It’s fifty years of independence already. I recant the grey footage of hope that kept our fathers and mothers lined across the streets . As the moment appeared, it presented us an open goal. All we needed was to start shooting- putting the nets in a rhythm. Did we shoot or we shot amiss? Because till date a cloud of doubt hangs in air if Nigeria deserves a trophy. Or as a people we should take a backseat, sulk in shock with our African peers who proclaimed freedom in 1960!
Fifty years is really a long time to appraise a nation and wonder what it will become. As years rolled by we began to show that we existed of a patchwork of the colonial fantasy. That we were a geographical accident, a collection of forced marriages more so in just seven years , an eastern family wanted to severe our divine ropes of kinship. The name Nigeria became a mere permutation exercise of a British lady.
This is no time to clink glasses and wear gleaming smiles for the photograph unless we take our standard from worse African brethren. If we ever had time to behold the fortress of greatness , we should sit down with long faces wondering why this giant talent crawls with skinny legs? With vast arable land, we cannot feed ourselves, competitively educate people, give appropriate healthcare, create safety nets and give employment to the every deserving Nigerian.
To whom much is given, much is expected. The huge size of our map, lush green vegetation of the savanna, dark oil in the creeks, mineral deposits and superlative human resource has not taken us to great heights. One expects the right leadership to just organize these resources for communal benefit. Our civilian leaders killed hope as they bequeathed royalty to the soldiers for over years. The civilian governments have not also fared better with rampant cases of corruption. Here we are after fifty years our wealth resides in few pockets opening gaps of inequalities. We can keep recounting the missteps, slips and lost opportunities that has taken us this far.
Nigeria according to Goldman Sachs has been identified in next 11 economies with potential to bloom after the BRIC. We know potential remains static until a kinetic force pushes it. The question is where is Nigeria’s kinetic force? We are blessed no doubt with a thriving population, a worry presently to Germany and Japan. We own natural resources chiefly oil, China would wish it had that. We now have an amazing statistics that 70 percent of the population is under 40, the greatest of all.
Independent Nigeria at fifty still suffers from the crisis of identity. Countries of the world are creating jobs using a mixed approach of capitalism and government intervention. Nigeria cannot continue to keep other developing countries jobs as it import all sorts to our chronic consuming population. Every country in this globalised world is looking for competitive ways to remain an export engine or an outpost of global trade. The BRIC (Brazil, India, China, Russia) are using internal fiscal and trade policies to empower their people, tapping into their population strength and produce competitively. The oil rich emirates (Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman) are carving a liberal niche, building the biggest structures and developing strategies to make themselves an avenue of global trade and tourism. Nigeria needs to come to maturity – a state of self consciousness where we independently decide our choices for national growth. It also needs to assess its strength, build giant industries through support mechanisms for local entrepreneurs, seek every opportunity to transfer technology and scale up our infrastructure. We must seek to be bold and build our own engines of innovation.
The new global economy is driven by clear policy mechanisms, technology and human capital and we need to urgently diversify the economy through agriculture, solid minerals, tourism, real sector. Nigeria needs some basic fundamentals to leap into the great economies of the years ahead. 80% of Nigerian graduates in the last four years are presently unemployed. This growing index is my greatest source of disaster unless we want to ignore the social cost of an unemployed population. Unless we want to discount possibilities of increased crime, prostitution, cyber crime, militancy, armed robbery, kidnapping and other social vices, we can ignore our unemployment statistics.
Nigeria cannot innovate and do meaningful research from the present curricula in universities and higher institutions. The Nigerian education needs huge reform to cut billions of capital flight by students into foreign schools who seek world class education. We need to get our best to teach and take a review of doctoral research that incubates from our higher institutions. The country needs to seek partnership with foreign universities , give competitive remuneration to lecturers and enable research mechanisms.
Nigeria needs to evaluate public and private sector divide. The country need to sustain present forums concerning the challenges of private sector. We need to own the big industries of the world, attractive financial industry and most importantly tap into the creative energies of their people. We need an economic ideology that guards our local investors interests to remain competitive through job and value creation.
Nigeria needs to develop a strong labour policy that values its workforce . It needs to take analysis of its wage structure of firms in this country who are daily taking advantage of our surplus labour. Nigeria needs a minimum peg in terms of wage structure for private firms. It needs to critical into crops that oiled our independence engines until we began exploring oil. Agriculture sprouting form rich soils was thrown into irrelevance with the sudden enormous oil wealth, now its time to bring it back. Government using a private sector mechanism can allocate loans to unemployed graduate groups and ensure proper monitoring.
It goes beyond statistics of economy shown in GDP growth, we need a measure of improved livelihood in per capita income. We need indices that benchmark poverty alleviation, socio economic conditions, right infrastructure, trade and fiscal policies. We need a silicon valley full of venture capitalists that support budding ideas and bring it to fruition. We need to source for our golden minds in Diaspora and creatively engage them for transfer of knowledge and technology.
The tragic risk of a nation that put its economic balance in a volatile resource such as oil will not take us far in years to come. Low carbon economy and green investment, alternative power are the new pathway to create thousands of jobs. We should shift attention from oil and allow each region/state to competitively develop its own growth strategy.
We can keep counting the cost for such economy that empowers it people. But with petty talk of politics such as zoning, bureaucracy, national quota system, recycling of leaders and other multiple woes such corruption, hope looks forlorn. We need to find the right leadership to bridge the gap between potential and achievement. We need humane and honest leadership that seeks the benefit of populace and pursue it with restless vigor. Bad leadership to efficiently organize resources was our disaster in the last fifty years, 2011 elections is the time to fix it. Lets Register, Vote, Select and Protect our Votes – the first step to fix Project Nigeria.
This article has been published by the Nigerian Abroad Magazine in its independence issue