Producing What We Eat—Roadmap To Economic Independence
As the economy of the country continues to dwindle each minute, not in terms of either the increase or decrease of the dollars but in terms of over dependence on the oil, it becomes pertinent that the federal government who has made itself the melting point, where all the federating states come at the end of every month with the bowel for their allocation, to diversify its sources of revenue to make coming to Abuja less attractive by the states.
The country raised and still raises alarm over the paucity of fund in the foreign reserve. This is because the only source of revenue for the reserve is the crude oil. Had the country other sources of income, there would be less worry on the drop in the price of oil. It is usually the foreign reserve that hedges the local currency, which is the naira when oil drops this much.
What happens is that once the foreign reserve is dropping, it puts pressure on the local currency and that is why the naira is falling so that for the naira to appreciate, the foreign reserve has to also appreciate.
If the country must loosen its hold on oil, it must begin to find ways of diversifying the sources of revenue. That will start by asking ourselves key questions like; Can we feed ourselves without importing? Can any state in Nigeria feed itself adequately without having to open the door of importation for other countries or states? If the export and import windows are closed today, how many states can comfortably feed their citizens?
Until the federal government who is the warehouse of our common patrimony begins to compel the states to move away from rhetorics and the political glossolalia typical of some leaders and go into realistic actions of diversifying the economy, there will be no head way. The State Governments know what to do but because of the lure of the federal allocation, they are always reluctant. All the capacity and capability are found at the corridors of powers. Nothing is insurmountable for the government.
The leaders must begin to close the skills-gaps that have widened to breaking point by returning to provision of quality education and skills development. We need a new paradigm shift. We cannot have many graduates with mouth-watering results whose capabilities limit them to ‘okada’ or ‘keke’ riders.
We need teachers who have undergone thorough training, ensuring that they are qualified, certified and have the professional status to teach in the first place. That will be the beginning of the new trend of teaching in Nigeria. The new teachers must have the pedagogy of teaching and not those who teach for part-time. We need technical education where skills are taught.
Every effort must be geared towards making sure that Nigerians, especially the younger graduates have that consciousness of going into full mechanized agriculture. It does not end in white collar jobs. There are areas of farming begging for attention, like piggery, snailry, fishery, palm plantation among others. It is one thing to have gone to the university and another to acquire the skills for survival. Formal education can give one a job but skills can change the face of a country.
The farmers in the hinterlands are finding it difficult using most of the modern equipment which the younger generation can handle effectively.
Given that Nigeria is a member of the World Trade Organization, where it cannot stop the importation of some items, it may not entirely close the export and import windows, but it should keep it ajar to reduce the dumping ground of goods which the country has turned into. Once this is done, the citizens will begin to think outside the box.
The state governments should begin to support the local farmers by taking the goods/produce out of their hands, find those that need them and sell to them. This will motivate the farmers to put in their best bearing in mind that somebody is there to buy their goods. There should marketing board in place to control the movement across the state. Government can also provide lands for interested farmers, provide free fertilizers or at subsidized prices. Arable lands should not be destroyed by the federal, state and local governments in building structures that may not have direct impact to the citizens.
The governments should encourage the building of high rising structures, reserving some areas for agriculture. We must have agricultural reserves instead of foreign reserves where those eager to farm are allocated lands. There should be easy access to agricultural loans without undue bottlenecks.
The State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS) policy should be revisited by the state government, while the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) should be activated at the federal level. This is where we start getting it right. The federal government must unbundle certain responsibilities by delegating certain assignments to those who can do them, especially at the local levels so that live can return to the communities and learn to have memory of the past, instead of starting from the beginning on every issue. It should check out those issues of governance already addressed by past leaders and learn from them. This will add to the political capital of the governments of the day.
The federal, state and local governments should learn to engage experts and professionals in governance. The corridors of power should not be a learning ground. It should be for those who are experts in their fields. Four years is not enough for anybody to learn the robes in governance. Do we commit our common patrimony to those who will have the boat capsized? God forbid!
In achieving the dream of producing what we eat and eating what we produce, sentiment must be shown the way out. A certain pilot landed safely and said ‘thank God I made it’. The pilot was fired for attributing his safety landing to God. What does that portends? It is telling other pilots that you are trained to be a professional and that no excuse should be given for either landing or not landing safely.
In governance, one is not expected to fail because one has all the paraphernalia to make life better for the led, especially in ensuring that Nigerians produce what they eat in this time of crude oil fall.
Chigozie Uzosike, a Development Journalist writes from Owerri, 07037723606.