“The most powerful factors in the world are clear ideas in the minds of energetic men of good will” J. Arthur Thomson. Ideas are the most dangerous commodities in the market place. Whoever is got an idea is definitely got a totem of imminent dislodgement of old fables that has made the world stagnant. In consonance with the topic above, “Breaking the status quo: YOUR disruptive idea”, I will like to draw our attention to what is obtainable in my part of the world. This topic is coming at a time when the world is beleaguered with crisis, chaos, diseases, man’s inhumanity to man, insecurity, crime, hate, violence, anger, hunger, and climate change. Different governments are grappling to contain these challenges facing mankind, and individuals think that there is something the government is doing wrong that if continued, is bound to keep us in this mess. Hence, disruptive ideas could alter the status quo and re-shape history and the order of things in our societies and nations at large.
From time immemorial when men began to exist —- from the Stone Age, to the civilized man, humans have always maintained status quos —- favourable to them for eons. The world today is changing fast. Norms and traditional philosophies are being refined to suit the modern realities. The age of the internet, science and technological advancement has made the world a global village.
The focus of this paper is on “breaking the status quo” and bringing to the fore, my “disruptive ideas”. In attempting to do this, I will be x-raying the political architecture, educational dialectics, and agricultural state of affairs in my country, as a leitmotif. For us to appreciate the concept of “breaking the status quo”, and proffering a “disruptive idea”, I will situate our discussion on the Nigerian case. Status quo simply put means “the current situation; the way things are now” (Merriam Webster dictionary of English, 1825). It is based on this grounds that I want to talk about the political state of affairs in Nigeria. On the political front, Nigeria has maintained a rigid political architecture which has robbed its young citizens of the opportunity to contribute to the development of the society. Change is ubiquitous in any society, particularly in that which strives to fulfill human needs. And it takes a committed leadership to accomplish a propitious change in a society.
Before 1914, the geographical location called Nigeria did not exist. In its place was a hugely fragmented diverse scattering of tribes and communities some of whom had territories that overlaps the borders of the present day people. On October 1st, 1960 she gained political independence from Britain, and adopted the federal system of government —– the central government is the political mitochondrion. (ukoima.blogspot.is/p/unity-in-diversity.html).
Nigeria has maintained a dangerous status quo in her governance structure which is now being rejected by its vibrant most populated segment of the society —– the youths. Patriarchy and gerontocracy has reigned supreme since independence till this present dispensation. To change the status quo and allow a political breathing space for the youths of Nigeria to participate maximally in politics and contribute their quota to building the nation, as it’s done in other climes, there is the need for reversal of the Nigerian governance structure (the levels of government needs to be changed). Hence, I suggest that the local government be the top arm of government in the land; followed by the state, and then the federal government (which should be acting in an advisory capacity). The local government is at the grass root level. The youth population in Nigeria is 75 per cent out of the 180 million people, and most of these youths are rural dwellers —- they reside in the local government areas. When the local government becomes the top in the scheme of things, it will create the enabling atmosphere for the youth to participate in the governance of the country.
Today, the world is filled with violence, hate, crimes, terrorism, anger, hunger; climate change is threatening man’s existence; and diseases. It’s either happening in America, Asia, Africa or Europe. Most times than not, the group of individuals who take up arms against the government and cause mayhem in the society are the youths —– who feel disgruntled, neglected by the authorities, misinformed and disinformed about government’s activities, policies, plans and programmes. But by the time their political fate is handed over to their own hands, and they are allowed to participate actively in decision-making, then we can be said to be repositioning the world. The youths are digital people and understand the workings and global nature of our world. If the Nigerian government wants to reduce crimes in the society, then the bottom-top approach to governance is the way to go —– incorporate the youths into the system, after all, you do tell them that “they are the leaders of tomorrow”. And until this is done, the misanthropy expressed by an average Nigerian youth toward its government will keep spreading like a virus. A revolution is imminent!
The Nigerian educational objective has been defeated ever before we realized it. And this is not unconnected with the status quo maintained over centuries past —- that of focusing on the male-child’s education, and relegating the woman to the backburner. Over the years, and even as at present, the girl-child has been denied access to formal education due to some native traditional philosophies which are inimical to the development of the girl. To educate means to train the mind, character and abilities of individual. Education is fundamental human right that should be availed to all citizens of Nigeria irrespective of sex, age, and nationality. Little wonder then did the Universal Declaration of Human Right (1948) approve of it. Undermining a girl-child’s education is a dangerous mistake which the Nigerian government and society have made over the ages. Like the Chinese proverb, “education is the best legacy to give to a child”. Females like their counterparts have the right to education and skills acquisition, the right to choice and actualization. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria —– a girl is given out in marriage at the age of 12-14 by elders who feel that she is ripe for marriage not considering the psychological trauma she might go through. She is bereft of skill, confidence, maturity and information —- that can help her be a mother and a wife. Such child abuse should be stopped headlong in today’s world.
The belief that has kept many girls away from school is the primitive, native traditional ideology that “a woman’s place is in her husband’s kitchen and her primary role centers on her children and home”. In section 21 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, any marriage contracted by anyone less than 18 years of age is termed invalid —- but this is only in theory as this injunction is flaunted with arrant impunity in some parts of the country where underage girls are married off to men who are too old to be their fathers. And the men are glamorously glorified and condoned. What else can one define as infringement on the fundamental human rights of these girls if not this inhuman treatment and denial of education and choice? Well, since this practice has cultural mix, it will take a forceful government’s will power to put an end to this. Hence, a strong legislation by the government should be put in place because this section of our constitution sounds like a hoax or a myth to those abusers of our young girls. My disruptive idea on this point is ostracization of those who marries underage girls from the society.
The quest for women’s advancement in Nigeria can only begin with a kin look at the prospects of the girl-child with regards to her worth in the society. This is because education is indeed a key determinant of a favourable outcome in life and the pathway for a girl-child to become self-actualized as a woman, a modicum of national asset and a raiser of future nation builders. UNICEF in its 2014 report on Nigeria pegged the number of out of school children in Nigeria at 10.5 million, the highest number in the world. Out of these, 60 per cent are girls —- very alarming! And this is astronomically increasing every quarter, but the Nigerian government has shied away from this, dismissing the girl-child as just a person who will soon be married and be gone to her husband’s house. Could it be that the government does not seem to imagine that she is infringing upon the fundamental right of these groups of people? It may also be that the government does not understand crystal clear, the humongous harvest of intellectuals who will help to develop this country —- when the girl-child education is given concern.
Educating a girl produces mothers who become the first educators at home. Educating a girl translates to a better health for the future generation, reduction in child morbidity and mortality, thus, triggering a snowball effect of achieving all other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a viable quantum. A woman’s place in the society cannot be overstressed. They make things happen. Therefore, to change this unhealthy practice of girl –child neglect, the Child Right Acts (2003) should be strengthened, vigorously pursued, and implemented with full force in all states of the federation. It should be given the moral, religious and political support necessary. The cultural, social and religious factors which have hitherto denied the girl-child access to formal functional education should be jettisoned.
As this argument goes further, it is very pertinent that I draw your attention to one of the worst social economic and political upheaval Nigeria is facing presently —- hunger and hunger related or induced crimes. Yes, agreed that hunger is a universal phenomenon; agreed that it’s not native to Nigeria, but I disagree that the state of the nation is not because of the policy somersault of its leadership in the area of agriculture and closure of borders against the importation of the most staple food into the country – rice. Until the oil boom in the 80s, agriculture has been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. The nation discovered oil and then bade riddance to farming, thereby operating a stereotyped capitalist economy. The call to diversify the economy is a righteous one, and the earlier the government heeds the people’s cry, the better. A new wave of crime is trending in Nigerian villages and cities —- that of stealing food stuff whether cooked, being cooked, or raw. People have to feed themselves and their families. Mothers are exchanging their babies for a bag of rice. The media is awash with the news of hunger related crimes committed every day. The law courts have become a beehive of activities as judges entertain cases ranging from food, phone, money and other sundry items theft.
The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they are valued. Hence, my disruptive idea in this matter is that a state of emergency should be declared on agriculture. Let the government shift focus on oil and diversify the economy. Such a paradigm shift will not only rescue the country, but sustain it for a long time. We have the land, human and natural resources. The government should invest heavily in agriculture; take the idea of farming to the rural areas where we have a high concentration of the nation’s work force —-the youths. If the leadership of Nigeria wants to be saved of the headache of “there is no job”, then agriculture is the way to go.
Support the farmers; make farming attractive so that our young graduates can venture into it. Let there be available and accessible credit facilities where farmers can borrow money and start up a farming business. If the government returns to farm, give loan, provide fertilizer; every region producing what grows best in their soil, individuals engage in subsistence farming to feed their families, the government investing heavily on agriculture, agricultural extension workers provided in all the 774 local government areas, then, there will be hope! After each planting season, and harvest time comes, build a Food Bank where you can store food, and sell at a highly subsidized rate to those who cannot afford to buy directly from the farmers. That way, the government will be feeding the people, and then making money thereby!
Amaechi Emmanuel is a Student of English, University of Lagos. A United Nations Award Winner; he writes essays, short stories, poems, and most importantly, he is interested in political, social, civil leadership, youths and girl-child discourses.
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