By Amos Anwule
June 18, 2018.
Nigeria is undoubtedly passing through tough economic times. Its currency, the naira, has lost much value while economic activities are receding. The country is visibly lying prostrate like a deflowered virgin with a history of pain.
In July 1981, a Nigerian nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, wrote a letter to President Shehu Shagari, concerning the poor state of the economy.
Awolowo stated: “There is a frightful danger ahead….Our ship of state is fast approaching a huge rock; and unless you, as the chief helmsman courageously steer the ship away from its present course, it shall hit the rock. And in the inescapable consequence, shall be an unspeakable disaster.”
President Shagari did not take the letter seriously, chiefly because the author was a leading member of an opposition political party, the Unity Party of Nigeria. Successive presidents, heads of states, and managers of the country’s resources also failed to heed the warning for inexplicable reasons, hence the economic disaster that has eclipsed the nation.
At the moment, there are no known defined policies or measures in place to reverse the nation’s precarious economy.
The administration under the leadership of President Mohammadu Buhari, did not envisage this development; and sadly, appears to be bereft of ideas with which to surmount the knotty problem.
Buhari, a retired army general, does not have any economic team on ground to proffer solutions on the ailing economy.
Primarily, this accounts for the difficulty in understanding the economic policy direction of his administration.
Instead of the government to come up with pragmatic strategies to protect the nation’s currency and economy, its main spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has been busy wasting words in blaming the situation on the alleged corrupt practices of the previous administration led by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Who will revitalize the nation’s economy? And by what means? Nigeria should urgently return to the basics and confront its challenges frontally.
Where is the starting point? Corruption has to be genuinely tackled. The spirit of the war against corruption is not noticeable; and the culture of honesty is still a mirage.
A situation where more than 50% of the nation’s revenue goes into private pockets will certainly keep the nation’s economy in the woods; causing the citizenry much hardship. Available indices show that Nigeria is yet to develop the capacity to foster and implement policies and programmes that are of progressive nature.
Diversification of the nation’s economy is long overdue. Nigeria has put all its eggs in one basket for long. Before the advent of crude oil, the economy was healthy and depended on cash crop production. Crops such as cocoa, cotton, groundnut, rubber, palm etc; were grown in large quantities.
As soon as oil was discovered, these cash crops were abandoned together with the extraction of solid minerals. It does not make any sense to tie the fortunes of the economy solely to crude oil when nature has provided multiple sources of revenue.
Boosting of the manufacturing sector can also lead to a quick recovery of the economy. The country needs to produce for local consumption and export.
Heavy importation of different kinds of goods endangers local industries and leaves a chain of injuries on the economy.
For this sector to record a meaningful boost, infrastructures such as regular electricity power supply; good transportation system (via efficient road networks, waterways, airways, railways etc); water supply should be put in place.
Electric power supply in Nigeria has been unstable for over 20 years. Today, the federal government still makes heavy allocation for the purchase and maintenance of diesel generators in Aso Rock, in its annual budgets. This clearly shows that electric power supply is not seriously addressed.
The safety of lives and property of people in Nigeria is no longer guaranteed. The security network is poor. Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group has been wasting lives and property for over half a decade.
On herdsmen too, the government seems to be clueless on how to stop the group from unleashing mayhem on innocent people. The situation is not helping the economy; since it discourages investments.
The government has to do something about this and other crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, assassination, child and drug trafficking, ritual killing, amongst others.
Justice system has to be restructured. It is awkward at present. There has to be a culture whereby criminals of all kinds are properly prosecuted; and on conviction, adequately punished to serve as a deterrent to others nursing the idea of going into crime.
Now, we have former state governors who have been indicted for serious financial crimes, displaying their ill-gotten wealth ostentatiously. They make the commission of crime to look honorific. The nation must address this issue and a clear system of reward for hard work must be put in place.
To reinvigorate the nation’s economy, every citizen’s contribution is needed. The leadership and managers of the country’s resources have major roles to play. They must live by examples; give up selfish and parochial interests while initiating policies and programmes that could strengthen the economy.
Nigerian government needs a lot of economic orientation. For instance, the government has been able to mop up a large amount of money through the policy of Treasury Single Account. It has also recovered monies from the nation’s looters. These monies should not be hoarded; instead it should be used to lubricate the economy through execution of projects.
Nigerians in the Diaspora should begin to move homeward to contribute to the revamping of the country’s economy. Every Nigerian should not be dreaming on how to disappearto a foreign land in search of good things of life.
Nigerians in foreign lands should not make the mistake of waiting for things to be alright in Nigeria before coming home. That will be a great disservice to their fatherland.
The developed nations of the world have significant roles to play in reshaping the nation’s economy. They could help in the areas of fighting corruption and insecurity; promotion of political stability; massive orientation on good values; provision of basic infrastructures and more.
It should be noted that Nigeria has a large population; and if its economy collapses, there will be migration problems around the world. In the spirit of globalization, the international community should not be indifferent to Nigeria’s economy, which needs urgent reinvigoration.