We have said in the past two weeks that given the objective reality on the ground in our country today, the number one item on our national development agenda should not be the provision of socio-economic infrastructure, but (1) the dispossession of people of all the illegal arms and ammunition they possess so that we can have peace and security and (2) an immediate return to the era of Five-Year National Development Plan of old. At first glance, the uncritical may see this suggestion as outrageous but after a deeper pragmatic reasoning, he will surely agree with us because without safety and security and without proper planning, there is no way a people can embark on a meaningful development agenda no matter how brilliant their blueprint may be.
Today, we wish to touch on an issue which we think should be the number 3 item on our national development agenda before we begin to even think about the provision of electricity, water, roads and the rest. The idea is the immediate physical planning of our entire country. If I have the kind of enormous power to command and ensure compliance which Jonathan and our other chief executive officers have, I will decree an immediate halt to all forms of physical development across the length and breadth of the country until our town planners, civil, structural, mechanical and other kinds of engineers and allied professionals are mobilised for urgent national duty and commissioned to get the whole country planned and made conducive for human habitation and development.
In better governed places, even here on the African continent, a society of human beings does not rush to build houses, business premises and recreational facilities first. What they do is to first of all get a place planned and infrastructure provided before people are allowed to build their houses, business and recreational places. When you have the wisdom to do first things first, everything following will fit in smoothly, almost naturally. That is why Europe, America and other places are more beautiful than our own place. In our own country where reason seems to have taken complete fight, we do last things first and first things last. Little wonder that in the words of one of our music talents, Edriss Abdulkarim, ‘’Nigeria jaga- jaga and everything scatter -scatter’’. When a people choose to do their things upside down or put the cart before the horse, as we love to do, the result is what we all see today: we have few cities anyone with taste can feel proud of.
I said it here before that I was taught in primary school that civilisation is the act of living together in peace and harmony. Our physical environment in Nigeria does not fit that simple definition of civilisation. We live in very unplanned and chaotic habitations and when you add the violence, we are far from living a civilised life filled with comfort and happiness.
I feel ashamed to invite my foreign friends to come visit me and my country because I know that when they come here, they will take in the chaotic manner we live in, thumb up their noses at our filth and disorder but hide their extreme disgust and make polite, hypocritical, diplomatic noises about our ‘’warmth and hospitality’’ and go away with a very bad impression of me and my country.
If there is one issue that I may be compelled to one day carry a placard to the Eagle Square to do a one-man protest to show how passionately I feel about it, it is to wage a campaign against the way we live today in most parts of our country. I have probably said it more than a thousand times now that we live a great deal of our lives like rats and rabbits and I find it disgraceful and totally unacceptable. Apart from a few cities, most parts of our country have not been planned. People just find a space and build things according to their fancy, totally unregulated or guided by town planning authorities. Which is why our villages, towns and cities look like organised chaos.
President Goodluck Jonathan, the governors and local government chairmen will make my day or rather the remaining years of my otherwise happy and eventful life, if they wake up one morning, sit down among themselves and other stakeholders and fashion out a national policy on the physical planning or re-planning of all parts of our country. It is extremely sad that even some lower animals seem more organised and more concerned about where they live than us Nigerians who just build anywhere, anyhow and any time in any way we like without regard to any consideration that we are a community.
Why do we not seem to be concerned about the way we live today and the reality that tomorrow we will be more numerous and needing many socio-economic amenities to make our living more comfortable? Why is it that nobody seems to be bothered about where our 4, 6, 8 and even 10-lane-roads will pass as we become more cosmopolitan? Where will our underground trains pass or do we not think that one day soon we too will have need for them? The electricity, water, well paved streets and street lights, fixed telephone lines and other facilities for modern day living, how will they be provided when we are not planning our physical environment to make conscious provision for them? Will we continue to live ghetto-like life forever?
A few weeks back, one honourable member (this one is truly honourable; where does he come from?) of the National Assembly made one of the best noises I have ever heard coming from that arm of government when he either proposed a bill or moved a motion for the physical planning of the country. Since then I have been looking for this gentleman to tell him I share in his noble passion and that I am ready to partner with him on this cause but no one seems to remember his name or the idea he sought to canvass. Can the honourable gentleman please reach a humble me so that we can work together?
We should even be happy that we started the business of national development late in the sense that now that most of our leaders have gone abroad to see how modern towns and cities are planned it will be easy for them to select the best features from each of what they have seen and plan our communities to become the most beautiful in the world. Is it too much to expect from our leaders most of whom love to exit from the hell we live in here to have retreat in the major cities of the world? We have great geographers, great cartographers and great town planners and builders and we also have the money, what is stopping us from living in great towns and cities? Are we cursed to have a foretaste of hell here on earth before some get to live in the kingdom of Satan?
Several decades ago, Ghanaians used to chant ‘’ J.J.(Rawlings), do something before you die!’’. In like manner, i will like to chant ‘’Jonathan, plan Nigeria’s physical environment and re-institute the Five-Year National Development Planning before you die!’’.