Wednesday, 27 April 2011 By Uchenna Nwankwo
IT is, I believe, generally understood that the achievement of true development in Nigeria must entail the building of our own endogenous domestic capabilities and capacities to produce and manufacture modern technologies and globally competitive industrial goods, because the hard reality is that the lack of such endogenous capacity or indigenous technological culture and know-how exposes us to exploitation and subjugation by those who have such capacities.
It must also be acknowledged that Nigeria’s best opportunity and chance of achieving such feat came in 1970 at the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war, for the nucleus of such technological culture had been established by the Biafran scientists and engineers in the course of the war. Blockaded, surrounded and cut off from foreign goods, technological artifacts and imports, the Biafrans had no alternative than to create, adapt or establish their own homegrown technological processes to produce needed goods, domestic and military. They built their own airports, refineries, underground industrial complexes, etc without any help from outsiders. All that was needed was for the victorious Nigerian Federal Government to adopt and use these as the nucleus and foundation upon which Nigeria’s endogenous technology was to be founded and advanced. But something was missing!
Although the shooting war was over, the animosity, rancour and distrust generated by the Nigerian crisis remained unmitigated. And so although the government mouthed the slogan of ‘Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction’, it proceeded instead to demolish the vestiges of Biafra’s technological innovations and homegrown technology out of spite and ill-will. Thus, the Biafran-built airports were destroyed; the refineries dismantled; and the manufacturing plants and processes razed after the shooting war. Worse, the scientists and engineers who developed and made these processes possible were contemptuously scattered.
The result was that the area and the Nigeria country-state were inadvertently returned to dependency and international opprobrium. The Federal Government’s attitude and approach should be contrasted with the fact that some of the great technological advancement in the world today, including those of space travels, had their foundations in Nazi Germany. The conquering Soviets and Americans captured Germany’s vast technological blueprints at the end of World War II and rehabilitated and integrated the German scientists and engineers with their own nationals to adopt, adapt, develop and continue with the works.
The lesson from the above is that no real development and material progress can come about in an atmosphere of disunity, mutual distrust and rancour as we have in Nigeria today. Therefore for Nigeria, or any part thereof to make progress, we must first deal with this problem of disunity and lingering animosities that have hardly abated since the war. Indeed, the picture is that for us to develop an endogenous technological culture and know-how that will power development in our annals, we must have; (i) a stable polity (ii) a vision of modern development by the nation’s leadership elite (iii) national cohesion, and (iv) patriotism, pride and love of the citizenry for the nation.
These are of course lacking in Nigeria today. The weird impression that the continuing importation of foreign technological artifacts and the sitting of such as industrial plants in Nigeria, however needful, are all that is needed to achieve development in Nigeria, is wrong.
For us to have true development in Nigeria, or any part thereof, the soul of the society must be continuously nurtured through social justice, equity, fair-play, egalitarianism and of course the political integration of all the Nigerian ethnicities, for man cannot live by bread alone. As we have observed elsewhere, “programmes of economic re-construction will continue to fail in Nigeria until we get the politics of national reconstruction right; we first need to reconcile the different Nigerian peoples and hence liberate the suppressed genius and complementary energies of the people for social and economic advancement”.
On the eve of the last presidential election, two different friends separately sent me e-mails saying that Nigeria’s greatest problem is indiscipline and corruption. That Buhari is the best man to tackle and solve the problem. And that I should therefore vote for Buhari. I replied and said: “No, Nigeria’s greatest problem is ethnicism and disunity. That indiscipline and corruption are more or less symptomatic of the level of ethnicism and disunity in the system.” And I argued, “that the restoration of equity, fair-play and egalitarianism in the system will help stem or bring down the degree of indiscipline and corruption in Nigeria.” Furthermore, “that between Jonathan and Buhari, I think that Jonathan, by disposition, will tackle the problem of ethnicism and disunity in Nigeria better than Buhari. For that reason, I am going to vote for Jonathan in the presidential election.” The first man immediately replied and said that I had the superior argument and that he had resolved thereby to follow suit and vote for Jonathan! Anyway, now that Jonathan has been elected president on his own merit and is no longer a president that came from the backdoor as it were, he must earnestly begin to lay the foundations for a new politics in Nigeria – a foundation that is direly needed today if we are to get out of the quagmire, the social and economic morass, our society has sunk into.
In the above regard, I wish to draw Jonathan’s attention to a few salient points. The first is that the onus is now on him to work for the much needed “Reconciliation” of Nigeria’s numerous ethnic nationalities, which though was mooted or even adopted as official policy at the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war has hardly been resolutely tackled, let alone achieved. The fact that the Nigerian military managed to “keep Nigeria one” does not mean that the problem of Nigeria’s political instability and the issues that brought the civil war about have been resolved.
For Nigeria to be turned into a stable polity and nation-state we must deal decisively with these issues now, indeed, we must do the following:
(1) we must restructure Nigeria into a true and sustainable Federation agreeable to the country’s ethnic nationalities;
(2) we must resolve the vexed issue of the power / responsibility which the central
government should exercise vis-à-vis those of the new federating units that must emerge
from (1) above, including the issues of Resource Control and Revenue Sharing;
(3) Nigeria must be returned to a parliamentary democracy;
(4) Merit must be returned to a pride of place in the management of our affairs;
(5) The 1978 Land Use Decree should be abrogated and its vague occupancy rights
replaced with a true and registrable property rights; and,
(6) The immunity granted serving executive heads of government from prosecution in the
subsisting Nigerian Constitution must be tempered and made applicable only to
vexatious litigations and not criminal matters.
The resolution of the above problems will of course entail extensive dialogue and bargaining between and amongst all sections, if not, all the Nigerian ethnicities. It is therefore incumbent on President Jonathan to convoke a National Conference shortly after his inauguration on May 29, 2011, in which the six geopolitical zones of the country will be equally represented, to sort out the issues raised above and in fact give Nigeria a new people-based Constitution that will help bring unity to Nigeria and direct the future peaceful development of the country. Talking about progress and real development of Nigeria, let me intone that whatever happens, the Science and Technology development experience in Biafra should never be allowed to become or remain a footnote in Nigeria’s development history. I remain hopeful that President Goodluck Jonathan will live up to expectation.
• Nwankwo, an architect, lives in Lagos.