Why Nigeria Is Going Down
Nigeria is a poor country of rich men. But that is not how God meant it. God intended that Nigeria should be a rich country. He endowed it with strategic mineral resources such as iron ore, coal, columbite, precious stones, crude oil, kaolin, gypsum, bentonite, glass sand, feldspar, kyanite, copper, limestones, bauxite, marble, granite, bitumen, salt, natural gas, gold, tin, tantalite, lead/zinc, lignite, etc. It is very hard to find these level and quantities of mineral Resources in any country of the world.
Nigeria also has one of the best arable lands in the world, making us able to cultivate virtually every kind of crop, such as Gum Arabic, groundnut, soya beans, beans, maize, palm oil, cashew, even though we do not export any of it in either the crude state or processed form. At a time, Nigeria was the world largest exporter of groundnuts, cocoa, palm oil and a major world producer of coconuts, rubber, cotton, citrus fruits, yams, sugar canes, millets and hides.
There was also a time when we supplied the whole of West Africa with textile materials.
Nigeria is still the largest crude oil producer in Africa. But last week the president of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou, told us to our faces and to the listening world that his country, Niger Republic, of all countries, one of the poorest nations of the world, would soon be exporting petroleum products to Nigeria.
Nigerians were not angry. They were numbed by extreme anger. Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the eight largest exporter and has the world 10th largest proven reserves. The Niger Republic president said this scandal would start as early as December this year, because they had virtually completed the construction of their own Zinder Refinery. Niger Republic will buy our crude oil, refine it and then sell it back to the northern states of Nigeria.
The revenue that accrued to Nigeria from the sale of crude oil during the Obasanjo years of between 1999 and 2007 were mind-boggling. It was at this time that the international price of crude got to the unprecedented level of $I47 per barrel and for the best part of this period, it never went below $120 per barrel. As a result of that, Obasanjo’s government earned more revenue than all the other governments of Tafawa Balewa, Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo’s military government, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar put together.
Yet, Obasanjo didn’t build a single refinery and didn’t put the four refineries he met in order. He didn’t build new seaports and airports and did not refurbish the old ones he met. Obasanjo killed Nigeria Airways and instead bought new aircraft for the presidential fleet attached to his office.
Today, when you travel around the world’s airports, you see aircraft belonging to Ghana Airways, Kenya Airlines, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, Korean Airline, Malaysian Airlines, Indonesian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, etc. With the exception of the South African Airways, all of these airlines belong to countries that used to be far poorer than Nigeria.
We have also been told that Chad, another of our poor neighbours, has ceased the importation of petrol into their country, because they have become self-sufficient in local refining of petroleum. Very soon, they too will start dreaming of exporting petroleum to Nigeria. When Obasanjo came in 1999, he promised to generate 10,000 megawatts of electricity by 2007. But by last weekend, the minister of power, Professor Barth Nnaji, was vowing to move us from 4,200 megawatts to 5,000 megawatts by December.
The theft of Nigeria’s money and the extreme corruption we saw during Obasanjo regime have only ossified with succeeding governments. Very corrupt leadership made worse by ineptitude and incompetence of the government have brought Nigeria to this state.
Our situation is made more egregious by the fact that the leadership of the country displayed unconscious incompetence in resolving the nation security situation. Nigeria is known to have a growing network of crime. Many people have forgotten that the possession of firearms without a licence is a crime.
There are daily reports of kidnappings, especially in the South-East and South-South, military activities in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram activities in the Northern part of the country, ethnic and religious bigots on the rampage in Nigeria and political assassination around the country. The government is both clueless and helpless and has left Nigerians to their own faith. After the successful bombing of precinct of the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja recently, all the president could tell us was that the Boko Haram people were looking for him too and would also bomb him if they find him. In plain English, we are on our own and should continue to depend on good luck.
Worldwide, Nigeria is renowned for 419 crimes or advance fee fraud. Nigerian criminals are also involved in some piracy especially in the oil-producing regions. Between January 2007 and October 2007, 26 pirate attacks were recorded. The governments in Nigeria from Obasanjo government have not shown any competence in protecting the dignity, life and property of law-abiding Nigerians from criminals who have a field day, because they know they will not be caught.
The poignant truth about Nigeria is that we shall continue to decline and go down the drain and subsequently join the league of the Somalis of this world until we start ensuring that only competent people who are committed to Nigeria prosperity and who will stand firm against corruption get to become leaders. Our leadership recruitment process in Nigeria will continue to lead to our underdevelopment. Countries that used to be far behind
Nigeria in the 1960s and 1970s such as South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are now far ahead of us in terms of development and modernisation.
In the 1970s, the Indians and Chinese trooped to Nigeria for gainful employment. Today, Nigerians troop to India on medical tourism, Singapore is so bereft of natural resources that it doesn’t even have drinking water. It depends on Malaysia for its drinking water needs. Today, Singapore is an oil-rich country, even though it does not produce a drop of oil.
Singapore various refineries refine more than two million barrels of oil daily (roughly our daily production capacity) from the crude it imports from countries like Nigeria. Malaysia produces roughly 700,000 barrels of oil a day, compared to Nigeria’s 2.6 million barrels daily, yet, there was a time when Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia capital, was the tallest building in the world sending a message of economic strength and power. Petronas is Malaysia equivalent of our own NNPC.
In the 1970s, the Malaysians stole a few palm oil seedlings from us because they didn’t have any. By 2008, Malaysia was producing I7.7 million tonnes of palm oil on 4,500,000 hectares of land, making it the second largest producer of palm oil in the world.
What is more, the palm oil industry generates about 600,000 direct jobs, making its people gainfully employed and reducing crime.
The same Malaysia, that got its seedlings from us, now exports refined palm oil products to us. Its revenue from palm oil has exceeded that from crude oil. Malaysia’s production of palm oil is only surpassed by Indonesia which overtook Malaysia in 2006 to become the world largest producer of palm oil even though unlike.
Malaysia, most of its export of palm oil is still in the crude form.
We must never forget that palm oil is not indigenous to these countries. Good governance in those countries has been largely responsible for this prosperity. Palm oil is indigenous to West Africa and there was a time when Nigeria was the world largest producer.
I will be ending this piece today with what has become a mantra to me. If we do not get an elite consensus on the leadership recruitment process in this country and we continue to allow a bunch of bandits to persist in its hijack of the electoral process and imposing themselves on the rest of us through election rigging, then not only will we have countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea overtake us, Niger Republic and Chad will overtake us also. What other evidence of that do we still need? Are we not importing petrol from them already?