December brings with it a renewed sense of hope and aspiration. For many of us it is a chance to get our goals right and think strategically for the New Year ahead. There is no disputing that 2016 was indeed the year of the unexpected, as the nation was plunged deep into a recession. The pressures and uncertainties of the year had many of us dazed and desperately grappling to adapt to the current situation. For the Nigerian people it has become apparent that the stakes for 2017 are higher than ever before but in order for any change to materialise we must restructure our minds and begin to think ahead for Nigeria’s development.
The great Nigerian writer and activist Wole Soyinka once said “You cannot live a normal existence if you haven’t taken care of a problem that affects your life and affects the lives of others”. It is fairly easy to blame the leaders for our current state but in actuality the road to development lies in the hands of every Nigerian to work for the common good of all people. As someone who grew up in Lagos, I have always felt that Lagos was Nigeria. However, with age I have come to realise that this country is much more than just one city. There are only a few states that can boast of infrastructural development in education, health and the services sector. Not to mention that for most Nigerians who live in the South, the North seems like an almost foreign entity that only attracts our attention when it appears on the news. If we are to progress as a nation, both the leaders and the citizens need to begin to act for the national interest.
A more holistic approach on development is needed in order to ensure sustainable development. Development plans over the years have failed to improve human development indicators. Arguably the reason for this is that they have ultimately failed to target both inequality and poverty reduction. The best way to deal with these historical grievances is to ensure that policy frameworks are specifically targeted at eliminating these two. With rising unemployment rates and wide spread poverty we are in desperate need of a radical change that can only come about through well thought out structural transformation plan. This will target and restructure our agricultural, industrial and service sectors in order to ensure maximum production and effectiveness. Most importantly, an inclusive long-term framework that will reduce inequality and ensure inclusive growth is paramount. This inclusive growth needs to encompass every region within the country in particular the seemingly forgettable Northern regions and rural areas.
According to the UN, by 2035, half of the entrants into the labour market will be from Sub-Saharan Africa. As the most populated country in Africa, Nigeria needs to begin to take ample steps to harness its demographic dividend. Ensuring that public universities are adequately developed and more job opportunities are created across the nation. We cannot merely strive for Band-Aid solutions, the process is going to be long and tedious, but with a unified front towards the goal and a restructuring of our minds we are well on the path to greater development.
It is time to accept what is and begin to adjust to the present circumstance and start thinking critically for the future. There is a deep-rooted desire for self interest engrained in the mentality of most Nigerians and we rarely work as a united entity towards the common goal of Nigeria’s development. Many of us have blamed the current state of the economy on the corruption of our leaders. I would argue that Nigerians as a whole have a ‘corrupt mind-set’. This is not merely a phenomenon that is peculiar to our leaders but one that plagues us all. We have to draw on the spirit of which this great nation was built, and think of the great nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo who fought so desperately for our country’s independence. We should find solace in the fact that from this so-called mess of a nation has been the birth of the most creative and intelligent minds in the continent.
If 2016 has taught Nigerians one fundamental lesson, it is to “plan for the unexpected”. To think about not taking everyday as it comes, to think about the future and to think of new ideas. Despite all the adversities this year has brought, we cannot disregard how far we have come as a nation and if we truly want the change we desire for our nation we must realise that all hands must be on deck. If one thing is certain, the individual who will break ground in 2017 is the one who chose not to be crippled by the current circumstances of the nation. These are the people who chose not to have a defeatist mind-set and sought to set their path for progress into 2017. With only a couple of days left to the end of the year, in our daily grinds we must continuously ask ourselves if we are advancing towards our goals.
Photo Credit: Elena Elisseeva | Dreamstime.com