Gradualists protests President Jonathan's subsidy removal in 2012
‘Occupy Nigeria’ protesters demontrates their opposition to President Jonathan’s subsidy removal Dec 4, 2012. Photo:

Gradualism is a principle of slow, stepwise change. The gradualist approach to privatization of government concerns has been argued to serve to spread the time within which the pains of the exercise may be felt and thereby reduce its impact. Sir Kitoyi Ajasa‘s belief that social and political stability depended upon a process of slow and gradual growth did not sit too well with young men of his time. He will be rewarded with an unkind censure of his personality that will begin to fade away only decades after his death. Such was the lot of Adunni Oluwole, the woman party organizer who recommended a policy of gradualism towards successful self-government as the best choice for the ordinary Nigerian under colonial rule. Without this, she feared there would be nepotism, disunity, victimization, and life more abundant for a few. Likewise, Anthony Enahoro’s 1956 parliamentary motion for self-rule was opposed by the Northern People’s Congress chieftains who believed it was too early to demand Nigeria’s independence. Independence was eventually approved not for the whole federation but the East and West regions in 8 August, 1957 with very little fanfare. Gradualist ideas were equally expressed in the colonial will, in a President’s comment on the Okuku report in 1936 on the objections of Inisa in its proposed subjection under Okuku district financial administration. “This might come later on,’ he wrote, ‘when we see the result of Ogbomoso, Ede, and Osogbo proposals for more local financial responsibility.”

The gradualist approach to making reform, for example, an energy subsidy reform, has been contrasted with the big bang approach. While the big bang closes the gap quickly by means of large increase in price, the gradualist uses a series of steps involving a longer transitional period. This economic principle was popularly recommended for President Jonathan’s government in 2011 when it attempted the removal of fuel subsidy. Similarly, gradualism is different from catastrophism in natural sciences for involving profound change made through cumulative product of slow but continuous processes. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory is based on the gradual change of the species over a period of time as useful characteristics are passed to offspring.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer