The Nigeria narrative: Omelet without eggs

While addressing troops recently at Batsari in Katsina State, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, reiterated the conviction of many Nigerians about a principal cause of the seeming failure of the security agencies to stem the rise of criminality and other threats to national security, which is the lack of will to win.

Buratai said, “You have all the advantages that it takes to be a military unit or formation with all the capabilities and training….Try to make good use of the weapons and other equipment to achieve the best desired result. So, there is no excuse and no failure in military operations. Whatever happens, you must try your best to achieve the desired result”

He, however, added another dimension when he said, “These types of conflicts are unpredictable and unconventional in nature…The best approach to handle this type of security challenge is to apply the same unconventional and special forces concepts in this regard.”

The unuttered conclusion of the army chief’s address is that the strategy being deployed by security operatives is a prognosis for failure. In other words, unless those in charge of the military up their game and move several steps ahead of the criminal elements in terms of tactics and operations, instead of consistently trailing behind them to do mop-up, the outcome of their efforts would be predictable; as it has been, so will it continue to be irrespective of the optimism of the military hierarchy of their ability to cage the perpetrators of the heinous crimes unleashed on our countrymen and women, especially in the North Central and North-East zones.

Unfortunately, that is the Nigerian narrative; a narrative of expecting yesterday’s strategy to produce today’s deliverables; a narrative of expecting bounteous output from sparing input; a narrative of longing to become one of the world’s 20 largest economies without growing local production; a narrative of wanting to win the World Cup without first building a formidable team with outstanding strikers; a narrative of desiring omelet without the willingness to crack an egg.

The reality is that such does not happen anywhere, not even in films. We need to come to terms with the fact that success in any endeavour never happens by happenstance, wish or luck. If it does happen that way, it can only be fleeting, never lasting. Success is a product of a number of factors including preparedness, sacrifice and foresightedness.

The current power generation capacity of about 6,000 megawatts was the target set in the 1960s and 1970s when the Niger Dams Authority (NDA) was established with a mandate to develop the hydropower potential of the country at a time when the nation’s population was less than a half of the current figure. With the completion of the hydro-power projects, electricity supply in the country became quite good. That is why the 1970s and the early 1980s are regarded as the golden era in electricity supply in the country. But demand for electricity has been growing at the rate of 8.2 per cent per annum since 1984 without a corresponding growth in electricity supply. Until the recent efforts, there was no plan to match the demand for electricity with supply. Hence, power output has been on the decline for about 30 years. Consequently, governments, households and businesses resorted to the use of generators. Those companies that could not cope with the high cost of providing their own electricity relocated to neighbouring countries. Now, how can we hope to become one of the world’s largest economies when we are generator-dependent? A case of fighting today’s war with yesterday’s equipment.

The Lagos-Ibadan expressway was constructed in the 1970s when the vehicular traffic was much lighter than it is currently. Apart from occasional patching, no major rehabilitation work was done until the current effort to rebuild it. But there is even a serious issue with that. Given the density of vehicular traffic on the road, I had expected that the government would seize the opportunity of rebuilding it to increase the lanes to four on both sides and dedicate one lane to trucks and other heavy duty vehicles. But since I learnt that the plan is to have three lanes on both sides of the road between Lagos and Sagamu intersection, and two from Sagamu to Ibadan, I came to the conclusion that the government is merely looking at a placebo, not a permanent solution to the problem given that a minimum of one million vehicles ply both sides of the road daily. My reading of this intervention is that we will just have respite on the road for a while before old problems start resurfacing. This is another case of preparing for the moment instead of the future.

The major force that frustrates the realisation of our country’s immense potentialities is the failure to make appropriate plans for our desired future. For as long as that remains the pattern, the Nigerian narrative will remain unaltered.

The hallmark of failure is the tendency to always prepare for today, forgetting that today is constantly in a haste to become yesterday. If all we do is restrict our planning to the moment, our challenges will always have the better of us and greatness will continually elude us.



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