Opportunity is not yet lost for Nigeria to get it right… Yes we still have hope!
by - @jerrydeking
Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producer and the world’s 15th largest, pumping out over 2 million barrels per day. Yes, one could say that oil provides ample opportunities for massive development and economic transformation, yet we wonder whether Nigerian leadership has allowed oil to be a real opportunity. Oil has netted at roughly $500 billion in Nigeria since large-scale production began in 1971—$250 billion in the last decade. Proven reserves stood at 37 billion barrels in 2010, which is the world’s tenth largest. Tracking the rising price of oil, the economy has grown significantly in the past ten years, with GDP per capita (PPP) climbing from $1,267 in 2000 to $2,365 in 2010 (World Bank 2010a).
In 1971, the share of agriculture to GDP stood at 48.23 percent. By 1977, it had declined to almost 21 percent. Agricultural exports, as a percentage of total exports, which was 20.7 per cent in 1971, reduced to 5.71 percent in 1977. The oil-boom resulting from the Arab oil embargo in 1973, affected the agricultural sector adversely in Nigeria. The economy became heavily dependent on oil. By this time, oil revenue represented almost 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings and about 85 percent of total exports. Despite the oil boom, the private sector remained weak and the austerity measures introduced by the military administration under General Olusegun Obasanjo were not effective because structural problems were not addressed. Consequently, the economy entered a recessionary phase, requiring further measures to improve the system. An opportunity lost? Yes....The 60s presented some cracks in the Nigerian political development and tested our readiness to manage post independent Nigeria. The country was still dealing with deep ethnic and religious divide. The perceived injustice and sequence of events that led to an increased ethnic tension and violence resulted to Nigeria civil war of 1967 to 1970.
The 70s then provided an opportunity for the total overhaul of Nigerian military and security apparatus that would deemphasized ethnic, class or religious sentiments and ensure all classes and citizens obtained positions of authority despite their origin. But it was not addressed, which played a major part in subsequent military coups in Nigerian history championed by soldiers from one area of the country; yet another lost opportunity.
The national conference being planned this year by the Nigerian President, The Honorable Goodluck Jonathan, could have happened immediately after the civil war to reconcile all groups, address all concerns, restructure the country and address what might lead to future conflicts, but we have not been sincere with ourselves since amalgamation. Can this conference address all structural issues confronting the entity called Nigeria? It seems it was a lost opportunity in the late 70s and early 80s.
Nigeria has been patronizing western nations including the US, Japan and Korea for cars and equipment for many decades, yet the Engineers from Igbo extraction who played major roles in the execution of the Biafran war and led the manufacturing of ammunitions and armored vehicles and other inventions were never absorbed into research centers after the war. These skills were not harnessed for national development. Yet, it became another lost opportunity.
Beginning in 1979, Nigerians had the opportunity to return to democracy led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari and to address all issues that led to the wastage of the 70s. Yet the Shagari government was increasingly viewed as corrupt and incompetent by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society. This led to the military coup of 1984 immediately after the fraudulent general election led by Major General Mohammadu Buhari. Yet, the entry of military administration dragged Nigeria back and it became another lost opportunity.
All the Military heads of the State that seized power after Buhari, include, General Babangida who conducted the 1993 elections that was perceived as the most credible in Nigerian history, yet he annulled it despite millions of dollars spent to conduct the elections. Yet another lost opportunity.
In the late 90s, President Obasanjo was elected with support of almost all Nigerians with hope and enthusiasm that the administration will build from lessons of the past. His administration championed various initiatives including pursuing privatization policies, our foreign debts and opening up of the economy for investors especially in the telecommunications industry. Yet, issues like strengthening state institutions like the Judiciary and Police to fight corruption were not well pursued as most at the helm of affairs were accused of embezzlement and corruption. Strategic strengthening of security apparatus in anticipation of future terrorist attacks and insurgency were not taken serious as security agencies were neither well equipped nor trained; the national ID card project was inconclusive which provided no national data to track criminals and terrorists. Nigerians were faced with zoning and rotational presidency to the detriment of qualified citizens, which today has heated up the polity. Also an opportunity presented itself for Nigeria to readdress what happened during the oil boom of the 70s where ‘Udoji salary’ scheme contributed to our economic, yet we ran a government that makes legislating a full time job where bogus salaries were initiated in secrecy to the detriment of the economy. Yet, we lost a golden opportunity to set a foundation.In July 2009, President Yar’Adua hurriedly offered amnesty without an exit strategy to militants in the Delta region in the wake of militancy that affected oil exploration as a result of long years of neglect of the region and agitation for resource control. The program offered unconditional pardon and cash payments to militants who agreed to lay down their arms. This program is about to expire in 2015 and the questions is, what next? Has Nigeria lost the opportunity yet? There is still a window of opportunity left to develop a holistic program to address the aftermath of post-Amnesty 2015. But time is running out.
The 2011 general elections provided an opportunity for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to put its house in order and address most challenges encountered since 1999 elections, but in the year 2013, we have not learned enough lessons to address most structural issues such as Voters’ registers not being upgraded, permanent voter’s cards have not been issued, use of adhoc staff who lack integrity, corrupt INEC officials, electronic ballot, delineation of constituencies, insecurity in North East and in Niger delta creeks, independent candidates and many more. INEC has requested N92.904 billion to conduct 2015 elections. The question on everyone’s lips is, does INEC have the capacity to utilize this fund and give Nigerians the best election ever? Anambra has come and gone and we look forward to states like Ekiti and Osun as another acid test for INEC. Would it be another lost opportunity? Have we lost the opportunity yet? Still a question to be answered in Ekiti and Osun in 2014 Governorship elections.2013 has provided an ample opportunity for African leaders to learn from the life of Late President Nelson Mandela and do away with parochial interest that leads most African countries into different types of conflicts which has affected African growth and development since colonialism. Mandela’s life taught us that you don’t need to hold position to exert influence. For over 27 years he was incarcerated, he exerted influence from the prison walls. Over his five-year presidency, he exerted influence and won accolades. Even after his retirement from politics, Mandela’s influence grew as a global humanitarian and philanthropist. At death, the world stood still just for a man who is represented what leadership should be. This influence he exerted proves to us that positions and titles don’t define great leaders; great leaders define and leverage the power of their positions to have a positive impact to mankind. Do we have such leaders in Nigeria, past or present? Nigerian leaders have this great opportunity to learn from Late Mandela and leave legacies to be remembered by upcoming generation as we approach the election year. Have we lost this opportunity?
Nigeria is my country and I have not given up hope yet, even with the rough waves and tides we have had so far. Let history remember those that can stand up and say enough is enough. Let history remember those that gives good counsel to our leaders. Let history remember those who laugh while millions are weeping. Let history remember those gallant Police and Army Officers who despite all odds, gave their lives for the service of this nation even without any life insurance. Let history remember our leaders who despite the juicy temptation of staying back in power, relinquishes power for the unity and peace of the nation. You’re the Mandela of our time. We have this year and next year as an opportunity to right all wrongs and be remembered as a great nation, great people and God’s chosen generation. Have we lost the opportunity yet? I would say we still have time...