Memo to Northerners on Diversification

Economic Confidential February 2012
Economic Confidential February 2012
The Northern Nigeria has been the focus of global and media attentions due to the condemnable acts of terrorism by faceless armed militants, using name of a religion for destruction of lives and properties. Incidentally, up till the Abuja bombing by MEND on October 1, 2010, the Northern region was never known for bomb explosions. We are aware that such acts of criminalities were common in the South,

especially among militants in the Niger Deltawhere kidnapping for ransom, destruction of public infrastructures, like pipeline vandalisation were rampant before Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua introduced and implemented Amnesty programmes for the armed youths.
 
As you are aware Northern Nigeria has continued to receive verbal attacks as well as negative publicity campaigns from some sectional leaders and tribal groups who believe without their resources, especially crude oil, other regions and states could never survive. They label others, especially Northerners as ingrates, loafers and lazy people,on the allegation that they (Northerners) profit from others’ resources for survival. The critics have deliberately ignored the fact that before the discovery of oil, every region earned enormous revenues and was sustained from other abundant natural resources.
 
Going by some of the derogatory remarks, Northerners too must have themselves to blame by the ineptitude of some of its leaders who, rather than invest heavily in non-oil sectors, engage in bogey contract awards and barefaced nepotism where family members and their cronies are given preference in choosy appointments and job executions. For instance, while the North remains one of the most backwards in the area of education, which is the genesis of the problems of Almajiris (city urchins) our leaders send their children to private schools. In fact when individuals and organizations in the South establish private universities in their regions, their counterparts in the North only establish few elitist schools meant only for the children of the very rich.
 
It is unfortunate that while political leaders in the south use ‘resources control’ and attendant youth militancy for politicking and  mischief,  some faceless Northern counterparts use religion and ethnic rivalry like indigene-settlers dichotomy  as campaign tools. The North had never been like this when they were truly united in saving Nigeria from disintegration before and after the civil war.
 
Nevertheless, the criticisms and bashing of the North and their leaders could be blessings in disguise if the region could wakeup from its slumber and look inwards. This is the time to call the bluff of the so-called ‘resources control’ campaigners by harnessing our immense potentials to greatness.
 
Our over-dependence on oil revenue for sustenance is not only unbecoming but disappointing as other oil-based resources nations have successfully utilized their earnings to broaden the base of other sectors like development of commerce, hospitality and tourism industries, as is the case with some Arab countries. We should realize that the oil resource, as a commodity, is exhaustible, non-renewable and worse still, easily prone to the effects of international market forces.
 
In the past, agriculture and mining formed the backbone of the Nigerian economy, providing employment opportunities and also as the major source of income and foreign exchange before the discovery of crude oil. The country relied heavily on those sectors in providing infrastructures, paying for the cost of administration and executing other developmental projects.  But today, the agricultural and mining sectors have been relegated and abandoned. Rather than improving internally generated revenues (IGR), majority of states in Nigeria, with caps in hands, queue up in Abuja monthly to receive cheap and free allocation from the Federation Account without making any contribution to the generation. Free Oil Money (FOM)
 
Northern Nigeria like other parts of the country is still enormously endowed with vast material and human resources with unquantifiable hectares of arable agricultural land. With healthy, educated and strong population of young men and women, we are capable of sustaining any industrial endeavor. We have enough resources to ‘control’ if we compel our leaders to look inward and develop the abandoned sectors in the regions.
 
We need to reposition the economy towards the rapid development of the agricultural, solid minerals and industrial sectors together with the associated technological advancement to completely diversify from the present mono-product status. Most great nations and economic giants are not single resource and oil-producing economies.  They are non-oil sector producers who manipulate their budgets to the advantage of the real sector.
 
Most fast-growing economies in the world today, are not oil-driven. Yet, Nigeria has more potential endowments than most of them considering our abundant solid minerals for a wide range of industries which include clay/kaolin coal, gold, gypsum, iron-ore, marble limestone, phosphate, salt, tin and columbine among others. They are yet to be fully explored even when exploration of mining industry is by far lesser and cheaper than prospecting for oil mineral. Meanwhile we could also explore other water resources for multi-purpose uses such as power generation, irrigation, fishing and livestock development.
 
It is necessary to call on our state governments to henceforth provide substantial allocations to agricultural and mining development. Our students should be encouraged to pursue skill acquisition scheme which could make them self-reliant. The government should reduce wasteful expenditures on jamborees like pilgrimages, when such funds could be channeled to other developmental projects. Budgetary allocations should be prioritized and committed towards agriculture, solid minerals, Science and Technology which are considered critical to the diversification of the economy.
 
There is a lot of apprehension about the fate of the in-coming generations whether they would be in a united country or in divided federations. If we must genuine and sincerely counter any sectional rhetoric and ensure employment generation, crime reduction, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earnings, we have no option than to diversify our economy right now. That is the only way we can be respected and be proud of ourselves.

Yushau A. Shuaib
www.yashuaib.net

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