I honestly hope that the coronavirus pandemic will be the last straw that resets Nigeria (put your context) on a path of sustainable growth with a diversified economy, institutions and systems that works for the good of all. Would we allow this window of opportunity pass us by with no visible change of ways?
A quick scan through social media says otherwise. A group of people believe and rightly so from previous experience that Nigeria does not learn from her past. Before we go any further, we must acknowledge that we as individuals cannot separate ourselves from our nation from needing to learn from our mistakes. As private citizens, we have the privilege of distance and independence from the responsibilities of a public servant, but that does not mean we are exempted from the madness nor does it give us the right to reflect on their endeavours without also scrutinizing ourselves. Learning from our past as a nation must be a shared and open conversation in the spirit of having the best interest for our country.
Any society that refuses to adapt and learn from previous and on-going activities is bound to stagnate and to be left behind by other people and civilisations. The story of South Korea and Nigeria in 1960 and 2020 comes to mind. It seems that the failure to learn and draw the right lessons is at the centre of Nigeria’s developmental challenge. Nigeria post-independence before the military rule had a cake baking mind-set. Everyone was invited to come with their apparatuses to the economic farm and to generate wealth and contribute something tangible to the pool of human and national development. No one expected to be spoon-fed and no one was spoon-fed. At some point, we abandoned systems that could facilitate development, leaving the cake baking mindset for eating a share of the national cake mind-set. Thus, we have been on a downward slope of bad governance, centralization, lack of accountability, failed leadership amongst others.
My aim with this article is to document collective lessons in the current storm we find ourselves and not allow a learning moment go wasted again. It is not about finger-pointing, navel-gazing or providing the opportunity for individual catharsis through mea-culpa moments. Mistakes are inevitable; what matters is what is learned, and the connection this learning has to future actions. The time is now for us to stop wilful ignorance and ineptitude. One way to tell that we have learned from this pandemic will be in the actions we take moving forward. This is not the time to be blaming anyone but to critically reflect and gain an understanding. We have not learned in the past because we have refused to take responsibility and acknowledge our mistakes in the past and that our previous actions howbeit good-willed were self-centred. Moving forward, we must in a reflective way with open mind acknowledge that we have failed in the past and redesign our policies base on empirical evidence with strong personal and collective values.
We must also wake up from our slumber that the national cake was an eternal cake that required no replenishment. As the current fall in oil price has shown (it is not the first time by the way), we need to diversify our economy and invest more in human capital. We were supposed to save for the rainy day in the periods of the boom but we failed, refused and neglected to do so. The battle cry of restructuring has been in the air for some years now and several conferences have been held with tonnes of documentation done. We seem to however have intentionally refused to learn anything. There was a time, merit was the cornerstone of our education, public service and governance structures but that has been thrown to the wind and culture of who you know and where you come from has replaced merit.
It’s not every time you have the opportunity to completely reset a nation like the current times we find ourselves. The coronavirus, though it brings with it so many pains however, we can’t allow the pains to be in vain. It is time to stop our pretence of developing while in actual sense, we have been stagnant. We have sown bad seeds of underdevelopment in the past expecting to reap the benefits of development. As to whether the current pandemic outbreak will be the turning point in our nation for good completely depends on the decisions and actions we take now and moving forward individually and collectively.
PS: What are the lessons from this season that we should never forget? Please, share.