By Morenike Taire
THE launch of the Jonathan adminis tration’s Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan,NIRP, and the National Enterprise Development Programme, NEDEP, looks more and more like déjà vu.
This plan, he said, would boost the annual revenue to be earned per annum by Nigerian manufacturers up to N5 trillion as well as set the stage for a new era of industrial, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises development in Nigeria.
The country is at the very edge of a massive socio-political revolution. From that precipice, it will emerge either better or worse. It is an unlikely time to be hankering after an industrial revolution. It is also a good time to ride on the national angst for change, and let our collective adrenalin steer us into something marvellous. Jonathan’s Industrial Revolution Plan sounds like a plan.
The only trouble with it is that it is not quite different, in thrust as well as in content, from other similar plans of other periods in the country. The prevalent fear is that it will go the way of the others. Obasanjo’s Operation Feed the Nation was introduced by the federal military government headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979.
It had the specific focus of increasing food production on the premise that availability of cheap food would ensure a higher nutrition level and invariably lead to national growth and development.OFN lasted till the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979.
In June 1986, the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, was introduced after a public debate on IMF loan conditionalities. It was aimed at re-structuring the productive base of the economy and promoting non-inflationary economic growth.
There is precedence for the desire of Nigerian leaders to desire an “industrial revolution”, as it is such a revolution that catapulted the first world from the dark ages into the age of prosperity.
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transport, and technology had a profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions starting in the United Kingdom , then subsequently spreading throughout Europe, North America, and eventually the world.
Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants. It is a tired concept, but apparently a necessary one.
Like Nigeria, pre-industrial Europe did not have a static economy, and manufacturing counted for a significant share of its total economic activity – about 40 percent of Britain’s GDP in the early eighteenth century, as estimated. Yet, lack of cooperation between the dispersed productive entities and the lack of power prevented the capacity from translating into collective wealth and real material prosperity across board. Indeed, Nigeria could be said, at this point, to still be in the pre-industrial era.
There is rhetoric- enough rhetoric to fill the coffers. At the convening last year of the 18- member board of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria chaired by the Minister of Trade and Investment Mr. Olusegun Aganga, the president said all the usual and nice things about improving Nigeria’s “global competitiveness” ranking and “revitalizing the economy”.
Indeed, on that occasion, he’d charged the board to “enhance “Nigeria’s competitiveness by proposing policy recommendations that will create an economy that attracts domestic and foreign investments without focusing on or benefitting any specific interest group or sector”, saying policies will be developed based on “quantitative, evidence-based analysis and will align with the broader long-term transformation agenda of the current administration”.
All the right buzz words are used. Foreign Direct Investment. Job/wealth creation. Productivity. New markets. Progress. Revolution! Still, history also shows you cannot simply assemble your great wise men together, concoct some magic broth and thereby will an industrial revolution into being, regardless of how much collective passion is brought onto the table.
An industrial Revolution is a policy matter, but the successful policy would not be about the Industrial Revolution itself, but the enabling factors which, where present, might trigger a revolution under the right conditions. Conditions required might vary from one country to the other.
The industrial revolution in Japan, great as it was, did not come until at least a decade after Britain’s, and was premised on modernization and a cultural as well as economic opening up of Japan to the advanced world.
The embracing of electricity had finished the deal. The initial Western industrial revolution had been premised on technology, coal, the conquering of iron and its subsequent use in the fashioning of mass production machinery, and most importantly, crucial inventions.
For South Korea, it came even later, and faster. Premised on sheer determination and the uncommon diligence of her people, that country achieved sustained industrial global leadership in spite of having little land, few natural resources and seemingly insurmountable odds.
For Nigeria, in addition to all these, it is important- crucial, even- for the Jonathan revolution team to study closely and then push to surmount the challenges that had constituted pitfalls for the industrialization ambitions of previous administrations.
Leadership is not as much about having ideas, as the ability to persuade large blocks of people with as little exertion as possible. Doubtless, an industrial revolution is still possible in a post industrial age, when human resource has superseded material resource in value.
The compulsory human factor means it will have to be a lot more convincing than it currently is.