Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nexus between Culture and Development

I’m one of those who believe strongly that things would get better in Nigeria and Africa by extension, and certainly doing as much as I can to help in that renewal process. I also maintain my belief in the fact that our standard of living would improve, and that many more would have fair access to resources, but the journey would no doubt be a tough one).
My experience from participating in several (and I really mean several) development initiatives, forums, conferences, newsgroups, societies, seminars…e.t.c over the years has taught me that we need more than NGOs, motivational speakers, civil organizations, vibrant Pentecostal churches, Foreign Direct Investment, “Revolutionary” Ideas….(the list goes on) in order to birth and experience true sustainable development.

I haven’t decided to run for public office just yet, but I’ve started to pay a great deal of attention to the dynamics of attaining critical strategic leadership roles in this country called Nigeria. No matter how hard we try in our individual capacities to champion development initiatives and encourage each other to ‘do the impossible’, if the right people do not SEIZE POWER (pardon my dictatorial tone) and do the needful, we would discover the struggle might never end.

Culture has indeed been proven to be one of the key determinants of development in the 21st century. I should clarify here that I’m not referring to rites, traditions…e.t.c
I’m referring particularly to prevailing work ethics, reward systems, life-style and how each individual interfaces with the society.
I’ll draw on a revolutionary statement made by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in order to articulate my ideas and facilitate quick understanding of my recent deductions.

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.
(However), The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

Without mincing words, the predominant culture in quite a number of African countries (including ours) over the years has been that of exploitation. There has been that scarcity mentality that compels people to “maximally utilize” opportunities that are meant for serving others. This has compromised our ability to plan for the future, and all we have focused on is instant gratification. This pretty explains the decay over the years.
However, we must note that this barbaric ‘culture’ of absolute greed and lack of foresight did not come from no-where. Many do refer to decades back as the ‘good old days’. I do not have any proof that those days were as good as claimed, but the question is what happened over the years?

Simple! Politics (implying leadership) created a new ‘evil’ culture. A key aspect of our culture that deteriorated is our rewards system. Over the years, I’ve seen countless examples of dedicated, committed and hardworking people that lead poor and miserable lives, and this literally breaks my heart. People with integrity in our ministries, agencies and parastatals were either forced out, short-changed or rewarded with early retirement.
We literally grew used to narcissistic leadership to the extent that when someone with integrity takes up a strategic position, we begin to celebrate as if that has now become an exception to the rule (rather than it being the normal thing)

In essence, POLITICS has CHANGED our culture over the years into a barbaric self seeking way of life. The CHANGE we seek would also be HEAVILY dependent on a new kind of politics.
I choose to challenge us all that our real power lies not in our vote (as popularly believed. That should be easy to understand since our vote actually has not really mattered – ask Maurice Iwu!). Our power lies in our ability to get ourselves together by FORCEFULLY taking over politics and leadership from barbarians. When we do this, we would use the power entrusted into our hands to create and enforce an environment that frustrates mediocrity, and celebrates excellence, achievement, hard-work, dedication to duty and positive innovation.

Having a few good leaders here and there from time to time would not give us the sustainable change we desire. Building great businesses and running successful private enterprises here and there may not be enough.

There is no substitute for the people that uphold the law, interface with the international community, control our natural resources, determine the destinies of significant proportions of our human assets (that’s the plain truth), have direct responsibility for and determine the socio-economic temperature of a society. The role of presidents, ministers, governors and senators is so strategic that we can no longer afford to give lame excuses for not participating HYPER-ACTIVELY and seeking to attain those positions. (We must be armed with prerequisites including a right heart, knowledge, skill, tenacity and high impact networks and teams)

It’s great to have wonderful initiatives and try to influence government and society. However, there’s a higher calling and that is to be directly empowered by the LAW and CONSTITUTION of a sovereign entity to effect direct change that does not necessarily require the emotional support of all.
That only comes by attaining the earlier mentioned strategic leadership roles.

Once again,

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.
(However), The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.