RECENTLY, a national newspaper carried a report on how Nigerians were bemoaning the rate of unemployment in the country and the need for action. Is it not contradictory that we get to read that our economy is blossoming and in the same breath, official statistics indicate a gloomy and frightening unemployment profile? Even in the glaring despondency, some obscure agencies still rate the country’s economy as one of those in the world with the highest growth velocity.
Prior to these dismal times, we had been deluded with the theory that we were the happiest people in the world! I do not know the parametres employed by international organizations in arriving at the conclusions of these weird investigations that are obviously fictitious and misleading.
It is irrefutable and unassailable that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is simply clueless and overwhelmed with regard to the country’s worsening employment challenge—just as in all other spheres of national existentialism. The last resort to entrepreneurship, cottage industrialization and small-scale economic engagements is governmentally handicapped by the collapse of social infrastructure and policy vicissitudes.
Every day I receive multimedia requests for financial assistance and bailouts from different categories of people who, ordinarily, should be able to sort out themselves in an environment of leadership quintessence at all levels of governance. Endemic corruption has succeeded in exposing most Nigerians to a life of beggarliness despite our collective wealth looted by less than five per cent of our population. There is unprecedented despondency and suffocative hardship in the land. The holistic spiral cost of living and daily upsurge in the prices of essential (basic) commodities are unparalleled in human history.
If anything, the recent worsening comparative figures by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) are not only scary but justify the current level of social disorder and growing insecurity. At an unemployment level of 23.9 per cent as last December, it is only God that can foretell where we would end up shortly. The same NBS report showed that in the corresponding period of 2006, the unemployment rate was just 5.3 per cent. Ignore anyone or any agency that gives you the impression that all is well.
We have never had it so systemically bad—not even during the maddening years of Sani Abacha or, better still, in the glorious time of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who has empowered more Nigerians than any ruler before or after him. Those who associate IBB’s regime with corruption should examine the incomparably outlandish corruption index of the locust years of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. There will never be anything near it again in the history of this country. Nigerians can see clearly now.
The aspect of our national life that bothers me most in these perilous times is the opulent lifestyle of the executive and legislature! These perfidious Nigerians carry on lavishly at state expense as if they are from another terrestrial enclave. Even their innumerable aides live like Lords of Manor in paradisal bliss, building mansions all over the country amid other obscene investments with ill-gotten wealth. It is understandable if their principals thievishly ride roughshod over the rest of us who have been held hostage, why would they not replicate the roguishness? Are we to talk of lowly and marginally educated councillors who live a better life than professors in this our warped system!
Over time, political and civil service life has become synonymous with crass acquisition of wealth, riches and loot. And our society is so convoluted that nobody raises eyebrows over glaring obscenities and sudden materialism. Because our rulers are irredeemably corrupt, there are no institutional mechanisms to ask questions or call any official bandit to order. The level of decadence on these shores is at a summit height—only divine intervention can rescue us because the situation degenerates by seconds! The kleptomania is worrisome because the misappropriations are a drain on public finance and other aspects of our patrimony.
Resources that should have been deployed in job creation and establishment of functional infrastructure are stolen by a few national hoodlums! This is happening in a country where some families do not know where the next meal will come from! The financial rapists do care a hoot about the unemployment level—they don’t even understand the NBS scary statistics. In any case, they have accumulated so much even for generations yet unborn.
Things are still under control because the informal sector is struggling to fill the vacuum amid a poverty of enabling regulatory framework and infrastructural deficiency. No form of governmental support. Elsewhere cottage industries specialize and transform to giant corporations with official empowerment, which is missing here.
During Prof. Jerry Gana’s tenure as Information and National Orientation Minister in 2001, the federal government introduced a programme christened ‘Operation Produce More’ and buy only made-in-Nigeria goods. The only challenge with the latter is that advocates of such ideals do not walk the talk as virtually everything they use is imported, while the production aspect does not have any provisional semblance of critical infrastructural fundamentals by the authorities.
It is possible that with the exit of Prof. Gana from governance, those laudable initiatives have been pigeon-holed as we lack continuity in administration. Once an official leaves office, his ideas and programmes also go with him! And because of dearth of records, it is even more challenging tracking the profile of such novelties.
At times I wonder what would have happened without the resourcefulness of a few of our fellow countrymen and women who are engaged in farming and feeding the nation. The irony is that these tillers of the soil are largely unappreciated,
Another major issue is that indigenous manufacturers have failed to make their products globally competitive either due to lack of self-confidence or morbid inclination to cut corners for more profiteering! They forget that once they make quality assurance a cardinal element, their goods will automatically attract supranational patronage with minimal marketing.
Issuing from the above is our people’s inexplicable passion for anything ‘imported’ regardless of the quality and price. There is this mind-boggling attitudinal disposition that anything from outside our shores is superior to its local version. Indeed, a foreign label on a locally-made item changes its orientation and perception around here! So, the matter really has little to do with content but more of packaging!
Government perforce must therefore design new measures to raise the naira exchange rate, eliminate the multiple exchange rates into a single rate, curtail excessive demand for foreign exchange, for example for travels, control speculative capital flight from the country, and raise productivity so as to make the economy stronger and more competitive.
It is the responsibility of government, too, to provide adequate and accessible investment capital directly to the productive sectors of the economy. This way, the manufacturing industries and the massive production of food and raw materials could be gradually revitalized. This will equally serve as a prelude to industrial, agricultural and technological revolution in the country.