Understanding the developmental phases that lead us to the Nigeria of our dream is critical for the design and implementation of feasible policies. First, it will help us to appreciate our current situation better. Secondly, it will enable the recognition of ideal phase actors and role expectations for achieving success. Thirdly, it facilitates better anticipation of the next stage in the evolutionary development process and for making a success of that phase. Fourthly, it will minimise unnecessary expectations at various periods. Where we are today in Nigeria’s developmental evolution is the stage of hunger, religion and hustling. It is the phase in which most Nigerians are not only impoverished and hungry but seems to have been encouraged by faith to accept that situation is approved from above. They die quietly of starvation in their thousands as if there are famine and war.
The desperation to survive this extremely unacceptable condition is vented out through two contradicting channels. The first is the seeming acceptance of the status quo as an act of God and which only prayer can change. And therefore, there are millions of prayer houses everywhere across the country praying hard to bring water out of the rock. The second is hustling. It is the mainstreaming of illegalities and the hitherto socially unacceptable norms as economic enterprises for income and survival. While the faith-without-work is mainstreamed as the dominant mental model, and reflecting the acceptance of defeat by many, hustling which runs concurrently with the current phase of hunger is considered the next comer in the development evolution. The third phase is the transition to the era of freedom. The transition phase is one punctuated by heightening agitation. While some aspects of these agitations are consistent with and are indeed hustling, many of them are not and include enlightened civic resistance and elevated levels of civil society activities, investigative journalism, litigations against governments and persons of high authorities, social media and so on. These activities, in turn, constitute the forerunners to the fourth phase. The fourth phase shall be known for the triumph of the rule of law, the enthronement of knowledge rather than the reliance on faith and religion as the driving mental models for our growth and development. It is the triumph of freedom achieved at this phase that will ultimately lead us into the era of prosperity and economic buoyancy which is the final phase in the journey to the Nigeria of our dream.
Hunger and starvation are everywhere in the country. You can see it in the eyes of many.
The helplessness and acceptance of defeat have erected a fatal mental model where succeeding and surviving the challenging times depend on God and prayers. More persons have become beggars in our streets than the numbers that we used to experience about a decade or more ago. Women are hoisting their babies and begging with their entire families on many of our roads. There are under-aged children everywhere, either asking for alms or hawking some wares. It is therefore not surprising why Nigeria’s 2014-19 Global Hunger Index rating indicates a ‘serious’ state of hunger. But this should be expected. Herdsmen, religious insurgents, kidnappers and so on have chased farmers away from the farms. High wire corruption also channels available resources into the positions of the already rich. The poor are further impoverished. It appears as if we genuinely merit the title of the ‘poverty capital of the world’. More than 75% of the children in the Boko Haram affected areas suffer from hunger and starvation. One-third of all Nigerian children that are less than five years old today stunt due to malnutrition. Apart from Boko Haram and the forced exit of farmers from the farms, 50% or more of Nigerian families do not earn up to NGN30,000 monthly. On average most of these families have at least six members each. So, how on earth can they feed properly as well as achieve minimum recommended levels of nutrition?
Hunger blocks the brain from functioning properly. Imagine the many instances where entire families throng out in their hundreds to embark on the suicidal venture of scooping the highly flammable fuel from tankers that fall or had an accident. Such dispositions have made us cast our votes for known wrong candidates in exchange of money that is not enough to buy a meal for one person. It has made many police officers abandon the essential duty of protecting the citizens but instead focused on illegally collecting N20 from motorists and even killing those who do not comply.
It is the mentality of hunger that is behind the many cases of fraud by those in political and religious authorities. The list is endless. Luckily, the Nigerian type of starvation do not make them resort to anger; otherwise, the many calls for revolution might have succeeded. On the contrary the ‘hunger state’ of the average Nigerian leads to hustling for survival. Hustling is the manifestation of the raw spirit of resilience of the typical Nigerian. There is hardly any Nigerian today who is not a hustler in some modified sense of that word. It is the second phase in Nigeria’s developmental evolution. It is the phase forced upon Nigerians by the sheer blindness of our leaders. They have out of their selfishness wondered in a thick mist without efforts to light up the alleyway. Accordingly, rather than us being the food basket for the rest of the world, our children go to bed without eating. Our wives indulge in ‘runs’ to make ends meet. Our pastors and imams shamefully extend their ecclesiastical privileges to fraudsters and men of questionable integrity.
Hustling is not a word describing decent and respectable efforts to make ends meet. However, we have polished the word so well such that its use in the description of some ordinarily unacceptable activities make them seem right. When the university undergraduates’ prostitute to buy vanities which their parents will usually not afford, it is considered a hustle. Such whoredom receives baptism and nicknamed ‘runs’. Recently, the United States FBI indicted almost 100 Nigerians in cybercrime. It is well known to many Nigerians that a lot of our citizens in the diaspora depend on this kind of ‘hustle’ to shield many of their kith and kin at home from the devastations of hunger and deprivation. But this activity is baptised as Yahoo Yahoo to euphemise the enormity of the crime as well as make it acceptable. So, there is hustling everywhere. The lecturer in University has no time to publish a book but will make photocopies of the pages of other people’s work and force the students to buy them. Windfalls from such illegalities become a hustle. In some churches the pastor hustles by extending the number of collections in a single service to as many five while much of the summons will still end up revolving around giving of money to the pastor.
The magistrate and the judge manipulate justice under the veil of hustling. In effect, hustling makes those values that the society seem to frown at, gain readmittance and mainstreamed as acceptable provided there is money made from it.
Albeit that we are in a state of hunger and have come to accept prayers and to hustle as a panacea, many are very dissatisfied with this. There are evident signs of a subtle revolution in which Nigerians aspire for what is right and hunger for a social and economic state that compares with the developed world. The social media platform has democratised the right to speak out albeit sometimes under a veil. It has made it easily possible for the communication of the dissatisfactions of many to those who need to know about them. In addition to this platform which many Nigerians are already utilising to challenge the status quo are the commendable efforts of the civil society organisations. In recent years, government’s excesses have come under severe criticisms and sometimes subjected to outright litigation by members of civil society organisation. The public, through the power of social media, in turn, amplify those efforts.
In addition to these is the growing trend in investigative journalism. Recently there was an excellent exposition of the rot in our prison system that wouldn’t have been possible without the increasing boldness of journalists who choose to investigate them. These extra activities which are some commendable forms of subtle resistance constitute the third phase in the developmental evolution which is ‘the transition’.
The success of the third phase, which is the transition from a period of hustling and the blind faith in prayer will usher in a phase of freedom or the fourth phase. We are not anywhere near this phase. At present, we are at the initial stages of the transition phase. This fourth phase is to be marked by the acceptance of the supremacy of the constitution by all and the shifts from the defeatists mental model of blind trust in the unknown instead of placing premium on knowledge and science.
Politicians and public sector workers who have hitherto ‘hustled’ by laying siege over our collective heritage will have been forced to retreat at least to the point where they recognise that they are no longer above the law. Three factors will define the success of this phase.
The first is the successful elevation of the constitution as the guiding lights for every citizen of Nigeria. Parochial interests will considerably diminish. The second, is equally the elevation of knowledge and the downgrading of the wrong suppositions that prayer without corresponding levels of work and smartness will bring about success.
The third factor is the authentic freedom of the press as well as civil society organisations to operate. It is after this phase of freedom that we can enter the Nigeria of our dream which should be at the fifth phase. That phase shall embody elevated levels of entrepreneurship, deficient levels of unemployment, high-income levels and the massive return to the country of many Nigerians that are currently in the diasporas