Economy: Nigeria Skirting The Circle

How I wished Tayo Akpata, Sam G. Ikoku, Bola Ige, Erhunse Bankole Akpata, Tunji Otegbeye and other departed Nigerian thinkers were alive today to see how the cooks of neo-colonial politics have spoilt the broth.

I do not envy Allison, Ayida, Phillip Asiodu, Olufemi Okunnu, Mohammed Dikko Yusufu, Mohammed Ayagi, Balarabe Musa and others who counselled repeatedly that we should stave off the path to economic Armageddon that we chose in 1986. They should be going through a mental stress to imagine that a country so blessed in all the needed resources is on all fours because of inferiority complex and kleptocracy.

Nigeria embarked on a trip to economic Hades in 1986 and somehow, Ibrahim B. Babangida realised that all that glittered was not gold and so turned to a more practical course, with the people as the centrepiece. Olusegun Obasanjo, who jeered at Babangidanomics, on his return to power, made a 360-degree turn to land us in a new economic slavery. That is where we are today.

Nigerians did not need a soothsayer to tell them that they were headed for worse times than they were already living. They are already on the floor and need no fall. But worse times are bound to exacerbate their plight and cause, consequently, inevitable instability. Nigerian shopkeepers react to drops in the rate of their national currency very fast. A day after the Central Bank of Nigeria devalued the naira, prices of foodstuffs and other household commodities rose sharply, including iron sponges for cleaning dishes and basic household tools. All these are now imported from China, UAE and even Ghana. What a shame?

So civilians can be so heartless and thoughtless in government? I salute the founding leaders of immediate post-independence who saw the flock as a veritable stock that must be provided with bread, butter and water from the toils of their sweat. They taught their compatriots how to fish and not how to depend on foreign do-gooders.

They established what could withstand shocks of world and local economic quakes by making us to be inward-looking. So economic rumblings outside did not immediately spread their ripples adversely to Nigeria.

Nigeria has devalued the naira, what for, when she has nothing to export except crude oil which price is fixed by a cartel. What may break the camel’s back is the speculated increase to N145 of petrol per litre. What was left of the burgeoning Nigerian industrial sector which in the 1970s competed with Brazil’s and India’s was destroyed by thoughtless General Obasanjo in power. The civil service absorbed the shocks of political and economic bickering in the past because of its sane and efficiently organised structure. Today, civil servants are speculators, traders and swindlers, no thanks to Obasanjo’s reactionary rule, which divested the state of all its assets and handed them over to friends and cronies in the name of the new religion whose chaplain for the Bretton Woods papacy is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the geographer the World Bank turned to “economic oracle.”

Must we be amused about recent happenings that are bound to beget conditions that may make Boko Haram look like a child’s play? When Babangida bought the free-for-all religious parchment from Olu Falae and other disciples of Bretton Woods, Nigeria still then ranked as a medium power in industralisation. We were self-sufficient in producing intermediate goods for consumption locally and the ECOWAS sub-region. Our professionals were proud to be Nigerians and so held their heads high in the comity of nations.

The attendant results of that new religion changed all that as we took the path to brain drain. I read the so-called monetary decisions taken by the CBN as superficial in the face of a non-productive economy that relies on one commodity for external earnings. It is skirting the circle. It should address manufacturing, public works and agriculture, the three pillars of a nation’s survival.

Nigeria’s present affliction can only be cured by a strong and visionary leadership with more than mere monetary preachment to deal with a serious ailment which requires adequate doses of injection, with the people as the bulwark of every action. Without the support of the people, Nigeria will be destined for the abyss.

We went through hard periods before painlessly because we had leaders who knew their destinations and how to get there. But that is lacking now because the PDP has neutered politics and economics to make Nigeria a eunuch. All the infrastructures for development and economic stability are derelict. Nigeria will need her citizens, and not contractors, to physically participate in the reconstruction of these facilities.

The federal government, at its level, needs to re-introduce the old Public Works Department to rebuild the broken-down federal roads and ensure their maintenance thereafter. Is it not a shame that all federal highways are now dirt tracks overgrown by weeds in 15 years of democracy? Break the reconstruction of these dual carriageways into zones and implement their re-building with direct labour instead of importing contractors from Europe and the Middle East. For those of us who have been in public life for long, we saw the marvels of the hands of our brothers and sisters in this country in the building of the nation when they were genuinely challenged. The Elizabeth Road, Ibadan, the first multi-lane highway of its type in the Commonwealth, was built by a Nigerian, Mr. Taiwo, with local P.W.D labour. We have jobless civil engineers, technicians and artisans in their millions wanting to be challenged; yet, we enrich less endowed foreigners to do jobs they could handle. Many in this group are now commercial motorcyclists. Millions of Nigerians could be absorbed in public works alone to the success of our nation.

This should also apply to manufacturing. This is the time to beg industries that left because of Nigeria’s poor power supply and multi taxations to return. Give them tax holiday if they return because taxes from their workers alone can make a sizeable difference in government earnings. Government must give the necessary stimulus to attract their return.

Government must directly intervene in agriculture to ensure steady supply of produce by re-introducing marketing boards. Once farmers are sure that their produce will be bought, they will increase production. Only government, with the mobilised support of the people, can save Nigeria from total collapse. Learn from Franklyn! Roosevelt, Indira Ghandi, Harold Wilson and Adolf Hitler.

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