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ISSUES AND POLICY: Navigating Out Of The Woods

  By Ademola Yaya AT an appropriate time, we shall trace Nigeria history to the existence of several powerful and well organised kingdoms and empires in existence between 900AD and the 17th Century, before their invasion and eventual conquest by marauding Britain. For this piece, however, we shall only limit ourselves to the period between…”
January 24, 2021 11:38 am


By Ademola Yaya

AT an appropriate time, we shall trace Nigeria history to the existence of several powerful and well organised kingdoms and empires in existence between 900AD and the 17th Century, before their invasion and eventual conquest by marauding Britain. For this piece, however, we shall only limit ourselves to the period between its Independence in 1960 till date to locate, perhaps, where we got it wrong so as to relocate to a better place we should historically belong.

The name – Nigeria – was given in 1871 by Flora Shaw, a British journalist who covered anti-slavery conference in Brussels in 1886, but later got married to Lord Lugard, Governor-General of Nigeria. Before renaming, Nigeria was known as Royal Niger Company Territories, a mercantile company chartered by the British government to enable British Empire establish sole control over the lower Niger against the German competition led by Bismarck.

Right from its Independence in 1960, Nigeria earned an enviable position as the traditional leader and redeemer of Africa. This leadership role made it to galvanise African countries for independence, especially the ones still under foreign rule as at then, which snowballed into creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 – now African Union (AU) – and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975. Between 1960 and 1995, Nigeria spent over $61bn to support the end of apartheid in South Africa. It boycotted Olympic Games and Commonwealth games, and went up to nationalisation of British Petroleum asset in 1979. Although, former Soviet Union, Zambia and Tanzania provided military support to the African National Congress (ANC), Nigeria’s moral and political campaign with stupendous financial support was unrivalled.

Today however, Nigeria has become almost a failed state whose political and economic properties have become so weak that the government seems not to be in charge any longer; where basic conditions and responsibilities of government are abdicated; where armed groups, gangsters and terrorists thrive and expand. The situation seems to be hopeless as most productive ventures now appear to be kidnapping and terror. The army and other security agencies appear to be overwhelmed. Nobody seems to be in charge, as kidnapping for ransom has become almost a daily occurrence. The situation has so deteriorated that the government has to be negotiating with terrorists to secure release of captives! 

It is instructive, however, to state that we did not get to this ruinous position in a jiffy. It is the cumulative self-serving interest of the elite – ruling and those in corporate establishments – as against the national interest; their gradual conscious and unconscious but steady policies, activities and politics brought us here. They consciously weaken public institutions and get them compromised; they engage in corruption with impunity; they substitute competence for political patronage; they encourage electoral malpractices; they ignore our infrastructural deficit and decay, amongst many more. All these have led to endemic poverty in the midst of plenty with about 80% of its population living in poverty and starvation, which have put majority of the people in a vulnerable and compromised condition to sell their conscience for survival.

Apart from its crude oil production, which is the largest in Africa and 6th in the world, Nigeria has Africa largest reserves of natural gas. It also has other solid minerals like tin, gold, coal, across its land untapped. Instead of making optimal utilisation of these gifts of nature, it has only concentrated on one – oil – and refuses to develop, explore and exploit these other natural endowments. 

To rebuild and reposition Nigeria to its erstwhile position in Africa is not a very difficult task. It only requires a visionary leadership that can walk the talk. We have heard more than enough on economic diversification with no practical follow-up from successive governments. What needs to be done is a legislative policy and political will to engaging the teeming population in mechanised farming particularly in our best areas like in cotton, palm oil, cocoa, cattle rearing; exploring and exploiting our scattered mineral resources; reviving our steel and rolling mills with machine tools production; reawakening our textile mills; revival of our sporting activities, amongst others.

However, mechanised farming is clearly the one-stop sector that has the capacity to engage all who are unemployed and rapidly transform the economy to an enviable position that will make us, again, to be an actor to reckon with in Africa and the world. Engagement of citizen, in productivity and real wealth creation is the only way to sustainable development. Our endemic poverty in the midst of plenty cannot be explained. To reverse our relegation position in Africa, we need a restructure within by mobilising our local resources – human and natural – for development. Free oil money which has encouraged corruption and bleeding the economy is plummeting in the world market.  Right from the beginning of this 2021, we must roll out a blueprint for real wealth creation, as anything short of this is a postponement of an economic emergency which may consume the country.

The daily high level of crimes everywhere including kidnapping for ransom, terrorism, ritual killings, armed robbery, etc, which have overwhelmed our security system are by-products of hopelessness in despair and non-engagement of the youth in productive activities that can make them better citizens. Military engagement alone cannot, therefore, work. It has to be combined with productive socio-economic rebuilding that can give people a renewed hope for a decent living. Palliative measures in addressing security problems like amnesty and rehabilitation of terrorists by giving criminals fried rice and chicken, clothing and sending them abroad on scholarship are likened to running away from one’s shadow. Combination of poverty, hunger, starvation coupled with hopelessness in the midst of stupendous wealth, which is the case for the majority of our people, has symbiotic relationship with either depression or crime. A holistic approach to navigating out of the woods is the key – mechanised farming and harness of our untapped mineral resources across the land for good and decent working and living conditions for mass majority of our people. This is the essence of good governance.

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