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GREAT THINKERS, GREAT NATIONS 2


June 1, 2016    |   Obilo Edmund
In June 2015, the Nigerian Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, held a round table in Abuja on future power projection in Africa. At the event, power projection was examined in relation to the capacity of the state to apply all or some of its elements of national power. The elements are political, economic and military powers among others. While presenting his paper, Dr Jakkie Ciliers,
the Chairman Board of Trustees of the Institute for Security Studies, South Africa, used the five African countries he called the Big-5 to explain power projection on the African continent. The Big-5 are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa.

Having identified the political-economic peculiarity of each country, he posited that despite the sustained high level of growth and ongoing transformation, Africa will remain at the margin of power and influence globally even by 2040. Ciliers permutation about the continent suggests that the long years of mal-administration in many African states will continue to take its toll on development until it is clear that the leadership on the continent is resolved to push through sustainable economic and political initiatives aimed at lifting millions of Africans out of poverty.

Cillier’s conceptualization of the power projection on the African continent singled out Nigeria as having the potential to become a major power in the world by 2040. He said Nigeria has the potential to be a hegemonic leader in Africa with global significance.

His outlook is a call on Nigeria to put it acts together and rewrite its political and economic history. It is a reminder of the urgent task of shaking up the sleepiness of the country and pulling the gown of impunity its leaders forced on it. However, this will not occur without a concerted effort to rethink the way the country’s education, health and agriculture sectors for example are managed. A new outlook is also required to launch the revolution of the industrial sector by improving the scientific and technological base of the country. Corruption impedes development and must be tackled with all seriousness. Within this domestic agenda is external relations to help drive the internal objectives of the state. This is where Nigeria’s responsibility to the rest of the world comes in. The understanding of the logic of the international system, will help the country seek the required assistance and cooperation to revamp its economy.

Another subject Ciliers broached at the event was democracy. He observed that Africa and the Middle East are likely to remain as the regions with the highest conflict burden for the foreseeable future and that there was the need to invest in conflict prevention. According to him democratic deficit is a factor that could upset developmental progress and lead to a period of instability.
His projection defines the role of scholars in nation building.

Scholarly analyses of assertions such as Ciliers’ lead to a clear understanding of the uniqueness of the political architectures of states and put in better perspective the factors of development needing exploration.  

Prof Francis Fukuyama’s in his article, “After Neo-Conservatism” looked at the argument of democracy as a means to stability and progress. Using the United States' invasion of Iraq as a case in point, he stated that the “over-optimism about post war transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration’s incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq”.

According to him, “the war’s supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long term process of institution building and reform”. Fukuyama in this regard is not against democracy. He appreciates it, but concerned about applying rapid democracy in countries brewed in long years of autocratic leadership like Iraq.

Is Democracy synonymous with development? Eskor Toyo one of the brightest brains to have come out of Nigeria, while delivering the 2004 Wole Soyinka lecture, was of the view that the kind of democracy Nigeria practices is not a necessity for economic development. The late radical professor, was asked to speak on the topic “Sustenance of Democracy in a Developing Economy” but he tinkered with the topic to read “The Question of Democracy in a Development Economy”. His argument was that the first topic was presumptive. To him, Nigeria has not aimed at democracy and therefore there is no democracy to sustain.

The Marxist scholar said no capitalist country can be an authentic democracy. His
writings and presentations were to the left. He was a great thinker, consistent and convincing with his views. His research immensely added to the global reservoir of knowledge, but his country like it had treated many of its intellectuals, neglected his recommendations in the formulation of policies.

Claude Ake who died in a plane crash in 1986 was another embodiment of knowledge that epitomized the political-economic ideas required for development. In his 1982 book “Social Science as Imperialism-The theory of political development”, Ake saw the perceived wisdom in Western social science as an exploitative tool of imperialism, whose adherents ended up reinforcing the status quo of western hegemonism.
Great thinkers like him make societies think.

It is intellectuals that come up with ideas for countries’ development. An intellectual is not necessarily an academic, but the person that generate new ideas and inventions, finding solutions to the problems of the society. In responsible climes, the political class put into work ideas of great thinkers. That is not to say that politicians cannot be great thinkers, but the objective of government is to implement virile ideas for state development.
One reason Africa remains underdeveloped is the hatred the political class have for good ideas. There is no genuine synergy between the intellectual and leadership blocs for development. The ideas and projections of the likes of Ciliers can change the political-economy of many African states if they were well synthesized.

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