My childhood period was at a time when the naira was not this bad, but gradually declining. It didn’t start today, it has been declining for years, but we did little about it until it became part of us. It is not just the Naira, what about the heat in our houses?
Lack of a maintenance culture has 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 times; I read the Nigerian history from the time Tubman Dashwood Goldie started selling palm oil at the time when the British took over the affairs of governance. It’s been a sorry story in any case. 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 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 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 anything about it, 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 do something about it.
Just before you think I am clamouring for our substandard locally produced goods (which is the excuse some people have to buy foreign goods), let me explain better. During my youth service program in Oyo State, a friend of mine bought a ”˜kongo’ (the locally measuring container for 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 is that we allow only quality goods to be sold. Most people prefer buying foreign goods because of the quality.
Our government has a major part to play in this. We can invest again in agriculture and other natural resources where we have a competitive advantage over other countries. In my development class during my final year at the university, these were the things we examined. Every country must look inwards and look for the things in which they have a competitive advantage over other countries and begin to export. Nigeria has a lot. I recently did a study on Dubai where 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. That is their competitive advantage. Nigeria is a country with resources that can give us that competitive advantage in various sectors, but we have been lazy in developing our country.
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 education. A young Chinese boy can create an ICT gadget for you. It is not because he is smarter than the average Nigerian; it is just that they have the enabling environment for it to thrive.
I believe the government is sincere with this, I wish I could have 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 in our learning. 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 is basically the enabling environment. We are so bothered about goods that we forget that people are much more important. The 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 in 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 the Russians are proud of Russian-made cars. What are we proud of in Nigeria?
Today, as the issues of the Naira is trending, the heat that many face 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 on the electricity situation in our houses. Only those that can afford to put on their generators or inverters all through the night 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 are doing their jobs well. 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 still continue the bad habits of the then NEPA by bring electricity bills that do not have any basis. 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. The government should also set up systems where we can examine other means of generating electricity at cheaper rates for national consumption. The Minister in charge of 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!
”‹God bless Nigeria!”‹
”‹”‹This is my Nigeria!
All the best!