By: Tijani Mayowa
As a young boy growing in the caring home of a nomadic civil servant, I spent my early childhood criss-crossing many Nigerian states and cities, learning many creeds and cultures, listening to many languages and lessons, having an overdose of the Nigerian folklore.
One of the stories I found most confusing or altogether irrelevant was one relating to a blind man’s nose. I was made to believe that blind men had other vital organs which had more accuracy than that of a person with no disabilities, and ultimately made up for what the blind man lost in sight. A blind man has a more sensitive nose, his ears have heightened listening skills, his tongue could taste a meal 10 kilometres away. We believed those things, and never questioned if they were right or wrong.
About two decades from when those stories were told, it is all beginning to make sense. I see why a blind man was always painted to have a better sense of smell. The blind man never assumes; he verifies the presence of every obstacle before taking his next and cautious step.
When the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari released the economic recovery and growth plan (ERGP), one thing was clear: the government was resolute to satisfy the yearnings of thousands of Nigerians who cried that the government had no economic direction. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and numerous multilateral institutions who had hitherto lamented the lack of an economic blueprint now had something to chew for the next few months.
I have it on good authority that the recovery plan was drafted by the one of the leading consulting firms in the world, with some inputs from the ministry of budget and national planning. Hence, the plan was seen as a job well done, as a good plan; sadly good plans alone have never saved any nation of the world.
In 2011, Yemi Osinbajo, who was simply a professor of law, told the story of how Bostwana became a great nation. Osinbajo, who was speaking at the Excellence in Leadership Conference (ELC) organised by Sam Adeyemi’s Daystar Christian Centre, said a Nigerian professor drew up the plan that changed Botswana.
“Planning is so critical to development; businesses had to be planned, the day had to be planned, planning was as critical as prayer. I remember about three years ago at the Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, we had invited the president of Botswana, Botswana of course is a little country in southern Africa, which has proved to be very successful,” Osinbajo narrated.
“It is held up as a model to the entire Africa, infact, it is held up as a model to us. We had invited the president of Botswana to come and give a talk on how the country achieved such greatness. During the course of his speech, he said in the early 70s, when they were trying to get their country moving, they wanted to have an economic plan. So where did they go looking for an expert, they came to Nigeria!
“They met with General Gowon, who was head of state at the time. They spent a few days trying to talk to him because he was extremely busy. But finally on the fourth day, they managed to speak to him.”
They told Gowon that they were seeking an economic expert who could write an economic plan or policy for the government of Botswana. Gowon asked his minister of economic affairs at the time and the minister said, “Well, I know a Professor Onitiri, who might be able to help”. They fetched Professor Onitiri from the University of Ibadan and he was taken down to Botswana
“In a couple of months, he (Onitiri) wrote an economic plan. The president of Botswana said that plan Professor Onitiri wrote, they kept to, and have kept to it up until this day. And that is what accounts for the greatness of their economy.
“One single plan, written by one person, religiously kept to by a nation, and that person a Nigerian” led to the success of that nation.
Today, Botswana is respected as one of the most successful and stable economies in Africa, and the third best business destination on the continent. Like Nigeria, Botswana was a natural-resource driven country. As we drill oil, they mine diamonds, yet the country was able to maintain a gross domestic product growth of about nine percent on the average, from the 1970s up until 1999 (according to IMF figures). Festus Mogae, the country’s president from 1999 to 2008, is credited with largely diversifying the country from diamonds.
One thing draws the parallel between Botswana and a blind man, which clearly eludes Nigeria: the admission of weakness! The blind man knows he cannot see the obstacles ahead of him, so he employs the services of a guide or that of a rod to feel the obstacles ahead and navigate his way through. Botswana’s journey to Nigeria for Onitiri was an admission of that weakness, which subsequently led to the growth of that nation.
Nigeria, on the other hand, has all the experts, has enough oil to set Africa ablaze, has the might of a teeming population, and is seen as the giant or pride of Africa. No admission of weakness!
Today makes it exactly two years since Nigerians danced the songs of hope chorused by the All Progressives Congress and swept the People Democratic Party (PDP) out of the corridors of power. This means they have this decision to make in another two years.
If Buhari, Osinbajo do not admit weakness where needed, stick religiously to a well-drafted economic plan, and “Botswana” Nigeria out of problems, Nigerians will be unflinching in their resolve to sweep the sweepers out of Aso Rock, come 2019.
Credit: This piece first appeared on TheCable online newspaper with the title ” Buhari, Osinbajo must be blind men to serve and save Nigeria”.