December 1, 2015

We can fix this economy

WHEN we say that the economic stagnation in this country has an international dimension to it, those who are satisfied with the status-quo shout us down. Thank God for Omoh Gabriel’s revelation in the Vanguard of November 16, 2015. According to Omoh: “The attempt to frustrate the nation’s efforts to move forward has been orchestrated by foreign investors, their media and the European Union and the United States of America.”

It did not start today. Right from the colonial era our economy has been programmed to service the needs of the super powers. Ask the Indians, the battle they fought to free their cotton production from the grips of the British colonial masters.

With Mahatma Ghandi as the pivot, they boycotted British goods, including their wears, and that accounted for India’s seemingly economic independence today. The surprising thing in the case of Nigeria is that, with an over abundance of world class economic experts and consultants – Professor Soludo has now come out of his shell – they have not been able to see and promote Nigeria along this line.

Until we choose to take our destiny in our own hands, our economy will continue to remain in the doldrums. Haven’t you wondered why the alcoholic beverage production is going on smoothly and our petroleum refineries are experiencing hiccups? Is it not the same process of management, of filtration, titration, heating, cooling, packaging, etc?

The engineers operating the brewery factories, are they not Nigerians like their counterparts in the oil and gas sectors? Why do our international oil companies, IOCs, choose to bring in technicians from the Philippines, Venezuela and other countries when there are abundance of qualified Nigerians to do the job? Why must we engage somebody as an expatriate to work as a store officer and other less ‘technicalised’ areas of our business? Everything boils down to the conspiracy of the Super Powers. If we do not decide on our own home grown solutions, our children and grand children will still be grappling with this problem in years to come. God forbid!

Why has Ajaokuta steel factory refused to get off the ground? Why is Delta Steel Company presently grounded? Why must we design a production outfit that will depend on the Russians and others for raw materials to produce steel in Nigeria? Have we forgotten that steel production was once with us in the Nok culture long before the Europeans colonised us?

The Ajaokuta steel factory has become like an Abiku child that has refused to die until he leads his parents into bankruptcy. It is either we kill the Ajaokuta project or it will kill us. We must find very simple and uncomplicated methods of tackling problems in this country. The Ajaokuta thing has become too complex to fix, therefore, we must break it down into simple and manageable bits. I am very sure that the original factory and machine designs have become obsolete, given the speed at which technology is changing.

We must be ready to call the bluff of our international friends and partners. Anytime we refuse to dance to their tunes, they use all manner of tactics to frustrate us.

The US reduced their patronage of our crude oil to the barest minimum; we did not shout. Dunlop, Michelin and others relocated their factories; nobody raised any eyebrow.

Over night, our stock market had gone down with the withdrawal of foreign direct investments; we took it calmly. Now, we only restricted the official allocation of foreign exchange to goods that are considered not priority to the Nigerian economy and the whole world is going gaga.

Our leaders must take the bull by the horn. The economy can be fixed. Our agriculture can become self-sufficient in three years and most of our shut local industries can start running again. All of these are possible only if we choose to do it our own way. We must adopt measures to suit our peculiar circumstances.

This country is too important for any other country to toy with. Imagine Norway complaining because we restricted the importation of fish heads, Thailand rice, America plastic and aircraft, and many others complaining because we want to direct our attention to essential items that will uplift our economy. Our youths are unemployed, while our government policies are ensuring the sustainability of factories in Europe, America and other areas.

It is time to put a stop to this and we must begin with our propaganda machinery. Lai Mohammed and his team have a lot to do in this instance. Instead of concentrating on Jonathan and the past, they must start directing their energies towards the proper orientation of Nigerians towards patronising Nigerian made products and discourage our lust for everything foreign. The world is afraid of the giant that will arise out of Nigeria; we must not let them kill our dreams. What should we do?

First, analyse what made us to derail in the past and begin to do things the correct way, we must educate the people on what is right for them.

We cannot allow our currency to be devalued at this moment because we are not yet a producing country, it will only increase cost of goods and materials and cause inflation in our lands.

Immediately, we must revamp our agriculture and agro-allied businesses, set up marketing/monitoring boards to buy from farmers and ensure standardisation. Build warehouses/silos over the places and establish agric processing factories for farmers to process their goods. All of these do not require rocket science technology, they have been done in the past to an appreciable measure of success.

No state or region must remain unviable, each must concentrate on the areas of comparative advantage. Industries must not be sited because you want to please your people. It must follow all economic principles of nearness to raw materials, power, labour, market, capital and the rest.

Above all, we must ensure peace. It is only a peaceful environment that will attract progressive developments. As a result, the government must find ways to reduce the tensions related to ethnicity and religion.

All we need is the will and the vehicle to propagate the programmes. May the almighty God give us direction.

 Mr. Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.