Lessons Nigeria Must Learn From Singapore, China — Adesina speaks On Diversity

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The Singaporean society is based on meritocracy, not aristocracy or ethnocracy or religiocracy. Any society where meritocracy is subjugated to aristocracy, ethnocracy or religiocracy eventually tends towards mediocrity.

PRESIDENT of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Asesina, has called on Nigerians to positively deploy their ethnic and religious diversity to national cohesion and economic growth, just as Singapore, China and India did.

Speaking on the theme, Building a New Nigeria: Imperatives for Shared Prosperity, at the 2020/2021 Convocation Ceremony of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola on Saturday, Adesina equally recognised the ethnic and religious diversity among the AUN graduands. He said that the fact that the graduands came from all parts of Nigeria and the world was a reflection of the Nigeria’s diversity.

“I fully understand the challenges we face as a nation. Yet, I have a dream that we will arise from our challenges, and build a more prosperous and united nation, Adesina said.

Saying it was the first time he would be visiting the AUN, an international university established by Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President of Nigeria, he described Atiku as a revered national leader, a visionary and respected African statesman. “He (Atiku) is also a benefactor, mentor, big brother, and friend.”

The AfDB President observed Nigeria’s “incredibly rich diversity of people, cultures, of religions, of mineral resources, oil, and gas, an amazingly rich biodiversity, that should make us the envy of the world.”
Making reference to Singapore, China, India and others which experienced socio-economic prosperity, even with their diverse religious and cultural orientations, Adesina advised that Nigeria’s diversity should not become it’s problem.

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“Diversity is our strength, he averred.
He, however, noted that diversity, when mismanaged, becomes divergence. “Rather than unite, we become splintered, with each entity believing that, somehow, it is better without the other. We must manage diversity for collective good.”

Singapore, he observed, is a very diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious society, made up of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasians. “Singapore is a nation of diverse people and national origins. Yet, this nation was able to forge a unified identity that has powered its extraordinary economic progress and development.

“Think of it: Chinese represent 74%, Malay, 13.4%, Indian, 9.0%, and others, 3.2%.
“Think of their religious diversity: Buddhism ((33%), Taoism and folk religion (10%), Christianity (18%), Catholicism (6.7%), Protestants and non-Catholics (12%), Not religious (18.5%), Muslims (14%), and Hinduism (5%).
“There is religious harmony, not religious supremacy, or polarization.
“The people see themselves first as Singaporeans!

“At its independence in 1965, Singapore’s per capita income was just $517 compared to $1,400 for Nigeria at its independence in 1960.
“Today, the story is different. The per capita income of Singapore is now $60,000. Today, the per capita income for Nigeria is $2,250.
“This highly diverse nation now ranks 4th in the world in terms of GDP per capita, with massive wealth and prosperity for its people.

“The evidence is clear.
“Singapore managed its diversity to create wealth — shared wealth.
By better managing its diversity, Singapore has been able to forge an incredible economic growth, which benefits all in the country.

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“They have 100% access to electricity and 98% access to water and sanitation. Their schools rank among the best in the world.
“Today, Singapore is a AAA-rated economy by the global credit rating agencies.
“But Singapore did not have it easy either. They faced challenges, just like we are facing in Nigeria today. They had very divisive ethnic and race riots in the 1960s that almost pulled the nation apart. But they overcame this by getting some things right.

They focused on fusion of national purpose and identity.
“They put in place cultural policies that ensured no one ethnic group or the other dominates or assimilates others, but rather, promotes multiculturalism.

“They put in place a constitution that reinforced national fusion. Article 12 of the constitution forbids discrimination based on race, descent or place of birth. It reads, “We the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language and religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality.”

“It goes on to say, “there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.”

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“What is the lesson here? The Singaporean society is based on meritocracy, not aristocracy or ethnocracy or religiocracy.

Any society where meritocracy is subjugated to aristocracy, ethnocracy or religiocracy eventually tends towards mediocrity.

“Nigeria must learn from this experience and forge a new way of engaging among its diverse ethnic groups and religions. “

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