By Abdulhafees Daud

The economic sovereignty and survival of a nation rest on the input her citizens contribute to her development. Every developed country today sets aside a strong economic backbone to liven the nation’s wellbeing as well as a meaningful livelihood of the citizens; this sets them apart from beleaguered nations. Today, several nations courteously look inward to what should be put in place to upgrade them and become stronger, if not a world power.

In contrast to this, Nigeria as a nation lags behind despite gaining independence long ago before other countries particularly in Africa such as South Africa. When will Nigeria find itself among the elites? This is a critical question that needs a very urgent answer in all ramifications. Now, let’s examine how it all went wrong for Nigeria.

Agriculture: Nigeria once excelled in major exports of agricultural products such as cassava, yam, corns, coco yam, beans, sweet potato, millet, plantain, banana, rice, sorghum, and a variety of fruits and vegetables in 1960s and early 1970s until petroleum surpassed them in the 1970s. The leading cash crops were cocoa, citrus, cotton, groundnut (peanut), palm oil, palm kernel and rubber exported to Britain, America, Canada, France and Germany. A significant portion of the agricultural sector in Nigeria involved cattle herding, fishing, poultry and lumbering which contributed more than 20% to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1980s.

The decline in agricultural production in Nigeria began with the advent of the petroleum boom in the 1970s which brought about a distortion of the labour market. The distortion in turn produced adverse effects on the production levels of both food and cash crops. This development worsened the low productivity, both per unit of land and per worker, due to several factors: inadequate technology, acts of nature such as drought, poor transportation and infrastructure, and trade restrictions. With Nigeria’s sizeable increase in population, it began to import food and lost her status as a net exporter of such cash crops as cocoa, palm oil and ground nut. To this effect, agricultural sector is neglected, leading to impoverishment of the rural population.

Solution:  At this juncture, Nigeria must wake up from slumber and move back to agricultural mechanisation with government aid in investing and supplying necessary equipment to farmers so that their farming system will be facilitated through the use of mechanisms to arrest drought and hunger that invades the nation. This will lead to food surplus for Nigerians and end food importation.

Science and Technology: The world is moving at a fast pace in technology while developing drastically. A nation that must be great in today’s world must establish itself by making its economy technology-based. It cannot be over-emphasized that many nations today have embraced technology exploitation in every capacity which eases their economic survival burden. Chief among them is China that produces virtually everything in use in Nigeria, such as electronics, mobile devices, engineering products and technical skills for construction projects. It is estimated that China exported goods worth 1.56 trillion naira to Nigeria in 2015; India on the other hand exported pharmaceutical drugs, organic chemicals, nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, paper and paper board, iron and steel and technical knowledge in many areas. Nigeria imported goods worth 408.572 billion naira from India in 2015; England also exported fashion clothing, shoes, engineering facilities, vehicles and hundreds of other items. It was estimated by National Bureau of Statistics that Nigeria imported goods worth 283.759 billion naira from England in 2015.

Nigeria imported both finished and unfinished products from America, with estimated worth of 581.99 billion naira in 2016. These included clothing, vehicles, electronics, electrical appliances and hundreds of household and public items. Goods worth 415.4 billion naira were imported from Holland in 2016, and these included clothes, bags, shoes and some industrial products, to mention but few.

As a result, Nigeria continuously kills its economic power to liven other already developed nations with the selfish interest of some political leaders who see it as an avenue of milking national resources for personal gain.

Solution: It is high time Nigeria seriously ventured into science and technology; the government should create a room for Nigerians that are vastly experienced in this area to exploit to the fullest if the nation wants to be great again in the nearest future. This nation is blessed with unquantifiable talents that excel in every area of technology, but they’re rendered useless through lack of moral and financial support when their productive talents are not patronised.

Nigeria of today has witnessed some indigenous inventors such as Sulaiman Famro, who invented a diesel-engine powered processing plant for cluster and farm site processing of root crops and grains. He claimed the plant could save Nigeria $1 billion yearly. Another man named Segun also invented a solar-powered car; Emeka Nelson from Nsukka built a hydroelectric generator (water-powered generator), as well as a machine named MGBANWE C12 that turns non-biodegradable wastes like plastics, waterproof nylon etc. into petrol, kerosene, diesel and some other heavy oils and interlocking stones.

Not only that, a group of Mechanical Engineering students from the University of Lagos successfully developed a zero-emission automobile built to reduce global warming. An Agricultural Engineering student of Lagos State University, Jimoh Olayinka, built a machine for de-feathering chicken automatically which can de-feather more than a chicken at a time. Recently, some Engineering students from Lagos State Polytechnic built a drone. What else does Nigeria need to exploit and engage these talents in collaboration with professional experts to mould this nation on the path of greatness? This will come good for us before 2030 at least.

Corruption:  This has been a longstanding parasite and cankerworm eating up this nation’s progress. In every nook and cranny corruption exists from leaders to followers; it evolves from heads to subordinates and even subsists among the masses in the city. It is worrisome that Nigeria has found herself in this sorry state of near economic collapse no thanks to corruption.

The Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, during an interview on May 29th, 2017 said: “……….corruption has fought back with tremendous resources and our system of administration of justice has been slow………”and “Corruption is the robbery of the wealth of this nation and thieves exist in every tribe or religion”. In another interview, he said, “corruption in Nigeria is healthy, wealthy and powerful”. These prove that those behind corruption are the powerful personalities around Nigeria’s political banquet.

In a country where the treasury has turned to national cake for some set of people that are eating like never before, there is no way bankruptcy will not set in. Let us take a look at high personalities who have allegedly looted Nigerian purse into their pockets. Former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke diverted money to acquire $37.5m buildings in Banana Island, Lagos, 80 million naira house in Maitama, Abuja, 2 buildings worth 1 billion naira in Yaba, Lagos, property worth 900m naira in Port Harcourt, 800 million naira property on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, 400 million naira property in Asokoro, Abuja, 650 million naira mini estate in Mabushi, Abuja, 200 million naira duplex in Lekki, Lagos, 135 million naira property at Oniru, Lagos and 120 million naira Pent House on Gerald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, while other ones in foreign lands are not mentioned. Consider the 13-count charge levied against Sen. Bukola Saraki. Remember Sambo Dasuki (Dasukigate) and the released ammunition fund to fight Boko Haram. Patience Jonathan’s money laundering case is not unlearnt, and don’t forget the alleged misappropriation of funds by Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary General of the Federation {SGF} to mention but few.

However, learning about such huge amount of money laundered by so-called leaders sickens the hearts of the youths and nurtures their minds to follow suit if opportune to get to the top. The consequence is the present economic downturn which engraves unbearable hardship on the nation.

Solution:  If Nigeria is to eradicate corruption, capital punishment without immunity and impunity as well as other related severe punishments must be introduced as punishment. If the constitution and other relevant laws are reviewed to reflect this, every office holder would rather leave the stage or amend his way. This nation is on the verge of economic collapse and before it finally happens something reasonable should be done to implement a radical measure. So, corruption steals resources, hinders development and threatens democracy and the rule of law. As President Muhammadu Buhari once famously said, “If we don’t kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will definitely kill Nigeria.” Soonest, the big sharks will be blown off the water.

Human Resource Mismanagement: A nation endowed with resources other than humans still has a long way to go in manipulating its resources with the aid of human power. There are nations with little human resources as against mineral and natural resources. These nations tend to seek people around the world through either visa lottery or otherwise to help in putting their other resources into use, while Nigerians have been helping out countries like Canada, United Arab Emirates etc.

With all the resources available to Nigeria, especially the human resource, the nation still wallows in underdevelopment because of mismanagement by the selfish elite. This is absolutely pathetic today when majority of the youth at early 30s or so cannot hold important offices in government, unlike in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. I believe a nation developed in civilisation must also advance in administration with able and agile people to take it forward. Yet Nigeria is still led by old heads on old shoulders with wagging legs. I am still looking forward to when a 30-year-old or so will rule this land like Emmanuel Macron (39 years) of France, an advanced nation with advanced administration.

Solution: Room should be adequately given to vibrant youths that are vastly equipped to exhibit their resourceful talents. What is the sense in someone studying political science or engineering but cannot exploit it in the face of democracy? If youths in their early 30s got us independence, why are today’s youth not given a chance? To be candid, yesterday’s youth were wasteful and today’s youth are wasted by power mongers.

Undervaluation of Knowledge and Celebration of Mediocrity: I wonder what a nation that undermines knowledge and give priority to mediocrity becomes. When will Nigeria move away from theoretical learning to applicable practical? When will potential be placed ahead of certificate? A lot of questions are there to be asked with apparent answers to save Nigeria from being underdeveloped. Our education system is off the track.  Sex for marks and bribe for grades in higher institutions are endemic problems stifling our education system.

A typical example of knowledge undervaluation and celebration of mediocrity is when Fanti, a student of Petrochemical Engineering department, University of Lagos, went home with a brand new car as Miss Curves({biggest hips) Unilag 2014 and Yusuf Ololade Faidat of Medicine department, University of Ilorin, went home with N30,000 as overall best student of her faculty in 2016 convocation. Are both awards justifiably quantifiable?

More so, teachers are devalued and underrated despite labouring hard to mould lives for better tomorrow. Teaching, the mother of all professions, should be lucrative but is not, while other fields enjoy buoyant salary scheme. If teachers are not adequately remunerated, they cannot be effective, and if they are not effective, the standard of education falls, and if the education standard falls, the nation itself is gone. Ideally, a teacher’s job should be equal to a doctor’s, which involves curing ailments and saving lives. A teacher also heals and nurtures ignorant minds to be of usefulness to the nation. Despite the strategic importance of both professionals, doctors earn way more than teachers.

If Nigeria as a nation continues mishandling education and celebrating mediocrity, I fear for her future, particularly the youth’s. And soonest, drunks, drug addicts and strippers will be leading the nation to sink amidst the ocean of destruction.

Solution:  Taking educational standard seriously with meaningful incentives for best graduating students not jackasses is the key to the nation’s existence. This enhances production of more manpower/human resources for continuous survival of the nation. If a lady displaying her big ass and boobs in nudity could be well celebrated and a best student with huge academic potential was less appreciated, I think something is wrong with our system. This encourages students to abandon academic excellence for worthless displays, and definitely the nation is morally affected. Therefore, best graduating students should be highly honoured for others to emulate if the next Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Ola Rotimi are to be produced.

 Conclusion: It will be sensible enough if all sectors could be better funded by the government through cutting senators’ wages and allowances, stopping pension for serving ex-governors, slashing unnecessary expenses on travelling and festivities, and retrieving looted funds. Funds saved through this venture could be used for national economic sustenance. Also, education sector should be restructured by putting it in the right hands, then laying more emphases on practical rather than theory in all aspects of human endeavor. Locally-made products should be patronised. In no distant future, Nigeria will become one of the world economic powers like China, South Korea and others.

*Abdulhafees Daud is the Public Relations Officer of T’Oluwani CDA in Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Area.