A nation achieves greatness through BUILDING and not through BOASTING…
It was quite intriguing to hear our dear Vice President at a public function a few weeks ago describe Nigeria as one of the greatest nations in the world.
One understands the fact that he was attempting to galvanize national psyche. This would have been easily overlooked if it did not reflect the general mindset that has been bantered by the Nigerian elite for decades, as though greatness is a right, or a matter of size and population or perhaps just a verbal thing- the louder the greater.
An American comedian defined this Nigerian psyche as “excessive confidence,” perhaps our attempt to be like a mini USA on the African continent.
The truth is far from this. While Nigerians attempt to pride themselves at being the “giant” the best at one thing or the other in Africa and beyond, many other nations including those we pride ourselves in being better than are fast improving on the things that measure greatness such as access to electricity, water, basic services. school loans, credit facilities, infrastructure, quality of living, etc.
It seems we get louder and more assertive each time we find ourselves behind. We create false stats to cement our place as the “giant.” Yet the emperor’s nakedness is glaring. Some years ago, we went as far a launching a re branding campaign – “Nigeria, Good people, Great nation.”
Scripture over two thousand years ago predicted that in future times men and women would outdo themselves in boastfulness while ignore true substance. This unfortunately has been Nigeria’s plight.
This is why our leaders find it okay to benchmark development targets at being among the world twenty biggest economy by 2020 instead of focusing on the target of making basic services available to all by 2020, placing emphasis on external perceptions above quality of life, a skewed focus indeed.
Boasting to greatness makes us claim and brag about the most absurd titles, such as ” the world’s largest generator market.” “The highest number of African students abroad”(what happened to our schools? Are we not flocking abroad because our schools are derelict?) “The highest number of people in other countries” (economic migrants fleeing massive under development) etc. We even claim “The richest black man and woman, yet the country is overwhelmed by massive poverty and neglect. In a normal situation, shame and embarrassment would not allow such boasts until the population is doing better. How can a father boast in his wealth if his wife and children can barely afford a meal? Alas, for us the plight of the people does not matter as long as a bragging rights are gained.
Can Nigeria truly be great? Yes.
Greatness is not necessarily based numbers. Ask Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and others, trillion dollar developed economies with less than fifty-five million people respectively.
Greatness is not necessarily achieved by natural resources- ask Japan, Germany and others- multi trillion economies with little natural resources.
Greatness is about people and their development into full potential. Any nation that truly develops it’s people can be great. Nigeria can be great if it sets its priority right.
True Greatness will begin with humbling ourselves and accepting we are in dire straits. It will mean casting away all these grandiose talks of”gianthood,” worthless titles etc.(By the way, did you notice that in every mention of giants in religion, folklore and others they always fall?)
We need to put our heads down and BUILD (not boast) ourselves to greatness. It is possible.
Let us take a lesson from China. Over fifty years ago, the Chinese leader Mao, predicted China would be great within half a century once it found a way to develop and leverage on its massive population. A couple of decades ago, Chinese leader Deng Xiapoing, known for spearheading Chinese economic reformation popularized the mindset saying “China must not show its true strength.”
This mindset encouraged the nation to put its head down, expunge all forms of pride and build itself inside out. On the global front China accepted the classification of a third world nation. On the outside it was labelled as a poor nation, Western nations using China as a type when referring to the poor, internally it was building. A revolution unsurpassed in history was happening. Today, several decades later, China is surpassing every other nation on earth on almost all fronts- infrastructure, technology, etc.
If we learn, and we focus, we too can do it. Nigeria will be great when it stops being a GIANT, and becomes an EAGLE who learns to humble itself, wait, go through pain and transform into a renewed bird who soars far, far away. Nigeria CAN BE GREAT.