Provincialism, parochialism and underdevelopment




abiodun KOMOLAFE



By nature, development ‘belongs to those who know it, not those who have it or can buy it.’ It is like a picture, which one keeps working on. Parochialism, on the other hand, is a cultural entrapment. It is evil! With it at work, extant philosophies are laced with the cultural sentiment that a people cannot develop beyond their social thoughts. Once the ruling paradigm in the public administration is ‘awa-n-tiwa’, the society is doomed, with the social thoughts and concomitant expectations most certainly not extending the frontiers of knowledge or the ideas of development.

Embracing parochialism lends itself to easier and non-rigorous interpretation of government policies, which makes survival easier, especially for those who are stealing our commonwealth to continue doing their things without obstruction or impediment. Sooner than later, the dregs and the mediocre in the society will find elective or leadership positions attractive and suitably qualified to vie for public office. But then, the people cannot but be parochial because a man who wants to develop must be exposed to the rudiments of development. Anything outside that can only be likened to dreaming for impossibility.

The creation of pattern and its sustenance explains the development of all the nations of the world. Ever from the time of King Phillip of Macedon; to the epoch of the Tsars of Russia; down to the fall of the Republics in Rome; and the 1974 wave which culminated, especially, in the democratization of Latin America and post-communist countries of Eastern Europe, development has never been seen to have come by dint of luck, but by hard work. In plain English, there must be pattern creation and pattern sustenance! The same pattern that triggers development will also set the standard.

Without doubt, every developed society has its own pattern creation and pattern sustenance. Therefore, for any development to be meaningful, it requires that the society must have thinkers. It must also recognize the need to give them their dues. For example, an amazing might and strategic positioning, a la the righteousness of nukes and space weaponry, have placed Russia in a good stead to negotiate for all sorts of things. North Korea, where Kim Jong-un is seeking first the righteousness of military prowess with the belief that economic boom will be added unto the highly centralized totalitarian state, is not any different. That’s why Jong-un has become an untouchable leader of a sort. Even a country like Turkey has decided to develop in her own way, and at her own pace. Thus, it can be argued that, if there’s no pattern, there will be no picture.

It is a well-known fact that the Obafemi Awolowo era introduced development to the Western region of Nigeria. It is also public knowledge that there were no mechanisms in place to sustain the flow and tempo of that development after the death of the First Republic. So, the initiative was never sustained. Once the military institution in its characteristic abrasive intrusion arrested the pattern flow of the development, what became of the life and the essence of the then Western Nigerian development theory and/or policy ideas was better imagined.

To say the least, successive military interventions only ended up ruining public administration and development in Nigeria. Since there was no pattern that the people were looking up to in concrete terms, what remained were the ideas of the Lilliputians who came into government thereafter. Parochialism amongst state actors, albeit surreptitiously, replaced robust debates and arguments in public administration parlance.

Again, since the new ‘lords’ were little, both in stature and status, welcome the era of little things and little thinking! What followed were leaders who were only looking up to the late sage who built the first television station in Africa; who made Liberty Stadium happen and the brain behind the first 3-Star Premier Hotel and ‘Cocoa House’. Even the Western Region Parliament Building was an edifice to behold by countries of the world. It was more of a logical incentive towards survival!

Let’s face the truth: the last time the Southwest truly witnessed development was when its affairs were directed by certain people who had vision. However, the pattern that was created at the time never attained the status of a blueprint for subsequent governments to adopt and implement. No thanks to the military jackboot anyway! So, if a pattern was created, it was never sustained, as subsequent governments never followed any laid-down plans or patterns.

The Awolowo government just came and it was abandoned. Yes, Awo, as he was fondly called, built WNTV/WNBS! Had the originator of the idea lived, and his government allowed to run its course, the broadcasting outfit would most certainly have grown in size and strength, even beyond the Cable News Network (CNN). But, as fate would have it, the military came and committed blunders. The culture of development, probity, accountability and honesty was arrested; and the greedy men in Khaki stole without anybody being able to say: ‘kai, don’t do that!’ And, rather than call a spade by its name, Nigerians got carried away by bad politics. Is it therefore any surprise that dear country is in this mess?

That King Charles III took over the reins of power from his late mother within hours without any internal rancour or external interference has only confirmed the existence of the culture of development in that part of the world. On the converse, that successive governments in the then Western Region of Nigeria failed to build their own ‘Cassava House’ that would have healthily rivalled ‘Cocoa House’ after Awo also revealed that something has been fundamentally amiss in the structure and stability of public administration in our part of the global village. Above all, that the military failed to establish its own television station, but in its place coveted and converted the first broadcast station in Africa into NTA/FRCN also showed the extent to which the principle of parochialism could go at being antithetical to development.

That’s not all! Had Nigeria’s forebears attempted going to the moon, the present generation of Nigerians would have been aiming beyond that idea. Unfortunately, our forebears died searching for the road to the moon. The best they got – and used – was the product of that development. They never invented any! Is it therefore any wonder that Nigeria is embarrassingly debating grazing routes in 2022? In this age and time, can one ask a British herdsman to ply his trade by rearing his herds from, say, Newcastle, to Liverpool; or from Scotland, to Dublin, simply because his forebears invented nomadic trading, as such, it is his duty to reinvent the routes? For God’s sake, when will Nigeria secure the services of circumstance-thrown-up and time-tested leaders who will help repair Nigeria’s problems and rearrange the thinking of governments? When will our leaders come to terms with the fact that success in planning and executing the strategy for development doesn’t come by accident and that, apart from the right resources and strategies, the implementation must also be thorough? And, are we as a country really ready?

Well, until society embarks on pattern creation and pattern sustenance, good policies will continue to be repudiated for rootless policies to spring up; and there will be no development. Until there is a determined political will on the part of our leaders to dismantle the parallel structure of the Mafia-like bureaucracy in government, Nigerians will continue to wallow in abject poverty and creeping underdevelopment. It’s like the Parable of the Sower!

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

*KOMOLAFE wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State ([email protected])

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