BIG IDEA: Nigeria’s Challenges and the Big Bang Theory

Nigeria Big Idea

Note: this post is about 1,400 words long. Buckle up.

This is not about the validity of the big bang theory, so please don’t make it about that. FYI, I believe in God.

I’m not an expert in politics, economics or international relations. So don’t take this as an affront to those who’ve spent several years studying Nigeria.

This isn’t meant to be an almighty formula for solving Nigeria’s many challenges either.

This is a big idea – big ideas are frameworks for solving problems. They present issues in perspective allowing problems to be approached logically, methodically and creatively.

When I worked in an Advertising Agency, before we started crafting adverts and promotional campaigns, we’d come up with a Big Idea. The big idea acts as the guide for every consequent decision. It determines the tone, and direction of the campaign.

So let me start by stating Nigeria’s problems. Nigeria’s problems  are 2-dimensional.

-Physical tangible suffering and

-Emotional and Psychological problems.

These problems aren’t unique to Nigeria. In fact, several countries have been in similar (some arguably worse) situations but they evolved and became first world countries – Singapore comes to mind.

Singapore, a country smaller than the size of Lagos, got its independence in 1963 and became a republic in ’65. Right from its inception, it faced tremendous hurdles – unemployment, housing, education and lack of land. It’s even one worse than Nigeria because it lacks natural resources of any kind. Despite these issues, Singapore today is a first world country based on one single thing they had going for them. Their leader (and his team) made good decisions after good decisions.

The story of the journey of Singapore is one of pragmatism and faith. They were able to see their issues for what they were and considered practical steps to curbing them. And they also believed in their country. Absolutely.

I believe those two things are lacking in Nigerian leadership and citizenry. The problem Nigeria faces is not just to solve physical problems like unemployment and poverty but also to restore faith in the entire system. Since the inception of the Republic of Nigeria, our leaders have made bad decision after bad decision. I’m not pointing fingers; I’m merely stating facts.

To whom much is given, much is expected. Nigeria, just like any other newly formed sovereign state, had so much potential but in hind sight, we see that some of that potential died with poor decisions.

Today, we want a change but it might not come in the way we expect.

Imagine a situation where 160 million people are being led by some groups of people and those people have been digging the country into a big hole. For 53 years plus, we’ve followed them into this hole. Now as we get closer to the earth’s core, the hole is getting hotter and people are starting to cry out, complaining, criticizing.

But you can’t jump out of a hole that is 53 years deep in a single bound. No government can jump that far. It took time to dig us into this ditch. It’ll take time, and several governments, to dig us out.

Sometimes, I hear people speak against Nigerian leaders’ performance. We do have the right to speak against bad governance and poor leadership (afterall to whom much is given, much is expected) but I think we also need to understand the situation these leaders met on ground. The foundation of the Republic itself needs work.

So finally, after all the long talk, here’s my Big idea;

 A 60-year blueprint to turn Nigeria into a first world country, with a review every 15 years.

A 60 year plan would involve 15 tenures of government. But they would all be working with the same blueprint. That’s where the review comes in. Every 15 years, the blueprint is called up and reviewed, priorities are rearranged (if need be) and the viability of the vision is assessed.

I know it sounds idealistic. But so was landing a man on the moon. And today, scientists are bored with the moon. They now travel to Mars.

For this Big idea to work, it would require several things:

1. The right leaders. When I say the right leaders, I’m not referring to just the presidency and his cabinet. I’m referring to every active political leader.

Human beings are flawed, unreliable and selfish. Even the best of men are still men. For this kind of idea to work, two-thirds of the total number of active political leaders it takes to run Nigeria need to buy-into this vision. And they all have to be in office within the space of 6-8 years. A president may be the face of a country but in reality, he is an embodiment of the entire vision of the country. Presidents don’t run countries. It takes several elected leaders. So even if we elect the “best” man/woman for the presidency, he/she still has to work in tandem with other political leaders in the country, otherwise frustration and insurrection would set in. We need the right leaders.

2. A Major Salary Cut. As I wrote this piece, I pictured pitching the idea to the current leadership; and this is where talks broke down. In my head, they all stepped out of the conference room.

No politician may want to hear this but they all need take a salary cut. It’s the only way to generate good will because, they currently have nothing to draw from that account.

You’re trying to get your followers to buy-into your vision, you need a solid show of sacrifice. Trying to do otherwise is pointless. I remember the case of Jonah Lehrer, the Wired magazine journalist and wonderkid who lost his job because of self-plagiarism and fact falsification. About a year later, he tried to make a comeback by speaking at an event (his entire speech was an explanation and apology). All seemed right with the world and everybody was ready to forgive him and move on when it came to light that he accepted 20, 000 dollars for that speech. WTH?! He was paid to apologize? Screw forgiveness.

The same thing happens every time Nigerian leaders try to pose ideas and solutions to the Nigerian people. There’s no trust or goodwill account they can withdraw from. Take a salary cut. Major salary cuts. We’ll believe anything you tell us thereafter.

3. A meeting of the best minds this country has to offer, posing feasible goals and charting directions for the nation’s various sectors. This is where the experts come in. These are the people to craft the 60-year blueprint.

4. A lot of patience from the Nigerian people. Nigerians have to wake up to the reality that Nigeria might not become the Utopia we envision during our own lifetime. It’s a possibility. A building takes time. And Nigeria already has a bad foundation of poor decisions and debt that needs to be sorted out. That will take time. Are you willing to come to the table and make that sacrifice? Or do we continue managing things the way they are?

Whew! I’m sure that by now, you’ll see why I said the probability of solving Nigeria’s problems is the same as that of the big bang theory.

Again, this is just one Big idea. There can be several others. The most important thing is that people use their creativity to envision solutions to the country’s many issues.

Note: Big bang theory – a theory that the universe began with an explosion of a dense mass of matter and is still expanding from the force of that explosion. After the explosion, random interactions and combinations of particles eventually resulted in the Universe that we have today (and the earth filled with intelligent life). To put it in perspective, the probability of this is the same as having a tornado plow through a scrap yard and leaving in its wake, several sports cars.