The Nigerian Dream pt1

What is the Nigerian Dream? How will we bring it about? Over the next few months we will feature different perceptions of the Nigerian dream and how people propose for the dream to be achieved. Mr Udoh suggests that the post 1978- change in China is due mainly the influx of well educated Chinese from the diaspora and a willingness of Deng to embrace the economic liberation necessary to free the creativity of the Chinese entrepreneur. In essence a contradistinction between the central communist governing philosophy and acceptance of capitalist liberal ideology. This unique but pragmatic solution reminds me of me! Whenever people ask me what American political party I support my answer is usually, "I am a Republican in principle but a Democrat in practise". The Chinese are conservative in ideology but ensure enough economic liberality to create wealth.

Well played if you ask me. The question still remains what is the Nigerian Dream? And how can this be achieved? Lets hear from Mr Udoh.

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Diaspora By Ekerete Udoh

I was struck by the caption on the cover of The World Street journal edition of Wednesday-March 13, entitled "For Xi, a ‘China Dream’ of Military Power. “In the article written by Jeremy Page, the writer had analyzed the shape of things to come in China especially in international politics and other strategic initiatives under the leadership of Xi Jinping who was formally invested with the position of President of the Republic last Thursday-having already assumed the command of the military as well as the position of the Secretary General of the Communist Party of China.

From the writer’s analysis, it was apparent that China under Xi will pursue a robust military build-up with the view to becoming the world’s preeminent military power and thus challenge the United States hegemonic power both in hard and soft power it had wielded since the end of the Second World War in 1945. The article referenced the book “The China Dream” written by a former professor at the country’s National Defense College and an unabashed hawk-Col. Liu Mingfu who, in the book had argued that for China to become the new hegemonic power, it must build and equip its military to challenge and surpass the United States. To Col. Mingfu, it doesn’t matter if such an approach may trigger yet another Cold War given the strategic role the United States plays in the Pacific region visa-visa its national interest. Such concerns in the colonel’s thinking should be left to policy makers to sort through, but China must rise militarily, he contended.

When the book was first released about three years ago, the Hu Jintao administration not wishing to anger policy and military leaders in Washington, asked for the withdrawal of the book from book stores. Under Jinping however, the dynamics have changed as the book now is a must-read and come highly recommended on most government run book stores according to the WSJ piece. The book according to the article has been hugely embraced by the new president, revealing in the process the direction he hopes to take China to, in strategic terms
The article reminded me of a course I took in International Relations class at Grad school which was taught by a former top official of the U.S State Department and where we had a healthy dose of ultra-hawks and dye-in the wool liberals with very strong points of view on the rise of China as a global power. The professor had given us an assignment to compare the existing international order that is defined by the United States where nations compete for influence and the projection of their national interests in a rather anarchic order and the anticipated new system to be shaped by a rising China where emphasis would be placed on hierarchical order and a centralized controlling system and to predict how the post –Westpahilan world order will look like.

Strong opinions were expressed and some students who were career foreign affairs officers, who had returned to school to earn a masters degree spoke in exacting tones-the United States will not allow China to be become the next hegemonic power of the world-pure and simple. A student who was very well informed on military maters had stated emphatically that “it would take China another 6o years to be where America is today” (2005) and that while “China may be playing catch-up with the U.S, the U.S would be doing "research and development on other more effective, lethal armaments."  The general conclusion was that the international system that has shaped international politics since the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648 which had several western powers dominating the world in cycles will not give way easily to another order predicated on Confucian or Eastern values.

But reading the article about the rise of China and its capacity to challenge the U.S in both soft and hard power got me thinking about Nigeria and what our leadership is thinking of our own Nigerian Dream. China, as many of you readers of this column would have known (I have addressed this issue many times,) was a poor, destitute country from 1949 when Mau Tse Tung led the rag--tag army of Communist revolutionaries overthrew the Western oriented Chiang Kai-Shek army and went on to institute an agrarian society based on collectivism which forswore capitalist accumulation of wealth and its associated instruments. Millions of lives were sacrificed to cleanse the land of capitalist influences and a simple, bicycle riding nation came into effect. Purges upon purges and numerous doctrines on governance were instituted. While this went on, the people suffered untold hardship and deprivation and the best of Chinese intellectuals ran away to the United States and other Western countries.

When Chairman Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took over the reins of the country and repudiated decades -old policy that had forsworn capitalism. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people were unleashed and while power remained concentrated in the Politburo; where the official ideology of governance remained communist, strict enforcement of communist ideals were relaxed. Businesses sprung up and millions of Chinese Diaspora educated and well- versed in the best practices of the Western world where they had made spectacular successes returned home in thousands and it was to this group of talents and skills-set that Deng tapped to rebuild the new nation.

From the early 80s when Deng’s new policy on capital accumulation was introduced to the present, China has grown from a peasant society, where there were more bicycles on the streets than cars to becoming today, the second largest economy in the world, with experts predicating her to surpass the U.S. economy by 2025 as the world’s number one economy. And now, with the new president’s accent on military power, the march to dominance appears ready to come full circle.

How did China achieve such a feat in such a short time and why is Nigeria with our natural endowment and human capital still wallow in the pit of underdevelopment? How did China in less than forty years build modern cities with shinning skylines and 21st century infrastructure and today according to Forbes Magazine 2013 listing of the world’s billionaires, accounts for the second highest number of billionaires in the world after the United States? How did a society that was scorned and derided by Americans a few years ago, now hold the most of American debt portfolio and where children of the rich and powerful now take classes in Chinese language, in anticipation of where the tail-wind of next world leading economy may blow? How  did an otherwise peasant society move so fast, so quick in growing their economy and improving significantly the material condition of its over a billion people?

My answer to the above question is simple: leadership, pride and the fierce urgency of the moment to catch-up and relive the dreams of the country’s past glory. The Chinese leadership from Deng to Jinping were motivated and sufficiently mad and angry at the state of rot the country had descended. While not totally repudiating the ideology of communism that had held the society together since 1949, the leadership came to the realization that collectivism as an economic policy did not work- it had stifled the human spirit and created a culture of dependency and entitlement. The leadership looked to its neighbors - Japan and South Koreas which were flourishing and booming with Western capitalist approach to economic planning while at the same time refusing to adopt lock, stock and barrel the Jeffersonian democracy as practiced in the West-instead practicing its own version and appropriating some of the Jeffersonian democratic ethos but with heavy injection of local traditions and values.
China thus, held on to communism as a governing ideology but paradoxically embraced the very antithesis of communism-capitalism and today, the result is there for all to see. Chinese leadership re-invented the wheel of progress, created a sense of seamless transition with continuity of policies with minor tweaking from succeeding leadership. Certain policy initiatives remained sacrosanct –not being subject to the whims and designs of a news leadership, the result is that foreign investors know what to expect long term and thus are encouraged to put their money where they expect to make maximum profit while providing jobs to the local population.

As the Nigeria’s political actors are jostling for 2015, perhaps we should begin a conversation on what the Nigerian Dream will entail and who has the best prescription for the fulfillment of that dream. Where do we hope to be in five, 10 or 20 years from today? Are we still going to be a country that is blanketed by darkness at night and where the overhead cost on diesel and generators stifles business growth and expansion? Are we going to be a country where our elites dwell on small things rather than thinking big on strategic terms. Are we going to be a country where people speak in geographical terms instead of national terms? Are we going to be a country where the motivating impulse for the pursuit of power is to deploy a  rather maniacal and ill-tempered  zero-sum tactics on those who are no longer in control of the instrument of power? Or put simply “it is now our turn-you had yours, so leave us alone to empower our own people.” Are we going to be a country with decaying infrastructure?

Are we going to be a country where community leaders stand up to religious zealots-Muslims and Christians and tell them in no uncertain terms that  they must check their religious excesses at the door, and allow the country to develop with the  door of separation between Church, Mosque and state firmly locked and guarded? Are we going to be a country where our youths instead of deploying their talents, creativity and education on things that add value to our collective existence are busy concocting schemes to make money and sacrifice in the process the ennobling virtue of hard work?
As our leaders jostle for power, we Nigerians who love this country- (and there are millions of us)  and  who deeply believe in its capacity to join the likes of China in becoming a soft power should not be disengaged and watch our collective dreams and those of our children get sacrificed at the altar of small-mindedness. We must use every legitimate platform to sensitize Nigerians on the need to elect people who are possessed of the principle of common good, who are as angry as the Chinese leadership were, about their country’s underdevelopment. We must seek leaders who look beyond immediate gratification and instead are motivated  by the need to build a nation that would fulfill the potentials buried therein. We must listen to our leaders talk and discern who has the broad vision to galvanize us all along the path of national renewal. We must jettison the impulse to emotionalize governance, to adopt outmoded instrument such as zoning and look to proven leaders-achievers, people with independent thought, those who can surround themselves with strong intellectually astute men and women and challenge them to come up with policies that will advance our national renewal.
Nigeria can join China in a short time as a leading soft power of the world if a leader through his love for the people  call upon us to be co-travelers in the journey to national renewal and greatness. We have all it takes to achieve that. We must insist on having a leadership that is equally invested. The journey has already started in a rather incremental basis-let us redouble the steps and move gingerly towards our goal. Those who do not buy into that sprit should be shown the door and thanked for their service or lack thereof. Those who are possessed by the fierce urgency of now (apologies to the Late Martin Luther King) should be sought out, no matter what zone he or she comes, and rewarded with leadership.

‘Adata’- a great movie and book to be launched
To those who had read the book “ADATA” and seen the movie, they are simply astounded by the depth of story telling and the technical depth of the production. Written by Michael Igwebuike Nwaesei- a movie producer and writer, the book and movie which is to be launched on March 23, in New York, explores the traditions and cultural values of the Anioma people in Delta state. “I want to use the story of the tragedy of Adata to encourage our Diasporans to harken back to the way we were raised, our cultural values and try to impart some of those ideals in our children, given the very liberal ways the American society is organized. Our children remain our best asset for tomorrow and we must provide them the platform to grow and have a sense of identity based on our rich traditional values while still retaining the American side of their lives” Mr. Nwaesei had told me in his Linden Boulevard, Cambria Heights office.


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