Industrialisation remains best option for diversification, says Ogbimi

Ogbimi-pix-CopyFrancis Eniterai Ogbimi is a research Professor of Technology Management at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State. In this interview with ROSELINE OKERE, he emphasised the need for the country to focus on industralisation to cushion the effects of dwindling crude oil prices. Excerpts.

The prices of crude oil have been falling since June last year. Should Nigeria continue to lament over this? What do you think the country should do to overcome the challenge of ‘boom and burst’ – the rise and fall associated with global oil prices over the years?
Nigeria should stop lamenting the fall in oil prices during the past years, because lamentation would not change the situation. Rather, Nigeria should promote rapid industrialization and transform the economy from the undesirable status (UDS) of a commodity-selling nation into the desirable status (DES) of an industrialized nation. The transformation from the UDS of primitive agriculture into the DES of industrialized nation built America, Japan, and China. Industrialization, the most important transformation for a nation, is the only lasting way to hedge against the fluctuation of the prices of commodities like oil, solid minerals, cocoa and rubber. Industrialisation is a fundamental change like the baby growing into adulthood. It is a change which increases, competences, the capabilities of a people and a nation to solve problems including production, astronomically.

Industrialization may also be likened to the transformation, which the spider achieves when it uses many of its silk-threads to make its web. Whereas the single silk-thread does nothing for the spider, the web catches the small creatures on which the spider feeds. The spider’s web is its economy. Following industrialization, an economy achieves economic diversification – an economic status in which many sectors of an economy begin to function efficiently and effectively. Whereas an agricultural economy has one sector, the industrialised economy has many sectors. The Nigeria economy is agricultural one and has one sector – agriculture. Over 70 per cent of Nigerians is employed in Agriculture. The wise thing to do is to promote industrialization and reduce the number of people employed in agriculture in Nigeria. A nation achieves economic diversification through the acquisition of scientific capabilities. No industrialization, no true economic diversification.

How did the great nations of today achieve the rapid transformation of their economies? Did they depend on technology transfer or was it by privatization?
Following the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, the discovery of gold and silver in the New World, America was considered a land of wealth and great opportunities. The lure of big profits, political loyalty and the search for better life and liberty induced individuals, the king of England and settlers themselves to found colonies in America (Baldwin, 1969). Lasting English colonization began when a group of English merchants and investors applied for royal charter to authorize enterprise in the New World (Americas). King James issued a single charter to them as the Virginia Company in 1606. Their settlements were to be governed by a royal appointed Council of Virginia sitting in London. Over a period of more than 150 years later, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Scots, Irishmen, Dutch, Swedes and Africans, willingly and through force, took their habits and traditions to the New World. The result was a new social pattern which although resembled European society in many ways, had a character that was distinctly American (Whitney and Glick, 1965). The original thirteen colonies: Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhodes Island, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, New Hampshire and Delaware, formed a confederation and declared independence from Britain on July 4, 1776. The Confederation, assisted by France, Spain, Netherlands and other European nations fought and won the War of Independence against Britain 1775-1783.

Japan, the nation with the third biggest economy in the world has no natural resources in the soils of its group of islands. Japan claims that its origin dates back to 600 B. C., though, more objective sources suggest that the existence of Japan dates back to about 300 B. C.(Hall, 1971). That explains why the Japanese government celebrated the 2600th anniversary of the nation with great publicity in 1940. It is believed that the Japanese derived most of their culture from China, Korea and other south-east Asian nations (Reischauer, 1970). The Japanese state in the 6th century was mentioned as a tribally divided people in Chinese record. Japan as such, is a younger nation than Korea and China. The period before the end of the 7th is referred to as the transition period while the period eighth through the first half of the nineteenth century is described as the experimental period in Japanese history.

During the middle of the nineteenth century, Japan remained a closed society and the nation achieved feudal stability. All efforts by Europeans and Americans to establish friendly relations up to the middle of the nineteenth century were rebuffed because they were seen as developments likely to introduce bad influence into Japan.

However, Japan was forced to open her doors to the West as from 1854. After many trials, the United States in 1854 through the threat of her naval fleet forced Japan to open her ports to American ships and trade. When Matthew Perry, the American naval officer, entered Edo Bay in Japan, on board the steam frigate Susquehanna in 1854, most Japanese had never seen such a vessel much less a whole flotilla( Time Magazine, 1983). The Japanese quickly realised that the time to remain in seclusion was over. Japan quickly signed a series of forced-treaties from 1854 to 1858 with America and other Western nations. That led to the subtle change of government known as the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The Japanese quickly realized that the way forward was to learn from the West. The decision to learn from the West followed from the saying associated with the Asians: ‘Do not just give me fish to eat, rather, teach me how to fish so that I can catch fish myself anytime I wish to eat fish.’ That regime quickly made changes in the structure of government and educational system. By 1875, there were some 600 Western experts hired by the Japanese government and some 3000 foreign advisers were invited into Japan between the signing of fundamental treaties and 1890.

The restoration met Japan an agrarian nation. There were few if any industries of importance in Japan at that time (Stead, 1906). The government did not waste time establishing model industries which encouraged Japanese to learn and acquire knowledge and skills to build the factories modeled after those set up by the government. Most of the public enterprises built by Meiji Japan lost money for a long time. However, because the primary objective for establishing them was for the citizens to learn from them, promote industrialization and establish private ones to demonstrate that Japanese have learnt and acquired the relevant capabilities to build and run similar plants and industries, they could not be sold till the desired objectives were achieved( Stead, 1906). Agricultural development is invariably preceded by industrialization in the development process ( Ogbimi, 1994).

The beginning of the rapid industrialisation of Japan can be placed in the 20-year period 1886-1905. In the early 1880s, raw silk, tea and rice (primary commodities) accounted for over two-thirds of Japan’s export. But by 1905, more than half of Japanese export was machine-made goods consisting of cotton yarns and cotton and silk piece goods.

Specifically, what should be the focus of the government now?
Nigeria must embrace new, sensible and progressive ideas and practices to make rapid progress. A wise nation focuses on it the most abundant resource. China focused on her people to achieve greatness. Let Nigeria focus on her people. Nigeria must focus on promoting rapid industrialisation through education and training. Education and training promote rapid industrialization, but education without complementing training system co-exists with mass unemployment, poverty and high crime wave. All graduates of educational institutions in Nigeria, especially science and engineering university graduates should undergo a 4-5 years curriculum based training to complement their education and input theory into our theory-starved indigenous service/production activities and study the functioning and production of all the imported products Nigeria consumes, in artisan workshops, factory floor work settings and all other places where skill acquisition opportunities abound. The artisan repairs and services the cars, refrigerators and other machines Nigeria imports. The science and engineering graduates who complete the four to five-year curriculum-based skill-acquisition training will build machines and promote rapid industrialization in Nigeria.

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