One may doubt the possibility of increasing the trust Nigerians have amongst themselves. Being pessimistic in this regard is possible, owing to the fact that there are many tribes and groups in Nigeria who believe in different things, having contrasting cultures and histories. But should we really give up on the struggle of building a one Nigeria?
What is Trust?
Let us first look at the subject of matter, before we can fully delve into the business.
To trust is to have confidence in somebody; to believe that somebody is good, sincere and honest. More so, trust “is the social glue that holds families, communities, organizations and societies together. Without it, reaching any agreement can become a fraught negotiation.” (Dulaney)
Does Trust Have any Impact on the Society?
However one can say from the above views that the efficacy of trust, confidence in nation building and economic development is undoubtedly great, owing to the fact that firm belief, honesty and understanding among parties are of immense need in achieving economic success.
Indeed, trust has a causal impact on economic development, through its channels of influence on the financial, product, and labour markets, and with a direct effect on total factor productivity and organization of firms.
Trust determines the accumulation and the efficient use of physical and human capital, the ability to invent and adopt new technologies, the efficiency of institutions and governmental performance and size and specialization of markets.
It can be said therefore that the most productive people are the most trusting people. With the situation of Nigeria in view, one can plausibly attribute our snail-paced growth in economy to (but not limited to) the ubiquitous low level of mutual confidence that exists among Nigerians. The RUGA cattle settlement and its aftermaths are crystal-clear indications of how poorly Nigerians trust her government and fellow citizens.
As I may not be speaking for or against the RUGA cattle settlement, what I am sure about is the high level of distrust that is floating around and settling on the psychology of many Nigerians. The Nigeria of our dreams (a country with the biggest and flourishing economy in Africa) could be far from realization if we do not decapitate the arrow head of distrust among ourselves.
On What Basis is Trust Formed?
First, trust could be made-up of ingrained choices and moral values, transmitted in early childhood. Second, it could consist of beliefs about the trustworthiness of others built overtime from personal experience. The first leaves us with little or no option to intervene through short term policies. Trust is hardly malleable here because it is based on historical events and on strong traditional backbone. But through a long term policy like education, a remedy can be proffered.
In the second case, trust or confidence can be restored or built in individuals if the major parameters which influence it are worked on. Trust can be determined however, depending on the environment where individuals live, the civic spirit of their fellow citizens and the transparency of their institutions.
I therefore suggest the following as the ways through which trust can be built in Nigeria.
1. Ensuring Proper Education
Consequently, education to begin with, bears a relationship with trust and confidence in individuals. Informal education and histories passed down from parents to children determine the social capital traits that would be characteristic in those children at later age.
The series of coup and the civil war lacerated a deep cut on the young tendrils of our nationhood. Those historical cankerworms have also eaten deep into the fabrics of our common social capital traits. So by driving high quality education, targeting very young ones, those unwholesome social traits could be removed.
Basic education curriculum should be revised to incorporate programs that will develop in pupils social skills. The theoretical Civic Education is not enough. Things should be more practical. Moral values of cooperation and team work should be instilled in pupils.
The style of education generally should be horizontal, where students will have to work in group and not the Teacher-Student-Lecture style. With the popular adage ‘catch them young’ at the forefront of education, confidence would be enhanced.
2. Creating More Avenues for Ethnic Group Mixing
The beauty of Nigeria lies in her diversity. It is bitter that we have almost failed in exploiting that advantage, but have grossly taken our diversity as a tool for division and distrust. Verily, ethnic diversity drives down trust because of differences in choices. Human beings have this innate propensity for in-group preference, yes. But we cannot keep our hands folded while we swirl down the economic, political and social drain.
A study shows that areas with a lot of segregation and where individuals from different backgrounds cannot meet each other, distrust is higher. However, the government should look into the urbanization and housing policies. These policies should eliminate the ethnic ghettos or communities prominent in the Nigeria society today.
Again, it is agreeable the beauty of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). But is one year enough to undo the psychological trap set by the many years under the chord of historical events? I suggest more programs or activities should come in to serve as inter-ethnic switch, and not just for students but also for civil servants. When people from different ethnic groups live mixed, there would be higher level of trust and confidence developed in them. Then would we realize the potentialities hidden in our differences.
3. Cutting Down Social Inequality
Furthermore, social inequality has been found to be one of the factors that fuel distrust and poor confidence among people. When a group in a whole perceives themselves as being unfairly treated or when they do not receive equal distribution of common resources, their level of trust begins to fail.
Nigeria is a state of many nations, thus an Igbo or Yoruba or Hausa would slack in confidence when he feels he is not receiving what is due to him. The high level of inequality in the distribution of federal resources is proportional to the level of confidence we have among Nigerians today.
The provisions made by the Federal Character should be upheld. The social distance between the ‘Haves and Have-nots’ should be bridged through policies that would encourage the redistribution of wealth.
4. Paying More Attention to the Civil Society
Hitherto, policies in Nigeria are formulated with little or no civil engagement. Perhaps not all policy requires the input of the wider society in its formulation, but intricate ones do. Policies democratically chosen by the people spur more cooperative action than when it is imposed by the government.
Nigerians do not just have the problem of distrust among themselves, but also for the government and its institutions. The lack of horizontal networks of civil engagement and the absence of a decentralized decision-making process are the major causes.
Hence we cannot seek to enhance confidence in Nigerians if the civil society (Nigeria citizens) is not involved in decision making. The quality of institutions obtainable in a state determines to a great length the height of confidence that would be built in the people.
This positive correlation between institutions and trust declares why Nigerians trust less in the government and confide poorly in fellow citizens.
5. Ensuring the Supremacy of the Law
In our society today, legal enforcement is divided along social strata: the leaders and the rich are protected by the law, while the poor masses dwell in the dungeon of injustice. Every act of insecurity is only meted on the teeming commoners.
If Nigerians must trust, there must be the supremacy of the rule of law; there must be accountability in governance; the strength of property right protection must be upheld; proper security of lives and properties must be ensured. This means that there must be effective governance.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, it is important we realize that the tomorrow before us is brighter than the yesterday behind us. So we have to sit up for it. It is only when we cast the crutches of distrust and poor confidence into that air that the Nigeria economy would walk upright. Sincerely, the issue of trust is personal but building Nigeria is a collective task.
The government can do everything but when you do not make that choice to trust, nothing works. Nevertheless, by going with quality education, addressing ethnic diversity through improved urbanization and housing policies, by striking out inequality, by engaging the civil society in decision making and by ensuring that institutions work well, trust and confidence will come to stay in Nigeria.