BY DEMOLA AKINYEMI
ILORIN — Former United States ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Walter Carrington has said that until Nigeria begins to rely less on capital intensive sectors of the economy and more on labour intensive ones, the country will find it difficult to meet its ambitious goals of being one of the world’s 20 most important economies.
Ambassador Carrington spoke, yesterday, in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital while delivering the 29th convocation lecture of the University of Ilorin, UNILORIN.
He pointed out that,”diversification is urgently needed to make the economy less vulnerable to downswings in the petroleum prices. Even when oil prices were historically high, the unemployment rate, instead of falling rose from 21 per cent in 2010 to 24 per cent in 2011.”
Nigeria’s recent economic growth has been mainly driven by the non-oil sector because of high consumer demand and the cruel irony is that whatever Nigeria and others in Africa might do to improve their economies their efforts in the short run could be undone by a renewed global financial crisis.
“As I was writing this, there was still much uncertainty over the consequences that might ensue if the United States failed to meet its international debt obligations, thus this continent (Africa) remains at the mercy of a world financial order which it has little or no influence on.”
Walter Carrington also noted that USA and others around the world profit from Nigeria’ greatest export, her accomplished people at the expense of the growth and development of Nigeria.
He said: “I often ask Nigerians who are legally in US why they remain, the two major impediments to going back which they cite are fears of corruption and the growing absence of security.”
According to him: “They cringe whenever they hear Nigeria belittled on television comedies because of 419 schemes. They have so much to contribute to their homeland and ways must be found to create the environment which will invite them to return and reverse the brain-drain which does so much damage to the polity.
“As we all know, he said, “corruption is the most terrible monster that confronts Nigeria, but we must all work hard to tame this monster. In order words, I am certain that virtually all the problems associated with governance would be removed if we can summon the courage to tackle corruption and banish it from our activities.”
Carrington added that development does not have a bigger enemy than corruption and the development of Nigeria is hinged on ridding politics from corruption and corrupt practices.
“But I regret to say that I have seen too many good people of high character yield after putting up a good fight, which is why efforts must be redoubled to create an environment in which character and virtues are rewarded and not scorned.
“The question must now be asked, why is Africa’s most endowed country which earn $57billion a year in oil revenue not yet able to solve its persistent problems of electric power and infrastructure,” he queried.
He therefore challenged stakeholders in Nigeria, saying, “a cure must be found for the corrosive cancer of corruption.”
The former envoy added that successive governments’ relegation of agriculture to the backwaters is also responsible for the country beggared economy.