- Nigeria is poor and insecure, but also has untapped potential and opportunities for growth.
- The missing link in Nigeria’s economy is capital, both in terms of knowledge and money to deploy productivity-raising devices.
- Nigeria’s problems are solvable, and there is a need for more scale in retail services, improved wet markets, logistics delivery, specialised firms, and a modernised education system. Those who can and know should step forward and organise with a different ethos to supplant the old systems.
‘Home is where the heart is’ is as good as sentimental metaphors get. The heart deserves the best, and that costs money. That is why home is where you invest; it is a place you clean and preserve. It is where many of our fondest memories get made.
Investing in Nigeria is an inescapable reality for most of us. Buka madams or the army of labourers toiling across farms, markets and construction sites in the country whom those madams feed have no other choice but home. Their efforts are often underappreciated. They are rarely remembered when we talk of heroes, leaders and good citizens. Yet, they too propel Nigeria forward with the sweat of their brow.
However, the unequal distribution of opportunities and disposable income means that there is a limited audience who have to be pitched on Nigeria. An invitation to choose Naija can only be addressed to the frequent flyer class for whom cosmopolitanism is a plausible alternative.
In truth, Nigeria isn’t worth your time, but the challenges within Nigeria deserve your effort. Our country is poor and insecure. We are world-class in far fewer areas than we ought to be. Ours is an unexplored frontier, a mighty fortress waiting to be stormed. Nigeria is an empty skyline awaiting the skyscrapers that will define its skyline. Opportunity and challenges are always twinned. That is the Nigerian proposition.
The modern economy is a 24/7 operation that exists to generate stuff. Workers who make the stuff and capital which represents things that aid production like knowledge and industrial machinery are its energy source. Nigeria does not lack workers. Therefore, the missing link in our developmental journey is capital, of knowledge, on the one hand and of money that will allow the large-scale deployment of machinery and other productivity-raising devices. Further, limited domestic savings, for many reasons, means that we run a perpetual current account deficit. As things stand, we must rely on the kindness of strangers to fund our developmental push. That is an expensive proposition.
Appeals to patriotism will not work, nor do I think that appeals to duty will fare any better. After all, what does Nigeria offer that other countries don’t do better? In truth, there is no greater duty than to die debt-free, rich, comfortable and loved. There might be some utility in appealing to a sense of self-preservation. After all, what good is individual success if the country collapses around you, and the foreigners won’t take us all. But I doubt that is the mindset from which greatness blooms. Much better, instead, to lay out our problems and call for heroes thirsting for adventure and the prestige of success.
Leadership is not the problem with Nigeria. Poor leadership demonstrates our existing limitations. We don’t know better because we don’t, yet, know better—knowledge must be earned. We have numerous dreamers and scant capital. Our society leans excessively towards myth. There are few structures in our country to balance the overweening power of the government. That is why contests for its positions are always painted in stark, existential terms.
Regardless, I believe that all those problems are solvable. No condition is permanent if we act!
Nigeria needs more scale at the retail services level—think Walmart and Costco—cleaner, better organised wet markets and a revolution in logistics. Imports should cease to be a dirty word, and there should be specialised firms capable of scouring the globe for the materials, especially fuels, needed to power our industrial emergence. There must be an expansion of well-structured, long-term savings products across the country to accumulate the capital necessary to drive down interest rates. Underpinning all that must be a thoroughly modernised education system whose graduates can master the processes and technologies to make all that work.
Those who can and who know should step forward and organise. Not because they must, but because they want to. Positive choice is important because the new systems to transform Nigeria must be isolated from the old. New wine and old wine bags do not mix.
An acorn contains within it a mighty oak; but it must first be hidden away to grow. Similarly, the networks to supplant the old must develop in isolation, with a different ethos from all those we complain about.
I will end with the wise words of Yoshida Sho-in.
Life and death, union and separation, follow hard upon one another. Nothing is steadfast but the will, nothing endures but one’s achievements. These alone count in life.
Only true believers need apply. That is the only way things can change.
Emmanuel-Francis is a Nigerian nationalist. He is for clean streets, safe nights and full bellies. Please, indulge his verbosity; and join his campaign to abolish the African Union.