Development is Not for Sale

Travelling the Long Road to Re-Orientation. By Ubong Essien, CSP (Mister Motivator) 

“You can’t purchase your way out of a problem you behaved yourself into.” – Ubong Essien

I don’t know if the jury is in, but I think it is evidently safe to project that simply throwing money at a problem does not necessarily solve it. There are certain outcomes that income cannot procure. Money can’t buy development. We need to stop trying to dole our way to sustainable progress.

Over the years we’ve been deluded into thinking we can buy our way into competitiveness rather than apply our way to same. We continue to fail and waste valuable and scarce resources in the process. We continue to budget and allocate money in hopes of developing. The fact that those monies get siphoned and embezzled is the ultimate testimonial to our nagging underdevelopment.

Money can’t buy success. In the grand scheme of human development, mind-set matters over money. Money doesn’t do the legwork; at best it lubricates the wheels but you must first have the will to set things properly in motion. We must orient our way out of our present calamity of national lowliness. For when we are appropriately orientated, we will attract and apply the resources appropriately. Development is not for sale. We’ve been on this route for way too long. When will we begin to change?

The road to reorientation is a long and hard one but it is also a worthwhile one. We have copied others’ ways of doing things in our feeble bid to measure up more globally only to painfully realize it is nothing more than a caricature mimicry of what true advancement represents. Why copy their ways of doing things without first studying their way of thinking things? Our leaders claim they travel abroad to ask ‘how they are doing things’ without seeking to understand how do these people think?

The Lagos Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system is a classic example. It took barely a few years before those brand spanking new buses (purchased at enormous cost) began to remind us of the yellow ‘molue’ buses they were meant to replace. Good idea, worth emulating, but difficult to execute for commensurate results because the underlying mentality was yet to be thoroughly thought through.

Did we really think the buses would never degenerate to the level of their drivers’ orientation? Years after, we have renewed the fleet without, perhaps, renewing the minds of the bus drivers and we truly expect things to be any different? It’s called insanity – doing the same thing over and again and expecting a different result.

We have formed a way of thinking that has now formed us. We must therefore reform. This is where ‘awareness reform’ comes into the development equation. Copying America on the face of it will not make us develop like America.

Recently I was struck by an incidence at my Bank of America branch in Jamaica Queens, New York. While waiting at the reception to resolve some documentation issue, Kenny the branch manager walked in to survey the environment and shocked me when he picked the broom to do a quick sweep of the litter strewn all over the reception area. I was shocked because I knew he was the manager. I was even more shocked because where I came from in Nigeria, this was unthinkable.

Kenny showed such remarkable understanding of the ways of human progress by acting like an owner. For Kenny, that was his branch – every inch of the premises. If he was in a position to do something positive about the situation, he would. Such ownership behaviour was derived from an imbibed, instinctual orientation called ‘initiative’. Human initiative isn’t something you just budget for and buy off the shelf; it is nurtured and ingrained.

Could a Nigerian of Kenny’s managerial equivalent have done same? Certainly not! Not with the national and collective investment in ”bigmanism’, a syndrome that celebrates a position instead of it purpose; that elevates status over service – aka ‘oga at the top’ mentality. It would amount to stooping too low from a position of high command – the inbred entitlement mentality would never let him. Such a Nigerian would be accused and eviscerated for bringing the exalted position of a manger to disrepute. Yet tomorrow, the average Nigerian bank will claim it is aspiring to be global in a rather pretentious manner.

Development is not for sale. It is going to be even more difficult in travelling the long road to re-orientating ourselves.  We can’t suddenly expect to purchase our way out of a problem we overly behaved ourselves into.

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