Misfortunes Of The Oil Era – The Nigerian Experience | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Misfortunes Of The Oil Era – The Nigerian Experience

Posted: Jun 9, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Adewumi Oni

When Shell-BP struck oil in Oloibiri in 1956, little did anyone know that we had struck what will become a blessing and a curse for the nation. Nigeria was predominantly known as an Agrarian country before the discovery of Oil in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, we were among the major exporters of cash crops in the entire Africa continent, exporting Cocoa, Rubber, Palm Oil, Groundnut and a host of others. Every region in Nigeria had its own area of specialisation and there was healthy competition among the regions. The South was dominant in the production of Cocoa, Rubber and Oil while the North was known for Rice and Groundnut. A major portion of our GDP was accounted for, by proceeds from Agricultural produce. We were well on our way to becoming a great nation. Our potentials were great and our colonial masters saw this and kept close watch on Nigeria.

Alas, we struck oil and things fell apart! The Centre could no longer hold. We found a slow poison and it has been killing us gradually since then. Now we are at the verge of being asphyxiated by the discovery of Oil.

Now to the crux of the matter, are there lessons we can pick from the Nigerian experience for our personal and collective advantages. Sure there are. Here are some of the lessons:

First, nothing lasts forever. Wealth doesn’t last forever, especially if it is poorly managed. Yes there are a few generational wealthy families left in the world, but these are the exceptions. When you run into a boom, don’t expect it to last forever. Like Joseph advised King Pharaoh in the Biblical days, stores were created to warehouse what will be needed by Egypt and the rest of the world in the seven years of famine that was to follow the seven years of plenty. Our government must never allow the country go through what we are going through today again. We must save during the rainy season. It was Dr Oby Ezekwesili that said, if Nigerian government had been saving since the days of excess crude oil revenue, we would have close to $90 billion in our foreign reserves. I think we should have more than that going by the recently released recovered loots report.

Second, a mono-economy is a dangerous economy. Having a single source of income is a sure recipe for disaster. You must have streams of income to stay afloat during trying times. Do all you can to create multiple streams of income. Beyond Agriculture, we can create income streams from tourism, entertainment industry, hospitality industry, art and craft industry, in addition to tax revenue. There should be conscious and concerted efforts by government at all levels to create multiple streams of income from what we have. It is time to put on our thinking caps. It is time for the thinkers to emerge. If anyone still believes that the Presidency or Governor seat is attractive, he or she should have a rethink. It is no longer business as usual, if you can’t think don’t even register as a candidate.

Thirdly, you must take care of the goose laying your golden eggs. We must pay adequate attention to our sources of income to enhance their capacities. As an individual, horn your skills, study more, learn new skills, and do all you can to ensure that you increase your capacity to earn more. As a nation, we have long neglected the region where the bulk of the wealth of the nation is being generated. This accounts for one of the reasons for the renewed struggles of the Niger Delta people. Clean Up Ogoniland is coming about two decades late. This was what Ken Saro Wiwa and his followers died for. To think that we are just cleaning up Ogoni land some twenty years after is laughable and regrettable. While one would not blame the current administration, it will augur well for us all, if the approach of dialogue is considered. We must not underplay the capacity of the Avengers (or whatever they are called) to cripple the National economy. They are holding the nation by the jugular, knowing that our lives are still largely tied to daily export of oil. While not ruling out the use of military might, engaging this group may prevent unnecessary losses.

Fourthly, don’t raise children that are perpetually tied to your aprons. For long, our State Governors have gotten so used to planning on federal allocation to the extent that they cannot come up with any creative idea on how to raise their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). One of the herculean tasks the present administration had to face on assuming office, was to bail out many of the states. Yet less than a year after, some of them appear in need of another bailout!

Lastly, just as faeces attract flies, oil brought corruption to Nigeria in a dimension never before witnessed. Recent report released by the Minister of Information and Communication on looted funds revealed that almost $2 trillion is between recovered funds and recoveries under interim forfeiture. I doubt if this would have been possible under a diversified economy. Each region would have paid better attention to its main crop or resources. Unfortunately, we are today adjudged one of the most corrupt countries in the world.