By Priye S. Torulagha
By any stretch of the imagination, Nigeria is a huge and complicated country. It has about 300 or more ethnic groups with a population of about 200 million or more people and occupies 356,669 sq. miles of territory which is slightly larger than the combination of Texas and Oklahoma states in the US but less than Niger Republic and the Republic of South Africa in size. It is dwarfed by the Democratic Republic of Congo which has 905,355 square miles of territory but with a lesser population than Nigeria. It could be said that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with a large concentration of ethnic groups or nationalities. Nigeria has more ethnic groups than China which has about 60 ethnic groups with a population of 1.3 billion people.
Thus, Nigeria requires a very dynamic, hands-on, people-oriented, creative thinking, innovative, business-oriented, and problem-solving political leadership that is capable, at all times, in creating an enabling environment to generate continuous economic growth and employment to sustain an ever-increasing population. This means that those who seek elected office or have been elected and appointed to run the affairs of the country at all levels (president, legislators, governors, local government chairs, managing directors of government agencies, etc.) of government must develop tangible economic development plans that are capable of maximizing economic growth at the shortest possible time. It also means that any individual who has no interest in contributing to the economy should not seek an elected office because a country with a huge population needs economic engineers to invigorate the economy at all times.
While Nigeria is richly blessed with people who are very creative, innovative, goal-driven, dynamic and capable of creating business enterprises to generate economic growth and steer the country towards industrialization, primordial sentiments tend to inhibit the cultivation and recruitment of a political leadership which is capable of leading the country to achieve political stability, economic growth and industrialization. Similarly, primordial sentiments tend to thwart the creation of an enabling environment that support economic growth.
Purpose of this Article
The purpose of this write-up is to identify the ways in which potential opportunities for economic growth have been stifled by the tendency to make economic decisions based on primordial sentiments by the rulers of the country. In this regard, it is argued here that primodial sentiments contribute to tribalism, nepotism, sectionalism, and corruption, which, in turn, result in political and economic mismanagement and underdevelopment of the country. To accomplish the purpose, various inhibitive behaviors and actions are identified and discussed.
Inhibitive Primordial Sentiments that Negatively Impact Economic Growth
First, it appears that decisions about Nigeria’s economy are not made through strategic thinking that can lead to the industrialization of the country, which is necessary for large-scale employment of Nigerians. As a result, every economic plan and activity tend to be determined by the degree to which those who wield power and their cronies are going to benefit from it. If a plan or activity is likely not to benefit those who wield power, then the plan or activity is most likely to be shelved or ignored, regardless of the potential economic benefit to the country. On the other hand, if an economic plan or activity is most likely to benefit those who wield power, then, regardless of the economic untenability, the plan or activity is likely to be activated. This is why even though Nigeria has refineries, they are not put to effective economic usage because those who import petroleum products from overseas prefer them to remain underutilized and ineffective so that they can earn huge financial benefits from importation. Resultantly, a major oil producing nation like Nigeria wastes enormous foreign exchange earnings by importing refined fuel instead of turning its crude oil into refined products and selling them to other countries to boost its wealth, employment, and generate foreign exchange earnings. Okechukwu Nnodim, citing statistics from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) 2020 Statistical Bulletin, indicated that Nigeria’s petroleum imports from 2015 to 2019 amounted to $264bn while it exported crude oil amounting to $206.07bn (2020, July 25).
Second, Nigeria has had many opportunities to develop pharmaceutical products that would have earned the country substantial foreign exchange earning as well as create employment for thousands of people if the national government had been proactive in supporting and cultivating research activities carried out by Nigerian scientists. It should be recalled that Prof. Augustine Njoku-Obi produced a cholera vaccine in 1971 that was even submitted to the World Health Organization (Emewu, 2021, january 14). Instead of the national government to work with the scientist to turn the vaccine into an effective, useable, and marketable product, the national government did not show much interest, thereby, ignoring the fact that the vaccine would have been a major economic booster in cultivating scientific medicine in Nigeria. In other words, primordial sentiment killed the indigenous cholera vaccine because the scientist came from a certain region of the country. It should also be noted that Nigerian scientists produced various experimental HIV-AIDS drugs during the heydays of the epidemic. Here again, instead of supporting the indigenous research activities with a view of turning the drugs into useable and economically viable products, Nigeria allowed the efforts to die. Again, when COV-19 struck the world in early 2020, a group of Nigerian scientists developed experimental vaccines that needed active government collaboration. Instead, the Nigerian government did not see the indigenous efforts as an opportunity to enter the international pharmaceutical market by supporting research to fine-tune the vaccines that Nigerians produced. Ikenna Emewu noted the lack of government commitment by writing:
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, I never heard our government summoning a team of Nigerian experts and challenging them to come up with cure for Covid-19. All we have is a presidential team that hosts jamboree before the media everyday and gets allowances for scouting all over the world where we can find panadol, ventilators, nose mask etc, and regurgitate what super humans tell us is the only way out of the pandemic (Emewu, 2021, January 14).
Instead, Nigeria spent time and money looking for foreign products to buy in order to deal with the COV-19 pandemic. On the other hand, the US, Britain, China, Russia, India, and other governments actively supported research activities of their scientists and drug companies to produce various vaccines. Today, companies in these countries have produced COV-19 vaccines that enabled them to dominate the industry. Here again, Nigeria missed an opportunity to produce a product that would have created jobs and enabled the country to become a major player in drug production in the world.
Nigeria’s rulers and high government officials seemed to have failed in paying attention to the idea that the country can generate enormous national wealth and create employment for thousands of citizens if the country works cooperatively with indigenous scientific community and the universities to develop effective drugs and vaccines that are marketable throughout Africa. In other words, Nigeria can easily capture the African market if It enters the drug and vaccine manufacturing business by working closely with local universities, native doctors, and scientists. Unfortunately, there is no national will to do so, instead, there is a preference to import vaccines from overseas. It seems that those officials who are responsible for crafting a policy on the matter prefer to import rather than encourage indigenous production because they gain financially from importation and not from local production.
Third, with a huge population, the healthcare sector can generate enormous wealth as well as employment but Nigerian authorities are not interested in investing in the sector. Otherwise, both the national and state governments would have collaborated with indigenous private sector investors to build first-class medical facilities that specialize in oncology, orthopedics, nephronology, cardiology, pediatrics, and tropical diseases. By so doing, Nigeria would have served as a major center for medical research and treatment in Africa. It would have redirected the billions of naira (576 bn) that Nigerians spent on medical tourism back to Nigeria (Muanaya,Jimoh, and Olaniyi, 2021, March 31). There is no doubt that many Africans would have preferred to recieve medical care in Nigeria rather than go to Europe or India. Instead of looking at healthcare as a wealth-generating sector, the leaders of the country basically ignore the health of the citizens. They do so because they can afford to go overseas for their own medical needs while abandoning the citizens to the mercy of nature at home. In early August 2021, both, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and the leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) party, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu were in Britain for their medical care. Another important political elite, Governor El Rufai of Kaduna alse ended up in Britain for medical care (“Kaduna Governor, El-Rufai Travels To London Amid Reports Of Ill-health, 2021, August 14). Is Nigeria truly a sovereign state? If so, is it not a threat to the national security for its political rulers to be receiving health care in foreign countries instead of building high quality medical facilities in Nigeria?
In fact, the lack of interest in investing robustly in the healthcare sector can be buttressed by the half-hearted manner in which Nigeria treats its health care workers (doctors, nurses and medical technicians). The conditions of service for these workers are very discouraging to the extent that they are only able to get their rights through constant protests, demonstrations, and strikes. In the ongoing strike by the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NASD), the minister of labor threatened to terminate their appointments if they do not return to work ( “Resident Doctors Strike: Resume on Monday or chop sack – Ngige,” 2021, August 7). It should also be noted that the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) is also threatening to go on strike too. It is unfortunate that those who are responsible for managing the nation’s healthcare sector do not realize that it is the citizens who pay the price with their lives if health care workers are treated disdainfully. It is not surprising why so many Nigerian doctors leave the country to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the United States, Britain, and other countries where their services are highy appreciated. Nigeria has developed the habit of spending tremendously to train medical doctors and then encouraging them to leave due to poor working conditions and lack of resources.
As the most populous black country in the world, Nigeria would have been at the forefront for engaging in advanced biomedical research and medical drug production with a superb healthcare system to serve its teeming population. Sadly, Nigeria’s leaders do not seem to realize that tremendous medical and economic benefits could be derived from the healthcare sector. Why should they care when they can travel overseas for their own health services any time?
Fourth, Nigeria is a very fortunate country in the sense that it has an extensive coastline, extending from Badagry in the southwest to Calabar in the southeast. Thus, in Africa, Nigeria is one of a few countries that have opportunities to develop many seaports for the exportation and importation of goods. This means that Nigeria can develop international seaports in Lagos, Ilaje, Arogbo, Warri, Sapele, Akassa, Brass, Twon, Bonny, Port Harcourt, Eket, Oron, Bakassi, and Calabar. Despite this fact, there is a tendency on the part of national economic decision makers to focus almost exclusively on Lagos seaport for the exportation and importation of goods and services. The undue concentration on the Apapa/Lagos port forces Nigerian business men and women who reside in the South-South, South-East, Middle Belt and North-East to go to Lagos to clear some of their goods, instead of doing so nearer home to reduce the cost of doing business in the country. Why should a business person who resides in the South-East or South-South and possibly North-East travel to Lagos when Calabar or Port Harcourt or Oron or Eket or or Sapele or Warri is closer. No wonder, the Lagos port is always choked up with traffic since it is the only seaport that is encouraged by the national government for international shipment of goods.
As a result of putting almost every egg in one basket no matter the effort to upgrade the Apapa port, the place will always experience heavy traffic go-slow because of over-utilization while other seaports are underutilized. Perhaps, it might be necessary to cite a state in the USA to show why Nigeria is acting irrationally by wasting time and money trying to use mostly the Apapa port instead of opening up all the seaports for international trade. The state of Florida in the USA with a population of about 22 million people has ten international seaports. They include Port of Pensacola, Port of Panama City, Port of St. Joe, Port Manatee, Port Tampa, Port St. Pete, Port Miami, Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach, Port of Fort Pierce, Port Canaveral, Port of St. Augustine and Port of Jacksonville. As can be seen, the state of Florida, at all levels of government, is equipped to maximize involvement in international trade and generate income and employment through its seaports. In terms of population, the State of Florida is about the same or slightly higher than the state of Lagos, yet it has ten sea ports while the entire Nigeria with a population of 200 million is trying to maximize its use of only one sea port. In Nigeria, government officials spend considerable amount of time talking about their plans to generate economic growth and employment, then take actions that destroy the potential for economic growth due to sectionalism.
Fifth, Nigeria has extensive coastline, as indicated above. This provides the federal and state governments an opportunity to partner with private sector fishing businesses in the country to create a mass-scale fishing industry capable of dominating the African fishing market. States like Lagos, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states would have been at the forefront to promote large scale fishing industry capable of competing with other international fishing companies and countries. Such active involvement would have resulted in the hiring of thousands of Nigerians in the fishing industry. Unfortunately, neither the federal nor the coastal state governments are interested in exploring and investing in the fishing sector of the economy. Countries like Mexico, Japan, China, India, Chile, Nicaragua, Norway and others, earn substantial foreign exchange through the fishing industry. It could be opined that since the national government is dominated by individuals from land-based ethnic groups, they do not see the need for Nigeria to explore and invest in large-scale ocean fishing businesses. It should not be forgotten that the popular “stock fish” that Nigerians consume in large quantity comes from Norway’s cod fishing business. Norway is far away in northern Europe and is earning substantially from Nigeria through stock fish trade.
Sixth, apart from not paying attention to ocean-fishing businesses is the fact that Nigeria, like many other African countries, barely invest in public water transportation systems. It is interesting to observe the manner in which both national and state governments invest extensively on road and railway construction, yet, pay very little attention to marine transportation, even though the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Internal Waterway Department (IWD) feature regularly on the news. Since the River Niger and River Benue cut through many states in Nigeria, the federal government and the states would have worked together to develop tributaries and drainage systems to link most states by water in one form or another with the two great rivers, thereby, providing extensive water transportation system that allows passengers and goods to move about in different directions. Additionally, the linking of water tributaries would have definitely enabled the governments to redirect the massive flood waters during the rainy season to spread to the Northeast and the Northwest through water channels, thereby reducing the destructive floods in Central and Southern parts of the country. In Europe, the Danube, Rhine, Volga, Elbe, Loire, Moselle and other major rivers are extensively utilized in moving people and goods all over the continent. In other words, in Europe, the airlines, roads, railways and rivers are used simultaneously to transport people and goods. In China too, the rivers play a major role in transporting people and goods.
The construction of water tributaries and drainage systems inside the country to link with the two major rivers would have created thousands of jobs for Nigerian engineers, technicians, and water management workers. Such projects would have minimized the need for open grazing of cattle since flood waters during the rainy season could be redirected to areas near cattle ranches and farmlands in the North. States like Lagos, Ondo, Delta, Plateau, Kogi, Taraba, Benue, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers need to invest in navigable water transportation systems that allow citizens to patronize both land and water means of moving from place to place. Sadly, public officials in Nigeria rarely think about generating economic growth through water transportation. Indeed, water transportation is capable of reducing the wear and tear that Nigerian roads experience due to overuse. In most parts of Nigeria, federal and state roads have worn out due to overuse and lack of rehabilitation.
Seventh, in Nigeria, the cattle business is the domain of the Fulanis who have centuries of experience in cattle herding. The Fulanis are mostly concentrated in northern Nigeria. Fortunately, the North has the largest land mass in the country. Therefore, if Nigeria is really serious about modernizing the cattle business, generate income, create employment, and resolve herders/farmers conflict, it should encourage the northern states to work with cattle owners to establish super cattle ranches, thereby turning the northern region into the cattle industry center of Nigeria and possibly Africa. By establishing super-ranches, all necessary facilities would be centered around the vicinity of the ranches, including storage and distribution centers. The super-ranches would lead to the establishment of super farms that produce hay for cattle, goats, and rams. Another possible by-product of establishing super ranches is the production of dairy products. Thus, the super-ranches are likely to provide employment opportunities for thousands of Nigerian. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the North as the basis for establishing the super-ranches, the federal government unduly politicized the cattle business by attempting to reopen cow routes and create cattle colonies, ruga settlements and cattle ranches throughout the country, as if cattle is the only business in the country. It is not too late for the federal government to strategize with the governors of the northern states and cattle owners to create modern super-ranches for the breeding of cows, goats, rams, pigs, and even chicken to generate national income. Some parts of the Sambisa forest could be utilized to create two or more ranches.
It should be recalled that some northern states, including Adamawa, Nasarawa, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, and Zamfara (“Fed Govt to build 94 ranches in 10 states,” 2018, June 20) had volunteered to offer lands for cattle ranches. Instead of capitalizing on such effort, the federal government spent unnecessary time trying to nationalize the settlement of herders across the country. There is no need to nationalize the settlement of herders since the best practices in the world show that specialized ranches in the cattle region provide the best option in managing the industry. In Nigeria, the cattle region is northern Nigeria and not southern Nigeria. Morever, the land in Southern Nigeria is too small compared to the landmass in northern Nigeria to accomodate super-cattle ranches.
Eighth, the establishment of super-ranches in selected states in the North will free herders from roaming all over the place with their cattle, wives and children as if they are indentured servants who are beholden to rich cattle owners. It is indeed a violation of the human rights of Fulani cattle herders to be compelled to move from place to place with cows and sleep in the forest, thereby, depriving them and their children the opportunity to go to school and receive formal education that is necessary for them to thrive in the modern world. The nomadic cattle management system in Nigeria condemns thousands of Fulanis to live in the 17th and 18th centuries when they should be aspiring to become lawyers, ranch owners, doctors, teachers, architects, computer programmers, and so forth, like other Nigerians, in the twenty-first century.
Ninth, the nomadic cattle management system that President Buhari is encouraging through the opening of cattle routes and open grazing is a threat to the national security of Nigeria. Why? To have thousands of people move about from place to place with cows, their wives, and children and serving as mere cattle herders with no hope of education, occupational training, and upward social and professional mobility is to create a perpetually pauperized and angry population that is capable of threatening the peace of the country anytime through feeling marginalized and discriminated. This is the twenty-first century and all children must go to school to prepare them for a technologically-driven economic system. It is time for the Fulani elite in Nigeria coordinate with Fulani leaders in other countries to stop the dichotomy between the Elite Fulani and Nomadic Fulani. The nomadic Fulanis should have the same rights as the elite Fulanis to get the best education attainable and take care of their children, instead of being condemned to work as indentured servants while the rich cattle owners continue to accumulate unbelievable wealth and send their children to school in large number. Perhaps, it is the anger emanating from being exploited, deprived, and marginalized that is contributing to the incesant cases of kidnapping and banditary among the nomadic herdsmen, in cohort with some greedy elites.
Tenth, the nomadic cattle management system is a drain on the economy since the country does not seem to earn much income through taxation and other forms of income-generating activities of the cattle industry. Moreover, open grazing results in destruction of farmlands and crops. When farmlands and crops are destroyed through cattle grazing, the food basket of the country is threatened since a country of about 200 million people needs a steady supply of food to maintain the population. The inexcusable plan for cattle owners to compensate farmers in the event of the destruction of their farms and crops is not a convincing reason to allow open grazing to continue. It seems that cattle owners in Nigeria are more powerful than the Nigerian state, so much so that they want the government to give them free land to raise their cattle. Otherwise, the federal government of Nigeria would have mandated them to buy or rent land and establish ranches to manage their cattle business like it is done in other parts of the world. The federal government should stop being the spokesperson for the rich owners of cattle in Nigeria and allow them to invest in their cattle businesses.
Eleventh, Nigeria has a sizable quantity of gold deposits in southwestern and northern parts of the country. In fact, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State even boldly stated that his state has more gold than South Africa ( Isenyo, 2016, April 7). The question is, why is Nigeria failing to mobilize its manpower and resources to explore and manage gold in a manner that is capable of generating national income like in South Africa? Why is Nigeria unwilling to invest in gold exploration in a manner that generates substantial income for the national economy and create employment? Why is Nigeria allowing individuals and cooperatives to mine gold haphazardly? Why is Nigeria not interested in taking control of the exploration and management of gold the way it does with the exploration of petroleum and gas? Why Nigeria has not established the Nigerian National Gold Corporation (NNGC) the way it did with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)? In any case, Nigeria is wasting time, money, and employment opportunities for failing to manage its gold production like other countries to generate national income and increase economic growth. There is too much talking and less action on the part of national and regional officials on the issue of gold exploration. Indeed, Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State is right in saying that the failure to fully exploit the abundant solid mineral resources in the country contributes to insecurity ( Ogalah, 2021, August 9).
Twelfth, perhaps, due to sectionalism, Nigerian rulers and political elite tend to prevent the germination of enterpreneural skills of the citizens in certain zones of the country. For instance, while the country wastes unnecessary sums of money in rehabilitating refineries that rarely produce petroleum products, there are Nigerians who operate small-scale refineries that produce refined petroleum products like gas, kerosene and diesel fuel in the Niger Delta/South-South. Instead of encouraging these talented Nigerians to actually establish small and medium-scale refineries that are capable of producing much needed fuel products, Nigeria refers to these Nigerians as operators of “illegal oil refineries.” As a result, the Nigerian Navy patrols the creeks to stop the mining of petroleum. If these Nigerians were encouraged through technical training and financial assistance to set up refineries, many citizens in the oil region would have ended up working for the home-grown refineries to produce essential fuels for the country. Unfortunately, since these skilled Nigerians are not from the home states of those who wield political power in Nigeria, they are treated as criminals and hunted down by the security forces. This means that an oil-producing country like Nigeria prefers to import resources that are easily produceable in the country. In fact, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) reported that Nigeria “imported a total volume of 20.6 billion litres of premium motor spirit, popularly known as petrol in 2019” (“Nigeria imported 20.6bn litres of petrol in 2019 – NEITI,” 2021, July 14). Meanwhile, Nigerians who mine solid minerals such as gold and tin are not treated as criminals and Nigerian security forces do not hunt them down. In other words, it is illegal for citizens to refine petroleum products in the oil region but it is not illegal for them to mine gold and other minerals in the regions of the power-wielding groups.
Thirteenth, while the oil region has been the primary akara, moin-moin and agidi plates of Nigeria for about five decades, national infrastructural development projects intended to boost economic development are always targeted at other regions of the country due to primordial reasons. Consequently, major roads, railway lines, and other projects are being built and operated in regions that produce less to boost the national economy while the region that shoulders the greatest responsibility for the creation of the national wealth is sacrificed. The unfairness leads to anger and the disruption of oil operations in the oil region. Furthermore, Nigerians who live in the oil region are worried that Nigeria is using the oil region as a collateral to borrow billions of dollars from China and international financial institutions to build infrastructures in regions that are not likely to yield much economic advantage to the country. They pray that Nigeria does not default on the loans being borrowed to avoid foreign countries taking over their territory like what is happening in Zambia.
Fourteenth, a country with a population of about 200 million or more people and the largest economy in Africa needs as many international airports as possible. Yet, in Nigeria, there is a tendency to treat airports as if they are special commodities that are only awarded to those who are aligned with those who wield power. As a result, granting international status to some airports are restricted to the extent that it affects economic development negatively. By now, Nigeria should have international airports at every zone of the country with the hope of making the country an international flight hub for Africa. Thus, Nigeria is missing the economic boat in generating wealth through capturing the airline industry by making sure that most international airlines use the country to fly to other parts of the continent. Its huge population is invariably an advantage in capturing the aviation industry in Africa.
Therefore, it is unfathomable that the South-East which is a major center of economic activities in Nigeria did not have an international airport until recently. Even the Port Harcourt international airport does not fit to be called an international airport. Onitsha, which is a major regional market center in Nigeria did not have an airport until recently. It is of recent that Bayelsa International Airport has been activated and is now operational. Nigerian authorities do not realize that wealth and employment could be generated through the aviation industry if it is viewed as a money-making enterprise. In the USA, due to the realization that wealth and employment can be generated through massive investment in the aviation sector, states, local governments and cities compete to attract the largest number of commercial airlines and potential passengers. It might be necessary to show the nature of American commitment to maximizing economic growth through investment in aviation by looking at the state of Florida. Again, the state of Florida with a population of about 22 million people has over ten international airports, including Daytona Beach International Airport, Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport, Miami International Airport, Gainesville Regional Airport, Jacksonville International Airport, Key West International Airport, Orlando-Melbourne International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Orlando/Sanford International Airport, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, Pensacola International Airport, Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport, Tallahassee International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Vera Beach Regional Airport and Palm Beach International Airport.
The Miami International Airport and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are only about 25 miles apart from each other, yet, both are major international airports. The political leaders of Florida State do not say that the two cities are too close to have international airports. In addition, these two cities have other medium range airports that also serve as international and domestic airports. About thirty or forty miles from Ft Lauderdale, there is another international airport in Palm Beach. In Florida and in the USA generally, airports are constantly expanded to compete and capture more businesses. The Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston Airports are like cities, so much so that they have trains conveying passengers from one terminal to another. Throughout the US, there is massive investment in airport expansion. The Americans want to dominate the airline business in the world. In Nigeria, politics and corruption do not allow the industry to grow as it should be to accommodate a huge population.
Moreover, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos should have been expanded to cover the old Ikeja Airport. In fact, cities like Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Jos, Benin City, Onitsha, and Maiduguri supposed to have at least two major modern airports to handle the volume of traffic in a country of about 200 million people. Indeed, the capital of every state in Nigeria should have an airport. Therefore, the restrictive political control of airport development and expansion based on primordial sentiments in determining which state or city should have an airport should stop to allow the aviation industry to grow in Nigeria. Moreover, the national economy is negatively impacted when business people in the country always have to play catch-up by flying from one place to another before getting to their destination. Added to the lack of interest in maximizing economic growth in aviation, a country of 200 million does not even have a national airline. By now some states would have invested in commercial airlines to boost transportation and create employment. In this regard, Akwa Ibom State should be congratulated for making the effort to create an airline.
Fifteenth, it seems that the presidency and national policy makers do not realize that the state of insecurity has a negative effect on the economy. It is doubtful whether many international investors would want to invest in a country that cannot secure itself. Moreover, as herders, bandits and kidnappers continue their deadly rampage, many Nigerian investors too might begin to think about moving their financial resources elsewhere and engage in a wait-and-see attitude in the country. Thus, if the federal government is seriously committed to improving the economy, it must be proactive in reducing insecurity. So far, for whatever reason, the security forces, especially the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Police Force, and the Department of State Service (DSS) have not been fully deployed to deal with herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers. The more the security situation remains tenous, the more economic hardship will continue as farmers decline to go to their farms to cultivate their crops and business men and men become cautious to avoid being abducted. To help the economy grow, it is necessary for the presidency to declare war against herders, bandits and kidnappers. It is puzzling that the federal government deployed security forces proactively in the Southeast and yet does not see the need to deploy fully in places like Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Plateau, and Zamfara states. It allows the abductors of school children to dictate what should be done instead of attacking them by deploying Nigerian security forces to flush them out of the forests. The failure to deploy proactively in northcentral and northwestern zones is causing severe suffering among the civilian population. They do not feel the existence of the Nigerian government since the state has failed to protect them. In the northeast, the war against Boko Haram seems to be going much better as rebel fighters continue to surrender to Nigerian, Cameroonian and, Chadian forces.
Sixteenth, if not for primordial sentiments, Nigeria would have embraced the industrialization effort that is taking place in various parts of the country. In short, it could be said that Nnewi is the industrial capital of Nigeria. The federal government can facilitate the industrialization of the country by forming partnership with companies that are already producing industrial products locally. For instance, the federal and state governments can form public/private sector partnerships where major motor manufacturing plants are established in different parts of the country. One plant could specialize in manufacturing agricultural machinery while another plant might specialize in producing military vehicles while a third one might concentrate on producing buses and minivans. Two or more industrial plants could be established to produce housewares and technical tools. If the industrial plants are located in different zones of the country, massive employment can take place simultaneously because Nigeria has the population to consume large scale industrial products that meet their needs. The African continent is a very large market waiting for Nigeria’s industrial products.
To make the partnerships effective, the government would be a major shareholder and assist in funding experimental vehicles or prototypes and tools that can be commercialized in the future as the industrial businesses grow. Likewise, in order to feed the industrial plants with technical parts, the federal government must fully reactivate the Ajaokuta steel mill in the country. The steel mill should be responsible for producing metals and tools that the auto and houseware industries need to enable Nigeria to rise up as a major industrial power. It is time to stop talking and start doing.
Seventeenth, there are many talented individuals who have demonstrated an ability to build agricultural machineries, cars, planes, drones, helicopters, computers, water fountains, electric generators, and all sorts of technical equipment that can turn Nigeria into an industrial power in an instant but the governments (both at the national and state levels) do not seem to show any interest in assisting such individuals to bring their industrial dreams to fruition. Some of the most creative young Nigerian inventors include but not limited to (1) AGHOGHO AJIYEN WHO BUILDs PLANES, (2) JERRY MALLO WHO BUILDS CARS AND AGRICULTURAL TRACTORS, (3) REJOYCE OGHENERO WHO BUILDS DRONES AND PLANES, (4) BABATIMILEHIN DAOMI WHO BUILDS WATER FOUNTAINS, SPACE ROCKETS AND ELECTRIC MICROSCOPE, (5) SOLOMON UKOHA WHO BUILDS ELECTRIC TRANSFORMERS, (6) BABS CARDINI WHO TURNS WATER INTO WINE, and so on and so forth. If these creative minds were Chinese or British or Americans or French or Japanese or South Koreans, or Russians or Germans, the governments and private sector investors would have sponsored them to turn their inventions into multimillion dollar industrial products that create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the citizens of the country, but in Nigeria, no body cares, not the federal or state governments or the billionaires and millionaires. In the industrialized countries, the rich invest their funds on creative minds to invent technological products that result in the industrialization of the economy. In Nigeria, it is talk, talk and more talk without practical action. In Shakesperean terms, Nigeria is a country of much ado about nothing.
The lack of governmental interest in spearheading the industrialization of the country through the sponsorship of creative minds is holding the country back. Sadly, despite the fact that Nigeria has the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Udegbunam, 2021, August 6), not much is happening. Countries that have industrialized to the point of creating massive economic growth do so by investing robustly in SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS (STEM) Education, and providing financial assistance, creating small-scale loans and other supportive technical programs which allow individuals with creative and innovative minds in society to develop various technologies that lead to industrialization. Perhaps, it would have been preferable for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to be classified as an independent agency so that it is not overwhelmed by bureaucratic politics. As an idependent agency, it would have been able to staff itself with research-oriented, creative and innovative minds and create innovative programs to mobilize talented Nigerians into various research projects by working with the univerisities. As a ministry, it is probably staffed with unnecessary administrative personnel, thereby, hindering its ability to be a head hunter for gathering the best minds to move Nigeria forward. A ministry with a minister, permanent secretary, departmental heads and administrative officers and assistants create a cumbersome environment for the nurturing of creative minds and invention of innovative industrial products.
Eighteeth, the Nigerian political system discourages sound economic management system. The reason is that the system does not require those running for elected offices to demonstrate their acumen in generating economic growth by producing economic road maps during political campaigns. Likewise, political candidates are not subjected to vigorous background verification, debates and citizens questioning so that the public would know what they intend to do to boost economic growth and create employment. Consequently, many politicians running for elected offices in Nigeria at all levels (local, state and national) have no clue whatsoever in developing an economic plan capable of generating economic growth that can lead to employment for the teeming population. It appears that they are primarily interested in the acquisition of raw political power. They hope to use such raw political power to accumulate private wealth through the public purse and nothing more. The political situation is pathetic and utterly useless in enhancing economic development.
The politicians are aided in accomplishing their self-interested goals by the political parties which promote a closed primary nomination system whereby individuals are preselected to occupy political offices even before elections are conducted. In other words, candidates are imposed on the citizens through intimidation and rigging of the electoral system. This is why Nigeria’s political parties are devoid of ideological orientation, although they may promise heaven and earth prior to elections but generally do not hold themselves accountable to the positions they took before the elections. Due to lack of identifiable ideological positions, the political parties lack sound policies on economic development. Consequently, it is not surprising that Nigerian politicians, regardless of their level of education and professional development, jump from one political party to another without any justifiable reason, apart from self-interest. Many politicians have jumped from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) party and then jumped back to the PDP. There are those who have jumped from the APC to the PDP and then jumped back to the APC. It is not unusual for senators, representatives, governors, and local government chairs to abandon their political parties in the middle of their terms of office and join opposition political parties with total disregard for the feelings of their constituents. They are primarily driven by self-interest and do not care about the citizens. Thus, the Nigerian political system is merely described as a “DEMOCRACY’ in theory and not in practice.
Nineteenth, the National Assembly (NA) operates more like an extended arm of the executive branch of government and not as one of the three independent branches of government. As a result, perhaps, Nigeria is the only country in the world where a president submits names of potential ministerial candidates to the legislature for confirmation without identifying the offices or ministries or portfolios they intend to lead as ministers. Basically, the presidency submits a general list of names of potential ministers and they are quickly rushed through the confirmation process by the Senate of the National Assembly without serious questions being asked about their educational qualifications, competency and how they intend to contribute to the development of various sectors of the economy. After the confirmations have been rushed through, the president then assigns ministerial positions to the confirmed candidates.
By kowtowing to the president through rushing the confirmation process without asking pertinent questions about how the candidates intend to contribute to national development through their ministerial positions, the National Assembly seems more interested in making the president happy and sacrifice the interest of the country at large. Therefore, it is inferable that Nigeria’s National Assembly contributes to the lackadaisical attitude towards the economic development of the country and the creation of employment for millions of Nigerians.
By failing to uphold their oversight function, the members of the National Assembly contribute to the massive debt that Nigeria is incurring. It should be noted that the 9th National Assembly is almost pathologically addicted to approving all international loans that the presidency asked for without making any effort to determine the efficacy of such loans. In the event that Nigeria becomes a victim of a debt-trap, the National Assembly should also be held responsible, apart from the president.
Twentieth, the National Assembly greatly contributes to the mismanagement of state funds by failing to audit the expenditures of the ministries and and government agencies prior to approving the national budget for the coming year. In other words, the National Assembly fails woefully to serve as the GUARDIAN OF THE PUBLIC PURSE for not asking serious questions about what the executive branch did with the funds that were allocated in the previous year before approving new budget allocations. The failure results in massive pifering of the public purse, thereby, short-changing the economy. No wonder in 2017, the Auditor General of Nigeria, Mr. Anthony Ayine suggested the witholding of allocations for the Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) which failed to report their expenditures (Okocha. 2020, February 4).
Twenty-first, since self-interest seems to be the primary motivation for seeking elected office, the members of the National Assembly continue to maintain a bloated salary system that enables them to be some of the highest paid legislators in the world. They blatantly refuse to cut their salaries and benefits despite the downturn in the economy. Hence, millions of Nigerians are suffering as the country becomes the poverty capital of the world. This means that while millions of Nigerians are suffering due to poverty, members of the National Assembly behave like feudal lords and continue to take home pay packages that cannot be justified. Yet, they claim to represent Nigerians. Thus, they are a drain on the country’s economy since they are not making any substantive effort to cut down on their expenditures, as well as reduce financial waste in the bloated executive branch through effective legislative oversight. If it is true, as reported by Saharareporters, that some members of the National Assembly were paid in American dollars to vote for the Petroleum Industy Act (PIA) despite strong opposition from stakeholders in the oil region, it means that Nigeria has no National Assembly.
Twenty-second, both the presidency and the National Assembly are paying insufficient attention to the view that the lack of political restructuring is likely to affect the economic sector negatively as NIgerians demand changes in the political system. Thus, a failure to restructure can lead to instability as various groups adopt proactive tactics to communicate their displeasure with the system. It is absolutely critical to restructure the country because it was created by a foreign power and Nigerians need a political system that reflects their wishes.
Twenty-third, the country cannot grow economically to the point of creating massive employment for the citizens if the contradiction between federalism and unitarism is not addressed. In other words, Nigeria cannot claim to have a federal system of government while operating a unitary system that strangulates economiic development. Each state must be allowed to manage its economy based on its resources and capability and not rely solely on the distribution of funds through the Federation Account. The current unitary system discourages economic creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship which are essential for creating a robust economy.
Twenty-fourth, it seems that Nigeria is not serious about developing and modernizing the economy to the point of achieving national industrialization so that mass employment can take place. An excellent example to show that there is lack of commitment towards the modernization of the nation’s economy is the poor state of the schools in Nigeria. It is always very shocking to see the pictures of dilapidated school buildings when bandits and kidnappers abduct students in various schools in northern Nigeria. The videos of Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Government Science College in Kagara, Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe and the Federal Government College in Brnin-Yauri show that both the federal and northern states governments are not serious about providing quality education to the youths of the region. Hence, the schools resemble makeshift educational facilities in a war front. No wonder, there are millions of uneducated youths in northern Nigeria. Likewise, if videos of school compounds in southern Nigeria were shown, the images of dilapidated school structures too will appear just like in northern Nigeria. The only exception is that a higher number of youths in southern Nigeria complete their primary and secondary education while millions of children in the north simply exist. The poor state of schools indicates that Nigerian political leaders at all levels of government (local, state and national) are not preparing Nigerian youths with the appropriate educational skills for building a robust economy that is capable of hiring thousands of Nigerians, at any given time. Are Nigeria’s leaders not aware that there is a linkage or a relationship between quality education and economic development? A poor quality of education is likely to lead to endemic economic problems and social instability. Sadly, the rulers send their children to schools in foreign countries while depriving Nigerians quality education at home. Yet, these leaders claim that they have mandate of the people to serve as their electted representatives.
Twenty-fifth, just as Nigeria is not committed to providing quality education to Nigerian youths, the political leaders of the country are not creating an enabling environment for Nigerian youths to thrive economically by encouraging them to explore and create businesses dealing with information technology. Nigerian youths like those in other parts of the world, are very creative, technology-savvy, and willing to develop businesses in digital economy but the political leaders continue to behave as if they are living in the 1970s. Hence, they have not been able to develop programs and partnerships that allow Nigerian youths to become active participants in the growing computer-driven businesses in information technology. This is leading to frustration on the part of many youths who feel that both national and state governments are not visionary in creating enabling environments that allow them to compete and generate income in the global digital market place.
It should be noted that Bill Gates and Paul Allen established Microsoft Corporation while Steve Job, Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak created Apple Corporation as young men. Today, Microsoft and Apple have dominated the world of information technology. Mr. Jeff Bezos who established Amazon as an online marketing company is now the richest person in the world. Mr Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum, and Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook as young men. Today, Facebook is a major corporation. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook hire hundreds of thousands of people. There are Nigerians who can develop online products that are capable of creating massive wealth and ensuring employment for thousands of Nigerians but Nigeria’s political climate does not encourage the germination of such effort. Sadly, it seems that the National Information Technology Developmnet Agency (NITDA), which is responsible for overseeing Nigeria’s technological development is more interested in stifling the digital economy through imposition of unncessary ” licenses, fees, fines, and sentences,” (Kene-Okafor, 2021, August 17) instead of working with the industry to ensure its growth.
Twenty-sixth, Nigerian billionaires and millionaires are in a different league in the world. They prefer to show-off their wealth by building hugh mansions, buy expensive cars and private planes, and organize huge weddings, birthday parties and funerals to create the impression that they are rich instead of using the wealth to create businesses that are capable of generating employment for millions of Nigerians. They do not seem to realize that in the US, Germany and many other industriaized countries, it is private business men and women who create large-scale industries that hire hundreds of thousands of citizens. In fact, a vast majority of major multinatinational companies in the world are owned by private interests and not by governments. In Nigeria, instead of investing extensively to create products and hire hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, a considerable number of the rich prefer to keep their funds in foreign banks. By so doing, they deprive Nigeria of the ability to utilize such funds to create enabling environments for businesses to thrive. Basicaly, when a Nigerian billionaire or millionarie desposits his or her funds in Britain, the rich Nigerian helps Britain to create wealth and economic growth in that country while Nigeria is short-changed. In fact, it is arguable that rich Nigerians help to create economic growth in many countries while they starve Nigeria of needed funds to do likewise. When rich Nigerians spend huge sums of money to buy expensive properties in posh areas of major cities in the world, they help to create employment for the citizens of those countries while milions of Nigerians struggle to find employment at home.
If many of the so-called rich Nigerians were to go to their towns and villages to build manufacturing industries, almost everyone in the vicinity will end up being employed. Sadly, they are not interested in investing in businesses that generate profit in the long run since they are mostly interested in quick money-making enterprises. Thankfully, some rich Nigerians have established commercial airlines to trasport people all over the country. Similarly, some have established industries that are growing incrementally to become big corporations.
Twenty-seventh, Nigeria cannot industrialize and become a major economic power in the world if it is unable to provide basic electric energy that is necessary to support industrialization. It is a fact that due to massive corruption, the country still finds it difficult to provide a reliable supply of electicity after almost seven decades of trying by fifteen military and political rulers and after spending trillions of nairas. In other words, while hydroelectric energy is an old technology in the rest of the world, it is still viewed as a complicated technpology in Nigeria, hence, the difficulty in optimizing its usage.
While the country finds it almost impossible to ensure a workable and reliable hydroelectric supply, some Nigerians are calling for the construction of nuclear energy plants as a replacement or addition to hydroelectric energy. Indeed, the proposition is akin to telling a student who finds it difficult to solve a simple mathematic problem to attempt to solve an advanced problem in calculus. A massively corrupt and unstable country like Nigeria should not contemplate building nuclear energy plants unless somebody wants to literally annihilate the country. Why? Nuclear technology is very dangerous and almost uncontrollable when something goes wrong. For instance, assuming that Nigeria builds nuclear plants in Kogi and Akwa Ibom states, as it was proposed earlier and then something goes wrong in the plant in Akwa Ibom State , resulting in a melt-down, the entire state, in addition to Abia, Rivers, and Cross River states, and some parts of southern Cameroon would be affected by the radioactive fallout. In such a situation, Akwa Ibomites might have to be evacuated to avoid contamination. Similarly, assuming that the plant in Kogi State experiences a meltdown, radioactive fallout is likely to affect people in Benue, Plateau, Niger, Edo, and possibly Anambra states.
When a nuclear meltdown or serious accident takes place, sometimes it takes about 50 to one hundred years or more to lessen the effect of radiation in the vicinity of the accident. It should be noted that following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986, in Ukraine in the former Soviet Union, the area is still uninhabitable. I wonder which ethnic group in Nigeria would be eager to sacrifice its existence by allowing a nuclear plant to be built in its territory. One wonders what would have happened if Nigeria had nuclear plants and the Boko Haram, herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers were rampaging through the country to kill and destroy. In such a scenario, what would have stopped one of these groups from launching rocket attacks against the nuclear plants to demonstrate its abiity to inflict destruction on Nigeria. It should not be forgotten that bandits have even shot down a Nigerian Air Force jet fighter. Thus, a nuclear energy is not a feasible economic project when safer alternative energy systems are being developed in other parts of the world.
Twenty-eighth, indeed, making political and economic decision based on primordial sentiments is killing Nigeria. For instance, due to the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is from Daura in Katsina State, numerous government and private projects have been located there. Federal ministers, directors of governent agencies and even private citizens are pandering to the president by competing to locate projects in Daura. Some of the government projects that have been located in Daura include: (1) the ongoing massive construction of Daura roads and drainages, (2) Nigerian Air Force Referral Hospital, (3) Federal Polytechnics, (4) Federal Univeristy of Transportation, (5) Air Force Response Air Wing, (6) Nigerian Army base, (7) National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Program, (8) the Sustainable Development Goals Program, (9) a 50-Bed Maternity Center, (10) the completion of the Sabke Dam, and the (11) the NNPC’s Emergency and Infectious Diseases Hospital (“For Buhari’s sake, so many projects go to Daura,” 2019, September 28).
Not to be outdone by public officials trying to buy presidential influence, some rich Nigerians want to show that they too have the wherewithal to do so in Daura. Some projects that have been carried out or proposed by private citizens include: (1) A Library donated by Chief Emeka Offor, (2) a 400,000 solar-powered water system sponsored by the Jack-Rich Tein Foundation in a joint venture with NNPC and the Belema Oil Company (“For Buhari’s sake, so many projects go to Daura,” 2019, September 28), and (3) the proposed Islamic university by Sen. Rochas Okorocha (“Okorocha to build Islamic university in Daura,” 2021, August 10). It should be noted that these are only a few of the projects being developed in Daura due to the fact that President Buhari is from there. it is very pathetic that even in the twenty-first century, federal government officials make decisions about spending public funds without thinking about the economic consequences of doing so. Since this administration has set the precedent, it is assumable that when a new president is elected in 2023, numerous federal projects too would be located in his or her hometown to buy influence.
Twenty-ninth, indeed, the fact that primordial sentiments are killiing the country cannot be underestimated. Hence, many Nigerians, particularly from the southern part of the country, are fleeing and seeking freedom and employmet elsewhere. Consequently, an increasing number of Nigerians are representing other countries during international athletic events, as well as contributing to the advancement of those countries. Azuka Onwuka noted that many Nigerian athletes contributed to the success of many countries in the just completed Olympic Games in Japan. He wrote:
Although Nigerians had been representing other countries at the Olympics and World Cup, what happened at this year’s Olympics was more of an embarrassment because of the sheer number of Nigerians competing for other countries. It looked like the case of a people who officially had no country and were dispersed across the world, competing for other countries. Many even helped to edge the Nigerian teams out of their respective competitions like the Japanese female basketball team where Monica Okoye helped to beat Nigeria. Some countries like the Greek male basketball team even had two Nigerian brothers: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (2021, August 10).
Indeed, Nigeria suffers from mismanagement and underdevelopment due to questionable leadership emanating from primordial sentiments. Hence, Ikenna Emewu noted:
That is Nigeria and I never had any doubt that Nigeria has the right personalities to compete with the best of the world, not even Africa. But Nigeria is the most mismanaged country in the world with what is not fit to be called leadership. (2021, January 14).
Indeed, Nigeria’s ruling elite pay too much attention to themselves and littlle or nothing to the national interest. Therefore, the country is a sacrificial lamb for the enrichment and agrandizement of those who callled themselves rulers and their cronies.
The twenty-nine points identified above are some of the inhibitive factors that prevent Nigeria from becoming a major economic player like China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, and India. Indeed, Nigeria cannot rise up industrially if political and economic development decisions are made mostly based on primordial sentiments and corruption rather than on merit and national interest. With a huge population, Nigeria must industrialize very quickly in order to create opportunities for millions of people to gain employment. Without industriaization, the country is doomed because millions of unemployed citizens amounts to political instability. Political instability leads to a questioning of the efficacy of the Nigerian state. A questioning of the efficacy of the Nigerian state eventually leads to a demand for seperation. Who wants to remain in a sinking ship?
President Muhammadu Buhari can change the situation around very quickly to a create an enabling environment for people to have confidence in the state. A greater trust of the state will translate into more citizens investing to create enterprises that generate employment for the citizens. The president needs to take certain actions. First, he needs to communicate more effectively with Nigerians by holding press conferences regularly to inform them about what his administration is doing to reduce insecurity in the country and create opportuniiies for economic growth. To do so, he should communicate with Nigerians directly and not speak through his special assistants or read prepared statements. Second, he should embrace the democratic path and shun authoritarian tendencies which are causing apprehension, anger, and disappointment. Third, he should allow the security forces to act like national organizations and deal with the security situation in an even-handed manner. Currently, the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy and the DSS operate like tribal organizations where members of a particular ethnic group are treated like sacred cows. Fourth, to alleviate the perception that he is too sectional, the president needs to actively promote federal character by reshuffling the leadership of some important national security positions. A country made up of about 300 or more ethnic groups with a population of 200 million people cannot have members of only one ethnic group, region and religion dominate the country and expects stability. Fifth, he should immediately set up a mechanism for the active exploration and management of solid minerals in order to create employment and wealth to boost the economy. Sixth, every potential economic opportunity shoud be fully explored and utilized for economic development. Currently, Nigeria is misssing the boat on so many economic fronts. Seventh, rich Nigerians should be more patriotic by investing in the economic development of the country through establishing industries that can create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. The era of looking for short-term money-making schemes are over. Eighth, it is to the political and economic advantage of Nigeria to restructure the country so that states and local governments can contribute to economic development through the effective utilization of resources in their territories. Ninth, Nigeria should not waste time, effort and money investing in nuclear energy when other countries are investing in safer alternative energy systems. Tenth, national interest should be the guiding principle at all times for making economic decisions in the country by public officials.
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