By Adisa ADELEYE
For some decades, I have tried to examine, perhaps in a lurid manner, the perplexing state of the â€˜Nigerian Question.
With other patriotic souls I have been seeking, rather impatiently, for the real reason why Nigeria with all material and human resources could still wear the shameful toga of a poor nation.
This country is uncharitably considered and placed as 137th poorest nation of the world even after taking into consideration of the fact that Nigeria is one of the greatest oil producing nations of the world.
Many commentators often ascribe the problems of the country to dearth of able national leaders and inability to manage natural resources to eradicate poverty and produce wealth for the common good.
The present political structure of 36 (unequal, non-viable) states with a bi-camera legislature [which is money soaking] under American Presidential System [without USA wealth] is pointed out as a drawback to meaningful development.
With the array of political leaders [before and after Independence], it is unbelievable that this country is still in the woods.
The political leaders of the 1900s to 1940s were caricatured in Prof Ayandeleâ€˜s â€˜The Educated Elite in the Nigerian Societyâ€˜ as mere â€˜deluded Hybridsâ€˜ who were colonial in dress and mentality.
â€˜They had all originally accepted without questioning the Western version of Christianity, had adopted European names in favor of African ones, donned European dress, regarded with reference â€“ as many of us do today â€“ the language which Shakespeare spoke as the only language worth speakingâ€˜.
Unfortunately too, the political leaders who took us into Independence were viewed by later historians and critics not as heroes butÂ as ethnic leaders who, Â by words and deeds, not allow the evolution as a Nigerians State.
The soldiers also came.Â Their entry into national politics did not solve the problem of the elusive Leader of Nigeria.Â The ambition of junior officer and rivalry among the senior ranks provoked coups andÂ counter coups which bred political instability and economic uncertainties.
According to observers, military intervention in the political life of the country assaulted the concept of federalism and introduced the regime of unitary control, as it is in the army.Â In such a situation, it was impossible for genuine Leadership to emerge.
The post military era has unfortunately failed to produce the type of leadership expected to lead the country into political stability and economic prosperity.
To some observers, the political atmosphere seems not too ideal or conducive for the emergence of great national leaders.
The Soyinkas, the Achebes are crying alone from foreign lands; the Balarabe Musas, the Buharis, the Falaes could not raise a party to confront the ruling party; the Tinubus, the Opadokuns and the Falanas are busy propagating for decent electoral reforms, yet there is no co-ordinated voice respected and trusted to blow the whistle of freedom and prosperity.Â Sadly, the ruling party could neither attract nor be receptive to the galaxy of stars.
As it was noted above, Nigeria is blessed with talented and internationally respected human resources; Â the soil is rich abundantly to provide for food for the populace and for export.
Apart from abundant crude oil and gas, nature has also endowed the country with rich minerals like gold, columbites, etc.Â Apart from the golden crude oil and gas, other minerals are yet to be reasonably and economically tapped as crude oil production seems to have dulled our economic sense of proportion.
However, Nigeria is so superficially rich to propose a N4.1 trillion budget for the year 2010.
Rational minds continue to doubt the possibility of any economic development in such an amorphous country like Nigeria with dilapidated infrastructures.Â With more money being pumped into the economy through a budget which might not be fully implemented, the country would need the vision of great leader to make the difference.
On economic development, the examples of Singapore and Malaysia are often cited but hardly pursued.Â In 1965, Singapore depended mainly on entreport trade and provision of services for British military bases, it had no natural resources.
Singapore later has been able to transform itself into a self-sustaining prosperous state by embracing economic development strategy in three phases â€“ import substitution; export drive; industrial reconstruction and diversification.
Nigeria, no doubt, had gone through these phases since Independence, but, truly haphazardly, and without proper examination of progress at each stage.
Perhaps it might not be too late to move back to the starting block under a visionary leader [if there is one].
The idea is to sort out the real growth motivators out of the crowd of often conflicting economic policies.Â The lofty promises of full employment, stable price level andÂ exchange rate and low inflation are yet to be fulfilled.Â They look like day dreams by drunken politicians.
I am sure it is not a bad idea for our leaders to try and sort out present priorities from the confusion of the past.Â This can be done by adopting a development strategy that would be strictly adhered to â€“ this idea is not new to the readers of this column [every Friday].
First, action should be taken to strengthen our local import substitution industry so as to ensure its survival against destructive foreign competition,Â and also by incentives to promote higher exports.
The fiscal measures needed are prevention of smuggling, higher taxes on certain
categories of imports and generous concessions on import of machinery [equipment, spare parts and raw materials (not locally produced).Â There would be a special need for a complementary policy to stimulate demand for locally manufactured goods.
Since the lower income group and the pensioners are more likely to prefer home-made goods, it would be reasonable to increase their purchasing power by putting more money into their pockets (through increase in pay packets and reduction in personal and purchase taxes).
The other group that need support is made up of unemployed graduates [after Youth Service].
They need income to sustain their level of demand until they are employed.
The next level of development strategy is to encourage the export of locally manufactured good through various fiscal measures and proper organization of illegal trades within the WestÂ African trade areas.
While extra effort is made to help local manufacturers, it is necessary to
ensure that the quality of their products meets international standard.Â What is being suggestedÂ here is not new but its adoption lacks consistency.
Other strategies include invitation to foreign investment into highly technical sector under appropriate incentives.Â The advantage of direct foreign investment into our growth sector is the possibility of releasing domestic savings into other productive areas.
However, care should be taken to ensure that the level of repatriated profits is not initially higher than the annual rateÂ of fresh capital investment as to adversely affect the domestic balance of payments position.
Direct foreign investments in the telecommunication industry and the rate of
remitted profits should be carefully watched.Â Economic diversification and industrial reorganization would also help in bringing overall development.
As a repeat, if the Nigerian economy is to improve, it would be necessary to aim at full capacity utilization in the manufacturing sector, to ensure increase in modern technique and equipment [plant and machinery] to raise productivity.Â There is need to provide affordable farm implements to raise agricultural outputs in the rural areas.
On the golden asset, Oil, what is needed is a strong leader who would reverse the nasty habit of selling crude and importing refined products because Nigeria should by now be a wise exporter of oil refined products and not a silly importer.
However,a rapid expansion of the economy is possible under that visionary leader who would ensure that the countryâ€˜s macro economic measures produce overall stability.
SuchÂ a leader would have a clear perception of what is necessary to have FULL EMPLOYMENT, STABLE EXCHANGE RATE AND LOW RATE OF INFLATION in the national economy.
But where is that LEADER?