By Edward Usoro
“Every major national development was based on a roadmap designed by citizens of the respective countries” – Godswill Akpabio, President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
His words took the participants on a backward journey. The senators were in Ikot Ekpene, like the philosophers would say, in search of knowledge. It was a two-day retreat to chart “the way forward.” But, right then, they were told to go back (in memory), in order to find a direction and momentum for development!
Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, the Senate President, while welcoming his colleagues to the Retreat on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, on October 19, 2023, spoke with conviction. As usual, his speech, like a charming lady, was dressed brief but enticing. Yet, it was long enough to cover the relevant matters.
Among other things, Akpabio charged the legislators to put away party differences and give way to national interest. It was a clarion class to unity of purpose, to “ensure that the expectations and hopes of our people are not betrayed”. They were to focus on how to restructure the nation positively, such that those who fled like the proverbial Andrew and the biblical Naomi, will be attracted to return.
In essence, the Senate President reminded them that the journey to Ikot Ekpene was to locate a “roadmap” for the future of Nigeria. He recalled that: “Frenchmen, Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rosseau, were the brains behind the French revolution. Kim Dae-jung changed the fortunes of South Korea. Lenin transformed Tsarist Russia and turned it into a super power. These people and more succeeded because they had plans and their countrymen and women followed their plans”.
Apparently, Nigeria started well, with leaders who had visions and missions. They drew up roadmaps, which were unfortunately abandoned by subsequent sets of leaders. Specifically, Akpabio recalled that “the founding fathers of our nation (Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, etc.) had and followed a plan of development, and Nigeria, in their days, occupied a place of pride in the comity of nations.”
A cursory analysis will prove what those leaders stood for. Starting with Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria (1957- 1966), he outlined a roadmap that aimed to achieve independence, promote national unity, and develop the country’s economy. Overall, his efforts laid the foundation for Nigeria’s subsequent political and economic development.
Firstly, he emphasized the need for inclusivity and fair representation of all ethnic and regional groups in government. This ensured that all Nigerians felt involved and had a voice in the decision-making process.
Further, he implemented policies aimed at reducing ethnic and regional tensions. He encouraged dialogue and cooperation among different groups, fostering a sense of national identity and shared goals. His inclusive approach, emphasis on dialogue, and commitment to even development laid the foundation for a united and cohesive nation.
Awolowo’s roadmap for Nigeria was centered around his philosophy of “strategic human development” and his ideology of socialism. He also advocated for the establishment of regional governments with autonomous powers to promote effective governance and local development. Furthermore, Awo envisioned a Nigeria that was economically prosperous, socially just, and politically stable.
In terms of social justice, he proposed a welfare state approach, providing free education and healthcare for all Nigerians. He also emphasised on industrialisation, economic development, as well as the importance of equitable distribution of resources and opportunities to reduce inequality and promote social cohesion.
Overall, Awolowo’s roadmap aimed to build a strong and united Nigeria by prioritising economic development, social justice, and political stability. His ideas continue to shape Nigerian politics and policy debates to this day.
Azikiwe had a roadmap for Nigeria that focused on the principles of nationalism, self-governance, and social justice. He believed in the importance of unity and sought to build a united Nigeria by promoting a sense of shared values among its diverse ethnic groups.
He advocated for the recognition and celebration of Nigeria’s diversity as a source of strength and unity. He also encouraged dialogue among different ethnic groups to facilitate mutual understanding and respect.
Zik’s roadmap emphasised the need for Nigeria to become a fully independent nation, free from colonial rule. Additionally, he advocated for equal opportunities for all Nigerians, regardless of their ethnicity or social background. Azikiwe believed that by addressing social injustices and promoting equity, Nigeria could achieve greater unity and stability.
In sum, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s roadmap for Nigeria focused on nationalism, self-governance, and social justice. His vision for a united and independent Nigeria played a significant role in shaping the country’s path towards independence and setting the foundation for its future development.
Thus, by making reference to the founding fathers of Nigeria, Akpabio was drawing attention to the need to revive the dying ethos of national unity, inclusivity, social justice, equity, dialogue, religious tolerance, people-interest, economic development, among others.
According to him, it has taken Nigeria years to witness “the kind of elaborate plan put forward by Mr President (Bola Tinubu) and which targets growth in critical sectors of our economy and seeks to remove wastages in our economic cycle.” The task before the legislators, as part of their contributions to nation-building, the Senate President pleaded, was to provide the launching pad for Tinubu’s “audacious plan,” as patriots and worthy representatives of the people.
He added: “Today, more than ever before, we must come together in optimism to toe the roadmap of Mr President and where we consider that changes may be appropriate, work with the executive to perfect the document. We must take our destiny in our own hands and make the legend of this country as the giant of Africa a reality”.
Nigerians who wait for foreign financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund(IMF) or World Bank to rescue the nation may be delusional. Those institutions and other foreign nationals may mean well, but like Akpabio said, “they have not worn our shoes and they do not know where it pinches. It is our walk not their own, so while they talk the talk, let us walk the walk. We wear the shoes and we know where it pinches”.
*Usoro, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.