To many, National development is about philanthropic ideas such as ‘Doing something for humanity, ‘Changing the world for better, ‘Improving the lives of the poor, or even the ‘Leave no one behind’ principle of global development.
National development does not necessarily follow these morals, it is sometimes the wolf in sheep clothing but one thing is clear, you’d see through that sheep sooner rather than later.
In practice, the process of development involves a great number of interactions between actors of different status with varying resources and goals, but “the endpoint of any developmental thinking or process must be the welfare and wellbeing of the people themselves”.
Beginning with the colonial development plan (1958-1968), Nigeria has a unique background in national development planning— Long-term prejudice, political instability, and corruption, among other things, are stumbling blocks to Nigeria’s development.
Nigeria has tried to promote national development through major strategic initiatives – such as the Structural Adjustment Programme; the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy; the Strategy for Attaining the Millennium Development Goals; and the 7-Point Agenda – which were not seen to have been effectively implemented mainly as they lacked the critical essence of continuity as administrations changed.
With the 1979 election, while still a military dictator, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo redefined national development in modern-day Nigeria by handing over the authority of the country to the newly elected civilian president, Shehu Shagari.
Despite protesting his innocence, he was arrested in 1995 and convicted of being a part of a planned coup against the Abacha dictatorship. He achieved a higher level of spirituality while imprisoned, with providential having a profound influence on his eventual worldview.
The reality that the lessons and pathways built yesterday define our course today necessitates a review of some of the initiatives taken by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to put Nigeria on the road to inclusive development.
To combat corruption in Nigeria, Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), as well as strengthening the Code of Conduct Bureau, after inheriting a deeply divided, indebted, corrupt, and insecure country.
The depoliticization of the military, as well as the expansion of the police and mobilization of the army to battle widespread ethnic, religious, and separatist violence, produced results that were not followed up on by later administrations.
To reduce the country’s spiraling debt, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo privatized various public firms while receiving an $18 billion debt relief from the Paris and London clubs.
Influenced by Pan-Africanist ideas, he was a keen supporter of the formation of the African Union and served as its chair from 2004 to 2006.
Obasanjo, who has been dubbed “one of the great figures of the second generation of post-colonial African leaders,” has been lauded for overseeing Nigeria’s transition to representative democracy in the 1970s as well as his Pan-African efforts to promote cooperation not only within the country but across the continent.
Obasanjo sought to alleviate poverty, reduce government corruption, and establish a democratic system which he followed with action, results of which we still see today in form of the institutions he established.
If there is one thing that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will be remembered for, it will be his part in ensuring that Nigeria’s telecoms sector thrived.
What then is our takeaway from all this?
A lot I must say, but one thing I’d take away from all these is that development is only possible if there is a willingness from the very tip of power to make sure it happens.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Exemplifies this narrative.