A super power nation, from my research, stands on a tripod: political stability, economic viability and a strong military force. Political stability and economic viability lead to prosperity while a strong military force stands for the protection of the prosperity from both local and international rogue elements. The military force here stands for all the security agencies both military and para military in the country empowered with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of citizens. In Nigeria, our nascent democracy has lasted for 20 years indicating some level of maturity and stability in our political life. Our military is one of the best in Africa and has managed to keep us together since independence despite our numerous security challenges. The major missing ingredient that is hindering the manifestation of our super power status is economic viability where we have performed woefully. A nation blessed with crude oil in abundance, iron ore for steel production in abundance, fertile soil for agriculture in abundance, material and human resources in abundance, yet remains poor, is possessed. Nigeria is yearning for economic deliverance.
President Muhammadu Buhari in one of his democracy speeches said that strong currency is predicated on strong economy and strong economy presupposes an industrial productive base and a steady export market. This is the secret of economic viability – an industrial productive base. This will ensure that we produce what we eat and eat what we produce with the surplus being exported to earn the much needed foreign exchange to enable us import some technological assistance to improve on our productivity. This essentially means situating our economy on made in Nigeria goods and services.
Prior to colonization, Nigerian communities had a flourishing productive base, though it was predominantly agrarian and subsistent in nature. In the Eastern Nigeria, each family produced its own food, meat and beverages. Palm trees were grown everywhere and from the palm trees came oil, creams, soaps, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. Western Nigeria had cocoa which they used to produce their beverages while Northern Nigeria had groundnut which they also exploited for their own use in addition to their cattle which supplied them with milk and other dairies.
During the period of colonization, the colonial masters were merely interested in the raw materials generated from Nigeria to feed their industries abroad of which finished goods and services were exported back to Nigeria for the people to buy. This ensured the development of our agricultural sector which generated palm oil, cocoa, groundnuts for them. Our mines were also developed to produce coals and other solid minerals for them. There was no genuine attempt to build industries that will improve on these raw materials and transfer the technology needed to develop them. This strategy whetted the appetite of Nigerians for foreign goods without the know how to make them. After independence our appetite for foreign goods did not abate as the colonial masters had convinced us that our own goods were inferior to theirs. They had mentally colonized us. We have adopted their fashion in dressing. It is not uncommon to see bankers, lawyers, office workers dressed in suits and ties under the heat of African sun, sweating like Christmas goats, just to prove that they have arrived. We abandoned our locally made fashion designs and beverages for their sugar based soft and alcoholic drinks with the attendant health challenges etc.
The discovery of crude oil in 1958 would have been the breakthrough Nigeria needed for their industrial productive base but it was soon mismanaged through corruption. The foreign powers soon convinced our leaders to abandon all other sectors of the economy and concentrate on oil through the dubious economic principle of comparative advantage, while we imported all other things, including toothpicks from them. We built refineries and failed to maintain them, we commenced the building of our steel factory in Ajeokuta and failed to complete it more than 30 years later, we failed to build our power to give us electricity. Eventually, all sectors of the economy including oil failed because power is the ability to do work and without power, industrial productive base will remain a ruse. Nigeria became so confused at a point that it started exporting what it doesn’t have and was importing what it has. During Abacha’s regime, Nigeria exported democracy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which it didn’t have but was importing oil which it had in abundance. Little wonder why Prof Soyinka screamed that his generation was a wasted generation.
Nigeria is a resilient country and with the benefit of capitalism, individuals started making contributions to the growth of the economy and building an industrial productive base. The entertainment industry took the lead. Sometimes in 1992, a group of highly talented and skilled Nigerians came together and produced a locally made movie called Living in Bondage, shot in a Nigerian language, in Nigeria, by Nigerians led by Kenneth Okonkwo, who acted the lead role and it was accepted worldwide. It kick started what is now known as Nollywood which is employing millions of Nigerians. It developed confidence in the younger generation that they can actually denominate their entertainment using our local human and material resources and be accepted worldwide. Most of the younger ones started rapping their songs and music in our local dialects and are being celebrated worldwide with the effect that Nigeria has become the second most powerful nation on earth in entertainment. It took them creativity, commitment, consistency and sacrifice to achieve this.
Then came the GSM industrialisation which started in May 16, 2001, by MTN which made the first call. All the government did then was to identify the capable hands internationally and licensed them to operate in Nigeria. It was initially costing as much as N20,000.00 to buy a line and N50 per second to make a call. Within two years, the price crashed and today a call costs about 13k per second while a line is sold free of charge. Some individuals and organisations have also made substantial progress in the manufacturing of goods like vehicles, cement and even building refineries etc. The secret is liberalization and commercialisation. Licence the best to operate in every sector of the economy commercially while regulating them to ensure compliance with established local and international standards. Our Nigerian military led by Lt Gen Buratai benefited from this liberalisation and within a year produced the first Mine Resistant Amoured Vehicle nicknamed MRAP – EZUGWU and other military hardwares. The advantages of made in Nigeria goods cannot be overemphasized. Whereas it costs N171m, N360m, N576m to produce the MRAP equivalent in America, Russia and Pakistan respectively, it costs only N70.5m to produce it in Nigeria. Apart from the cost advantage, our security is better assured when we can produce our own military hardwares. President Goodluck Jonathan was denied military equipments even with our willingness to pay cash for them leading to our loss of men and officers to the insurgents at the beginning of the insurgency.
President Buhari has shown political will to boost Made in Nigeria goods. He made it an official policy to patronise locally made Nigerian cars. He set out to rebuild our power supply chain and is poised to complete Ajeokuta steel factory. He closed the borders and stopped the importation of goods which we can make locally. However, we must complement this by patronising our locally made goods over imported ones despite their initial imperfections and urge the manufacturers to continually improve on them. With this, our problems of unemployment, insurgency and other anti social behaviour would soon be a thing of the past as the youths and their energies will be gainfully channelled towards productivity.