian spirit, this inexplicable factor makes the Nigerian unique and contributes to the Nigerian potential. It is seen in the enthusiasm, drive and optimism of the Nigerian. It can be observed on the streets of Lagos in the sonorous voice of the conductor calling out to potential passengers, in the aggressiveness and tact of street traders and street beggars as they sell their products and predicaments to commuters, in the doggedness of the worker racing and rushing to catch a bus early in the morning. It is resident in every Nigerian, even in a villager who visits the city for the first time and is initially taken aback by the rush but eventually adjusts and becomes streetwise in no time. It is a latent entrepreneurial spirit waiting to be harnessed.
The Nigerian Paradox
Despite these endowments, our nation has paradoxically performed sub-optimally. This sub-optimal state of the nation is reflected in the experience of the disillusioned average Nigerian youth whose story we shall begin to tell from his struggles through secondary school. We shall call him Johnny. The substandard state of his learning environment is seen in the broken chairs, tables and leaky roof with which his classroom is furnished. Ventilation has been taken care of by the fact that the windows are always open. In fact, there are no windows, just spaces on the walls where windows ought to be fixed; spaces that have been further widened by cracks on the walls. Indeed, the classroom has no need of windows as it is occupied by three arms, each supplying no fewer than 60 students. So, altogether, there are about 180 of them in one classroom. Johnny and his classmates dare not complain. After all, their lot is better than that of students in a neighbouring school where students sit on mats and where some classes are held under a mango tree. His maths teacher, overburdened with a merciless workload for which he was last paid six months ago, has become the meanest man on earth, the very definition of frustration. Like his other classmates, even when Johnny does not understand his maths lessons, he dares not ask questions for fear of the teacher’s hostile response. A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. With parents who can barely feed the family, Johnny manages to get through secondary school, hawking after school to support his struggling parents. He eventually writes the WASSCE and passes all his subjects except mathematics. By hook or crook, he obtains a credit in maths from NECO and turns his attention to the UTME. He attends tutorial centres in preparation for the matriculation exam. He intends to study medicine. While preparing for the UTME, he takes on menial jobs to support himself and his parents. Unfortunately, he is unable to prepare sufficiently for the exams and scores below the cut-off point. He tries again the next year and still does not meet the cut-off point. He writes it a third time and decides to settle for Zoology. He is admitted to one of Nigeria’s universities (name withheld). He attends lectures in a dilapidated lecture hall that was last renovated when his grandfather was a young janitor in the university, he dissects toads in a poorly equipped laboratory that has become a biological museum, and he sleeps in an overcrowded hostel with twelve occupants in a room that was once for two. To worsen matters, in his final year, two of his results cannot be found. Fearing a carry-over and delayed graduation, he joins a fellowship and takes it to the Lord in prayer. His prayers are answered and his results are found. He graduates after seven years on a four-year course. Mind you, he spent three additional years not because he failed but because ASUU was on strike for a cumulative period of a year and a half, while the school was closed over student unrest for another cumulative period of a year and a half.
Upon graduation, he is posted to a remote village for an experience that assures him of one fact: “Now Your Suffering Continues (NYSC)”. He gladly accepts it for two reasons – first, he was not posted to the North where he cannot be certain of returning to his poor parents alive; second, his NYSC allowance will sustain him for the period of service. He can also send a few naira notes back home to his parents. Alas, the one year service comes to an end and he has to look for a job. For two years, he drops his CV at the reception of every available firm and writes aptitude tests in every sector that has an opening, from banking and finance to telecoms, from media to oil and gas, from civil service to non-profit, and from the police force to the immigration service whose aptitude tests are conducted in football stadiums. When these don’t work out, he tries out a career in comedy but quits when MC jobs are not forthcoming as no one wants to hire a Johnny Just Come (JJC). At that point he gives up, resigns himself to fate, makes watching football his past time, becomes an expert at football analysis, and even tries out gambling in the name of sports betting. His psychological distance from his country is seen in the fact that he knows all the players in Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, when they were bought, how much they are paid, how long their contracts will last and how many goals they have scored but knows nothing about a single player in Enyimba or any Nigerian club for that matter.
Then one day, unexpectedly, one of the banks that interviewed him a year earlier suddenly needs cashiers and gives him a call. He excitedly takes the job. One year into the job, however, while he is trying to consider career development prospects and has started thinking of proposing to his girlfriend, financial crisis hits the banking sector and his bank downsizes. Guess who is among the first to be laid off! Johnny!
We may laugh at Johnny’s experience but it is not funny. It is not funny to that young graduate on the streets of Lagos, Ife, Ibadan, Benin, Port Harcourt or Kano, with a knotted tie under the heat of the sun, file in hand and sweat in brow, knocking on gates from one firm to another in search of an opening; it is not funny to that family whose child sits at home jobless years after graduating despite the time, energy and resources spent on educating him or her; it is not funny to a nation when only 29% of its school leavers gain admission into the available tertiary institutions, which implies that 71% are shut out of the system each year; it is not funny to a nation when 50% or about 64 million of its youth population is unemployed.
In the Global Talent Index – an index of how countries attract, develop and retain talent as well as how this translates to competitiveness – Nigeria has remained at the bottom of the table in spite of her rapid population growth. Conversely, South Africa, the other African country studied in the survey, is higher up on the table as a result of that country’s relatively high spending on education as a proportion of GDP. This trend is also seen in the Global Innovation Index which rates countries in terms of their success at creating enabling environments for innovation and innovation outputs. In this ranking, Nigeria is 110th out of 143 countries studied. In the Human Development Index, which is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income indices, Nigeria occupies the 152nd position out of 187 countries. This should not come as a surprise as Nigeria’s scorecard in the education index is 145th out of 181 countries. It is obvious that Nigeria has paid little attention to the most vital resource in any nation – the human resource. This accounts for the paradoxical sub-optimal state of the nation in spite of her material resource endowment.
The Underlying Causes of the Paradox
It was John F. Kennedy who said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource”. Every nation that must convert its material resource endowment to real wealth must prioritize human resource development. It was in consonance with this principle that Aristotle once said, “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth”. It takes genuine transformational leadership to recognize this principle and, consequently, to develop and deploy the right human resource for national development. Such transformational leadership was what Chief Obafemi Awolowo demonstrated in the Western Region. This university is one of the fruits of that exceptional leadership. That kind of leadership was what Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe demonstrated in the Eastern Region. The University of Nigeria Nsukka is one of the fruits of that dogged leadership. That kind of leadership was what Sir Ahmadu Bello demonstrated in the Northern Region. Ahmadu Bello University is one of the fruits of that astute leadership. Lest some opportunists begin to equate the mere establishment of universities with transformational leadership, let me point out that these universities were strategic components of broader regional development plans designed and articulated for each region under the leadership of the respective regional governments. The absence of that kind of transformational leadership is the immediate cause of our developmental paradox as a nation.
The lack of transformational leadership is the result of fundamental divisions in our polity. A nation that is this divided along ethnic and religious lines is bound to make erroneous political decisions. A situation where the Yoruba man will not vote for an Igbo man and the Igbo man thinks he has nothing to gain from the government of a Hausa/Fulani man is a recipe for clueless leadership because in the end our bigotry will exclude the best of us and ensure that the rest of us are governed by the worst of us. In essence, our developmental challenges have a deeper root cause in our failure to integrate and become one true nation of diverse peoples. This takes us to another aspect of the challenge.
A nation of diverse entities and group agitations such as ours must be geopolitically structured to effectively balance the need for sub-group identity with the pull towards national integration. Genuine federalism is the ideal structural framework for such. It is instructive that our founding fathers were able to exhibit transformational leadership in a truly federal geopolitical context. This university would not be in existence today if the Western Region had no powers to set it up in defiance of a federal proposition. When the decision to set it up was eventually made, the regional government funded it from the region’s cocoa economy. Imagine what would have happened if the Western Region had to wait for allocations from Ikoyi, the seat of the federal government at that time, before embarking on such developmental projects. If that had been the case, there would be no Obafemi Awolowo University today. Moreover, aside its intended contribution to the national workforce, the university was set up with the aim of providing for the region the needed manpower to run its peculiar economy. If that economy had been sustained over the years and had not overrun by the unification decree and eventually replaced by the current mono-economic structure, no competent graduate of this university would leave school without the assurance of a job or an opportunity to build a thriving business. Given the competitive quest for development that characterized the regions at the time, and given the visionary drive of the respective regional leaders, the same would have applied to graduates of tertiary institutions across the country including the Northern region which was at first comparatively disadvantaged.
However, the eventual collapse of that era began when the federal government began to tamper with the federal structure by its unscrupulous interference in the politics of the Western Region in the early 60s. The federal structure was eventually destroyed with the unification decree of General Aguiyi-Ironsi on May 24, 1966.
Since the destruction of Nigeria’s federal structure, no leader, no matter how charismatic, has been as transformational in impact as our founding fathers. Potentially transformational leaders in our post-civil war democratic experience under a pseudo-federal structure have been met with sectional resistance either at the election stage as was the case with Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1979 and 1983 or at the post-election stage as was the case with Chief M.K.O. Abiola in 1993. Under the 1999 constitutional and structural arrangement, the electoral experience of General Muhammadu Buhari since 2003 has been another classic case of sectional rejection of transformational leadership. We sincerely hope the formation of APC will conclusively change that trend this time around.
This chain of limitations to the Nigerian potential has been further sustained by the non-awareness of the Nigerian people of the power they have at their disposal and of how to channel that power towards sustainable national transformation. Worse still, the enlightened component of the population comprised of the elite and the intelligentsia is often indifferent or given to compromise and playing to the gallery.
Beyond 2015: Portrait of a Properly Structured and Well–Governed Nigeria
I wish I could begin to paint the portrait of Nigeria beyond 2015 by simply articulating a magnificent developmental blueprint. We will get to that juncture shortly but it is imperative to first reiterate that, given our current trajectory in 2015, we are heading for the nightmare scenario, a pathway that will necessitate a period of reconstruction.
As Simon Kolawole wrote on the back page of the THISDAY newspaper of Sunday 25, 2015, under the heading “Buhari and the Burden of Expectations”:
Unfortunately, the reality is that Nigeria will not change overnight. I’m no longer a reckless optimist. There are no shortcuts to solving some of our deep-seated problems. The road ahead is very rough, particularly as crude oil — the livewire of our economy — continues to tumble, pricewise. Truth be told: no matter who wins the presidential election — whether it is Jonathan or Buhari — there are tough decisions ahead. Tough decisions about the oil industry. Tough decisions about electricity tariffs. Tough decisions about military action against Boko Haram, which may come with collateral damage. Tough decisions about downsizing the civil service. Don’t let us deceive ourselves.
Buhari is more realistic than most of his supporters. In an interview with TheCable last year, he said: “Nigerians have to be prepared to suffer for at least five straight years before we can stabilise this country, security wise and economically.” In other words, there are no fertilisers to accelerate the development of Nigeria. I do not blame Nigerians for being impatient. The only thing a hungry man wants to hear is “food is ready”, not “food will be ready”. But a more realistic expectation is that no matter who is president, we need policy consistency, commitment and funding for at least 10 solid years before we can be anywhere near South Korea or Singapore. Rome was not built in a day. No one man will change or transform Nigeria overnight. Tough truth. 
Contrary to prognostications, however, it will be a blessing in disguise as it will afford us the opportunity to rebuild the foundations. It will be a rare opportunity to rebuild the old ruins of our geopolitical structure, to raise collapsed institutions, and to implement a robust developmental blueprint, the output of which will shock the doomsday 2015 prognosticators and transcend the 2050 projections. The portrait of Nigeria beyond 2015 will have the following landmark features:
Reconciliation: The divisions in our polity over the years have beensustained by historical grievances. The failure of the Nigerian state to address these grievances has produced resentment, nurtured bitterness and engendered distrust amongst Nigerians against one another and against the state. It is obvious to the discerning that the planned February 2015 general elections, the presidential election in particular, however it turns out, are set to aggravate those grievances. The path to reconstruction will therefore necessitate a genuine reconciliation programme, the blueprint of which has been created but the modalities of which are beyond the scope of this presentation.
Accurate Demographics: The reconciled peoples must have an accurate assessment of national and subnational population, not as a prerequisite for the receipt of federal allocation, but for implementable developmental planning. It will also aid proper constituency delineation and the creation of a standard voters’ register.
Restructuring: To keep reconciled peoples together, a governmental framework that preserves the right of subnational entities to internal self-determination must be put in place. As I stated earlier, this calls for the adoption of a truly federal structure in the geopolitical and fiscal sense of the concept in such a manner that effectively jumpstarts the development of all the federating units. Some of the features of a suitable structure are as follows:
i. The devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities in such a manner that governance is brought much closer to the people;
ii. A strong centre integrating strong and viable federating units;
iii. The empowerment of the federating units such that public goods can be efficiently delivered to end users;
iv. Local governments that are democratically administered and financially autonomous albeit as channels through which the federating units fulfill the promise of people-oriented governance;
v. Appropriately sized and efficient governments;
vi. A legislature that is small enough to minimize the cost of governance yet representative enough to cater to both large and small sub-national groups on the basis of equality and proportionality;
vii. An executive government that is separate enough from the legislature to guarantee separation of powers yet close enough to the legislature to guarantee accountability as well as checks and balances;
viii. The institution of compulsory channels of accountability;
ix. Equity in resource management as well as income generation and allocation; and
x. Recognition and optimization of regional or zonal distinguishing factors towards development and for the purpose of efficient political, economic and social interactions.
Constitutionalism: The reconstruction process must then bequeath to the nation a true people’s constitution that will codify the aforementioned features and lay genuine claim to the phrase, “We the people”.
Institution Building: Within constitutional parameters, the first institution to be rebuilt would be the electoral body with a view to producing an unbiased and truly independent electoral umpire whose head will be appointed not by the president but through such mechanisms of checks and balance as were recommended in relevant documents such as the report of the National Electoral Reform Committee (NERC) and revisited in the 2014 National Conference. The funding of such a truly independent body will be drawn from first line charge on the federation account. This would then set the stage for the rebuilding and strengthening, as the case may be, of institutions of democratic governance across the different levels and arms of government.
Integration: Upon the foundation of genuine reconciliation, restructuring and constitutionalism, active steps must be taken to blur the fault lines that have divided us for so long and to weld the diverse peoples of this nation together so that one people will be formed out of many, and patriotic devotion to the national cause will transcend regional and ethnic loyalties and dissipate religious biases.
Social Reforms:The path to recovery will be characterized by transformation in the education sector across the various levels in terms of improved access to quality education, innovative education management, world class teacher training and development as well as teacher evaluation and remuneration. Systems will be designed to constantly reform and update teaching and learning methods, curriculum and access to cutting-edge technology, thereby astronomically improving learning outcomes. Moreover, the system will ensure the linkage of the education sector with the broader socioeconomic framework as part of a new national economic order as I will describe shortly. Reforms in the social landscape of our nation will also impact the health sector, empower women and youth, and enhance social security with a view to achieving social justice.
A New National Economic Order:The reconstruction process will eventually bequeath to the nation a thriving economy bustling with opportunities and ideas and will also provide an enabling environment for innovation in every sector of the economy. One of the first fruits of this new economic order will be the emergence of Regional Economic Zones. In this regard, Nigeria will experience the rise of megacities across the six geopolitical zones such that there will be six unique models of the Dubai experience. As I hinted earlier, a unique feature of these zones will be the productive triangular relationship between the ivory tower, industry and government. Public policy will harness academic institutions for the discovery, development and deployment of talents, ideas, knowledge and entrepreneurs into industries in the sectors in which each zone has comparative advantage in terms of human and material resources as well as market potential.
For instance, business clusters will be created to harness the revolutionary DNA of an institution such as the Obafemi Awolowo University for marketplace innovation. This will be done by government and the private sector jointly funding targeted research projects in the university while creating a Silicon Valley-type city around the university to cater to industries such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Agriculture and Biotechnology, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals, Building, Automobile, and Cosmetics, as well as service industries such as Finance, Legal, Hospitality, and Entertainment. Such industrial cities will be powered through Independent Power Projects with the potential to also provide uninterrupted power supply to surrounding towns thereby adding the power sector to the industrial mix.
In this triangular relationship, education will be rightly structured as a human resource development system within a viable macroeconomic policy framework. Hence, educational experience will include sufficient industrial exposure. A higher education degree will require not just credits and dissertations but feasible intrapreneurial or entrepreneurial ideas as well as career or business plans as the case may be. The result will be an explosion in invention and innovation which will translate to start-ups in some cases and will be integrated into existing businesses through highly profitable business models in others. This will reduce unemployment to the barest minimum and cause the national economy to blossom. If Johnny, our zoology graduate and job seeker from an unnamed university had gone through that system, at the point of graduation, he would have had career options in an array of industries including agriculture, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals and would have been adequately capacitated for the entrepreneurial option.
Such unique models will be replicated around various institutions across the federation. Indeed, such enterprise models will be distilled to the community level in such a way that the information revolution, the industrial revolution and the agricultural revolution will be rolled into one revolutionary economic experience for our nation. In effect, we will not only catch up in the race to development as though receiving multiple compensations for our past troubles, we will blaze the trail by creating new vistas of economic and technological advancement. The details of these economic models are not for this occasion but I have introduced to you what is possible with your own university in order to challenge you to rise up and demand a nation that works.
A New International Economic Order: Nigeria’s optimal economic performance will produce ripple effects in the West African sub-region, in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Africa as a whole. African countries will begin to experience the transition from poverty and underdevelopment to prosperity and sustainable development to the amazement of the world. As a result, Africa will be able to negotiate with the rest of the world from a position of strength as equal partners in mutually beneficial economic and political relationships, no longer as slaves, no longer as objects, and no longer as pawns. In this regard, Nigeria will readily provide the needed sub-regional and continental leadership.
Leadership: At every stage of the reconstruction process, there will be the need for leadership. Leadership will be needed to steer the ship of state when the storms hit the nation to ensure that we do not end up in the downside scenario projected by the National Intelligence Council of the United States. Throughout the reconstruction process, leadership will be required at various stages and at various levels until we build the Nigeria of our dreams. These leaders will be God-fearing men and women, people of character and courage. They will be uncompromising non-conformists and a radical opposition to corruption. I believe that such leadership materials are among you and that the nation will be calling upon you in due time to contribute your quota as she embarks on her voyage of destiny.