By Chimdi Maduagwu
Recently I have become literally obsessed with the term capacity. I have also tried to look at the term from some perspectives, but as I discuss it now, my intention is not to commercialize it, rather I will domesticate (privatize) it. By domesticating it, I shall be treating it in my “capacity” as a Nigerian, who lives and works in Lagos. I wish I could say, with deep and sincere conviction that I am a Nigerian and a Lagosian.
Capacity has to do with size or bulk. It is more or less, some form of space (for the purpose of holding or containing). From this approach, I am comfortable with thoughts on Nigerian space or for the purpose of clarity, “spaces.” Right now, Nigeria should be battling with creating or building capacity, as they would say. A rational being, though, quite ignorant, like many of us, will wonder how a country, which has a definite dimension, will still be thinking of building spaces. Take for instance, there is the geographical space. So, what possibly can be created again? The answer is not in creating per se, as we understand it, but in building on inherited phenomena (natural structures).
Building is essential in human existence. The humans build personalities, characters, homes, relationships, and virtually everything. God created the universe and gave an injunction to human beings to dominate, in other words, through their “will,” build up to their satisfaction. Nature thus, provides humanity with raw materials necessary for building the world. It is through building or construction that capacity is established.
Having said this, I can now domesticate the term. Nigeria is a geographical expression; no doubt, it is also a political territory. The territorization of Nigeria was not negotiated by the founding fathers of the country, but adopted by them. This is not unusual given that many countries of the world passed through a similar experience. Since this is the case, it is thus, not very important to continue to dwell on the unnatural space called Nigeria. Rather, the concern now, should, I suppose, be how to positively domesticate the existing situation through a careful reassessment of it merits and demerits.
The first step may be a careful identification of the possible capacities of the country. Let me suggest that this be done through the geographical (little efforts will be required here), then demographic, political, economic (including commercial and industrial concerns), cultural and aesthetic capacities. Like I earlier iterated, there is little problem in the geographical consideration, but one major point will be perhaps a proper definition of the geographical units. Right now, there are three approaches. The first is the regional approach, where we operate in terms of the geographical cardinals of the East, West, and North.
Then, there is the identification through states (some kind of geo-political expressions). Nigeria has 36 states and these are standard units. Then the third is the now, much orchestrated zones; the 6 geo-political zones of Northeast, Northwest, Northcentral, Southeast, Southwest, and Southsouth. This is relatively clear and each of them can form the basis for capacity building for the country. Like I said, the geographical clarity is still at the level of preparations: the raw material zone. There is now the need to advance and get to the level of proper application of this important raw material for capacity building.
Let me advance to the demographic level. I believe, unequivocally, that one of the greatest problems of the capacity of Nigeria is her population and who lives where in the country. For many years, in fact since her independence, there has never been an acceptable population figure, not even a proper projection. As a demographer of repute once said, the country has always depended on “guestimates.”
In other words, figures are guessed at. Let me take the example of voter registration and voter accreditation. One case that is unbelievable and somehow unforgivable is that a state like Abia, had less than 500,000 accredited voters, while her counterparts like Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa grossed millions. An argument may arise as to who live where? Who are those in Jigawa or Kano and who are those in Abia or Ogun?
The implication of this, when it comes to the capacity of Nigeria, is that one would also wait to see the contribution of these states to the Gross Domestic Products of the country. It is not enough to assert a civic right as to the choice of the leaders of the country; there is a need to use the same criteria for choice of leadership to improve on productivity in the country. If there are almost 2 million voters from a state, which swings the result of an election in a Federal system, there should also be a commensurate contribution from that state on other aspects of the country.
I have literally taken up both the political and demographic aspects of the country’s capacity. The country should look forward to the contribution of the jumbo states to the gross domestic product of the nation. In other words, how do we use the demographic advantage for capacity building? Let me ask, what will over one million voters contribute as against the less than 500,000 voters? It may not necessarily mean that the state with over a million must contribute twice the capacity of the one with less than 500,000, but there has to be a sign that it is bigger. We are watching!
Then from the economic perspective, there has always been the notion of “national cake.” National cake relates to revenue sharing. The country allocates revenue to different parts from a demographic consideration. The more, the merrier! But now we are looking at capacity, and how does this come to play in revenue generation as against revenue sharing? Please Nigerians should note that it is time to start considering that.
Revenue generation, in relation to capacity building, could be complicated. Take for instance; will the natural resources of a given geopolitical area be more important, in terms of ranking, than other factors like human resources and capital input? This question may draw its answers from other economic activities like industrialization and commercialization. Nigerians must be alert to such issues now!
Finally, to the cultural and aesthetic dimensions… the nation has experienced or is still in the middle of President Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda, where a lot of emphases are laid on generative construction and reconstruction. It is expected that elements of this experience will permeate all aspects of the culture of the people.
For instance, if the farmer is given inputs like fertilizers, and other simple farming implements and more importantly, direct access to authorities, in case there are matters arising to be discussed; if herdsmen are encouraged to acquire formal education and indeed provided facilities for such; if transporters are provided with facilities with which to expand on existing efforts to help commuters across the country; if small and medium scale commercial enterprises are enhanced by a systematic soft loans scheme; if large scale, or bigger organization are given some “bail-out” offers etc. … then there is an indication that the Nigerian capacity can be constructed. Now this is my idea of the future. My prayer is that we do not arrest our future. I will weep if we deliberately plunge into a state of stunted development. Let no one arrest our growth. Long live Federal republic of Nigeria.