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How to engage nationalistic development, by Is-haq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar

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In this presentation, JAMB Registrar, Is-haq Oloyede, explains how Nigeria can engage a paradigm of development that is at once progressive and sustainable.

JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede

The notion of development is so crucial that at the dawn of this millennium, 189 countries of the world, under the auspices of the United Nations, found it desirable to set time-bound eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals, as if you don’t know, are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development (Oloyede, 2008). The deadline for the attainment of these goals was set at 2015.

However, by 2015 that the rest of humanity was making giant leaps of progress, we Africans and some other people in the global South are still trudging behind. The world realised that development is elusive and that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement or development. So, world leaders converged again on the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States, and adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone everywhere by 2030 based on the principle of “leaving no one behind”. These goals, I repeat, are aimed at achieving:

1) No Poverty,

2) Zero Hunger,

3) Good Health and Well-being,

4) Quality Education,

5) Gender Equality,

6) Clean Water and Sanitation,

7) Affordable and Clean Energy,

8) Decent Work and Economic Growth,

9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,

10) Reduced Inequality,

11) Sustainable Cities and Communities,

12) Responsible Consumption and Production,

13) Climate Action,

14) Life Below Water,

15) Life on Land,

16) Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; and

17) Partnership for The Goals.

If the aforesaid indicates anything, it actually indicates that whether we talk of the expired MDGs or the current SDGs, development constitutes the crux of global agenda since the dawn of this millennium nearly two decades ago. If development constitutes the front burner of global discourse and strategy, why do we pay lip service to it in Nigeria? Why has development eluded us despite all our acclaimed potentials in natural and human endowments? How do we catalyse development. If charity begins at home, how will Ogun State serve as the beacon of development for Nigeria? What roles can Abeokuta Club play in this regard as a foremost socio-cultural and Non-Governmental Organisation? These questions are what I intend to directly and indirectly interrogate in this presentation.


In his novel,  Dead Lagoon  (1994), Michael Dibdin notes poignantly, “There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are.” His submission is contentious because we do not have to hate what we are not. As a matter of fact, loving what we are not is motivational and this applies to our attitude to development for which we should like and admire Singapore, Malaysia, United Arab Emirate, Qatar, not to talk Europe and America. Yet, we should still hate the fact that we are not there yet, in spite of our abundance of resources, both human and material, and that should make us work harder and smarter.

I think the need of the day is to love what we are not and desire to be what we are yet to be in a world where countries that are less endowed than Nigeria are doing better. The enemy of development is corruption. The enemy of development is complacency. The enemy of development is lack of personal or political will or courage to do the necessary, not necessary the popular. The undeniable truth is that the development of Nigeria is being stunted by corruption and development will continue elude us as long as we have leaders who consider development as “stomach infrastructure”, leaders who do not see beyond their noses.

I made an initial reference to Singapore and I consider it a good example of how development is grafted. As a starting point, I can share the story of Singapore from the lens of the well-known author and motivator, John Maxwell, who considers it as “the most modern country in the world”. The summary is that great things start small: Singapore was granted independence in 1959 but it was fraught with problems. Her people decided that their best option was to attach themselves to Malaysia and they did so in 1963. However, the Malaysians considered Singaporeans a liability and two years after the marriage, they filled a divorce and severed ties. Singapore realised it had to swim or sink. The right leader was in the saddle, in person of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and he resolved on what to do. They had to work themselves out of the situation.

According to Maxwell, Singapore brought in industry, created public housing, sent people to school, set up a banking system and encouraged international travel. Before long, with determination and tenacity, things started to fall in place and the country represents “what it means to fail forward” (Maxwell, 2000 p.188). Today, the World Bank describes Singapore, a city state of 682.7 square metres, as “the easiest place to do business”.


Since the beginning of time till now, the over-arching ambition of man has remained to make life easy for himself through improvements that engender development. Defined as “the ability of an individual to have greater control over his environment and increased realization of the values of the society, its political destiny and self discipline” (Inayatullah, 1967), development is construed by Rodney (1973) “as a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being.”

In the light of the foregoing, development can be conceived in different ways. In its most basic and conceptual form, development is “good change” or what Rodney would construe a “a process of change”. Development is also seen as a vision (a description of what a society should be), as a historical process (the social change that takes place over a period of time due to inevitable processes) as action (referring to deliberate efforts to change things for the better) (Thomas, 2000). Development also entails economic growth (“advancement in per capital  real income  of the generality of the people in a society in which poverty, unemployment and inequality are progressively reduced”) modernization and distributive justice.

In general terms, the objectives of development are: raising peoples’ living levels ( i.e. incomes and consumption, levels of food, medical services, education through relevant growth processes), creating conditions conducive to the growth of peoples’ self-esteem through the establishment of social, political and economic systems and institutions which promote human dignity and respect and increasing peoples’ freedom to choose by enlarging the range of their choice variables, e.g. varieties of good and services.

As development is normative and all-encompassing, its application traverses different dimensions (Seers, 1977). In this regard, we can talk of:

*  Economic Development

*  Social Development

*  Political Development

*  Educational Development

*  Agricultural Development

*  Infrastructural Development

*  National Development

*  International Development

*  Academic Development

*  Human Development

*  Physical Development

*  Cultural Development

*  Language Development

* Sustainable Development, etc.

Each of these strands of development may not be mutually exclusive. Nigeria is not developed because of many factors some of which include ridiculous policies of government on agriculture, industry and manufacturing, epileptic power supply, dysfunctional education instead of functional one, corruption and bureaucracy, underutilization of resources, poor maintenance culture, brain drain, economic sabotage, acute selfishness, crass materialism of the leaders, religious intolerance, ethnic chauvinism and lots more.   To develop Nigeria requires a new thinking and that thinking can emanate from Abeokuta, which historically has remained a powerhouse of Nigeria’s political and intellectual thinking.


The real rock of Nigeria is Abeokuta in literal and figurative senses. Literally, as we all know, the great city of Abeokuta translates to “the underneath of the rock”, the sanctuary of peace where Sodeke took refuge from the slave marauders from Dahomey and Ibadan. Abeokuta would subsequently, by dint of hard work for which its natives are known, would emerge the cradle of civilisation for Nigeria in terms of birthing schools, Christianity and hosting the first newspaper,  Iwe Iroyin. We all know that Abeokuta and Ogun State at large has high potentials and our state has actually contributed immensely to the political, cultural, educational and intellectual development of the country since the pre-Independence up till now.

History of this unique and historic city offers a lot to Nigeria to learn from with respect to socio-political organisation. Abeokuta was one of the first independent nation-states in Africa, at least according to the modern international law, with Egba United Government holding sway between 1893 and 1914 before the British dissolved it as part of the 1914 amalgamation of the protectorates in Nigeria.

Today, Abeokuta has over fourteen (14) Universities, six (6) other non-degree awarding institutions out of the thirty-eight (38) tertiary institutions in Ogun State. This number is the highest in any State in Nigeria. Abeokuta as it stands has the highest number of universities in any city in Africa.

Abeokuta has produced more national and international figures that have catalysed Nigeria to glory since time immemorial than many states across the Federation. No community has been as blessed as Ogun State in terms of contributing to the emergence and sustenance of Nigeria, since the colonial era and its anti-colonial political fervour to the struggle to keep Nigeria one. Just as an indigene of our great state was one of the key figures that led Nigeria to Independence, in person of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, another illustrious son of the state, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, received the totem of surrender from the secessionists before the same son midwifed the birth of our federalism in 1979 through a transition period in which the Constitution was written from the scratch by Nigerians for Nigerians.

Even when it was time to pay the supreme sacrifice to wrestle power from the military apparatchik at the time the freest and fairest election in the annals of the country was won by him, it was a son of Abeokuta, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, that made it before Nigeria could have a period of fledging and sustained democracy. In education, industry, sports, music and politics, scholarship and literature, the names of our kinsmen in Ogun State and Abeokuta in particular are etched in gold. Without even mentioning names, global icons in various fields of human endeavour and a cornucopia of talents have been sired in this community. The international Icon-Prof. Wole Soyinka is another unique Nigerian from Abeokuta. The Crescent University Abeokuta is a product of a one-man riot-squad – Baba Chief Bola Ajibola, an international jurist who is also a son of the soil.

It is not that Abeokuta or Ogun State is proud. It is instructive that Sir Muhammad Bello said if you don’t blow your trumpet, no person will blow it for you as other people are busy blowing theirs. This city has produced many firsts and has charted the course of development at many frontiers in the private and public sectors. We can count our blessings and be grateful to God.

However, judging with the quality of human development that Ogun State has, why had Abeokuta until the emergence of Governor Amosun remained a rural town, with appreciable bad roads, poor infrastructure and dilapidated public and private buildings? It is not enough to celebrate the achievement of Governor Amosun, we need to extract from him, the tricks to make at least physical development of Abeokuta a sustainable venture.


Generally, development is a mirage in Africa because lack of sincerity on the part of political leadership. In a situation where political office is turned to an opportunity for advancing personal aggrandizement, political patronage, unbridled favouritivism, primordial sentiments, bare-faced opportunism, suffocating godfatherism, and undisguised prebendalism, there is a limit to which a society can grow and the economy boosted in such a climate of impunity. The insincerity of the leaders is complemented by the insincerity of the followers who often want to have their cake and still eat it while not appreciating that that there are no gains without pains. When citizens freely sell their conscience through falling for the vote-buying schemes of desperate politicians, they inadvertently sell themselves to economic slavery as those who invest would want to recover their money and still make huge profits at the expense of the electorate.

For development to happen, the factors of production must be fully harnessed and aggregated. These factors include land, capital, labour, resources and management. Here in Ogun State and in Nigeria and beyond our shores to the rest of Africa, development has not significantly happened as we witness in Europe, Japan, China, India, Singapore, United States, Canada and many others because of management deficit in some cases and zero management in others. The major problem Nigeria has at all levels is leadership and when leadership is right, management is right. Afterall, leadership entails doing right things and management entails doing things right.


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