Not too long ago many Nigerians could not imagine the existence of our dear country without its proceeds from crude oil. However, things are changing, and like a good dancer we should change our economic dance steps to the rhythm of global reality that keeps changing to our disadvantage. The need to diversify our consumer economy, where we import what we don’t need and export what we need, has become a must. We now know what the devastating disaster a sharp and continued drop in global demand for our crude oil portends.
We need to search our heart and probe deep into our collective social mentality for an answer to why we are so pessimistic about embracing change even when in reality it is the only way to go. This may not be foolproof, but our appetite for immediate gratification has ensured that our country’s resources are plundered. As a result, we its people have become blind to sustainable routes to economic growth and development. It is our immediate gratification that assumes topmost priority when we sell our God-given petroleum as crude oil and import it back as finished products through some fleecing and unwholesome middlemen. It is our immediate gratification that drives us to crudely sell our cocoa, coffee beans, wheat, cereal, groundnuts and other agricultural and mineral resources only to import them back in the form of finished products at premium prices.
Unfortunately, this “sharp-sharp” mentality is taking a toll on us. We create jobs for people in countries in Europe, America and Asia in double foolhardiness by being both the producers of the raw materials required by their factories and the consumers of the products in their shops. Inasmuch as multinational oil corporations help ship our crude oil off to China and America in exchange for some petrodollar, we are content. No fresh thinking, no “what-if”, no remorse. And we don’t even follow global trends to see if our avarice can continue for how long. While we spend our petrodollar on concurrent luxuries such as exorbitantly paying and servicing political office holders, those we sell to are getting closer and closer to energy self-sufficiency. In practical terms, our crude oil may worth nothing in a matter of 20 years or less.
Our economy is in recession because we didn’t learn a lesson from countries like the UAE, where the income made from petroleum is used to fuel tourism development, industrial growth and retail trade. Today, 90 percent of visitors go to Dubai as a tourist destination and centre of commerce, not for oil business. Here in Nigeria, however, industrial growth and agriculture hold the key to a diversified economy capable of getting almost all its citizens to work and reducing drastically the dependency on oil. Instead of attracting investment, we tend to repel it. Many factories are struggling to stay afloat because they do not only concentrate on employment generation and satisfaction of wants; they have to put infrastructure, such as power, road and transportation, in place.
At the peak of our reckless financial avalanche, a sitting government official once said our bureaucratic structure was bloated thus overburdening our recurrent expenditure. It is one of the reasons why there is no trickle-down effect in governance. But judging by recent economic decisions due to recession, it could be said that we are beginning to sufficiently learn our lesson.
To continue the preparation for life with limited crude oil resources, we have to attract investment in agriculture and industry by genuinely courting prospective investors with incentives, not killing their determination. We also have to support micro, small and medium scale enterprises because it is MSMEs that grow the economy and sustain it faster than resource-based investments.