By Ebele Orakpo
‘ARE we moving forward or going backwards?” asked Simon in the CMS-bound commuter vehicle. “We are moving forward of course! Forward ever, backward never. President Buhari is taking us somewhere,” said Taju.
Said Simon: “I asked that question because of the President’s latest trip to China for loan. Why borrow? Obasanjo managed to repay most of what we owed for years and got the creditors to cancel the rest. Do we want to start accumulating debt again? Can’t we think of another way out? That’s my point.”
“Exactly! Necessity is the mother of invention, says a popular adage but that seems not to apply to Nigeria. When China and India were counted among the Third World countries, they closed their borders to all unnecessary importations and looked inward. They imported things that were absolutely necessary to their development that they could not produce locally. They would import machines, dismantle and reassemble them and in the process learnt how to make their own locally. Who would have believed that one day, India’s ugly-looking tricycle (Keke Napep), will become an export commodity, earning them billions of dollars in foreign exchange? Today India produces and exports Tata Motors. They did not despise the days of little beginning. They embraced their local products and kept improving with time. We should borrow a leaf from them,” said Ken.
“Tell them my brother. Here, we denigrate our own, preferring anything foreign even if it is of lower quality. We are so fixated on imported goods. The local producers now tell us what we want to hear. Many of the shoes, bags and perfumes with Made in Italy, England, Brazil, USA, China or whatever label, were made in Aba, Nigeria and our people gladly buy. If they had put Made in Aba label, nobody will buy; so cunny man die, cunny man bury am, case closed,” said Stella.
“You just nailed it my dear. I believe the solution to every problem facing a people lies with the people in their environment. A researcher once told me that most imported anti-malaria drugs fail to work after sometime because they are from other climes and not indigenous to the people they are being used to treat,” said Ken.
“One can never please Nigerians. Shebi PMB banned some items and we started crying that he wants to kill us. Now you are saying we should ban these things and look inwards. Which one we dey sef?” asked Simon.
Replied Stella: “You do things gradually. Don’t just ban importation of very essential goods like food items without alternatives. How can you just wake up and ban rice importation when we don’t have enough?”
“There are unnecessary things that could be banned right away and then ban some food items gradually as we begin to produce our own. Starting from government agencies, ministries and officials, ban importation of biscuits, drinks, clothes, etc.” said Ken.
“I understand PMB did not borrow a dime from the Chinese but simply attracted billions of dollars worth of investments,” said Taju.
“I hope so oo. But beyond that, we must strive for a balance of trade. The bottom line is to look at our natural and human resources, see how we can add value to them and export to other countries. If we only export raw materials to China while our markets are flooded with finished goods from China, then we will still be making motions without movement. Let us explore. Nigerians are no dummies, they are smart people,” said Ken.