By Francis E. Ogbimi

THE most important function of the intelligentsia/intellectuals of a nation is to provide the knowledge for guiding the growth and development of their nation. When the intelligentsia/intellectuals of a nation are unable to provide the needed knowledge for guiding the development of the nation, it drifts. Nigeria has been experiencing increasing unemployment and poverty problems since the mid-1970s.

Many political leaders are victims of the manipulations of those they trust while in office – the economic team, political advisers, special assistants, friends, business people, foreigners, others. Individuals and groups tell the gullible leader that all is well when the true situation is very bad.

In Nigeria, rather than try to understand why the nation has been experiencing mass unemployment, poverty and stagnation, the Buhari administration like others before it is misled by his economic team, newspaper editorials and other indoctrinated groups promoting the fallacious claim that capital investment (capitalism, technology transfer, foreign investment, entrepreneurship, loans) is all Nigeria needs to achieve GDP-growth and solve unemployment, poverty and poor infrastructure problems. This article is written to demonstrate, using historical and scientific evidence that industrialisation is solution to mass unemployment, poverty and poor infrastructure problems.

Our historical research revealed, that all the technologically-advanced nations of today experienced mass unemployment and poverty problems for many centuries as agricultural nations before they achieved Industrial Revolution, IR. The modern Western Europe – ancient Gaul, was harnessed into the Roman Empire in 55 B. C. The western portion of the empire broke-up in 406 A. D. The various ethnic groups in the region occupied by modern England and evading ethnics groups metamorphosed into the Kingdom of England in the tenth century (Carrington and Jackson, 1954; and Brooke, 1968).

All through the 1500s, English farm families were dispossessed of their land and forced to look after themselves as best as they could. The proportion of England’s population that was destitute rose dramatically. By the end of the 16th century, the common people in England were forced into begging, stealing and prostitution (Defleur, et al., 1977).

A common belief in an agrarian economy, is that the real solution to unemployment and poverty, is to provide land for able-bodied people to farm and make a living themselves. This thinking probably influenced the actions taken by individuals and government concerning England poverty and unemployment problems during the early 1600s (Defleur, et al., 1977). It was during the early 1600s that charters were first issued for establishing colonies in the New World – the Americas.  

Such ventures were probably perceived as solutions to the problems of the English poor. The healthy and able-bodied poor could be sent to the colonies where people were in short supply and there was uncultivated land. That was the beginning of how the English poor (area boys?) were exported to America (Defleur, et al., 1977). Poverty and sufferings continued in Britain for many more centuries before the nation achieved the first modern Industrial Revolution.

The general grievance, civil wars and military rule in England during the period 1640-1688 had a lot to do with unemployment and poverty. Thus, entrepreneurship and self-employment in agriculture did not solve the problem of unemployment and poverty in agrarian Britain. The British experience was typical of European nations. Britain did not establish public educational systems till after it had achieved IR and fought the two World Wars (Dent, 1975).

Britain achieved the first modern IR in the period 1770-1850 (Gregg, 1971). When Britain achieved the IR, the adult males and females in the nation were not many enough to fill the available job openings. Consequently, employers of labour had to resort to employing children to work for many hours in the day. That was the basis of the scandalous child-labour in Britain during the early times of the European industrialisation. History, therefore, demonstrates that rapid economic growth and industrialisation are the solutions to mass unemployment and poverty.

Virginia, the first colony in the New World was set-up by British businessmen and the crown in 1606 (Baldwin, 1969). By the 1770s, thirteen colonies had been set-up. The colonies revolted against the crown in 1775 and fought the War of Independence in the period 1775-1783. Assisted by many other European nations, the colonies won the war and the United States was born. The destitute of colonial America was faced by a system of relief that was similar to the one in Britain under the English poor law.

During the early 1800s, America was a village-nation; over 90 per cent of America was made up of villages which had no contact with each other. The mother, father and children worked to provide food, shelter and clothing (Bartlett, et al., 1969). America achieved Industrial Revolution during the period 1850-1900. European and Asian nations toiled for 2000-3000 years before achieving the modern IR. The United States was a special case which demonstrated that learning (education, training, employment and research, integrated) is the primary basis for achieving sustainable economic growth and industrialisation as solution to mass unemployment and poverty.

The belief that the future of America rests on sound public education was common among early American leaders, though they themselves did not have opportunities for good education (Hicks, et al. (1970). Consequently, Americans displayed fully the versatility of an educated people. The New England States were the first to establish public schools to educate all young people (Bartlett, et al., 1969).

It was also in these states that sound and systematic education had been practiced longest and where it was most developed that the greatest manufacturing development occurred first. The young boy’s mind was first prepared by school discipline and education. He then began to acquire one type of skill after the other, never satisfied with any single skill type. Also, doing one mechanical operation never satisfied his employer. The young American learnt always at that time (Bartlett et al, 1969).

The claim that capital investment promotes economic growth has neither historical nor scientific basis. It is a sad fallacy. Britain and America learnt for a long time and achieved IR as solution to mass unemployment, poverty and poor infrastructure. They built their infrastructure as fruits of industrialisation because building infrastructure is very expensive and they depreciate readily with time and usage. Industrialisation is a scientific process. That is the reason economists and other social scientists and their friends: accountants, bankers, lawyers, administrators, etc., do not understand it and cannot manage it.

The claim by the Buhari administration that it has been borrowing to build infrastructure which cannot be completed in 10 years and longer makes no sense in history and science. It is the unwise parents who build real estates for their uneducated children to inherit. The railways being built are already breaking down frequently. What would the railways system be like in just five years? Would Nigeria have paid the debts accumulated?

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.