Recently, stomach infrastructure became another addition to the growing list of lexicons in the socio-political life of our dear nation. In view of the prevailing poverty situation in the country, some of our leaders ‘ingeniously’ devised stomach infrastructure as a short term intervention approach for poverty alleviation. This is done through the intermittent provision of sundry food items and, in some cases, cash gifts to the poor in order to cushion the effect of hunger, which has been described as the highest level of poverty. Leaders who resort to this strategy, perhaps, hinge their judgment on a Yoruba adage that: ‘Bi ebi ba kuro ninu ise, ise buse” (literally meaning, once hunger is tackled; poverty is defeated). The objective of this piece is, however, not to analyze the merit or demerit of stomach infrastructure as a policy of governance.
The main goal is to draw attention to another and, perhaps, a crucial form of poverty that, if not appropriately tackled, could effectively cripple the wheel of progress in any society. This is the poverty of the mind. As it is typical with any study into the mental world of man, the concept or theory of the human mind is a complex one to comprehend. According to psychologists, the mind has an innate potential to aid an individual creates the kind of world he desires. Based on this hypothesis, it is possible, for instance, for an individual to live a life full of exploits, joy, successes, victory, discoveries, excitement, hope, attainment of dreams and uncommon achievements, if he is able to put his mind into vigorous and positive use.
Sadly, however, it has been discovered that as powerful as the human mind is, the average man only utilizes 10 per cent of his mind capacity. The few people that make the difference on the world are those that often go the extra mile to exploit the innate but dynamic power of the mind. Electricity, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, ships, the internet, television, radio, computers among others, without a doubt, represent some of the numerous inventions of man that have made the world a better place to inhabit. But, they are a reflection of the results that man gets when the human mind is put into creative use.
Thus, the ability of a person to effectively develop and utilize the human mind has profound implications for man and the society. Whenever the innate but largely hidden potential of the human mind comes in contact with the probing ability of man, a miracle occurs. It is because this secret has since been discovered in developed countries that lots of emphasis is often placed on the development of the capacity of the human mind to unleash its inherent potential.
To underscore the priceless worth of the human mind, it is often said that the state of a man’s mind determines the quality and state of his life. Hence, a deficit mind produces a deficit life. A deficit mind is often subjected to control or manipulation from others who have come to understand and master the power of the mind. It is, therefore, in view of the invaluable supremacy of the human mind that the Lagos state government has evolved several strategies policies and programmes aimed at improving the capacity of the youths to put their minds to good use. Youth and children are particularly focused on because early development of the mind is important. The focus is strategic because youths represent the future and strength of every society. Their energies, inventiveness, character and orientation define the pace of development and security of a nation. Through their creative talents and labour power, a nation makes giant strides in economic development and socio-political attainments.
Provision of qualitative education for the youths remains a core area through which the state government has been investing in mind development. The core values of the state’s education policy include provision of qualitative and accessible formal education, vocational skills acquisition, sports development, development of recreation facilities, volunteering and environmental awareness. Voluntary Organisations such as the Boys’ Scout, Girls’ Guide and Boys Brigade were re-lunched in the states’ public schools for early introduction of children to selfless service to humanity as a realistic way of ensuring the emergence of patriotic future leaders.
In addition to the re-launch of uniformed organisations in its public schools, government equally re-packaged competitive intellectual activities such as ‘School Debate’ and ‘Essay Writing’ competitions. Topics so far written on include: ‘The Lagos of my Dream’, ‘The Challenge of Present Day Youth in a Developing Country’, ‘The Youth as Agents of Change’ among others. Encouraging the youths to participate in such exercise underlines government’s conviction that any nation that truly aspires for greatness must invest in the education of its youth and that all great nations of the world have been transformed not by resources, in terms of mineral resources, but by the resourcefulness of its citizenry.
Also, to help the youth embrace environmental friendly traits, a school advocacy programme was evolved while government also launched Climate Change Clubs in primary and secondary schools to call attention to current global threats posed by climate change. Equally, the Lagos State School Transport Advocacy Programme was designed to educate primary and secondary school pupils on various road safety values, ideas and issues. The ‘One –Day Governor’s initiative, a vision of the New Era Foundation, fully embraced by the state government, equally provides a platform for the youth to interact in a competitive environment as well as aspire to involved in public service in the state.
True democracy cannot exist in a society incapable of supporting the aspirations of its youth, and indeed its people. A truly representative government must be able to create the enabling environment for its citizenry to freely express itself in positive ways so that the diverse potentials of its people could be easily harnessed for growth and development. The development of the mind is at the heart of every development. According to a former United States of America President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, “men and women are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds”. Therefore, any government that shuts its doors against mind development, especially among the youths, has inadvertently shut its doors against growth.
French political thinker and writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, in his classic, ‘Democracy in America’ (1835), insists that building the people is more necessary than creating wealth, for the value of the latter is tied to the existence of the earlier. Without doubt, Lagos Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, was having Tocqueville in mind when he declared recently that “if this investment matures (i.e. the development of the mind), Lagos will be a better place because we believe clearly, without any doubt, that the greatest resource this country has is not oil but its people”.
•Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa, Ikeja.