Law & Human Rights

July 11, 2013

Nigeria’s development dilemma (3)

By Chris  Ekpenyong

You want to ask: what really is wrong with us? How come our leaders,  past and present, are unable to get it right despite all kinds of nebulous? Development plans such as NEEDS, vision 20-2020, etc?

Why have our economic experts failed so woefully? Of what use is the Federal Housing Authority, the Federal Mortgage, the primary mortgage institutions, etc if Nigeria still has to grapple with 18 million housing deficit? How come Russia is running their steel industry well whereas Ajaokuta steel plant, despite all privatization efforts, is not working? Why is our Aluminum plant at Ikot Abasi mired in unnecessary controversies between two contending foreign firms that have no interest of our nation at heart beyond their profits? Which altruistic government would sit back and watch such sabotage without speedily calling the bluff?

It has been admitted in various fora that unemployment is perhaps our  greatest scourge. Nothing can be more frustrating than for a child to finish school and 2, 3 to 5 years after he is hopelessly searching for a job. Our leaders are saying these young minds should think of self employment. How many of us serving the government today took to self employment when we finished school? In any case, where is the enabling environment for self employment – venture capital, power, and other equally vital infrastructure that drive entrepreneurship?

The  CBN has removed every risk, a bank as a business concern could take, by making sure every loan is double-backed by collateral. Where will the starter get the collateral to raise a loan? The YOUWIN programme is a good idea and one that is free from our national god father mentality, but N10 million to 1,700 winners a year is a drop in a mighty sea of unemployment.

The SURE-P? Just recently I saw Gombe state SURE-P bid advert. Out of 373 projects listed for bidding, none addressed employment programmes. And this is the norm at the federal, states and local governments where scant attention is paid to direct employment generation activities. To us, development is all about big government houses and egoistic infrastructure that do not connect to programmes that generate employment.

Little wonder that 20 years after this country started talking about  industry cluster, not one has been built anywhere in the country. Our world bank economists and development experts know that Turkey, for instance, plied the industry cluster route to debut a vibrant economy that has been growing at an average of 4.5% per annum in the last 7 years, providing employment for its work force and representing one of the latest growth poles in Europe (compare this to Nigeria’s 6.5% growth rate).

Let us summarize by saying that our leadership has to mend its ways.  As E.W.Kenyon (2000) said, “there is no crime among all the crimes in the realm of wrong like the murder of love”. We need altruistic leadership and patriotic followership. Collective growth must replace excessive individualism and psychotic proclivity for wealth, the I-me-and-myself mentality. We have curried our intellectual class in order to increase in quantum the technological content of our economy.

Our president, governors, local government chairmen must draw the line between politics and governance, administration and development. We have to re-order our development priorities and strike a thoughtful balance between modernization and development and drop eye catching television focused projects for employment and income generating activities. We cannot continuously overlook the overbearing bureaucracy, despotic executive governance and mercantile legislators.