We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature is cruel to us… We are poor and will remain poor because we lack attitude
By Dele OMOTUNDE
Good morning, class. Today we are going to reflect on why some people have everything and others do not. To do this, we shall have to take a global look at the disparities between nations. And the question we have to answer is: Why are some countries rich and some are poor? Let's start by saying that the difference between the poor countries and the rich has nothing to do with the age of a country because, if it is age, countries like Egypt and India, which are more than 2000 years old, would not be poor. On the other hand, countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand that were inexpressive less than 200 years ago would not be counted today among the rich and developed countries of the world. Take a look, too, at South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. Again, the difference between poor and rich countries does not reside in the available natural resources. If it is so, Japan, which has a limited territory, 80 per cent of which is made up of mountains, would not be the world's second largest economy. The country is like a mega factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products to every nook and corner. Switzerland is another example. It does not plant cocoa but has the best chocolate in the world! As little as the country is, it raises animals and tills the soil during the four months that its climate allows a year. They produce dairy products of the best quality. Not only that, it is a tiny country that radiates an image of security, discipline and hardwork, which makes it the world's strongest safe for billionaires. Talk of Swiss accounts and our thieving public officers are wont to hop on the next available bullion van to the Swiss capital to deposit their new loot.
What's really the problem with poor nations? Is it a question of intellect? No! There is no significant difference in the intellectual abilities of the entire human race. Whether you are white or black is also not important. Immigrants labelled lazy drones in their respective countries of origin are the productive power in rich Western countries. By the way, have you ever wondered why the Americans want thousands of immigrants every year to come and reside in their country? Think about it.
But what is the difference between rich and poor countries, sir?
Thank you. The difference is in the attitude of the people, framed, along the years, by their education and culture. Studies have shown that the behaviour of the people in rich and developed countries reflects their attitude to certain principles they hold dear. After taking a serious look at the behavioural patterns of the people in rich and developed countries, it was discovered that the great majority follow certain principles in their lives. These are ethics, integrity, responsibility, respect for the laws and rules and regulations guiding their day-to-day conduct, respect for the rights of other citizens, love for work, punctuality, quest for saving and investment and the will of super action. These principles may appear ordinary or simple but, in developed countries, they are perceived very important and are held sacrosanct. They have standards for morality which they do not encourage anybody to go below. Integrity and transparency are a sine qua non for business transactions. To them, time is money, thus punctuality at public functions and workplaces is non-negotiable. In their everyday life, there is the urge to aspire to reach greater heights. They want to reach the deepest parts of the ocean, climb the highest mountains and fly into space to conquer new territories...
Sir, I think that's how their explorers discovered Africa and the new world, because they wanted to expand their horizon.
Good, you get the drift. They have this willing attitude to do something super and the ‘can-do’ spirit to achieve. That's how they landed a man on the moon in 1969 and, today, they have satellites in space that can pinpoint the exact locations of troop movements anywhere in the world. They can use their satellites, too, to close in on their target in a taxi on a lonely road in Badagry or Baghdad and blast it to smithereens within minutes. How do they do it? It's because they have been brought up with the principles of hard work, adventure, a striving for excellence and the urge to do the impossible. In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their daily life. And that accounts for our poverty. We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature is cruel to us. There are very few countries among the rich and developed nations that have the kind of natural resources that our country has. We have the 'sweetest' oil in the market and we are the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world; yet we rank among the poorest! Nature has been kind to us, like Ethiopia which prides itself with having 13 months of sunshine in the year! Yet, both are not tourist havens for the rich daddies of developed nations. We are poor and will remain poor because we lack attitude. We lack the will to comply with and teach those functional principles which are held sacrosanct by the rich and developed societies. Most of the leaders in the poor countries lack the will to serve without grabbing. They lack integrity and responsibility. Neither do they have respect for the laws of the land. They prefer to break all the rules and regulations that aid in the development and advancement of their societies and still expect their followers to obey! They do not save and invest for their countries like, for instance, Saudi Arabia which has a respectable stake in the US economy through investments in banking and other ancillary industries. The Asian Tigers are also ahead of the pack because of their strict adherence to these basic principles which are practically ignored by the poor countries. Our country, for example, is happy to be the fastest-growing market for mobile telephony in the whole world; yet it lacks both the will and discipline to aspire to be the biggest manufacturer of GSM handsets. Tiny Finland is the home of Nokia! And Samsung is to Korea just as Motorola is to the US. We eat chocolate made in Switzerland, yet the raw material is from the cocoa farms in Ondo and Owo. There was a time local entrepreneurs produced cocoa bread, cocoa butter and cocoa cookies in Ibadan but Niagarans would not have anything to do with them. They preferred Australian butter and Swiss chocolate. Attitude, that's the difference between rich daddies (developed countries) and poor mummies (underdeveloped nations). As part of their own extended responsibility, borne out of unprecedented magnanimity, developed countries even encourage leaders of poor countries by providing part of their own savings as lifelines for ailing economies. They call it aids or soft loans. Unfortunately, many have collapsed under the heavy burden of such liabilities.
God bless Africa!
And also those leaders who may vow today to embark on a systematic change of attitude to work ethics and civic responsibilities in their respective countries!!
*First published in TELL 2007