By Francis Ogbimi

President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB, and his men and women in governmenthave again proved that no amount of money builds a nation. The national dailies every day since PMB became the President of Nigeria in May 2015 have one item about how Nigeria is trying to borrow billions of Dollars or how the National Assembly is approving one jumbo loan for PMB or how the public is expressing fear that Nigeria’s debt is not sustainable or how the finance minister is explaining that Nigeria needs the loans to erect critical infrastructure or about how Nigeria is somewhere begging for the forgiveness of the debts the DMO claims is sustainable, or how prices of electricity and petroleum products would be highly increased as a way of removing subsidies. But the states of the nation and the economy say it all – no amount of money builds a nation.  

 The Federal Government has been borrowing streams of billions of Dollars claiming that it wants to build critical infrastructure with the money. What is critical infrastructure? Where are the roads, bridges, railways, dams, electricity generating and distributing plants Nigeria erected 55 years before 2015?

Where are the roads, bridges, railways, etc., today? They do not exist! Why? It is because of the nature of all types of infrastructure. They experience depreciation. They are depreciating assets, DAs. They may be likened to a profusely leaking water tank. No wise individual tries to fill a profusely leaking water-tank with water.

That explains why all the industrialised and rich nations of today built relevant infrastructure after they had achieved industrialisation and had developed the capabilities to build, repair and restore the value of depreciated infrastructure.

History and science have demonstrated over the centuries that: No industrialisation, no reliable infrastructure. Only an unwise nation erects structures the citizens lack the knowledge, skills and capabilities to build and maintain, with loans.

Why is Nigeria always looking for money to borrow? When did Nigeria exit from a debt trap? It was during the Obasanjo administration 1999-2007. Nigeria and other African nations were forced to adopt the punitive African Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP.

The African SAP and its mandatory currency-devaluing foreign exchange market lack growth-promoting elements; they have only been promoting mass unemployment and poverty and de-industrialising Africa. What does PMB and his government want to prove – disgrace Nigeria more?

How long does it take to build a road in Nigeria, judging from the West-East and Ibadan-Lagos roads-building experiences? How long do Nigerian roads last? How many times has Nigeria attempted to resuscitate the colonial railway system?

Why should a government that has just eight years borrow huge amounts of money that would be paid over many decades for erecting infrastructure that would last only a few years?

Borrowing is no solution to Nigeria’s problems. Nigeria borrows frivolously because of the frivolous claims associated with capital investment and Nigeria’s development endeavours. The claim that capital investment promotes growth is a fallacy.

It has no historical and scientific bases. It is a very sad claim for Africa. The sad and frivolous claim is responsible for the pitiable state of Nigeria and all other African nations. Nigeria’s borrowings have never been for development.

Greece has come face to face with the disgrace of bankruptcy many times since independence in the early 19th century due to frivolous borrowing. The nation defaulted on its external debt five times in the modern era (1826, 1843,1860, 1894 and 1932) before the 2008 financial crisis (see, Greece’s History of Loans since 1824).

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It is said that being indebted is the worse form of poverty. Mere capital investment does not promote the capability-building growth and industrialization, CBGI, that Nigeria needs urgently to address its social, economic and political problems.

Unfortunately, when a people have done something bad for a long time, they are likely to think that what they have been doing is good. Being indebted on the individual and national levels is disgraceful.

It is hard to understand why the government of a nation with bad history of debts will think that it is a good thing to plunge the nation into huge debts, claiming that there is no other choice. The results since 2015 have been stagnation and impoverishing of the citizens. Those in PMB’s government claiming that there is no alternative to borrowing are wrong.

No one solves a problem he does not understand. I have always insisted that the problem with Nigeria is lack of understanding of what the growth and development of a nation entails. Economists and other social scientists and their friends do not understand the science of growth and development.

All the rich nations in Europe, the United States of America, USA, and Asia were poor when they were not industrialised and had agricultural/artisan economies like those of all African nations of today. INDUSTRIALISATION IS THE SOLUTION TO MASS UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY, POOR INFRASTRUCTURE, HIGH INSECURITY, etc. Mere capital investment on infrastructure does not promote sustainable economic growth and industrialisation.

Our curiosity-driven research showed that industrialisation is achieved through learning (education, training, employment and research). Education alone co-exists with mass unemployment and poverty.

The learning-nation is the progressive one. Progress in the learning –nation is measured from five variables. They are: 1) N – the number of people involved in productive work or employment in a nation; 2) M – the level of education/training of those involved in productive activities in the economy and of the people of the nation; 3) L – the linkages among the knowledge, skills, competences and sectors of  an economy; 4) r – the learning rates or intensity in the economy and especially among the workforce; and 5) n – the experience of the workforce and the learning history of the society. All the variables are related to the learning-people.

Moreover, the higher are the values of the variables, the better is the economy. A national growth rate measurement based on some or all of the five variables would reflect the true economic situation in the nation. Economists measure GDP or growth without development.

Our research results suggested that to promote rapid economic growth and industrialisation, all the citizens of a nation should be mobilised for learning.   Japan mobilized all her citizens for learning 1886-1905, 20 years and achieved industrialization. China mobilized all her citizens for learning in 1949. By the early 1980s, China had achieved industrialization. Nigeria must mobilize all her citizens for learning to be saved.

*Prof. Ogbimi, a technology management expert, wrote via: [email protected]

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