4th February 2023
  • 9:11 pm Through the Eyes of Ides Ofune – Women Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Motherhood and Higher Education
  • 11:32 am Meet the 2022 shortlisted authors for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing.
  • 5:13 am 6 African startups among World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2022 cohort
  • 1:01 pm Canadian Based NGO GoldenKes Foundation holds First Empowerment Program in Nigeria 
  • 5:38 am Meet the 6 Africans shortlisted for 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize
  • 7:49 am Facebook invests in fibre optic cables to improve internet access in Edo State
Singapore Lee Kuan Yew

One of my Lecturers recommended Lee Kuan Yew’s Book “From Third World to First.“ It’s a very big book of about 700 pages. It took me a whole month to finish it which usually is a long time for me. I get bored easily reading lengthy books so I try as much as possible to get over with them quickly. However, with this particular one, despite the volume, I couldn’t get bored. Every page is filled with knowledge, wisdom and strategy. One Times Author said that Lee Kuan Yew had opinions about everything in life. I even managed to find a paragraph which became very helpful for my research. Interesting right? Reading it increased my knowledge on South East Asia which I previously knew little to nothing about. After gleaning so much lessons from this book, I decided to share my knowledge with you, my readers.

The first thing that caught my attention about this enigma of a man is the fact that he had so much passion for his country, Singapore. You could feel his deep commitment to ensuring that Singapore succeeded in the face of crisis. He wanted to see his tiny country grow and although he didn’t know exactly how to do this, he deciphered different ways of bringing his ideas to life. He said “there are books to teach you how to build a house, how to repair engines, how to write a book but I have not seen a book on how to build a nation out of a disparate collection of immigrants from China, British India and Dutch East Indies.”

First of all, Singapore is a nation of Immigrants and as at the time he became Prime Minister in 1965, there were only two million inhabitants. Singapore is not a natural country but man-made just like many European Colonies. It was a trading post the British had developed into a nodal point in their worldwide maritime empire. Singapore had joined Malaysia in 1963 but was kicked out in 1965 after fundamental disagreements between the two states. According to Lee Kuan Yew, “we had been asked to leave Malaysia and go our own way with no signposts to our next destination.”  Many people did not give Singapore a chance for survival talk less of development. By far the smallest country in Southeast Asia, annual per capita income in Singapore has grown from less than $1000 at the time of independence to about $58,000 in 2018. With superior intelligence, discipline and ingenuity, it is now the high-tech leader of the region playing a major role in politics and economics.

Reading this book also made me understand how leadership can indeed transform a country in a single generation. I understood why many people say the problem of Africa is Leadership. Indeed, it is a huge part of our problem. We haven’t been able to elect a thoughtful leader who is sincere enough to have a great vision and also the courage to pursue it. For example, as a nation of immigrants, Singaporeans naturally spoke many languages. They chose four languages as official – Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil and English. Despite this, Lee Kuan Yew was able to map out a policy where citizens could keep their mother tongue but also learn the English language which then became a unifier in the country. He said “not wanting to start a controversy over language, I introduced the teaching of three mother tongues into English schools. This was well received by all parents.”

I have also come to realise that no matter how challenging it is to govern a country, for example Nigeria, if the leader is sincere enough, the citizens would be willing to accommodate his policies even when it’s difficult. They would understand that the leader means well for the whole country as a whole and not just some sections. What we have currently are leaders who implement very selfish policies for their own gains. Of course, citizens always oppose them because they can see through their selfishness. I believe that if Muhammadu Buhari had been a sincere leader devoid of religious or ethnic sentiments, the Ruga settlement would have had less resistance. Given his antecedents and body language, the policy has been viewed with so much suspicion making it dead on arrival.    

Ides Ofune

Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at info@desertbloomadvisory.com