Opinion: Creativity and Innovation in Nation Building

By Adedeji Abidoye –

In 2017, Vietnam made $45 billion from exporting manufactured phones. That’s more than Nigeria made from oil. This might seem like a jarring way to begin this think piece but it is also a damning indictment of where we [Nigeria] are as a nation.

Nation Building, two words you are bound to find in any academic or corporate summit that seeks, or at least pretends, to have a conversation about improving the state of the country. Having attended, watched or read the lectures at these summits, one thing is quite clear, they rarely know what they are talking about. Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of building something. The summation of different parts to create an entity of purpose. The quality of the final product is dependent on the quality of its individual parts. The same conditions apply to Nation Building.

 During my research for this think piece, I stumbled upon a project work carried out by Kanyang Jari Pim of the Department of Home Economics, Federal College of Education, Pankshin, Plateau State. The project was titled ‘Creativity and Innovation in Schools: The Role of Nigerian Teachers in Nation Building’. Permit me to share this excerpt with you:

‘Creativity is the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, and whole new ways of understanding and conceiving of things. The productions of creative thought include some obvious things like music, poetry, dance, dramatic literature, inventions and technical innovations. There are obvious examples as well, such as ways of conceiving of relationships that challenge presuppositions and lead one to see the world in imaginative and different ways. Creativity is an effective resource that resides in all people and within all organizations. Creativity can be nurtured and enhanced through the use of deliberate tools, techniques and strategies. Creativity is a way of brainstorming and editing the thoughts and bringing it out through wide actions and activities to the benefit of one or all in a society. This requires that the methods and material should be creatively woven together to generate desirable situations to produce the relevant actions.

Nation building is the conscious and focused application of our people’s collective resources, energies, and knowledge to the task of liberating and developing the psychic and physical space that we identify as ours. It involves the development of behaviours, values, languages, institutions, and physical structures that elucidate our history and culture, concretize and protect the present, and insure the future identity and independence of the nation. Nation building is the deliberate, keenly directed and focused, and energetic projection of national culture, and the collective identity. Nation building refers to the process of constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. This process aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. Nation building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth.’

Innovation is something I like to think of as the lovechild of creativity and hard work. Most times, it isn’t just enough to have the ideas, the dreams, the aims. It isn’t enough to come up with different ways to achieve or solve a difficult task. The extra step is going to work on those goals. The fruitful reward of this creative mindset and desire to put in the work is an innovation. The combination of both is essential to any form of progress and nation building. Just like a football team cannot play with eleven creative but not hardworking players or an eleven of hard-workers with very little creativity and vision, a nation cannot wish to progress without striking a form of balance between both qualities in order to achieve innovation. Whilst there are naturally creative and hardworking people out there, the good news is; either quality can be imbibed and ingested by any willing individual through dedication and desire.

According to Hariss Maylonas in his book ‘The Politics of Nation Building: Making Co-National, Refugees and Minorities’, ‘Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run.’

In unifying people, a uniform system of education is fundamental. The education of the people, through which the vision and goals of the nation is communicated and impressed on their mind leads to the cousin of education, innovation.

Necessity is the mother of invention, says an English Proverb. Innovation, which is driven by a creative mind is a result of a desire to solve a problem. With Nation-building, a project in the unification of a group of people which includes a responsibility to take care of their material needs and natural resources capable of satisfying those in their raw form limited, there is a necessity for innovation to maximize and expand the resources at the hands of the state to cater to these needs.

When humanity found the limitations of raw natural resources, it began to think of ways to satisfy its needs in different ways. With human wants insatiable and as humanity grew, its needs grew and with it, its innovations.

With the task of Nation building requiring an almost infinite amount of resources, it is imperative that nation builders seek to tap into humanity’s repository of ideas, the mind.

Through creativity and innovation, nation builders can find the resources needed to shape into reality the nation of their imagination. Beyond that, it is also important that the country, and Africa as a whole, celebrates those who have made strides through creativity and innovation. Basically, we need to see more events like the Annual Bellafricana African Creative Exhibition and Awards (ACE Awards) which was set up to reward innovation and encourage consumers to shop locally-made products of good quality. It is not just a step in the right direction for a country, and indeed continent, in dire need of creativity and innovation, it is also an initiative that is likely to have a positive ripple effect.

In a world that has seen a shift from the value of resources in the ground to those in the mind, a nation looking to create wealth for its people and satisfy their material and social needs would do well to create an environment that allows creators and innovators thrive. Take note, Nigerian leaders.

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