By John Abayomi
ELOHO OTOBO, director and deputy head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office has presented us with three possible futures of Nigeria and of course the future can only be one of the three scenarios or none of the three postulated by Otobo.
The first thing to be done is thus to appreciate the logic of these three postulated futures and then see what is happening presently in Nigeria. With these two tasks out of the way, the third task, the task of identifying what may be Nigeria’s future can then be accomplished.
Otobo begins by drawing our attention to the optimistic reports about Africa’s economic prospects. These reports identify Africa as a region of significant business opportunities. Interesting as this prognosis is, Otobo notes that:
“The sense of business opportunities reflected in these reports is based on the belief that Africa with a population size at the brink of a billion people constitutes a major consumer market. But Africans would have to have sustained sources of growing income level for them to be robust consumers of foreign goods and services. In other words, they would also have to be producers and exporters of a diversified range of products”.
How does Africa develop the capacities that would transform a majority-poverty population into a majority-wealth creation population? Otobo identifies three deficits that would have to be addressed if this economic transformation of Africa is to happen.
“Individual African countries suffer in varying degrees from three main deficits. Stability deficit, organisational deficit and scientific and technological deficit. To paint a more accurate portrait, several African countries suffer from stability deficit; many suffer from organisational deficit and most from scientific and technological deficit”.
Using these three variables of deficit, Otobo describes Africa’s three futures and leaves the reader to figure out which of these three is Nigeria’s
·The first group of countries are those which combine political stability, organisational competence and scientific and technological prowess. These Otobo argues will be both regionally and internationally competitive. Their combination of attributes imply that their governments will exert significant regional or even extra-regional influence, their companies will extend their presence beyond national and continental boundaries into other continents driven by growing organisational competence and mastery of science and technology.
·The second category of countries “are those with modicum of political stability and organizational competence but low mastery of scientific and technological knowhow”. To the extent that their firms will compete, it will mainly be in a sub-regional context and in very limited sectors.
·The third category of countries are those plagued by continuing political instability or the ever present danger of lapsing or relapsing into conflict in the context of weak institutions and very limited managerial capacity.
-The first group of countries Otobo calls “the roaring lions”
-The second he labels as the “shackled lions”
-The third he describes as the “wounded lions”
Otobo concludes thusly:
“Whether individual African countries are able to overcome the three deficits will determine what the future holds for each of them. The countries that make most progress in addressing or overcoming the three deficits will emerge politically stable, socially cohesive and economically vibrant”.
Otobo has offered useful and strategic constructs in breaking down the elements of effective development planning policies. Otobo’s scheme is conceptually compact and logically terse. Beautiful as this scheme is, each of the deficits is a rubric for organising the details of complex issues that have to be addressed. Operationalising “deficit-ness” into policy variables has its challenges.
Otobo states these deficits in additive terms; yet it is evident that they are not additive. Of the three, stability deficit is a first-to-be eliminated task. It determines the relevance of the other two. In fact, it can be argued that stability is an independent variable, causal in its effect, while the other two can alternate roles in the process of development, either being able to be intervening, facilitative variable or dependent variables.
In other words, the stability variable can be seen as the strategic and causal deficit whose impact could be reduced by investment in deficit reduction in the organisational competence and scientific and technological capability.
In support of this line of argument it is useful to recognise that stability is a function of security. Thus, one can modify Otobo’s Development Matrix by substituting security deficit for stability deficit. From this conceptual adjustment it may be hypothesised that the ability of leadership of a country to reduce stability, organisational and scientific deficits developmentally is a function of the leadership success in addressing its security deficit.
So reconceptualised, the goal of a country’s security statecraft is to actualised a society characterised by political stability, social cohesiveness and economic vibrancy. From this perspective Nigeria with these attributes is a possible Nigeria and this ideal remains an ideal until a political leadership makes the production of such a Nigeria a democratic constitutional mandate. Which of the sixty and more political parties organised for the 2011 Elections is willing to make such a Nigeria its defining mandate?
In future essays, one will have cause re-revisit Otobo’s exciting constructs.