Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
A professor of Political Economy, Pat Utomi, on Wednesday warned that if proactive steps were not taken to ensure that Nigeria joins the league of producing nations of the world, the country might become a failed nation.
He gave the warning when he spoke at the seventh edition of a capacity development summit, entitled: “Excelling in Emerging Economies,” convened by Pastor Idowu Ogedengbe, Resident Pastor of House on the Rock, Harvest House, Ibadan, held at Ibadan Business School.
He stated that the alarm raised by the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Zamfara State governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, that another circle of recession would come to Nigeria by mid-2020, should not be taken lightly and that pragmatic steps should taken with a view to ensuring that the country becomes a producing nation.
“It’s all about production, and output. We are still relying too much on crude oil prices to determine the direction of our economy and that is not good. There is very little we can do to control the direction of pricing of crude oil. The general trend points to a southward trend, even if it holds momentarily because there is anxiety over Iran, or other development politically.
“The bottom line is that oil prices are going to tack. There are so many alternatives; America is pumping so much shale that they are going to become leading reserves for fossil fuels in the world; their interest is to keep the prices low, make money in their economy cheap.
“So, you can’t but expect the prices to go south and south is the key basis for supporting consumption economies that do not produce in which public officials will spend a fortune. I think it is difficult to anticipate a recession. If the output quarter on quarter will keep suffering at this stage, I won’t be surprised if there is one (recession). But, recession is a technical thing, it is an indicator but what is important is how much are we emphasising production.”
Utomi noted that 40 years ago, Nigeria was ahead of China in manufacturing, but the reverse is the case now, adding that the fact that the country is a consuming nation, without producing any major item, except crude oil has been spelling doom for the nation in the nearest future.
According to him, “we live in trying times, very difficult times, and we must be change agents. If we don’t have impacts, if we don’t change the society, a couple of things will be lost.
“Last year, the Brookings Institution, the think-tank in the United States that measures quality of human life in the society, published a report that showed that Nigeria has overtaken India as a greatest collection with poorest people on earth.
“Last year, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, also published a report that indicates that in a few short years, not too long away from today, between Nigeria and Congo DRC, two very endowed countries in human and materials terms, will between them have 40 per cent of the poorest people on the planet earth. Nigeria will become global capital of poverty in the world.
“This is not something to celebrate, yet most flamboyant leaders in the world are Nigerians. If a Nigerian public officer comes in here, 20,000 persons will hold their wristwatches, and their cell phones. We don’t even have a sense of shame. Anybody who is a leader in Nigeria, leading a poorest country on earth, should go around hiding his face. So, there is something fundamentally wrong in the culture.”
Utomi noted that he has a very deep-seated fear that there might be no Nigeria on any map very soon, decrying the level of inequalities in the country.
He recalled that there were more local governments in southern Nigeria in the 1960s than northern Nigeria when regional system of government was in operation. The military regime, according to him, increased the local governments to 774, in which over 500 of them are in the northern Nigeria. He explained that the southern government created more local governments then for administrative convenience.
Utomi continued: “Inequality does not give you progress. It invariably brings you to a certain blowing point, which is where Nigeria is. This country is a time bomb waiting to explode. How do you deal with inequalities?
“One of the dangers of what has happened to us in Nigeria is that over the years we have focused on revenues and how to share revenues. Revenues, no matter how you share them, will not make anybody rich. The only thing that makes people rich is production. If you don’t produce, you are dead.”
Utomi stated further: “Honestly, I have stopped watching government. I don’t know what is going on. The basis to understand what is going on is not available to me. I just wait to see. To predict, you need to have a number of indicators to follow and those indicators are not transparent. So, I can’t say that I can follow them, I just wait for outcomes.”