A Nation Beyond OIl
‘’The best way to predict the future is to design it.’’ –Abraham Lincoln
‘’ Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.’’ –Proverbs 6:6-8 [KJV]
Frank Zoppa said, ‘’Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.’’ Our over dependent attitude on the Nigerian oil has been an ‘anathema’ to the Nigerian growth. Our dependency on oil has killed a lot of novel initiatives and ideas; it has relegated agriculture to the background and brought in unprecedented corruption. In order to stabilize the growth of this great country, we need to plan and design a future that is beyond the Nigerian oil. The debilitating effect of blatant dependency on oil has paralyzed and destructively polarized the Nigerian economy. Our dependency on oil has turned Nigeria into gangster’s paradise by rewarding political miscreants and social touts ahead of people with great intellectual value. We need leaders that can see beyond the ‘mirage’ of the Nigerian oil. We are in great need of leaders that will provide a platform for the diversification of the economy.
‘’A leader is a leader because he or she has already visited the future in his or her mind and has returned to the present to take others there.’’ –Myles Munroe
Diversifying the Nigerian economy has become imperative in the face of obvious depletion and ‘bastardization’ of the Nigerian oil. Our dependency on oil has precipitated both ‘mental’ and environmental degradation. Whether individually, corporately, institutionally or nationally, sustainability and stability will continuously be elusive until we break through the barrier afforded by depending on a lone source of income. No matter how the Nigerian economy is acclaimed to be growing, the benefits will not filter down to the populace as long as the growth is fueled solely by oil and mineral exportation, since these avenues create few jobs. Though the United States of America has far more oil and gas than Nigeria, its economy is being sustained by a combination of agriculture, technology, manufacturing and several other industries.
The president has reiterated severally that the potential of the Nation for agricultural practices needs reawakening. I appreciate the perspective of President Muhammadu Buhari on the diversification of the economy and it has inspired me to write a proposal to the presidency on the need to reconvene a National conference, not to resolve national conflicts or investigate the past or irrelevant bickering but to redesign the future of Nigeria beyond oil. It is glaring and obvious that for the economic team of President Muhammadu Buhari to finish strong, it is imperative that they evolve and implement a design that will ‘pilot’ the nation beyond the dwindling and unstable fortune of the Nigerian oil.
‘’We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.’’ – Max Depree.
Nigeria is blessed with limitless potentials that have been made to lie dormant since the advent of the oil bloom. Our ‘mad’ pursuit of oil revenues to the detriment of other sectors has stifled initiatives and buried latent potentials. So many versatile areas of the economy has been rendered redundant and comatose because of our irresponsible shift and abandonment. We need to resuscitate the agricultural sector and some other sectors that have the potential of becoming huge sources of revenue, these include: entertainment industry, textile and clothing industry, fashion and cosmetic industry, I.C.T sector, sports and recreation sector, art and Crafts and finally the tourist sector of the economy.
One of the most astounding stories of national revolution and redesigning is that of Switzerland during the 16th century. Switzerland is known for its extra-ordinary banking activities that have brought it fame and glory. A country that is devoid of mineral resources, what Switzerland lacks in resources, they have in ‘preparation’. Switzerland has become synonymous with sophisticated and discreet banking services. The emergence of Switzerland as a power house for banking activities started with a great reformer called John Calvin, born on July 10, 1509. Calvin Prepared Switzerland for the position that they have come to occupy today as the bank of the whole world! Despite a dearth of natural resources, Switzerland is one of the world’s most advanced and prosperous nations; a position that came not by coincidence but through adequate preparation and design. Calvin pioneered the granting of loans with interest – albeit tied to high moral standards, he created a strict system of discipline and enforced it unremittingly. He also worked to separate the church from politics in an attempt to return purity within religion. It is often said that banking confidentiality and secrecy has its root in Calvinism. Switzerland uniquely chose and prepared their banking sector as their primary focus and made the best of it. Swiss banks have enjoyed the reputation for quality, reliability, private banking and stability. When every other economy focused on depleting their mineral resources to boost their economy, Switzerland evolved a banking system that is noted for excellence and it has brought it fame and glory. Preparation has turned Switzerland to a land that is swift in banking and the Swiss economy has proven to us that it doesn’t matter what you lack if you don’t lack preparation. Around fifty organizations are headquartered in Geneva, including the United Nations.
Nigeria, whose economy has surpassed that of South Africa as the continent’s largest, has struggled to generate revenue beyond oil but to no avail. When we predicate our development on revenue derived from oil, we will be vulnerable to the vagaries of international interferences. The oil sector contributes 95% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and 80% of its budgetary revenues. The recent happenings where some states were unable to pay salary arrears of many months is an ominous sign of what the future portends. Instead of the president always coming in to intervene by providing intervention funds to help some states that have been unable to pay salaries partly because of dwindling oil revenue. The President should mandate the state governors to imbibe the trait of the former Delta state governor, Dr. Uduaghan by designing the future of their state beyond the proceeds from the Nigerian oil. If this is not done, then the national embarrassment fumed by the president over the non-payment of salary arrears will become a recurring embarrassment at both state and national levels.
Every state, ministry and institution should be made to design their own self -sustainable plan without making corruptive merchandise of national and state structures. Several acres of land are lying fallow in tertiary institutions that can be fully maximized for agricultural purposes. Tertiary institutions should be mandated to get involved in agriculture. In fact, involvement in agriculture should be one of the demands of NUC in accrediting upcoming universities. The former governor of Delta state, Dr. Uduaghan had set the ball rolling with his DBO (Delta state Beyond Oil) initiative.
The Nigerian-born president of the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD), Dr. Kanayo Nwanze has assured that the organization is fully ready to help and assist as many people that want to go into agricultural ventures. It should be counted as a divine orchestration and not a coincident that we have a Nigerian as the president of AfDB (African Development Bank) in the person of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina and a Nigerian also as the president of IFAD. It is high time we looked beyond the Nigerian oil to maximize the colossal potentials that are lying dormant in the present economy.
In their journal published in the Journal of management and strategy in 2013 tilted BEYOND OIL: Dual –Imperatives for diversifying the Nigerian Economy, Sunday Eko, Clemet Utting and Eteng Onun succinctly captured the Nigerian economy as mono-cultural and concluded that the Nigeria economy has performed dismally since oil was first discovered in commercial quantities. They also made some tangible clarifications that according to the World Bank Report (1970) that the agricultural sector employed 71% of the total labour force in Nigeria in 1960. By 1977, this had dropped to 56%. It increased to 68% in 1980, before falling to 55% in 1985, 53% in 1986, 55% in 1987 and 1988, and 57% annually from 1989 to 1992. This downward trend has continued into 2000s.
Roberts Orya, the CEO of Nigerian Export-Import Bank said that the agro-industries holds 10million job opportunities if properly harnessed. He emphasized that the country needs to seriously look towards expansion of agro-industries as key to unlocking the huge potential in agricultural production. We spend over $10 billion yearly on food importation! It is very obvious that the demand for food and agricultural products is already in place. All we need to do is to design how the demands can be serviced locally, which can help conserve our foreign exchange and make our currency less volatile in value.
I am clamoring that the federal government should make more meaningful investments in the Nigerian youths in order to annex their potentials for agriculture and other notable ventures. Most of the farmers in Nigeria are already within the aging population; the future of agricultural sector lies in the hands of the youths. We need to repackage the agricultural sector to be more appealing and lucrative to the Nigerian youths. Alfred Dixon, project leader, Cassava Weed management project, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said, ‘’It is very important for youths to be connected to a source of improved technology and access to information of good agricultural business.’’ If we truly want to perpetuate the existence of this great country, then it is high time we redesigned a future where the control of oil on the affairs of this nation will become negligible.
I welcome us all into the dawn of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria that is designed to outlive the influence of oil. Let us debunk the elitist myth that Nigeria cannot exist without oil. Let us render the western predictions about the future of Nigeria null and void. Let us all rise up and show the world that we are full of potentials, human resources, ideas and innovations that are much more valuable than the Nigerian oil.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago” –Warren Buffet