“Now that a new window of opportunity beckons on the sing-song of Change, it is an opportunity to make a detour. It is time for new beginnings in all spheres of live. It is time to reinvent our economy, our nation and the way we do things.”
Prior to the discovery of oil in Nigeria in commercial quantity, what held sway was agriculture. The discovery of the oil was supposed to be an added blessing and benefit to boost and bolster the already thriving economy.
Unfortunately, what should be a thing of joy and blessing has fast become our albatross and a curse. This is because we have long abandoned the path of multi-economy.
The consequence is the present state of the nation as its soul and vital being is tied to one source of income such that any hiccup in that sector, always have fearful reverberating consequences in our shores. As it is today, our total reliance on the oil and gas as a source existence has put us in a dilemma of catch 50 – 50 phrase in which case no matter the head of the coin that shows up (whether head or tail), we end up being the losers and the worse for it. This is why, either an increase in the international market or a decline in the price, like we saw in the past three years, the ordinary citizens ends up in pain.
Now that a new window of opportunity beckons on the singsong of Change, it is an opportunity to make a detour. It is time for new beginnings in all spheres of live. It is time to reinvent our economy, our nation and the way we do things.
The first step in the re-invention exercise is going back to where we first miss it and that is breaking away from seeing oil and gas as life wire of the nation’s survival. For no matter how far you have gone in building an edifice no matter how magnificent it is, the length of time invested into it, and the resources expended on it, the structure will ever remain defective from the point of defect. So the starting point is going back to Agriculture.
Thank God, He has already abundantly blessed us with a very rich vegetation and arable land. The land is such that a grain of corn for instance left in ground in any part of the country which is not eaten by birds or washed away with rainfall will germinate, grow and bear fruit uncultivated and untended. Even in the harsh weathers of the far North West and East, the few level of annual rain that falls in those regions are enough to nurture certain types of crops to fruitful harvest.
So, in this regard, we have ample room to grow our economy using and depending on Agriculture alone. But that is not the case since God in his graciousness have blessed us with both human and natural resources which if and when fully taped, utilized and deplored can make our land a sort of paradise on earth.
Talking about Agriculture, a lot of feats has been achieved by man in dominating and reinventing nature from the era Nigeria as a nation abandoned the sector as main national economic sustenance base.
For instance, nations of the world where farming was hitherto unprofitable due to inappropriate and unsuitable weather, farming is being carried out in large scale to not only for the feeding of the citizenry, but for export to earn income for their nations. This means that, Nigeria has absolutely no reason not to return to this path of human endeavours.
Consequently, the way forward is for Nigeria to put its heart, soul and body into the sector by evolving a policy where beyond mere words, propaganda and sloganeering, food, sustenance of the citizen, income generation and a substantial unemployed population can be absorbed by the sector.
The starting point is for the Federal Government to group the nation into Aegean zones and then partner with the various state governments in those zones by creating enabling environment and incentives to encourage the people particularly, the youths to go into farming.
Take Benue state for instance, year in, year out, seasonal fruit crops like mangoes and oranges continue to be wasted due to lack of preservative facilities. So there is nothing stopping the establishment of a storage and preservation store houses/industries. And by the way, who says those fruits which the land yields in abundance annually cannot be made to be an all-round the year production through genetically instigation.
A deliberate policy of turning the one-year compulsory National youth service after graduation from tertiary institution to dwell solely on farming and teaching may help in navigating the youths from white collar jobs to agriculture as it offers a unique opportunity for the youths to have a first-hand experience rich opportunities existing in the sector.
Turning from Agriculture is the mineral deposits which abound across the width and breadth of the nation. It is good news to hear that the incoming administration plans to concentrate on the mining of these precious deposits which God has richly blessed us with.
This should not be mere wishful expression. It must be resolutely pursued because all desires aspirations and intentions, no matter how laudable and sound it appears in the realm of the mind and paper but not doggedly chased will be nothing but mere theory and academic exercise. It is time to move from the theoretical to the realm of practicality. Enough of mouthing and sloganeering showcased in mere expression. We are tired of state officers mouthing at every given opportunity the philosophy of the government of the day as if by saying it everywhere and all the times, will automatically translate the agenda into reality. Let’s see the intendment of the government in action instead of words. We have seen enough of faith without action.
The show biz is another area that can make a remarkable change possible in the quest for breaking the yoke of mono economy. We need to go beyond the current razzmatazz witnessed at the twilight of the outgoing administration. The lie in the trumpeted transformation showcased as great achievement of the outgoing administration can be seen in how easily it is that some of the leading lights in the sector easily succumb to the cold hands of death because they could not take care of their basic health need.
Beyond the menace of piracy which the incoming administration has acknowledged is the bane of the industry creating a required enabling environment is uttermost necessity and importance.
Tourism and culture occupies a huge place that can break the yoke of unemployment. An appreciable work plan that will turn around the sector has already been done. What has been lacking is the will power to enforce the various policy formulations and designs that can serve and act as a catalyst for the industry to become a money spinner.
For instance, there is the endowment fund suggested to be launched as contained in the cultural policy crafted since 1988.
The framework led to the establishment of the institutions like the National Troupe, the National Theatre, and the National Council for Arts and culture, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation in addition to Centre for Black Arts and African Civilization as well as Museum and Monuments.
Can you imagine what transformation that sector can witness by transforming the National Theatre from a mere monument into a living institution whereby it is replicated in the various geo-political regions with the Lagos centre being the National coordinating headquarter since Lagos happens to be the centre piece of entertainment industry?
Doing that will stimulate not only cultural revival but cultural growth akin to what the establishment of the National Troupe did to the transformation of Dance not just as an art form or a pastime but a viable economic enterprising endeavour. You cannot also imagine what number of people that alone can provide employment for.
It is regrettable that at a time when Event Centre is a thriving business and is attracting more and people into the business, a venue like National Theatre whose main hall can seat a minimum of 5000 people has been shut down and is wasting away since 1990 or thereabout. This is not to talk about the large expand of land that surrounds the building with accessibility to almost all the traffics in Lagos. And to think, the utilized land in at the heart of Lagos where land is like gold.
Unfortunately, instead of reviving and energising the entity to be alive to its responsibility of employing and generating revenue for the nation, what we are hearing is a clandestine attempt to sell the place at some ridiculous give away price.
Just imagine as well, the National Troupe envisaged to have two standing performing teams with one permanently stationed abroad generating hard currency for the nation and the other promoting and flying the flag of unity and cultural affinity among the various ethnicities across the nation, reduced to entertainers at receptions and product launch
The National Council for Arts and Culture has been organising National Festival for Arts and Culture for as long as we can remember, yet without national impact let alone international participation and investment from the organised private sector.
Let the truth be told, if the various agencies in the entertainment industry including Tourism and their allied partners, the print and broadcast sector are made to be alive to their roles as conceived and envisaged at their creation, you cannot imagine what fortune will be realised from this sector.
It is gladdening to hear that science and technology is a sector that will be the focus of the incoming administration. There are nations without a single deposit of mineral resources and who also do not have the type of soil that God has blessed us with but who are doing economically. These nations depend on the economic opportunities that the wonder of science and technology has offered to humanity. A huge and ingenious population like ours that is adept at fast learning can benefit immensely from this sector.
The starting point is to deemphasize over reliance on paper qualification to practical knowledge-based education which will give room for the expression of talents, skills etc. with commensurate reward system. The various technologies (although regarded as substandard and perceived illegal) represented in “Aba made”, “Oluwole document”, “illegal refineries of the creeks” etc. can be a take-off point. Instead of looking and talking down on them, the various skills existing here and there like those listed can be harnessed as a starting point.
Finally, in breaking the yoke of mono economy, the whole civil service structure must be looked all over again. There was this practice introduced at the take-off privatization exercise where certain Government agencies like NTA, NPA, etc. were classified as commercialized organs. The purpose of that is that these Organisations should be able to generate income that will not only sustain themselves, but will have some money coming into the national coffers.
A critical study should be taken to see several agencies that should come under commercialisation practice. If you ask me, there is no reason why Land and Housing, Works and transportation, Custom and Immigration, etc. should not be bringing substantial income to the treasury.
A place like National Conference Centre, Mathematical Centre, and similar agencies should be converted and grouped under the commercialisation exercise.
*Okwe Ogah is a public affairs analyst and writes from Lagos