The giant of Africa.
Blessed right from its inception.
Its people, its culture, its diversity, its natural resources.
The amalgamation of its northern and southern regions in 1914 brought it all together.
A well-oiled machine recognized as the production center of Africa.
The coal mines, the steel factories, the rail lines, the agricultural export bases.
Nigeria was a symbol of the richness and the beauty of Africa; a wonder to behold.
Then something happened.
A blessing many called it, but soon a hindrance in disguise.
Oil was discovered in Oloibiro, Bayelsa state.
It was a thing of joy, liquid gold gushing from the ground and well sought after the world over.
This was supposed to be it.
A chance to make the Giant of Africa take even greater strides on the global stage.
At this time, Nigeria became a global brand alongside other oil producing nations.
The country’s foreign reserves grew exponentially from a meager $63million in 1968 to an all-time high of $62billion in 2008.
Despite this huge growth in revenue, Nigeria continued to experience large infrastructural decay due to its endemic corruption.
Nigeria’s leaders thought the country no longer needed to export more cocoa, palm oil, or tin to make money.
Other critical sectors for production and export were neglected while the government channeled more resources into exploring and producing more and more barrels of crude oil for export.
A sharing formula was quickly drafted for the oil revenues earned.
It was called the “derivation fund”, a 13 percent of crude oil sales shared among all oil-producing states.
All a state needed to do to join this pool was to invest in oil exploration and production in their states.
Then the scramble began.
Almost every state governor started to invest heavily in oil exploration in their states, at the neglect of other economic sectors.
And soon, it all started to fall apart.
The coal mines slowed down.
The steel factories packed up.
The rail lines became moribund.
And the agricultural export bases were replaced with tankers of crude oil barrels.
Since then, Nigeria has effectively become a single product exporting country held hostage by corrupt leaders whose only goal is to steal as much as they can.
But the tides could change as light seems to appear at the end of the tunnel.
Hope beckons as Nigerians go to the polls in 2023.
3 frontline candidates are jostling for support across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones.
As far as they are geopolitically zones apart, their plans, ideologies, and manifestos appear even more distinct.
However, there seems to be a silent consensus among the electorates that Nigeria needs to move from consumption to production.
The sharing formula needs to be replaced with a production formula.
The signs are glaring, with the CBN admitting that Nigeria is near economic collapse with its reserves depleted down to $15billion and nearly impossible to cover 4 months of import costs.
Hence, Nigeria is in dire need to solve its spending as well as its production problems.
The country urgently needs to reduce costs, revive its production sectors and boost its exports or risk facing a comatose economy in the midst of the current biting inflation.
One candidate seems to have a plan to turn the tides for Nigeria and its teeming populace.
His slogan of moving Nigeria from consumption to production is a resounding echo of what the people want and demand.
Now, here is the plan.
A 7-point agenda that could be summarized into 4 action steps to turn Nigeria around and make it an insanely rich country.
Step 1: Cut Costs
The First Step is to reduce waste in governance via cost cutting methods and reducing corruption.
The country needs to pursue a drastic reduction in cost of governance and corruption while striving to operate within available resources and ensuring a balanced national budget.
To ensure sustainability and resilience, Nigeria needs to stop borrowing for consumption. All loans must be invested in regenerative projects and when borrowing is unavoidable, it should be strictly for production initiatives.
Step2: Security Systems
Secondly, the country need to ensure the security of lives and property via a three-pronged approach of uniting Nigerians, dialoguing with agitators and encouraging respect for rule of law.
There should be a responsive plan to secure Nigeria’s perimeters, end banditry and insurgency, and unite our dear nation towards managing our diversity such that no tribe is left behind.
Step 3: Create Infrastructure for Production
The third step is to create the enabling environment and right infrastructure for production and exports to thrive.
In pursuant to Goal-9 of the SDGs, Nigeria should lay more emphasis on encouraging investment in infrastructure – energy, transport, irrigation, and telecoms— in order to grow these and other sectors.
The plan should be to quickly close the existing infrastructure gap between now and the year 2030.
To achieve this, Nigeria should prioritize agriculture and production-centered growth for food security and export, with more emphasis on exporting finished products instead of commodities and raw materials.
With Nigeria blessed with over 84 million hectares of arable land with barely 40% cultivated today, it is clear that agriculture could be Nigeria’s new oil if the right systems are put in place.
And talking about oil, the country urgently needs to start refining it’s own oil domestically so as to secure its foreign reserves, create jobs and export finished petroleum products.
Step 4: Build Strong Institutions
Finally, Nigeria as a matter of urgency, needs to start investing in building strong independent ininstitutions.
Firstly, the government needs to start creating legal frameworks for enabling ease of doing business, restructuring the arms of government and diversifying the economy.
There’s a clear need to expand the frontiers of financial inclusion to ensure that SMEs have greater access to credit to enable them grow and create large-scale employment.
The government needs to create the enabling legal and finance environment that will enable SMEs to thrive.
Financial institutions need to be incentivized and encouraged to improve their ability to identify credit worthy borrowers and support inventory financing, which will help to unlock finance for SMEs dealing with high account receivables.
There should also be the enforcement of a a resilient legal framework to attract Foreign Direct Investment, and to protect foreign investors and their indigenous partners in order to tackle local monopoly and capital flight.
Lastly, Nigeria as a nation, needs to start looking beyond oil. The plan should be to leapfrog Nigeria from oil to the Fourth Industrial Revolution by expanding physical infrastructure through market-driven reforms that will unleash growth-enabling entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations.
With these, Nigeria could slowly but surely climb out of the hole it has dug itself into and truly claim its place as a giant nation in Africa.
2023 seems to present the perfect test for Nigeria.
Because once in a while, life shows a people the ultimate test of their rhetoric, so that they would no longer be able to say we see no one to save us.
So that they would no longer be able to say we had no chance to make a choice.