Montessori Approach to Good Governance in Nigeria

Governance in Nigeria has been acrimonious and caustic as it can get compared to other Federating Nations of the earth.

Its been more of entitlement, appeasement and access to the cookie jar. But for how long can this last? Is there no solution in sight towards it?

Maria Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) an Italian physician and educator, adopted a style of teaching and instruction that dwells more on bringing our the individual best of her student and ward as against a collective group best.

She discovered that, each child has his or her own uniqueness and motivating factor that spurs them to achieve what they have set their hearts on. Not only that, she discovered as well that, with the right environment, materials, and resources, each child comes to learn, self-independently, and develop in the process, strong cognitive and reasoning skills amongst others that makes them grow into self disciplined and self-confident children who can ask and solve problems without having recourse to someone else to solve the problem. And all these under the watchful eye of the instructor as she acts as guide and observer.

She felt by working independently, children could reach new levels of autonomy and become self-motivated to reach new levels of understanding. Montessori also came to believe that acknowledging all children as individuals and treating them as such would yield better learning and fulfilled potential in each particular child. (

Her style of tutoring, called the Montessori Method has been adopted in several countries of the world with astounding results. “This is a method of education for young children that stresses the development of a child’s own initiative and natural abilities, especially through practical play. This method allowed children to develop at their own pace and provided educators with a new understanding of child development. Montessori’s book, The Montessori Method, presents the method in detail. Educators who followed this model set up special environments to meet the needs of students in three developmentally-meaningful age groups: 2–2.5 years, 2.5–6 years, and 6–12 years. The students learn through activities that involve exploration, manipulations, order, repetition, abstraction, and communication. Teachers encourage children in the first two age groups to use their senses to explore and manipulate materials in their immediate environment. Children in the last age group deal with abstract concepts based on their newly developed powers of reasoning, imagination, and creativity” (Hainstock, Elizabeth G. (1997). The Essential Montessori: An introduction to the woman, the writings, the method, and the movement. New York: the Penguin Group.)

How does this affect us or pertain to governance you might ask?

Take each Federating Unit, each State, each Local Government, each Ward, each Unit as a child. A child with his or her own uniqueness and gifting, and let’s get creative just as Maria Montessori.

Each unit in the country needs be treated as one with something that can be brought to the table and given in support of her growth from the table. The truth is, each region is more endowed than the other and will develop at different pace just like the wards of Maria Montessori.  But deep attention needs be given to them to ensure that, what ever little they have, its maximized to the fullest potential to ensure that they are developed to be self-reliant without having cause to depend on another for survival.

Before the discovery of Oil at Oloibiri in 1956 hence our journey to dependence on oil, the regions of Nigeria, Northern, Eastern and Western regions had regional autonomy which they used to develop the regions and brought Nigeria to the economic fore in the league of Nations. Groundnut developed the North, Oil Palm and Coal in the East and Cocoa the West.

If history is anything to go by, Cocoa from the Western Region of Nigeria, had Nigeria having a TV station first in Africa and ahead of several European Countries of the world. This was because, the crop was a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria in the 1950s and 1960s and in 1970 the country was the second largest producer in the world but following investments in the oil sector in the 1970s and 1980s, Nigeria’s share of world output declined.

In 1965, Nigeria was the highest exporter of Palm oil and Palm Kernels, producing about 180,000 tons of palm oil as well as 440,000 tons of palm kernels. We lost that edge during the Civil War and Malaysia took over. But contrary to reports that Malaysia took seedlings from here, it was not the case. (Read up here)

Groundnut pyramids were built all across northern Nigeria, in cities like Kofar Mazugal, Brigade, Bebeji, Malam Madori and Dawakin KuduThe pyramids became synonymous with Nigeria’s agriculture wealth; a postage stamp even featured a groundnut pyramid. However, as groundnut production declined in the 1970s and 80s the groundnut pyramids disappeared and were replaced with buildings.

Like an invading army, Oil stepped into the scene, bolstered up by the Military incursion into Politics in 1966, we lost the self autonomy and self-reliance and adopted a dependent, centralized, unitary approach to governance and economic growth. And we are yet to recover. But we can.

Economic and Political Governance are twins that can both be a blessing and a curse if not properly managed. The two concepts are intertwined and go hand in hand and requires someone who understands the power play between the two to manage it. Not understanding the power play is what leads to crisis in and mis-governance in Nations. Duncan Green (2015) aptly captures this enigma this way, “Economic development is an inherently political process that challenges vested interests. Often the surest ways for elites to hold onto power and profit aren’t in step with measures to spur investment, create jobs and foster growth. Shrewd power politics can be bad economics”

The Nigerian State, as 36 Federating Units and each of these units have atleast, two or three natural and agricultural resources that can be harnessed in commercial quantities to develop those states economically. For harnessing these resources means, more job creation, more investments,  more internally generated revenue, more growth and development. And on the political front, it gives room to negotiate much better as each unit is bringing something to the table and not dependent on others!

As Duncan Green stated, economic governance/development is an inherent part of the political process and it would take balls to  achieve it. That is why in Nigeria, People would go to any length to achieve Political Power in order to harness economic power to the detriment of the common good! And those with economic power with a political leverage, would ensure they use it to lock down the market stifling other small players that would bring competition and vibrancy into the market.

Duncan Green best describes it below:

*The fundamental obstacles to promoting inclusive economic growth are primarily political in nature and not due to a lack of technical expertise or knowledge about what needs to be done.
*Dependence on primary commodities provides scope for elites to enrich themselves without needing to implement reforms that improve the long-term productive capacity of the economy.
*Patronage politics distorts the economy and diverts public investment away from more productive sectors. Inertia is politically safer than reform. There’s an acute lack of trust between government and the private sector.
*Politically-connected economic elites have increasingly established monopolies e.g. in the fuel, transport, food and construction sectors forcing out or intimidating smaller players.

“May your road be rough!” The late Sage, Dr. Tai Solarin, drummed this into our ears when we were in secondary school. And the same thing i drum into the ears of Nigerians. The road to achieve this equity community would be rough and requires the boldness of a lion in the heart of “The Man” that can push it. And “The Man” can be you or me…..not a demigod dropping from planet unknown. The Karl Marx Maxim, “From each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs” needs be applied to the Federating Units of Nigeria. This is bearing in mind that, each federating unit is not sitting on her haunches, but rather involved in the process of growth and development from the Federal level down to the Ward level.

We must understand and appreciate the fact that, good economic governance is the only sustainable force for good political governance. Green captures it this way, “Economic transformation can have a strong disruptive effect on political governance – giving rise, for example, to interest groups that push for accountable leaders and effective institutions. As countries get richer, more effective institutions also become more affordable. Over time, economic transformation can therefore advance core governance objectives”.  What is lacking in our nation is accountability of our Leaders, and we need them accountable. But we also need to be accountable to ourselves and the society we live in for there to be, a meaningful growth, development and progress.

We must each, in our sphere, take responsibility and initiative to make our contributions to the betterment of the society and not sit and wait for the government.  The recent Grenfell Apartment blaze in London, i never for once heard the victims calling on Government to come help them in their predicament, but rather, they demanded answers from the government for not doing the needful when they had voiced their concerns about the safety of the place! And the government is been forced to respond for failing the people! And you know what, it was not even the government that provided accommodation and food to the victims, it was people in the neighborhood, Churches, Mosques, Schools and Families. Not the government!

I. Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work.
II. Every citizen will be a public man, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.
III. Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws – (Norman E. Bowie, Towards a new theory of distributive justice (1971)

Calls for secession is routed in one thing only, the lack of Political Power. And its simply because, they have failed to understand, as stated above, that Political power and governance can only be achieved, when Economic power and governance is well entrenched for the common good and not the few. It runs hand in hand. Nigeria and her federating units must wake up to this realization, and with utmost urgency, treat the federating units as individual elements that has something worthwhile to offer on the table, to make for a greater Nigeria that runs on merit.

I conclude with edited excerpts from JK Kennedy’s famous inaugural address,

So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us……

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens -. and to let the oppressed go free….

And so, my fellow (Nigerians): ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world and Nigeria: ask not what (Nigeria) will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of the Nigerian man.


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