The historical enemies of Nigerian progress and, therefore, the Nigerian people are all those who advise the country to copy the actions, policies and life style of the advanced countries. And all those who support copying them. The refrain is everywhere, ubiquitous. It’s deafening. “In America it’s done like this”. “Why can’t we do it as is done in America?” “This is the way it’s done in civilized countries.” “It does not conform to international best practices” China and the so-called Asian Tigers have also become models for copying. “As is done in China” is now bandied around everywhere.
This copycat mentality reminds me of the wonder goal the Brazilian football superstar scored during the heydays of his illustrious footballing career. Facing his own goal he stopped the ball dead in midair, wheeled around to lob the ball across the front of an opponent, and before the ball could touch the ground he volleyed it into the opponent’s net twenty-five yards away. It remains the best goal of soccer history.
Many a striker and defender have sought to replicate this marvel of a goal. But to no avail. Their hopes have been futile. The ball never came in the same way as it did to Pele. Often it came on the ground with opponents rushing in with crunching tackles, committing professional fouls, pushing and shoving, and pulling on hand and jersey. Or it came in the air leading to varying degrees of concussion-causing clashes of heads. As well as the need for all types of headers.
Thus, one can understand the wisdom in the frequent advice of the coach to players to always keep their eyes first and foremost on the ball rather than keep their mind on what they will do with it once they get it. Imagining how to replicate the wonder goal by Pele before the ball has reached you is to completely miss it, a self-embarrassment. As an Igbo adage has it: “Ka mgbada si agba oso bu ka dinta si agba ya egbe ‘. In other words, the way that an antelope runs determines how its hunter will shoot at it.
Any serious-minded person would know that the advanced countries and Nigerian-type societies are facing totally different issues and challenges of development. In fact, the very presence of the advanced countries is a defining issue and an intractable challenge to Nigeria, which has to struggle with them not only for scarce external resources but also for its own domestic resources. To forget all this is not to keep your eyes on the ball and consequently to embarrassingly miss it.
*Prof Okwudiba Nnoli is emeritus Professor of Political Science and Author of the highly regarded book, Ethnic Politics in Nigeria (1978)