Redesigning Nigeria Beyond Oil


OIL-2-1-CopyYou can’t feature in a future that you can’t picture. The future is not meant to be waited for, the future is what we design it to be today! In the Ancient Greek mythology, the story was told of how everything is achievable through adequate preparation. There was a boy who wished to be strong when he grew up, so strong that he would be able to lift a fully-grown bull. In order to realize his ambition, he started to train by lifting a bull calf daily from the day that it was born. Each day, he would lift the calf onto his shoulders and carry it on the same defined circuit. As the bull calf grew, so did his strength, until the day arrived when the bull was fully-grown and the boy had become a man. The man lifted the bull onto his shoulders and carried it round the circuit as he had done everyday previously. The spectators were fully amazed at his strength but not the man or the bull; to them it was a daily routine that had become a part of them! That is the power of preparation; it makes herculean tasks look casual.

‘’Proper preparation prevents poor performance.’’ –Charlie Batch.

Malaysia and Nigeria gained independence virtually around the same time but while Malaysia has evolved over time to become a robust economy, Nigeria has consistently struggled with the load of corruption and consequences of a mono-cultural economy that depends solely on crude oil. Nigeria emerged in the first decade of her independence as a leading exporter of many major agricultural commodities. Agriculture was the pride of the nation as we became leading exporters of palm kernel, and the largest producer and exporter of palm oil. We ‘dominated’ the world also as the second largest producer of cocoa in the world. Nigeria was the cynosure of all eyes as a big player and contender in the agricultural industry and even the evolution of Malaysia as one of the world’s largest producer of palm oil has its origin in Nigeria. Malaysia, a country Nigeria gave palm oil seedlings and expertise to, has overtaken Nigeria in the production of palm oil! Nigeria has lost its place among agricultural exporters; her might in agriculture has sunk into fading oblivion. It is poignant that the groundnut pyramids in the North has become a myth to the present generation; but the basic truth is that the situation is still redeemable if we go back to the drawing board to redesign and diversify the economy towards maximizing the potentials in agriculture and other sectors. Every time we refuse to plan and prepare, destiny is delayed. The 21st Nigerian economic summit will be coming up between October 13th-15th at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. The theme of this year’s summit: ‘TOUGH CHOICES: Achieving competitiveness, inclusive growth and sustainability’. An advert on the summit in the Guardian newspaper carried a rhetoric question worth pondering on: Once upon a time, our groundnut pyramids towered to the skies. What happened? Let’s get back on track!

‘’By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’’ –Benjamin franklin.

Malaysia gained independence on the 31st of August, 1957 from the United Kingdom. On the 31st of August 1963, the British territories in North Borneo and Singapore were granted independence and formed Malaya (Now Malaysia) but it wasn’t until 16 September 1963 that Malaysia fully became a sovereign nation. After many years of war, corruption and stark poverty, the Malaysian government embarked upon a critical redesigning to reduce Malaysia’s dependence on commodity exports (mainly rubber and tin), which put the country at the mercy of fluctuating prices. The government was also aware that demand for natural rubber was bound to fall as the production and use of synthetic rubber expanded. The Malaysian government was able to see beyond the proceeds from rubber and developed alternative sources of employment. Today, the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur holds the tallest building in South-East Asia (Petronas Twin Towers) and has become one of the most industrialized cities and fastest-growing metropolitan regions in Southeast Asia and also serves as a beehive of tourist attractions.

Malaysia and Indonesia have evolved over time to become the largest producers of palm oil in the world. Malaysia, a country that was solely depending on revenues from rubber and tin metamorphosed into a giant in the palm oil industry under the Malaysian government’s agricultural diversification programme in the early 1960’s. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Columbia, and Ecuador have already perfected their diversification initiatives and are already moving towards stabilizing their economies. Since the 1960s, the Malaysian government policies have moved from import substitution initiatives to export-oriented diversification detailed in the industrial Malaysian plan. The Malaysian story has validated that it is impossible to enter a future that we never prepared for.

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for” – Anonymous.

Malaysia targeted the year 2020 to achieve its vison 2020(a goal about reaching ‘developed nation’ status). The economic revolution in Malaysia and Indonesia stemmed from their great investment in diversifying their economy. Apart from the agricultural sector, tourism also plays an important role in the evolution of the modern Malaysian economy. Kuala Lumpur is the sixth most visited city in the world, with 8.9 million tourists per year. Fourteen companies that were listed in Forbes 2000 are based in Kuala Lumpur. We need leaders, policies and initiatives that will awaken our latent potentials in agriculture and other sectors of the economy. We need to set realistic and well-defined goals that will take us beyond our limiting beliefs. We must learn from the Malaysian story and maximize the opportunities in other sectors of the economy, especially the agricultural sector. In his paper titled: Palm Oil and Economic Development in Nigeria and Ghana; Recommendations for the World Bank’s 2010 Palm oil Strategy, Dr. Matthew O. Eshalomi, the Chairman, Vegetable and Edible Oil Section, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, made a concrete recommendation to the World Bank to invest subsequently in Palm oil as a highly effective tool of poverty reduction and economic diversification.

‘’You have a goldmine when you have a goal mind.’’ –Anonymous

President Muhammadu Buhari has severally reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to the diversification of the country’s economy. The downturn in the international price of crude oil is gradually validating the fact that any country that puts its survival on the oil sector is marked out for ‘economic suicide’. Every sustainable economy, institution or business is traceable to the level of its preparation. Poor planning and preparation are sure ways to the downfall of any economy. We must rearrange our priorities because to change your life, you need to change your priorities. We have to be resolute and firm in our shift towards diversifying the economy.
‘’The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.’’ –Anonymous

We must open our minds to the listless potentials that abound around us. The drift of the Nigerian economy to total dependence on the oil sector has polluted our priorities and blinded us to several opportunities that can be afforded in the Nigerian economy. Our overdependence on the oil fortune has placed the destiny of the nation in the hands of infidels and corrupt-minded Nigerians. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa (both of blessed memory) suggested the idea of Nigeria opting out of OPEC, in order to massively pump out crude oil and use the immediate proceeds to develop national infrastructures and then go back to diversifying the economy with major focus on agriculture, so many people thought they were men of wild and erratic imaginations. The present state of Nigeria has actually vindicated their school of thought because the proceeds from the Nigerian oil have actually been used in
‘lubricating’ classical corruption and impunity in the present Nigeria.

‘’Change will not come if we wait for some other person or sometime. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’’ –Barack Obama

We need a major shift from our ‘destructive’ preference for imported goods at the detriment of our local contents. The alarming high rise in our demand for foreign goods can be serviced locally. On Thursday, 10th September 2015, members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) held a rally on good governance and corruption in Abuja. One of the placards displayed carried the inscription: NIGERIA: PRODUCE WHAT WE CONSUME, CONSUME WHAT WE PRODUCE! We need an attitudinal overhaul towards our ‘foreign taste’ at the detriment of our local contents.

I am encouraging the Nigerian youths to fully participate in the evolution of a new Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. The youths are indispensable to this dispensation; Nigeria is blessed with multi-talented youths and we must harness our potentials, ideas, innovations and man-power towards evolving the Nigeria of our dreams. Let us embrace the philosophy of diversification. Let us put the might of technology into agriculture. We must evolve a modern way of practising agriculture, so that it can be more mechanized, productive and attractive to the Nigerian youths. We must evolve a new way to resuscitate the agricultural sector. Let us explore tourism, I.C.T sector, the entertainment industry, fashion and cosmetic industry,textile industry, art and crafts, and our indigenous telecommunication industry in advancing our economy beyond average. They call us the giant of Africa; it is high time we put our name to the test!

‘’You can suffer the pain of change or suffer the pain of remaining the way you are.’’ –Joyce Meyer

Gbenga Adebambo is the dean of schools at the Educational Advancement Centre (EAC), an author, youth specialist, international coach and the Editor-In-Chief of MAXIMUM IMPACT MAGAZINE. He is also the founder of the youth ministry called STOP ‘T’(Seeing Tomorrow’s Opportunities and Potentials Today), a ministry that is involved in discovering and nurturing hidden potentials in youths in order to equip them for tomorrow’s challenges, opportunities and responsibilities.

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