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An Arrested Development; Please Bail Africa By Onakpoberuo Onoriode Victor




In human development or the development of societies, whatever is sustainable is something whose evolutionary course is founded on established values, norms about sundry matters governing the collective wellbeing and survival of that people. The subject matter of development may be seen from two broad perspectives. One is development as a progressive refinement of a people’s values, beliefs;

  • Culture of collective governance
  • How they see the continuum of existence
  • Their generalized sense of purpose within time.
  • Their commonly held thought about the Worth and Dignity of the Human Person.

The second appears to be a more common approach amongst developing nations, and it may be termed “Arrested or Interventionist Development”. It is a developmental approach that seeks to arrest or intervene on the manifest crises, conflicts arising from the absence of basic human survival necessities. This approach may sooth the sufferings of the people on a short term bases, however in the long run it may not be able to hold back the peoples agitation for true development, which is the actualization of innate aspirations. Externalizing the concept of development to imply the presence or absence of physical infrastructures is actually the curse of developing nations.

If we truly want to be sincere about the subject of development, within the context of an African Nation, then we must begin to see development in terms of the people, their beliefs, values and culture. Having this in mind, we may see development as; a sustained, progressive evolution of a peoples aspiration; transiting from the gratification of basic survival needs, to firmly erecting a collectively shared culture on various matters, especially about the worth and dignity of the Human Person. It is the presence of this central motivating core that will drive the pace and trend in the development of that people. This means, development must be defined in terms of people;

  • Their commonly held belief about their shared potential and how they hope to exploit it
  • Where they want to go as a people and how they hope to get there.

Defining development as the provision of “modern facilities” is attempting to build a house without a foundation. Our goal as a people should rather be on how to evolve a stable culture where the Human person is perceived as valuable enough to experience the comfort of modern facilities. At the foundation of any developed Nation are sacred norms and values shared by all and have been carefully passed down from one generation to another. Usually these values are hinged on the perception of the Worth and Dignity of the Human person by the people in that place. If you look critically, you will find that; the more a people places regard and prime value on the human person, the more developed they are; while the less a people places regard and value on the Human person the less developed they become.

This means the primary drive of development has nothing to do with building of roads, bridges, hospitals, provision of aid, but rather about evolving a culture that recognizes the worth and dignity of the human person. Take a closer look at human history and you will find that, all developmental efforts are an attempt at according regard to the human person. Think about how much aid has poured into Africa in the last 30 years and yet there appears to be a pattern of increase in internal distraught, deprivation, violence and a culture of opaqueness in public administration. Development that is solely defined in terms of external presence or absence of infrastructure is an “Arrested/Provisional Development”. Its only goal is to mitigate immediate sufferings. The people’s emotions are played on, their current sufferings and hardship retards their vision, their sense of worth as humans and ultimately their expectations are miniaturized and capped. Development in other places we regard as developed nations actually is a crystallization of the collectively shared thoughts of the people on their health, education, shelter, security, intelligence etc. We should really be asking ourselves these questions whenever we notice any so called developmental projects going on;

  • What is our definition of schooling; what kind of schooling experience befits humans who are Nigerians? What kind of facilities, facilitators befits humans, Nigerians? What Objective and content should we as a people pursue?
  • What is our definition of market; what kind of market befits humans, Nigerians; do you think a market should have functional drains, recycling plants, water facilities, paved parking lots, lighting facilities? Do you think humans, Nigerians deserve these and more?
  • What is our definition of roads/ bridges; should they have a scientifically verifiable life span? Should our roads have functional drains/tunnels that link up our cities, or should we continue with this cosmetic or China approach, that gets silted even before the road is commissioned for use?
  • What is our definition of shelter; should a city be planned and does it make any logical sense for us as a people to whole heartedly commit to that city plan?
  • What is our definition of comfort or luxury; what is too little and what is too much?
  • What is our definition of transportation; do we as humans, Nigerians deserve better than tricycles or is it too much luxury to have decent salon cars as the common means of transportation? Should we continue to define public transportation in terms of rickety outdated vehicles, that are themselves ready weapons of death on our high ways?

“If you jam them, them go die; if them jam you, them go die, if them hold break people de injure… wetin person no go see!”

You know what; the answer we provide to all these questions will reflect how much value we place on the human person called Nigerian. Development always has a starting point and that starting point is the thoughts (vision), values and expectations of the people about their wellbeing. These are the critical elements that give birth to their commonly held standards about every aspect of their lives as a people. So, instead of building physical structures first, let’s rather invest in building a people with the right thoughts, values and expectations about these physical structures. Once we have been able to do this and these values have been well taught in our schools, then we can go out and build the bridges and roads, because at that point the common Nigerian value, standard about these infrastructures would have been firmly imprinted on the minds of Nigerians, and they will readily give themselves to sustaining its use, because it carries a common seal which reflects the peoples wish, aspiration and their avowed regard for their human kind.

Until we begin to see development in terms of people, their culture and not things we may continue in this path of arrested development, where so much is spent on mitigating the absence of survival needs with very little to show. People drive growth and development and until they can believe that their worth and dignity as humans is fully accounted for, whatever is done as development will not be sustainable. All developmental effort in history has been an attempt at according regard to the human person. If ever Africa will develop, then it will first be by a revolution in thought that is the unconditional accord of regard to Africans as valuable beings by Africans.

“Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it-AmartyaSen

The right to development is the measure of the respect of all other human rights. That should be our aim: a situation in which all individuals are enabled to maximize their potential and to contribute to the evolution of society as a whole”-Kofi Annan

Thank you

God Bless Nigeria.


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