I grew up in Nigeria at a time when the country was still in its inchoate stage. Certain areas seem to have been on a decline now. These did not start today. The decline took several years, but we did little, or nothing about it until it became part of us.
Let us bring in the naira. What about the heat in our houses? Lack of a maintenance culture is said to have contributed to the situation we find ourselves presently. I grew up believing in a Nigeria that would someday become a global power. I read about the heroes of our past; I read the Nigerian history from the time Tubman Dashwood Goldie started selling palm oil to the time when the British took over the affairs of governance. Nigerians fought for self-governance, it was granted but many years down the line, many things have declined. Some even say we were not prepared; they justify their claim with our poor management culture. We need a strong reorientation!
We must believe in our nation. So many things that cannot be done in developed countries are seen as normal here which should not be so. We purchase foreign goods when we have ‘good’ substitutes. For people who have experienced poverty for a long time, there is almost nothing you can tell them that would make them listen to you as you give them reasons for them not to purchase foreign goods especially when they have just stumbled on wealth – their lifelong heart desire!
Just before you think that I am against foreign goods, I am not. I am for excellence and development. We have to understand that our Country needs to build its maintenance culture. We saw the naira gradually going down when it was exchanging to the dollar at N160, we didn’t do much about it then, even with the electricity situation, we saw it gradually declining, yet we invested more in generators. Now even the costs of generators have gone high. We need to take this seriously and find lasting solutions to it. Just before you think I am in support of our substandard locally produced goods (which is the excuse some people have to buy foreign goods), during my youth service program in Oyo State, a friend of mine bought a ‘kongo’ (the locally measuring container for the sale of rice) of locally planted rice for me. I was excited to eat it because I was patronising Nigeria, but that changed after cooking it because I began to eat stones. Since that day I decided that I wasn’t going to eat it again. That is not to say that Nigerian rice is not good. What I would suggest the government agencies in charge should ensure that it is only quality goods to be sold. This can be achieved the way NAFDAC under Dora Akunyili ensured that only quality food and drugs were sold. Most people prefer buying foreign goods because of the quality.
Our government have a major part to play in this. We can invest again in agriculture and other natural resources that we have competitive advantage over other countries. In my development class of my final year, these are the things we examined. Every country must look inwards and look for the things that they have competitive advantage over other countries and begin to export. Nigeria has a lot. I recently did a study on Dubai were I read about how a desert place like Dubai can become a global tourist attraction with edifices like the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, etc which helps to boost the Gross Domestic Income and also have effect on the per capita income because the average person would have a job to do. That’s their competitive advantage. Nigeria is a country with resources that can give us that competitive advantage in various sectors, but we have been developmentally lazy.
We need to learn from other countries that have similar developmental metrics like Nigeria. China is one of them. China looked inwards. Have you ever wondered why Nigerian students travel abroad and graduate with distinctions while they were only average students in their home country? The government needs to create the enabling environment for this to thrive. A young Chinese boy can create an ICT gadget for you. It is not because he is smarter than the average Nigerian; it’s just that they have the enabling environment for it to thrive.
Today, ICT has changed the way we do a lot of things and it has the capacity to employ thousands of people in Nigeria within the few years. If government can take the bull by the horn and invest in ICT Nigeria would soon become a global a first world country. Social Media which is an offshoot of ICT, has great potentials as well, it is also generating income for many in the country right now, but it can be better.
I believe the government is sincere with this, I wish I had a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, I would pour out my heart to him on how we can maximise the talents we have in Nigeria. Some of what our students are learning are outdated. We need to be more practical with what we do. We have to build ICT centres where our students can do practical things. We have to look inwards to make use of the researches that many of our graduates have done. If we are sincere with this our ‘so much talk’ on how to move Nigeria forward, we must look inwards. We have the talents already; we need the enabling environment to maximise it. What is it that our counterparts abroad have? It’s basically the enabling environment! We are so bothered about goods that we forget that people are much more important. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, etc, we have today all started because there was the enabling environment for those entrepreneurs to grow. Today those ideas that were in single individuals have become corporations that add on a large scale to the GDP of the countries they are part of. We need to develop our people!
Tai Solarin was of the opinion that we need to give up our love for foreign products and look inwards. Indians tried in their fight for their progress as well; today their manufacturing industry is thriving. They decided to wear their own home-made clothes; even Russians were proud of Russian-made cars. What are we proud of in Nigeria? Today we have made in Nigeria cars from Innoson motors. We need to support them and other innovative companies and individuals. I read about Unilag graduate who, in conjunction with his colleagues invented a car. All the resources might be imported, but gradually, as more research is done, we would be able to manufacture everything here. That’s what some developed countries did.
Today, as the issues of the naira is trending, the heat many are experiencing as a result of the weather is also an issue we need to look into. We have little to do about the issue of the weather, but we have certain pragmatic steps to take about the electricity situation in our houses. It is only those that can afford to put on their generators or inverters all through the night that are enjoying this season before the rains come again. The heat people face is nothing to ‘write abroad about’. It’s serious! This may not be much of an issue if the distribution companies that are supposed to see to the electricity distribution in the country and doing their jobs the way Nigerians want. We have heard of several reasons why there is no steady electricity in most parts of the country. The annoying thing is that despite the fact that there is no electricity supply, the DISCOs as they are called still continue the bad habits of the then NEPA to bring electricity incoherent electricity bills. They don’t read the metres and they bring annoying bills.
I suggest that the government makes it mandatory for the DISCOs to release prepaid metres to citizens of Nigeria at affordable prices; this would help in solving this issue of overcharging. That’s however just a part to it, we need to find lasting solutions to the issue of electricity generation and supply. The government should also set up systems where we can examine other means of generating electricity at cheaper rates for national consumption. The minister involved with power, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola is someone that has a track record of achievement. I believe he should look into it, because when we have stable electricity, we would have more businesses thriving and more foreigners would invest in our country, more Nigerians would have access to creative ways to innovate.
The Nigeria of my dreams is such that the naira is doing well in the international market, electricity is stable and development is the order of the day because the enabling environment for businesses to thrive exists!
This is my Nigeria!
All the best!
Leke Ademo is a Content Developer and Social Media Manager by Profession; a Sociologist and Research Consultant by training and a Teen passionate Inspirational Speaker and Writer. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or @lekeademo on twitter and +2348077454779.