Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is Nigeria a Tragedy?
By Abike Olajide
Nigeria Guardian
22 March 2017   |   3:02 am

In literature, tragedy does not really connote something tragic but it means a re-evaluation and possible redemption of a given situation. Truly, this is a season of darkness and struggling: No power, no good roads, unemployment and poverty are on the alarming rate. But surely, light will break and relief will fall.

With much natural abundant resources, Nigeria has failed on all indices of life worth living. What went wrong? Leadership deficiency, I can hear you say. Nigeria is wasting God’s resources. The country is now in a mess.

General Yakubu Gowon, despite the oil money available to him, chose to increase workers’ salary rather than use the money to build industries as foundation for a great economy. His action led to inflation that the country is yet to be freed from.

President Shehu Shagari, a weakling, permitted politicians to loot the country dry. Ibrahim Babangida introduced an economic policy, Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that inflicted untold hardship on the people. Coupled with this was that Nigeria got exposed to maximum corruption under him.

Do I need to say anything about General Abacha, 18 years after his death, his looted funds are still in different vaults around the globe.Olusegun Obasanjo, in his second coming destroyed the country more than he met it. He paid the country’s debt and those who facilitated it smiled home with hundreds of millions of dollars. On his watch, infrastructural decadence reached its peak. Under him, though, microeconomy was got right, credit line improved but he never touched infrastructure.  At the twilight of his term, he came into the realisation that he had not met the aspiration of Nigerians and thus sought a third term. Of course, he could not get it.

Hmmnm! Goodluck Jonathan, an unsophisticated, shoeless village boy but a man with the gift of sudden luck! Everything he did seemed to have its source in luck but even he was never prepared for his fortunes and he did not know what to do with such fortune at every point in time. President Muhammadu Buhari, is regarded as a very civil, honourable man.  While, it is neither early nor late to discern his government, it is evident that we must not expect anything lofty of him. However, his fight against corruption may make him one of the best presidents Nigeria would ever have.

Successive Nigerian governments budget so much money for generators yearly. It does not take a rocket science to know that these monies, with sincerity of purpose, would have revolutionised the power sector and made power problem a thing of the past.

In 1960, Nigeria’s GDP doubled that of China. Today, China’s GDP is about the GDP of all African countries combined together. It grew sustainably at double digit for 30 years. China has gained other countries’ respect through its achievement by raising million of its people from poverty. It lifted a weak currency and encouraged local production. China spends a substantial part of its GDP on infrastructure while Nigeria spends its own on overhead costs.

South Africa’s economy is Africa’s biggest. The South African government has been able to act as a redistributive agency among the rich and the poor. In Nigeria, there is no redistributive commitment on the part of government in terms of taxation. Also. South Africa diversified and survived the crisis of gold. Today, SA’s economy is like that of a first world country. Japan’s figure to GDP is sustained by family holdings unlike Nigeria’s economy, which is sustained by foreign portfolio investors.

Is oil really a curse? Countries with oil naturally lag behind (Brazil, Russia]) China and India progressed because they de-emphasised oil. Nigeria, with oil operates a dysfunctional economy. Today, Nigeria’s growth is one that gives no one jobs or any comfort. The so-called thriving sectors (telecommunications and travel) grew because they do not employ people as such. The real employers are the manufacturing industries. Nigeria is poor because its percentage of manufacturing to GDP is low. The government should know that only infrastructural development and industrial revolution can put Nigeria on the path of greatness. What is the Nigeria Industrial Development Zone Management Agencies (NIDZA) doing? Does it still exist?

Nigeria, a blessed country, has remained among the poorest of the world because of bad people masquerading as leaders. The last 16 years have been the most traumatic for Nigerians.

Let this government know that the manufacturers of generators and okada are more wicked than the devil and wish our economy would never work so they can continue to make their stupendous wealth. Power is our major challenge and the outcome will determine whether this government is a serious one or not. If this government does not perform, like it is in a television reality show, we will put it in the elimination round. The present set of ministers should take note of what is happening to some of Jonathan’s ministers.

Serious governments do not indulge in phantom declarations. They mobilise their people in pursuit of their goals. How is change possible? The government must understand the fundamental components of change. Matthew Budd, a medical doctor who put down his practical wisdom in a book said so much of what we call our common sense is culturally determined: driving on the right side of the road, eating fast food and eating popcorn in the movie theatre. Each of these habits looks to the British, like the only way to live. But when he travels to other places, he sees different things.

In France, most people abhor fast food or eating in public. And in Israel, movies are closed on Friday nights because of Sabbath.He concluded that learning [or change] means developing a new common sense. ‘What we need is possibility.”

However, no matter what has happened in the past – we are not a complete failure and we can rebuild or reconstruct a meaningful future. We only need to find the missing keys and start turning.

Olajide wrote from Lagos

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