In 1987, I was introduced to Walter Rodney in a development communication class taught by Professor Andrew Moemeka who used the Caribbean intellectual giant’s probing book and definition of development to explain our crisis in Africa.
Unfortunately, in the entire Third World, we still lamentably agonize on the pervading, but self-inflicted crisis of development that we grapple with. But how can we, in this 21st century still be talking of evils of colonialism and the neo-colonial agenda when we ourselves are guilty internal despoliation?
I have read Rodney’s How Europe Undeveloped Africa and Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth for such length of time as well, and the contents of their works are still often used to illustrate the failures of contemporary Africa. One of the set-books on African literature that shaped my consciousness of the African tragedy is Ayi Kweh Amah’s The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born.
But Today, I no longer blame our woes on the former colonial overloads because comparatively, we have measured up to them intellectually. And we are outdoing them in how we are destroying our own lands and exploiting ourselves.
So, it is our fault if we still depend on their expertise to address our development challenges. It is our stupidity (or is it madness?) that we value the advice of foreign consultants who possess only a fit all template of solutions to all the Third World problems when better educated and better qualified scholars and technocrats with rich understanding of national or local values are available but rotting away.
What is all the nonsense about brain drain that we cannot qualitatively reverse? What incentives are really and readily available to stimulate the in-gathering of our experts, scholars and professionals slaving in some cold lands and arid deserts of the world to help in our nation building project like the return of the Jews who recreated the nation of Israel, although in the controversially?
We have made so much fuss about reform in the Third World, launched so many development programmes and projects which outcomes and impacts are only in the bulging bellies of certain members of the implementing teams, their sartorial suits and flamboyant babanrigas.
We can only see the change they are to facilitate or inspire in the number and opulence of their mansions, the fleet or exoticness of their cars and the prestige of the foreign universities their children attend or of the hospitals they seek medical attention.
In all these, we see waste of national wealth and resources; we see promotion and adoption of despicable values. We see corruption. So, our reform projects suffering some fundamental crises and contradictions in their implementation process, public acceptance and support because those that are supposed to be its drivers and facilitators abuse or compromise the process.
That it is why we are always returning to the drawing boards. That is why we talk of policy somersault, inconsistency or lack of policy continuity in most of the Third world. Ab initio therefore, policy and reforms are victims of public mistrust because the average citizen doubts the genuineness of intention and the sincerity of purpose of the policy elites in and outside government who promote their introduction.
Even where the promoters are sincere, reform projects and programmes are often open to abuse and exploitation by the underpaid street level bureaucrats who see the implementation process as their own pot of honey or pathway to success. They take joy in the extortion of offenders or confiscation of their properties. Such officers become law unto themselves, defeating the purpose of the law they are to enforce or the policy they are to implement.
Simply therefore, the implementation and success of any reform agenda whether social, economic or political, whether in the introduction of some changes, changing or modification of public values and behaviours are contained within a continuum of factors, which exclusion or weakness of any point will result in a dislocation. Behavioural change communication is it.
At one end is the genuineness and sincerity of intention of the promoters and at the end point is the leadership will, commitment and exemplariness in pushing through. There are three major anchors within this implementation continuum. First, the process of implementation is smoothened by the depth and quality of research that go into identifying the issues and problems.
This is assured and reinforced by the expertise of technocrats, consultants and professionals, who are engaged to address the problems, prescribe realistic, workable and cost-effective solutions that sensitive to and accommodating local values, traditions and authorities.
The second anchor or factor is the efficiency and integrity quotient of the bureaucracy that is the engine-room of policy implementation. The bureaucracies of many countries of the Third are peopled by under-remunerated and unmotivated workforce even if they are well-trained (and most are not because the percentage of professional and officer cadre are nothing to write home in comparison with the clerical and manual low paid workers that are eventually saddled with directly contacting the public in the implementation process).
And, if we add the lack of sincerity and trust in pubic engagement and communication, we see that where most of our reform initiatives fail in the Third World. How can there be trust in leadership when they do not explain to all that matters, the stakeholders before acting and within enough time to prepare those to be affected for adjustment?
How can people see the long term benefits in sight and so endure the pains of reform and change when they are not given hope or some little incentives? How can they believe reform is not punishment or denial when they see in those mouthing reform obscene abuses of the law and flagrant compromise or violation of the process, or when in periods demanding austerity, they see the leaders in immoral display of ostentation and conspicuous consumption?
Every Third World country offers a peculiar case study of policy glut and duplicity of reform initiatives. In the economic and social sectors, These countries have failed woefully because they have not sufficiently stimulated productivity and development.
They have compounded their failures with dirty politics of mistrust and betrayal. In these countries, many have come to accept that they do not really lack the people or the ideas to reform their country. In fact some have also reached the level of advocating for a return to the colonialists or the military usurpers who dominated their post-independence history.
Some are even questioning the viability and legitimacy of their nations just because they have not focused on building the nation but in milking them, which has been the pre-occupation of many policy salesmen and implementing agents.
For us in Nigeria however, there is no time better than now to begin the process of rebuilding our nation, leveraging on the diversity of our resources and peoples. It is a globally acknowledged that Nigeria is one of the most endowed nations on the surface of the earth. But the world is amazed we have not done enough, since independence to unlock ourselves from dependence on the West.
In fact, beneath most of the crises bedevilling Nigeria are hands of those who want to benefit from the decapitation of our nation. They want to sell arms to brothers to arm and harm themselves. They want to tap into the crude under our soil. They want to dump their glut items of trade on our land because of our number.
Nigeria is a big market and any power that corners our nation like they pocketed the Arabs can have eternal field days feasting on our ignorance to loot our vault. So, any thinking government in Africa and the rest of the Third World that is resisting their plot is an enemy and they would stop at nothing to crush their leaders and stifle their governments.
This is the tragedy of most of the Third World countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where we belong. We must not allow them to destroy us with their perversion and selfishness
Abdulwarees is Deputy Director, Strategic Planning & Corporate Development, Voice of Nigeria and volunteer for the Muslim Public Affairs Centre MPAC Nigeria Director, Media & Strategic Communications firstname.lastname@example.org