Let's talk policyBy Ayoola Brimmo
Published on 28 March 2017
The trouble with Nigeria's sustainability sector is squarely a failure of polices -- or the lack thereof. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian people or resource or environment or anything else whatsoever. One might argue that it's the people who start forest fires, litter streets and pollute waters, and are hence the main culprits.
I disagree. If any other group of people were governed with the Nigerian system, they would act the same way hence; the system is the actual culprit. The emotional influence of this argument is already obvious so lets go deeper into its underlying rationale.
Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and one of the foremost psychology professors of his time, intimated in his New York Times Bestseller thinking, fast and slow that “every mindset is a product of its environment”. So is the current Nigerian mindset in the context of its sustainability sector; people perform all sorts of unsustainable acts based on intuition. People tend to assess truths based on their familiarity to the topic so if it isn’t a strange practice, it is accepted as the “truth”. Otherwise, one would not be able to explain why a typical Nigerian butcher believes that the best way to skin cow is by using the flames from burning car tires – his/her revered manual on the subtle art of making ponmo*, passed down from earlier generations of butchers. In a similar fashion, the Nigerian peoples’ unsustainable mindset is cast in stone and would always be the intuitive approach unless policy makers, who should know better, put in place a “mindset revolution” in the form of a suitable policy.
Policies are birthed with the sole aim of achieving rational outcomes. In the context, the desired outcome is to structure the country’s outlook towards a sustainable goal. Asata Shakur, the great Black American revolutionist once said, “no peoples’ struggle [or revolution] can ever be won without the support of the masses”. She definitely wasn’t referring to sustainable policies but, as all signs indicate that a revolution is required to attain a sustainable Nigeria, we can as well start considering the implementation of a suitable policy as a legitimate struggle. The job at hand is crystal clear: a switch in the Nigerian attitude via mass sensitization is required. However, over the past decade, none of the country’s policies on sustainability has achieved any form of mass sensitization, or given this action any serious consideration. This is undoubtedly a big omission but luckily, there seems to be a straightforward fix – Daniel Kahneman also scientifically proved that the extent of coverage in media plays a huge role in shaping mindsets.
Having said that, it must be noted that this article does not claim that a comprehensive solution can be derived solely from public commercials. No people’s struggle has ever been won by a single strategy; it takes a combination of well-planned tactics. In the context of sustainability struggle, the “mindset revolution” tactic is being proffered as an extremely important component.
In implementing this strategy, one must also bear in mind that Nigeria is unique in so many ways especially in its unsustainable nature; from its “hush-hush” gas flaring activities, to the very mundane burning of mosquito coils. In my humble opinion, it is the duty of Nigerians, and no one else, to solve this problem. Nigerian scholars in the field have to realize that although the current situation is not their fault, it is still their responsibility to work with policy makers in deriving sustainable tactics.
* ponmo is a local delicacy made from roasted cow skin