…also published in Daily Trust
A deeper look into Nigeria’s socio-economic underdevelopment doesn’t only show the obvious leadership failure behind it, but it also reveals the underlying anti-development public attitude that, if left unaddressed, will certainly continue to undermine and frustrate the already ridiculously poor leadership commitment over the decades to providing befitting standard of living for Nigerians.
Though, Nigerians rightly lament over their persistent underdevelopment, albeit without proportionate commitment to addressing its real causes, they hardly admit the existence of this attitude among them even though it’s actually particularly responsible for the persistence of their underdevelopment. This is apparently because the attitude is largely associated with some misconception of some cultural values and/or religious concepts.
Addressing the embarrassing phenomenon of the Out-of-School children in Nigeria as a case study, for instance, which is obviously one of the worst manifestations and causes of underdevelopment, would always reveal this anti-development public attitude especially in northern Nigeria where the largest population of the Out-of-School children in the world live.
It’s a pity that, even though the Almajirci tradition has been completely bastardized and indeed rendered counterproductive, which has, in turn, rendered the wandering Almajirai destitute and Out-of-School children, yet the tacit public endorsement of the phenomenon and the underlying public reluctance to tackle it continue to frustrate the already inadequate measures taken by successive federal governments and successive state and local governments in the region to end it. In an article titled “Hypocrisy over Almajirci” published in this paper on Friday, March 31, 2017, I addressed this attitude as well as the underlying socio-cultural factors behind the obvious lack of political will to end this phenomenon in northern Nigeria.
Now, obviously another embarrassing manifestation of Nigeria’s underdevelopment is the virtual absence of public hygiene maintenance culture in the society, which has effectively reduced even the few originally organized communities, e.g. the so-called GRAs, into glorified slums. For instance, while, on the one hand, Nigerians rightly lament government’s failure to provide and maintain hygienic living environments in most parts of Nigeria, one the other hand, the rampant practice of haphazard waste disposal, which has created waste dumping sites (bola) dotted across almost all Nigerian communities practically sparing no empty or unutilized space including community wastewater drains (kwata) into which people recklessly dump their waste as well, makes it impossible to provide ideal living environment befitting human life in most parts of the country.
Besides, the proliferation of stagnant ponds of filth (kududdufi) into which many households in the area discharge their wastewater and even human waste, have turned many Nigerian communities into breeding grounds for all of kinds of easily preventable but deadly diseases e.g. hepatitis, malaria etc. Yet, almost all shayi, tsire, balangu and other petty food vendors run their business joints close to a bola, kwata or kududdufi.
Obviously, though government can’t be absolutely absolved from responsibility for the persistence of this situation, it’s unfair to single it out for criticism over the absence of public hygiene maintenance culture in the society.
Now, amid many other manifestations of similar attitude suggesting the general tendency among Nigerians to remain perpetually underdeveloped, notwithstanding the extent of the responsibility of leadership failure in this regard, the way development-related issues are discussed among the intelligentsia and other segments of the elite in the society equally shows Nigerians’ lack of real commitment to pursuing befitting and sustainable socio-economic and political development. Ethno-religious, political and other prejudices often characterize such discussions and turn them into empty arguments. This trend is increasingly growing among Nigerian analysts and public commentators who hardly stick to objective yardsticks in assessing public office holders. Besides, many of them waste their intellect and time writing on trivialities or engaging in empty arguments over personalities at the expense of issues. Consequently, Nigerians consciously or unconsciously behave like fans of the members of the political elite who, in turn, behave like arrogant and inconsiderate celebrities who have taken their respective fans for granted.
Needless to say, this anti-development public attitude induces frustration as much as bad leadership in the country does. After all, no matter how good and progressive a government is, it necessarily needs an equally progressive public attitude for it to be able to provide befitting and sustainable development. Therefore, until Nigerians behave like stakeholders in nation-building project who judge their leaders strictly on the basis of their performance and hold them to account, I am afraid, Nigeria’s underdevelopment will persist perpetually.