by Omolola Ajayi
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somewhere in nigeria

Anyone who is conversant with the kinds of conversation that Nigerians usually have about Nigeria, her challenges and the way forward will agree that we are prone to making comparisons between Nigeria and other nations making great strides in the 21st century; whether we are lamenting the failures and needless setbacks that we are dealing with or we are looking for solutions on how to get ahead and get better in making our nation great and our lives better.
Recently I was privy to a discussion that centred around some of the old-world policies and techniques that successive government administrations in Nigeria have often deployed in tackling challenges and growth needs that confront us. The generally favoured position is that trying to apply archaic socio-political and economic methods to latest realities had been a major hindrance to Nigeria’s development (apart from all the usual suspects, e.g corruption) in at least the last two decades .

I don’t know too much about economics so I was mostly learning in this conversation but after the discussion, I kept wondering about this issue of Nigeria failing to rise due to the application of old solutions to current issues in an ever-changing world.
I wondered if we were not confusing our participation in the changing calender of times and seasons with actual participation in the latest world-order.
While I remain convinced by the many points made about our coming to terms, adapting to and engaging new solutions for best results, I still wonder in my layman corner if we are not really just deluding ourselves about Nigeria being in the 21st century and based on this delusion, have wrongly taken for granted that many of the solutions we see working in other places would work for us?
If I may ask, what really are the indices by which Nigeria can be claimed to be a part of the ideas and innovations and systems driving this century?
If we look at infrastructure in this nation- in terms of education, economic and socio-political structures- is Nigeria in this century? And I cannot help but wonder if the solutions being advocated by many thinkers in the spheres of national development, are actually workable?
After all, many upgrades in society are usually carried by the weight of existing infrastructure and systems. If we speak in terms of systems, institutions and infrastructure in Nigeria, can anyone confidently argue that the measuring indices will not place us in the 19th century?
I wonder if we’re not being confused by our access to smartphones, the internet and international travel (which only a minority of Nigerians have access to) to think that we are a thriving part of the 21st century?
One funny example that highlights this conundrum, what I call “time-contradiction”, that Nigeria lives in is the story I heard that most of the ATM machines that are brought in by our banks to serve their customers are mostly outdated versions that are at least about two decades old (the 21st is not even that old yet), some of them even versions used sometime in the 1980s!
While my limited expertise prevents me from making any categorical assertions, I keep wondering, is Nigeria really in the 21st century or are Nigerians already exemplifying an unexplored case of time travel when we visit other (21st century compliant) places? Think about it.

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