By Sunny Ikhioya
ONLY a focused, truly change- conscious, healthy, detribalised and religiously unbiased leader can effect the necessary changes that our country require. That is why this piece is directed to Mr President.
As it is today, instead of building for the future, we are here killing the future. What kind of country will the generations yet unborn inherit when our first 11 are migrating to other lands?
The situation in Nigeria is so ironical; so much resources on ground and nothing to show for it. Even in the area of human capital, we are making so much contributions into developing other countries, while we are found wanting at home. It is time for us to wake up.
A nation that cannot feed itself can never be independent. What will it take for us to get our agriculture back on track? In the sixties and seventies, every child was taught to understand that 70 percent of our population were involved in agriculture. How many per cent do we have today? Is it that the leadership of today has forgotten this reality? And if the situation has changed, what is responsible? Is this so difficult to analyse?
Do we need foreigners to do it for us? In the name of promoting agriculture, so much fraud is being perpetrated on a daily basis and the big players are taking advantage of it and smiling to the bank, whereas there is nothing to show for it.
What is it about agriculture apart from the seedlings, implements and management? What implements are needed for agriculture to be sustained in Nigeria?
It does not require rocket science; this country is mature enough for mechanised agriculture to be introduced all round. We can produce the machines locally here in Lagos, Benin, Aba and Nnewi; our manufacturers and craftsmen need to be challenged.
In the manufacturing of machines, it is not compulsory that we get all the parts produced in one place. What is done – even in China – is to import other complex parts from abroad and do the coupling at home. That is why companies assembling machines in Nigeria should be encouraged. Gradually the parts will be manufactured here by our local fabricators; all that is required is just the zeal and determination.
There is no agricultural equipment, including small sized tractors, that cannot be manufactured in Nigeria if the locals are encouraged and given the opportunity to produce the parts. That should be our focus. The money being disbursed as intervention fund for agriculture is huge and under normal circumstances, should make the desired impact.
Instead of getting the fund siphoned into other flimsy projects our agricultural technology should be developed to produce agric implements; and in the event our agric output will soar. Agric officers should be assigned to projects with targets attached as conditions for the retention of the job.
Our civil servants in the ministries are not productively engaged; they only push files around. Majority of them should be engaged in the fields, supervising and ensuring that government projects are done to specifications.
It is the right time for us to sit up; the leadership is beginning to take things for granted and giving excuses for clear failures. Whereas the solutions are in our hands, there is no clear policy direction; and where they exist, poor implementation is witnessed. Why can’t every ministry work with a clear-cut vision or goal? For example, what is the role of the Ministry for Science and Technology? In which areas is it helping to build the economy of this country?
In China, the people practice reverse technology; that is, breaking down the imported machines into small components or units of completely knocked down, and then reassemble them, one after the other, to finished products.
They are encouraged to try, whether they succeed or not. Here in Nigeria, we condemn our own Aba-made. When we condemn our locally produced items, what encouragement are we giving to our local manufacturers? The disappointing aspect of it all is that our government do not set the example for patronage of locally made products; instead, they opt for the foreign or imported goods, and yet expect the citizenry to do otherwise; that is not possible. We must begin now to understand that if we cannot fix our power situation, there is no way we can be manufacturers of finished products.
It is the first challenge that we must tackle. Some of us are talking about nuclear and space technology; when we cannot produce electricity in the country, that is a very tall dream indeed.
The technology of power has become so advanced and developed such that advanced nations have taken it for granted.
We have sunlight, water, wind, thermal, gas and more; we are churning out graduates in different fields of engineering on a daily basis; why can’t we put them to work? Will the needs of a few people benefitting from the present arrangement be allowed to supersede the needs of the majority? It is a question for those in authority to answer.
We must wake up now. Almost all the reports from world bodies like the UN, the World Bank and even Amnesty International, have poor ratings of Nigeria in their global indexes.
Their individual verdicts give Nigeria the unenviable records of the world largest concentration of poor people, worst in open defecation, poor in human rights, poor in democratic practices, high in insurgency, terrorism and kidnapping; high in religious crises and many more.
The country needs unity at this point in order to thrive; we have focused too much on ethnic and religious differences. The secularity of this nation must be respected and safeguarded; representatives of the people, that is people in government, must respect the sanctity of that provision of our Constitution. This country is an agglomeration of so many ethnic nations; any attempt to impose one over others will only bring about negative consequences.
Let our leadership wake up and do the right thing. Our inability to fight and subdue terrorists is the result of biases being exhibited by people entrusted with that responsibility. It is time for all to wake up, because if the foundation is not properly grounded it will not stand the test of time.
We must institute democratic practices at all levels – free and fair elections. People must be allowed to express their will and preferences without any coercion or threats. All must unite towards a common goal. It is our choice to make, whether to come out of the doldrums or remain down.