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Open Letter To President-Elect: How Not To Reform a Nation – Part 1

By Niyi Ogundiji – The minimum expectation of a man is the provision of the three basic means of livelihood which was recommended by the United Nations (UN) as the right of citizens to life. Any nation that excludes these three basic needs of life: food, shelter and clothing in her reformation is bound to face some unorganized system that may be risky to such nation.

The yardstick for those in government is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The higher the GDP grows, the higher the perception that there is economic growth, which invariably suggest higher standard of living. Yet at their higher GDP, the reality of the economy is evidence on people’s face. Also the higher the foreign reserve, the more is their perception of good economic prudence, even when there is no reflection of development on people’s life.

Reformation has always been in the mouth of every new government, but the established fact is that, results do not, usually, reflect the reformation earlier promised. Nigeria had to draft a World Bank expert to head her economic reformation team; yet, there is no reflection of growth.

Don’t Start with Infrastructure?

It is unfortunate that the song in the mouth of the experts is infrastructural reformation. The neglect of wisdom has made our intellectuals to try and cure disease by intensify its causes. How can there be development without the people? They are primarily the cause for governance and the source of national wealth. As Prof Schumacher said in ‘’Small Is Beautiful’’, if they are left out, or pushed around by self styled experts and high handed planners, then you are piling kegs of gun powder.

Leaders now follow the path of infrastructural development as if its absence forms major reason for the high level of poverty among the citizens. It is necessary to note that among the causes of alleviating poverty, material things are secondary; those material things are natural wealth, capital and infrastructure. According to Prof. Schumnacher, “the primary cause of poverty remains the immaterial, which is deficiency in education, organization and discipline”.

The right to live has now been replaced with infrastructural development. The infrastructures that have no bearing to the life of the citizen have been used to replace the people themselves. What is the relevance of mega primary schools without teachers? What is the essence of over-bloated bridge, airport and stadium in an agrarian environment that needs mechanize farming? It is unfortunate that the dividend of democracy tour by the former minister of information only center on infrastructure rather than the living standard of the people they govern. That is why flower and recreation centers are of more importance to the inspectors than the people. Good governance is now rated on infrastructure, rather than the life of the citizenry.

Take the case of Shingapore, from the third world to the first. Their initial emphasis was not infrastructure, but in attitude, discipline and organization. Fortunately, it was the human value upgrade that built the much coveted infrastructure. Development does not start with assets; it starts with people and their education, organization and discipline. That is what management called system. These are the values the Shingapore pursued rigorously and ensured it sank in the mind of their citizen.

If the central problem of development lies on these three words, then the alleviation of poverty depends on the removal of these deficiencies. Schumacher listed these as the reason why development cannot be an act of creation, ordered or bought; it requires a process of evolution. It is a gradual process of great subtlety which should be the property of the whole society; not on the people alone but across the board. How do you preach discipline, education and organization to the people, when those in leadership position displayed high level of deficiency of these traits? Please, don’t start with infrastructure, but education, organization and discipline”.

It is unfortunate that the experts’ advice is to cure disease by intensifies its course. What we see today are ruthless statement like “sack all of them”, “sack 50% of the civil servant”, “destroy all the shanties and slums”, “remove all the illegal structure”, “relocate within 48hours”, “ban all the okadas”, “destroy all the buildings” etc. It is heart aching to see these actions been performed on the people they claimed to govern; the voters.

This is the only country that, in the name of infrastructure, will render her citizens jobless for the sake of reducing its recurrent expenditure in order to embark on selfish infrastructure. We now replace people with infrastructure. Yoruba adage says, bees are denying involvement, yet the farmers face is an evidence of assault.


Education has always been regarded as the best legacy to bestow on people. It has always been like that from ages. But we now regard education as mere infrastructural placement rather than value disposition. Why would a government decide to borrow to build mega structure, and leave a debt for the generation yet unborn? The world best celebrated scholar learnt under tent. Yes, we are in a modern day, does it exclude prudence and common sense? What we need is a simple structure with great ethical values. That requires no giant and indebted structure; it is shown and thought by mouth and attitude.

We want to build a good future on debt that is unsustainable. Brazil was once the highest debtor in the world but rather than burrow for unsustainable infrastructure, they burrowed for real sector that will sustain their future. When the world was crying foul of global economic crisis, Brazil was manifesting in economic boom.

Indian is a leading phenomenon in education, health, information technologies, management, engineering etc at the expense of what we called developed nation. Yet, Indian achieved these in a modest form, not on burrowing expedition to build millennium structure. But they built millennium values and ethics that built what they are enjoying today.

It is pathetic to be comparing Nigeria educational system with American’s. Rather than going to Indian or elsewhere with similar background, we go to USA, UK and Germany to copy the physical structure instead of the value system. We go for high value system rather than the real value needed. It is worthy to note that low value edition books are Indian sourced, while the high valued ones are from Europe and America; but Indians are now exporting education and health to the high valued environment. Yet we go to the bank and borrow money to buy a legacy not needed by the populace and leave debt for the children we are trying to protect.

Don’t burrow education for the people; give them their right to grow education for themselves. They can, they have done it before, cheaply!

Unemployment and Insecurity

Why would it always be that the higher the budgetary allocation to security, the higher the insecurity grows? Has it ever occur to us that kidnapping is no longer restricted to a region? I pray that bombing will not tend towards nationalization. The insecurity is so alarming that one has no option than to pray against the bursting of accumulated gun powder.

Never think that war is an irrational catastrophes, Dorothy Sayer says, they happen when wrong ways of thinking and living bring about intolerable situation. These situations are usually created by those that have the opportunity of creating work. There cannot be peace in an environment where poverty and riches are at high disparity.

Note that work is as important as food to man. Just as food contributed immensely to man’s growth, work is the primary platform for man’s dignity. Any leader that wants national stability to be of utmost importance must pursue the sanctity of dignity of work for the citizen. An Indian philosopher, J C Kumarappa, sum it up as follows:

“If the nature of work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand to the higher faculty as food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlightens the higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of. It directs his free will along the proper course and disciplines the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an excellent background for man to display his scale of values and develop his personality”

Schumacher concluded that if man has no chance of obtaining work, he is in desperate position, not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks this nourishing and enlivening factor of discipline, work, which nothing can replace. That is why Bible says that an idle man is a devil’s workshop. What we witness nowadays are deliberate causes of unemployment by the so-called leaders in their reformation agenda.

How not to reform? A government realized that his recurrent expenditure annually is more than 70% but fail to look elsewhere for control, discipline and innovation; he rather went for the head of workers. They forgot that infrastructure is for the living and not for ghost! Staff reduction is the next target, not even reformation. Now the target is people with fake certificate as if there is need for certificate to issue ticket for market women or cut grass along the road. We fail to realize that anyone that was desperate enough to forge certificate in order to find a means of livelihood is already a tool for the devil in an idle state.

Let it be emphatic in our leaders’ mind that chance to work is the greatest need of the poor, there is no amount of security gadgets that can tame a hungry fellow. Poorly paid work or relatively unproductive work is better than being idle. Don’t strive to reach perfection at the beginning, reach coverage first, perfection will come later.

Ethical Value

It was an old man that pointed to a common sense issue about national interest. He said, “Look at the base of any leader that has interest of the state, the entirety of his references is within that environment”.

Go to Europe and American, China and Indian, interest is portrays from your base. A leader that is in charge of a state has all his children schooling abroad, what interest will he have on security, education and development of that environment that will be of deep value to him? Where your resources are is where your mind will be. What value will they pass down for the next generation that excludes their children? They build legacy for their children outside of the environment they govern.

While trying not to promote another man’s business in this write up, it is worthy to consider the interest of owners in the foregoing analysis. Only local-content telecommunication companies in Nigeria have befitting corporate headquarters; others have their own in a briefcase. Yoruba people says, “Igi da, eye fo”, meaning tree broke, bird flew. Where will Globalcom go to? Ijebu-Ode? Thus, the interest of the nation will be of paramount importance to such organization.

Such is the interest of an elected officer, who transfers his family to United Kingdom, and claim to be providing good education and security for his people locally. Where lays his interest? You take massive income from insecure environment to build secured resources for your own children in a secured environment. If they had acted in like manner, would there be good UK, secured Canada and lively American.

The kind of values we are being bestowed are ones without stake. It is only in Nigeria that the children of elected officer are schooling outside the domain of their benefactors. What values are being given that cannot be demonstrated by the actors? If you believe it, then subject your children to the same condition of education you are bestowing on people. I believe it is high time we have home grown democratic leaders, as a replacement to these imported leaders who have no value, understanding and respect for the environment they govern.

Borrowing Expedition

I became worried when I saw the same attitude that brought Nigeria to the point of seeking for debt cancellation being manifested again. Borrowing is not bad if you do it for the sector that has the capacity to pay back, otherwise you are leaving a debt that will be too dangerous for the future generation.

Brazil was once the world highest debtor, but not on the aspect that is not sustainable. They borrowed to develop their real sector; not to build millennium schools, plant trees and flowers and dig boreholes on the express road to water the flower (when the citizen themselves lack water to drink). Singapore built a nation on ethics and values which was demonstrated by their leaders and not on accumulation of debt for the nation or accumulation of wealth for themselves. The way we are going now, the only way of paying back these debts is through tax.

Unfortunately, those who are at the helm of affairs travel wide to copy the beautification of developed nation, not the attitude and culture that brought the beauty. Those that are on these burrowing expedition rose on the platform of critics of wastage of the past leaders, but they are now the worst.

The debts owed by some states are now so staggering that you will be wondering where the commensurate real sectors to pay back these phenomenal debts are? What we have now is only tax; tax on the unemployed, tax for violating law and laws that are now emerging. Staggering amount for crossing the road, for urinating by the bush side, for wondering on the road, for sleeping under bridge, for begging on the road, for hawking foreign products that should have been produced locally, for displaying signpost, for not painting your house, for collecting refuse, for riding motorcycles and bicycles, for toll gate, for air pollution by the old cars, for carrying corpse on Saturday, and many more that would be emerging soon.


The attempt for this write up is to enable our nation find her bearing to stardom. The path we are leading is too dangerous for a nation to thread. It is unfortunate that what we hold dearly are being used against us- religion and tribe. What we value dearly are the foundation for divide and rule tactics. What is wrong is wrong, irrespective of the religion the actor is practicing or the tribe he comes from.

It is high time we redesign the value that brought us together, not by breakage, but by the values that each community was built upon. There is no Nigerian culture that was established on indiscipline, greed, selfishness, and inhumanity. Why do we now pursue an unsustainable tendency of massive wealth accumulation which creates serious competition and thereafter war?

Please, let have, again, a dignifying government where values are been acted and not preached, where sycophant have little space to operate, where sanity prevails, where awarded contract are executed in time, where true leadership is offered. You won’t need to beg private sector to come and invest, the environment will become automatic attraction for valued investors.

Niyi Ogundiji is an IT Engineer in Lagos. email: path2great@gmail.com



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