How to overcome small mindedness

How to overcome small mindedness

-By Kingsley Omose

Your destination is determined by your process and if those processes are characterised and infused with small mindedness, crisis and ultimately doom is inevitable.

I don’t want to go as far as declaring the fate of Nigeria as doomed, but its plethora of crisis is indicative of prevalent small mindedness among its rulers and it’s people’s.

Small mindedness here refers to the inability to see the big picture, failure to appreciate what is in the long term interest, and being pushed by the past instead of being pulled by the future.

This is the reason why so called foreign cattle herders can come into Nigeria to wreck damage estimated at $16bn annually to farmers and farming communities and kill thousands in the process.

To any country with defined borders and citizenship, such attacks by foreign herdsmen will be declared as acts of war, warranting the full response by the armed forces, but in Nigeria, the official response is for increased access to grazing routes and areas.

And to these foreign cattle herders spread across the Sahelian region of Africa and their kit and kin in Nigeria, their battle for access to grazing areas and routes in this country may be viewed as existential.

Small mindedness is not confined to Nigeria but is largely found in sub-Saharan Africa countries, with its origins directly traceable to colonization and the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885.

According to Wikipedia, the Berlin Conference regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, coinciding with Germany’s emergence as an imperial power.

The long and short of this was the redrawing of the internal maps of Africa in accordance with the imperial and economic interests of these European powers resulting literally in new countries with strange bed fellows.

Nigeria or the areas before and after the Niger river emerged from such realignment of territories, which while convenient for the British colonialist ended up bringing over 300 ethnic nationalities under one flag.

Granting independence to these countries was the vogue between the 1950s and the 1970s but this did nothing to foster the needed unity to bringing these different ethnic nationalities to nationhood status.

The effect of the ensuing crisis across Africa is largely the outcome of internal conflicts in many countries between contending nationalities over political power and control of national resources.

So when you see governors from a foreign country at a political party campaign in Nigeria or a governor in Nigeria going all the way to the Sahel to make peace with cattle herders, you have to understand the underlying sentiments.

While not endorsing these actions, the solution cannot be breaking these countries along predominant ethnic lines as this has not worked as seen in South Sudan which is still embroiled in crisis after separating from Sudan.

Restructuring has also been waved as the magic wand that can address these ethnic fault lines that have powered small mindedness, but no amount of restructuring can address the needs of the 300 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.

Small mindedness in a rulership and people’s of a monoethnic country or even of few ethnic nationalities is bad enough in a country but catastrophic in a multiethnic country such as Nigeria.

It is not that multiethnicity is bad per se or that the challenges associated with the small mindedness it fosters can only be countered by fragmentation or breakup of the country.

I am also not saying the solution is for one ethnic nationality to dominate the others in a multiethnic country for that will only breed escalating crisis such as in Nigeria.

The good news is that anything which is embedded in human system, whether imperatives (that which is absolutely necessary or required) of culture or tradition, can be changed.
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The solution is to evolve new nations across Africa, and the dynamics that will drive the defining vision and the ensuing future development for this must not come from outside the borders of Africa.

So the issue cannot be as simple as deciding who between the farmers and the cattle herders is right but in using the resulting long running crisis between both groups as the basis for evolving a new action.

As Dr. Noel Woodroffe, President of Congress WBN has stated, sharp conflicts always indicate transformation points to the consciousness of the world and provide pivots to a new design of human action.

The exclamation credited to Albert Einstein that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is true for individuals, corporate entities and countries.

Dr. Woodroffe says this calls for these African countries to become designers of their own destiny, and the starting point for this is a definition of who each of these African countries are as a people.

This is where leadership comes in, for it is the responsibility of leadership to first have a vision and describe what type of people we want to have in say 30 – 40 years time, a description not based on their ethnicity, culture, tradition or religion.

We now live in a world that is characterised not by wars of material weapons but a war of knowledge in which the creativity, skills, excellence, wisdom, competence etc of a country’s citizens matter more than whether the country has natural resources or even its military.

To have a country like Nigeria filled with people having creativity, skills, excellence, wisdom, competence etc, there must be a people producing system in place, i.e. an education system.

Nations are run by nation producing system, i.e. education, and transforming the education system is not building more schools or approving better pay for those teaching in those schools or stocking them full with technology.

Once leadership has put in place a vision and description of what type of people we want to have in Nigeria in 30 – 40 years time, a curriculum will have to be designed that can produce such people.

It is only after a new curriculum has been designed that the type of teachers that can deliver the new curriculum and produced the type of people envisioned by leadership, can be determined.

As things stand, the people-producing processes (the education systems) in African countries are producing people that are not relevant to what is needed for dynamic and accurate development in the future.

Rather those being currently produced by these people-producing processes are reinforcing the ethnic, cultural, traditional and religious fault lines across Africa, hence the repeated trails of Sorrow, Tears and Blood in the motherland.

(This write up was inspired by the teaching of Dr. Noel Woodroffe on Nations Development)

Kingsley Omose is a Lagos based legal practitioner and public policy analyst