My very own Jack,
My letter to you today will take on a different hue. Today I want to talk about political responsibility. The drums of war are rolling, the cymbals are clanging, the eagles are gathering. Where are you Jack? Don’t blame the politicians for the ills of the nation if you don’t want to get involved. He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it, Seneca said. Things are not just going to fall into place. A successful nation is not an accident.
The failure of a nation is invariably occasioned by the failings of the middle class. My definition of middle class includes the educationally potentiated. Pretty much covers you. It is this group of people that can make intelligent demands on government. The uneducated masses lack wherewithal. They cannot appreciate their rights or place visionary obligations on government. They are thus exploitative fodder in the hands of unscrupulous politicians. They’re the numbers needed in a democracy. Democracy as a game of numbers only works well when there are educated numbers. If you don’t want to leave your fate in the hands of the ignorant you better get involved.
The democratic tragedy of Africa lies in the fact that decisive voting power lies in the mass of the uneducated. If the continent must rise to fulfill its potential, education must be a priority for governments in Africa. If you build fantastic roads and install traffic lights and the people can’t read the highway code what’s the point?! It’s all about people! Has to be about the people.
There is a difference between running a government and building a nation. We develop nations by developing people. Buoyant economic statistics are useless when the lives of the people remain unchanged. We should be talking about Gross Human Development (GHD) not just Gross Development Product (GDP).
Religion is big in Africa as you well know, but you can’t even appreciate the person of God without sound education. Apostle Paul prayed: “I ask God to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally…” (Ephesians 1:15-19 MSG). How then can religion be opposed to education? Education is at the heart of religion! You can’t even read your Bible without literacy. Spirituality does not preclude intellectual development. Education MUST BE a priority in Africa. When we build the mind we build the nation.
God over-endowed the African continent. (Nigeria alone has 34 mineral resources). Yet the nations with the least resources are the most successful, and richest! They paid attention to the fundamentals – education being critical. They proved it’s not the number of resources that matter. It’s resourcefulness that counts. The purpose of resource endowment of a nation has to be the provision of means for the development of the people. Ideally the nations with the most means should have the highest levels of human development. The main cause of insecurity and instability in many African countries is the lack of opportunities for the youths. Education gives a child a fighting chance in life. Every child must have access to quality education. It’s enablement. Education is the greatest investment a nation can make. It’s the strategic route to national development. And it’s a long term strategy, leading up to tertiary education.
Basic numeracy and literacy CANNOT be the vision of Africa. It’s an under-development agenda. Why must we always aim for the lowest common denominator?! But when kids come out of school they must have jobs. Or we’ll have a high youth unemployment rate. That’s dangerous! How do we create jobs? To answer that question we might as well ask how NOT to create jobs! We shouldn’t create jobs by bloating up the civil service with redundant human resources. It’s false job creation. And it’s costly! It’s inefficient and unsustainable. It unduly increases the cost of national administration.
The State must nonetheless staff social services adequately. Hospitals, schools, must be well resourced. But it is more efficient to create job creators than to seek to create jobs by bloating up the civil service.
Entrepreneurship development is not an option for nations like Nigeria. Other African nations as well. Youth unemployment is a time bomb – an incubating biological explosive device. Invariably though, a youth must take his destiny into his own hands. If they won’t offer you a job create one for yourself! But entrepreneurship development policy mandates an enabling environment and adequate infrastructure.
Aside from power, massive investments must be made in internet connectivity. Internet connectivity is an enabler of dreams for youths. It will unleash their potential, connect them to the global knowledge community, put them on the global economic grid. It will create market opportunities for their creativity.
In today’s global economy internet connectivity is a utility, a fundamental utility like power and water. We must also have adequate protection of intellectual property. Creativity must be well protected. I’m laying down a few ideas for you to advocate on. A sound venture capital system must be created to finance dreams. Angel investment is needed to get ideas off the ground. Young men must be trained in entrepreneurship in very practical terms. It can be learned. But a head crammed with visions of money must be mitigated by a heart crammed with nobility and values. Without values such motivated youths will become economic threats to the nation’s survival.
We must teach Purpose as well. That’s a missing piece in our curriculum and it’s critical for community sensitivity. An entire policy infrastructure has to be built around youth development agenda – with ministerial portfolio coordination.
Now you see why you need to get involved. It’s in your enlightened self interest. Join a political party, join an activist group, write the newspapers, publish ideas – your solutions, speak up, vote! Your solutions must be mature: “Let not our proposal be disregarded on the score of our youth” – Virgil.
Our country is our inheritance from God. We must not abdicate responsibility over it. The consequences are dire. Read my book Grim White Green. There are a few ideas there as well.
Your mentor, LA.
©Leke Alder 2013