By Kelechi Ibekwe
The greatest asset a society can possess is its people. For no resource is truly greater than a nation’s human resource. Human development is essential, not only for a nation’s survival but for its growth. An abundance of natural resources might mask problems for a while and even give a semblance of growth, but as with all things, the truth eventually finds its rhythm.
Development refers to the act of growth, maturity, evolution of an individual or a society from a primitive point to a less primitive point.
Human development in social terms is the process by which the mental awareness, the thought capacity, and the richness of human life is achieved. However, I do not speak in social terms as human development is a very broad topic which cuts across social, cultural, political and economic aspects. I speak in economic terms, although one can hardly extricate one from the others.
Development in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole, for the greater part of the 20th century was virtually non-existent due to the several crises which occurred. A period of recovery and reinvention is required to halt the retrogression and massive human development to move development from the state of inertia to a forward march. Below, I shall highlight some aspects that need to be treated for the advancement of society to occur.
By definition, corruption is the use of bestowed authority for personal gain. Political corruption is the use of instituted government authority for private gain. In Nigerian society, the term corruption is a word often used, misrepresented and generally misunderstood. To the uninformed poor Nigerian, corruption is for the affluent and a means for individuals who may or may not be in government to fund ostentatious lifestyles. To the Nigerian middle class, the corrupt are those who are in government who lead affluent lifestyles. To Nigeria’s affluent, the corrupt are those in government.
There is no proper definition for corruption in the Nigerian context and when something is ill defined, it cannot be stopped as its symptoms cannot be properly diagnosed.
Corruption has become part of the thread of the fabric of Nigerian life. It has seeped down to every nook and cranny of society and the level of impunity has caused this dangerous trait to thrive. It has reached a point where the man or woman who while in power, is disinclined to graft and is seen as a fool by all. The lack of institutions has made checking corruption an impossible task.
A solution to this problem is in the creation of institutions independent of political powers with specific roles for each institution acting as checks and balances for themselves. Each institution’s activities should overlap, and require approval from rival institutions so as to prevent recklessness. This is to prevent ascribing unnecessary power to a single institution which could easily be turned into an attack dog of whichever government that funds it.
A country is much like an organization. People need to be educated properly to carry out their individual and collective roles in that organization. The average level of organization in a country determines how forward-thinking that country is going to be. Education raises the awareness of the individual in the society and determines to a large extent the leadership the citizens choose and receive. Bad leadership is almost always characterized by corruption, brain drains and impunity while good leadership is always characterized by human development.
I am a strong proponent of the Reform without Rancor policy which is practised in Canada. It involves large scale educational reform. A system that ensures that the country’s worst schools are as good as its best thereby giving access to a larger pool of a nation’s best and brightest who in return would drive social reform.
The degree threshold for educators should be raised, and schools free of government control should be encouraged in an unwilling government environment.
In the past, before the advent of the printing press, when knowledge was mostly oral based and in the possession of a selected few, there was limited access to information. With the aid of technological advancements, the printing press was invented and that knowledge which was in the hands of a few became more accessible to a greater number of people. The internet today, has made it possible for anyone, anywhere in the world at any time to have access to vast and incredible amounts of information. Information helps bridge the gap from uneducated and underdeveloped societies to problem solving oriented and developed societies.
The perception of technology as a threat instead of embracing it, needs to be eroded as it has become an important part of daily life.
Finally, human development in its most basic terms can be classified into three wants. They are:-
- Adequate provisioning for basic human needs of food, shelter, clothing.
- According to Sen’s conception of development, the substantive freedoms a person needs to lead “… the kind of life he or she enjoys”. These are health, education, knowledge and skills.
- An enabling environment for people to apply their acquired skills, individually and societally. The factors of such an environment include freedom, stability, and a human rights respecting culture.
Once these features are in place in society, there will be progress.