Nigeria got its independence from the British colonial powers by 1st October, 1960. By 1st October, 2020, Nigeria was 60 years of age. This is unique as one can say it was 6060 for Nigeria. During the independence celebration, a notable British official who was a member of the delegation from Britain said that Nigeria was a potential super power nation. He said so because the ingredients that make for a super power nation were present at independence in Nigeria. However, the mere fact that one has excess ingredients to prepare a pot of soup does not guarantee that the soup will be sweet. The cook must be a good cook to combine, utilise and allocate the ingredients in the proper manner to make a sweet soup. Nigeria has abundance of ingredients, but do not have good cooks. This is why we have been suffering in the midst of plenty. The harvest is plentiful, but the thieves are many. The national cake is big, but the devourers are numerous. Little wonder why Prof Wole Soyinka fumed that his generation is a wasted generation. Another philosopher opined that whoever was 20 years at independence contributed in wasting Nigeria.
A generation is 40 years. The first generation ended in year 2000 just about the time that our nascent democracy was restored. At 60, we are children of a new generation and we cannot build a new Nigeria based on the mistakes of our forefathers as old grievances need not last forever. We have to build a 21st Century Nigeria on the firm principles of democracy and social justice which entail strong economy, peace and security, accountability and transparency, free, fair, credible and violence-free elections, protection of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, freedom, equality and justice for all the peoples of Nigeria. In my research about what makes for a super power nation, I was able to distill that they include political stability, economic viability and a strong military force. On political stability, from 1966 to 1999, Nigeria was one of the most unstable countries politically. Within this period of about 33 years, there were about 10 coup plots to overthrow existing regimes in Nigeria. They are Nzeogwu’s 1966 coup, July 1966 revenge coup, overthrow of Gowon in 1975, Dimka’s 1976 coup, military coup of 1983 that toppled the Second Republic, 1985 coup that brought IBB to power, 1985 Vatsa’s purported coup, 1990 Orka’s coup, 1993 cancellation of June 12th Presidential election which was a coup against the Third Republic, Obasanjo/Yar’Adua alleged coup against Abacha, finally the Diya coup against Abacha. This is an average of a coup after every three years. No country can ever attain a super power status by that record. There has never been a coup in USA and India since independence. It is not surprising that whereas the US is a super power nation today, India is positively moving towards that status.
Since 1999, Nigeria has not experienced any military coup, but we cannot say our polity is stable. In a democracy, free, fair and credible elections are the only means to achieve a stable polity and we have not attained that until now. Edo gubernatorial election held on the 19th of September, 2020 met all the standards of a free, fair, credible election. If this is sustained, we are on our way to political stability. There have been some flashes of free and fair elections in Nigeria in 1993 and since 1999, but were not sustained enough to guarantee stability. Ondo election will be a litmus test for the seriousness of our march towards political stability and the general election by 2023 will establish it.
Economic viability is very critical to the survival of any nation. Poverty and ignorance are the greatest enemies of political stability and these twin evils can only be exorcised by sustained economic growth in a country. The secret is an industrial productive base and a steady export market. We must produce what we eat and eat what we produce with excess for export. We must fight corruption to forestall the thieves from vandalising our commonwealth. The best way to fight corruption is by preventing it. Closing all the loopholes and wastages in the economy. As desirable as fighting corruption is, it is expensive to arrest, investigate, prosecute, convict, sentence and hold prisoners in custodial correction centres. Prevention will always be better than cure.
We must embark on full liberalisation and commercialisation of all the sectors of our economy. Nigerian government has no business in business. Other governments with low corruption index may engage in business, but not Nigeria for now. By 1979, we had flourishing Nigeria Airways, Shipping Lines, Petroleum Refineries et cetera, by 1999, all of them have gone bankrupt. Of particular pity is crude oil which God gave us free of charge in abundance. It is a shame that after 60 years of independence, we are still a mono economy with only oil to export and even that export is basically the crude, unrefined oil. We import almost all our refined petroleum products. All the money earmarked for the repairs of our refineries were stolen. Trillions of naira was paid as subsidies to the petroleum importers and the payments were largely fraudulent. If the government refuses to pay, the marketers will shut down the industry until the government obliges them. I don’t understand why anyone will object to the deregulation of the petroleum downstream. It is like somebody objecting to the introduction of GSM and preferring NITEL, preferring NIPOST to electronic email communication. Our greatest economic tragedy in Nigeria is treating oil as if it is special. If we had treated oil like we treated cocoa, groundnut and palm oil, today every home would have been refining oil and we would have been the largest oil exporting nation on earth.
The argument has always been that the refineries should be made to work first before deregulation. If we fall for this argument, the refineries will not work forever. The twin problems affecting the refineries are corruption and regulation. Corruption bloats the cost of refining oil, while regulation compels the corrupt agency to sell at a particular price thereby perpetuating making of losses and foreclosing the possibility of deregulation. Let us break this down. Assuming it costs a government agency N200 to refine a litre of oil and because of regulation, the government orders that the litre should be sold to Nigerians at N145. The government will be subsidising the product by N55. At a certain point, the loss will become unbearable and the refineries will pack up. No private investors will want to invest in it because they understand that if their cost is higher than their selling price they will be making losses. If the government deregulates, it is common knowledge that inflating the cost of refining will be removed and the average investor will refine at the cost of N100 pe litre. It has been discovered that private investors spend at most 50% of the cost of production employed by government as they deploy more efficient means of refining the crude. If the private investor sells at N145, he will be making a profit of N45 without subsidy and when competition gets in, the prices will continue to fall. But before the coming on of the refineries within two years, we may have to pay more. It is better we endure this initial hardship and reap the benefits shortly.
Today, the government does not have money, so paying the subsidies is unsustainable even if it wishes to. The only alternative is to borrow to pay for the subsidies which will lead us to slavery as we will inevitably end up in bankruptcy because we are borrowing for consumption not production. The initial increment in prices is inevitable because in deregulation it is the market forces that determine the price not the government. When GSM was introduced, it cost about N20,000.00 (Twenty thousand naira) to obtain a line and N50.00 (Fifty naira) to make a call for one second. Two years after, the prices crashed because of competition which deregulation initiated. Today, Nigerians are paid money to obtain a line by being credited with an air time in excess of the cost of the simcard and being charged about 30k (thirty kobo) per second for any call. We anticipate that the prices of petrol will come down in two years if the deregulation is faithfully implemented. The laws have to be amended to accommodate the new reality. Modular refineries should be encouraged. Whoever that wishes to go into refining should be allowed subject to the observance of all protocols against pollution. We have to transform our economy from consumption to production. From being sharers of a diminishing national cake to bakers of the national cake. From being importers of everything to being exporters of most things.
Building a strong military force represents the capacity of any government to defend its citizens and territories from external and internal aggression. We note sadly that conflict is inevitable in all human endeavour and according to Paige, a non-violent society is impossible because of three basic reasons: “First, man is a dangerous animal capable of killing by nature. Second, there will always be a scarcity of economic resources which in turn, will lead to violence. Third, violence may be used in the case of self-defence or defending loved ones”. This is why in our world, there will always be flurry of revolutions and violent conflicts, across many countries, Nigeria inclusive. The security of lives and properties of persons in a country is the most important function of government. You cannot be talking about political stability and economic viability without security. Nigeria is lagging behind other countries of same status in the quantity and quality of its manpower and arsernals in defending its inhabitants and territories. A situation where a sitting governor’s convoy has been attacked about three times in his state, in three weeks, is a situation that is begging for overhaul. The President has said publicly that the best of the security chiefs is not good enough. Since no one can give more than his best, it’s time for the security apparatus to be rejigged. The terrorists have changed tactics many times since 2009 while our military has not changed much. We must adapt the personnel and equipments to the modern tactics of warfare to overcome these bandits and terrorists in order to have the peaceful environment to harness our abundant resources for the benefit of our people and effectively commence our march to our destined super power country status.
We sincerely apologise for the mix up on our column last week. This topic should have been published last week as our independence edition but the printer’s devil struck and the last week’s edition was mistakenly repeated twice leaving out this article which was duly sent for publication. Happy 60th independence anniversary and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.