(Being text of an Address delivered to the First Annual Conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) on Thursday, August 10, 2017 at the Renaissance Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos by Professor Akinyemi Onigbinde.
Let me begin, as should be expected by the code of conduct amongst people of Yoruba extraction, a Nigeria ethnic-nationality group and say, e ku ile o, se daadaa ni mo ba yin. This salutation is for everybody here present, that has come in felicitation with our common host at this auspicious gathering.
Yet, I cannot proceed with my short commentary without due and specific commendation of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) who had considered me worthy of being accorded a space, as Guest Speaker, on the occasion of its first Annual Conference which also coincide with the occasion for the election of new executives’ to speak on critical national issues, especially as they relate to online publishing and the social media.
When my dear friend and brother, a compatriot and ready ally in my own convened interventionist group engagements on critical national issues, our own Gabriel Akinadewo, called on me about two weeks ago to offer me a privileged platform to be here, today, I was inclined to decline, albeit for a clear and present reason. The reason being that I was already scheduled to depart the shores of the country, later today, and was too immersed in the preparations for the very business of my engagement, as an academic and a researcher for which purpose I was due out of the country.Thus, for me the invitation to deliver an address to a forum of seasoned journalist-writers a challenge I considered too tasking, and definitely too risky to accept, ‘just like that’
However, on reflection, I saw in the invitation by GOCOP, through Gabriel Akinadewo, an opportunity to pluck a low-hanging apple, of a platform, from where I am able to discharge a truck load of gratitude to publishers of some of our nation’s on-line publications, who has been willing collaborators in my own-led New Independence Group (NIG) interrogations of the Nigeria nation space. And in this seemingly ‘subvertive’ activities, Gabriel Akinadewo’s freedom online publication has been most guilty of ‘treason’ for its unconditional obligation, always.
What economy, what diversification and towards what end?
I have elected to speak on my own adopted title of: “Diversification of the Nigeria Economy, Restructuring As First Principle” in apparent subversion of GOCOP “Command” Topic of: “Sustaining Growth Through Diversification of the Economy.” But I assure you, I am not just a rebel against the “constituted authority” of this plank of the Fourth Estate of the realm, represented by the Guild of Editors. The point is, a proper deconstruction of my chosen topic would reveal a mere varied version of GOPOC theme because, at the end of the day, it will be seen that your Guest Speaker has only insisted on the need for the resolution of the ‘first principle’ to enable the business of ‘diversification’ to proceed on an unclustered pathway to growth and development. And I can only hope that your group, made up of journalists, placed in a vantage position to constantly engage our nation unfolding history, will help to correctly articulate and ventilate this ‘first principle’ in our quest for nation-building. This, however, is on the assumption that GOCOP has not permitted itself to be sucked into ‘false consciousness’, to the extent of being unwittingly dragged into a revisionist theory on diversification of a so-called economy, outside of a wholistic theory of political-economy that ensures growth and development. The point is ‘nothing can be built on nothing’, just as it is idle speech making to talk of sustenance growth in the absence of crop-planting.
Let us put it like this: the issue of diversification is a recognition of a fact and a presumption that a mono-culture economic practice is bad, as it is susceptible to vicissitudes of market forces, to the extent that, if a product is no longer viable, or no more valuable to consolidated consumers, the single-product economy suffers. Thus, there is always the need for a society to ensure that it trades in many goods and services, believing that such a tactical approach is a guarantee that a society’s strategic objective is never at peril. I suspect that this elementary economic theory is in line with peoples native intelligence to wit, ‘do not put all of your eggs in one basket’.
Let me say this, and it is with all sense of responsibility, that the proponents of this ‘diversification’ theory, with respect to the chronically ill Nigeria economy, are not being honest. Indeed, I dare say they are being mischievous, just as they insist on playing Nero as our Rome prepares to go up in flames. Truth is, for Nigeria, it may well be one-minute to midnight, if we continue to ignore the ‘first principle’ in nation-building.
Nigeria economy is in recession. Many reasons have been advanced for the perilous state of the nation. We have heard of ‘corruption’ as the cause, except that my ordinary level economics class taught me that recession is a factor of drop in productivity. Economists call it Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is to say that an economy need not go into recession simply because stealing is abroad, otherwise, all capitalist countries will be on permanent recession mode because ‘corruption’ is built into capitalist or market-force driven economy. So, what is responsible for Nigeria’s arrested development, to put it in a counter thesis to GOCOP request: Nigeria economy cannot enjoy a sustainable growth and neither can it be diversified because there is even no basis for economic growth.
As I had earlier suggested, what economy are we to diversify? And As I had also insisted on, there can be no economy to be diversified, hence there will be no growth as to speak of ‘sustainable growth.’ If we recall the idea of diversification of the economy, as a major policy option of the present administration, was first hinted at by the Acting President. To be clear, Professor Yemi Osinbajo thunder, like Zeus, from Mount Olympus, was no more than political-gallery acting, as his widely reported statement was a deliberate subversion of strident calls, by different sections of the Nigerian polity, for a review of terms of co-existence by Nigerians.Such agitations by different sections of the polity, calling for the rebuilding of the Nigerian state, is contained in the code-name of ‘restructuring.’
Restructuring is a loaded issue, and we would not be delayed with its explication on this platform. But let us, however, say that Nigeria will continue to remain in a state of suspended animation, economically, so long as some sections of the Nigerian nation space feel short-changed by the Nigeria political economy, due, largely, to the operations of present structure of the Nigerian state. It think it too obvious to serious-minded minds to bother pontificating on benefits that Nigeria wait to harvest if the over-extended central government will thinker with the ‘Exclusive’ of the military imposed constitution of 1999, and devolve some of its functions. It is only in Nigeria, purporting to run a federal system.of Administration that a serious business of policing in centralized, with a Zamfara-born and nurtured police office is expected to secure the people of Iberekodo in Abeokuta. But why is it difficult for policy makers to know that policing, as subset of security matter, is a local affair
Truth is, so long as the centre holds a ‘veto power’ over the economic activities of Nigeria so-called federating units, so long will Nigeria manifest destiny remain dormant
We speak, rather gleefully of ‘diversification’ of the economy. For clarity or understanding, ‘diversification’ may mean that states should seek other areas of income (IGR), instead of depending on monthly allocations from the centre, which income has dwindled, due partly because less of our mono-cultural product is being demanded on the international market because alternatives to our (only) export are being daily patronized. Yet, even our quota cannot be met because those on whose geographical space the exportable crude oil reside makes smooth operations of the explorers difficult because they are not happy with the rest of the country on account of not being given their due ‘as the goose that lays the golden egg.’
Again, let us agree that even if there is peace in the Niger Delta, and we are meeting our quota for export, we must also agree that oil is a vanishing and non-renewable product. Hence, the need for ‘diversification.’ Regrettably, ‘diversification’ can hardly proceed as a policy-option without the requisite infrastructure procurement. And infrastructure procurement is hinged on the constitutional resolution of the ‘First Principle’. Today, as we speak here, in this August gathering of nation’s information purveyors, I know of no geo-political zone of six zonal structure, into which Nigeria’s pseudo-federalism is subdivided, that is not endowed with extractive mineral resources, literally begging for exploration, and made maketable for the much needed foreign exchangeearnings to boost Internally Generated Revenue, one way by which states of the Federation can be freed from feeding bottle of the Nigerian government over extended state. Here, we are not even talking of Agriculture productive sector of which no state is impoverished.
Let us look at the mineral resources endowments.
Abuja: Marble, clay, Tentalite, Cassiterite, Gold (Partially investigated), Lead/Zink (Traces), Dolomite
Abia: Gold, Salt, Limestone, Lead/Zink, Crude Oil
Adamawa: Kaolin, Bentonite, Gypsum, Magnesite
Akwa Ibom: Lead/Zink, Clay, Uranium (Traced), Salt, Lignite (Traced)
Anambra: Lead/Zink, Clay, Limestone, Iron Ore, Lignite (Partially investigated), Salt, glass, Sand, Phosphate, Gypsum, Crude Oil
Bayelsa: Clay, Limestone, Gypsum (Partially investigated), Uranium (Partially investigated), Manganese, Lignite, Lead/Zink (Traces)
Bauchi: Amethst (violet), Gypsum, Lead/Zink (Traces), Cranium (Partially investigated)
Benue: Lead/Zink, Limestone, Iron-Ore, Coal, Clay, Marble, Sekt, Barytes (traces), Gem stones, Gypsum
Borno: Diatomite, Clay, Limestone, Hydro-carbon, oil and gas (partially investigated), Gypsium, Kaoline, Bentonite
Cross River: Limestone, Uranium Manganese, Lignite, Lead/Zink, Salt, Crude Oil
Delta: Marble, Glass sand, Gypsum, Lignite, Iron-Ore, Kaoline
Ebonyi: Lead, gold shocked, salt
Edo: Marble, Lignite, Clay, Limestone, Iron-Ore, Gypsum, Glass Sand, Gold, Dolomite-phosphate, Bitumen, Crude oil
Ekiti: Kaoline, Feldsper, Tatium, Granite, Synite
Enugu: Coal, Limestone, Lead/Zink
Gombe: Gemstone, Gypsum
Imo: Lead/Zink, Limestone, Lignite, Phosphate, Gypsium, Salt, Crude Oil
Kaduna: Sapphire, Kaoline, Gold, Clay Supenitinite, Asbestos, Amethyst, Kayginte, Graphite (partially investigated), Silhnite, Mica (Traces), Aqua Marine, Ruby, Rock Crystal, Topaz, Flosper, Tourmaline, Gemstone, Tantalime
Kano: Prrochinre, Lassiterite, Copper, Glass sand, Gemstone, Lead/Zink, Tatalite
Katsina: Kaoline, Marble, Salt
Kogi: Iron-Ore, Kaoline, Gypsium, Fieldsper, Coal, Marble, Iron-Ore, Cassiterite, Colubite, tantalite, Fieldspar (Traces) Mica (Traces)
Lagos: Glass sand, Clay, Bitumen, crude Oil
Nasarawa: Bery (emerald), Asquamite and Haliodor), Dolomite/Marbel, Sappire, Tourmaline, Quartz-Amethyst (Topaz gamet), Zireon, tantalite, cassterite, columbite, Limenite, Galena, Iron-Ore, Barytes, Falspar, Limestone, Mica, Cooking Coal, Talco Clay, Salt,Chalcopyrite
Niger: gold, Talc, Lead/Zink
Ogun: Phosphate, Clay, Fieldspar (traces), Kaoline, Limestone, Gemstone, Bitumen Crude Oil
Ondo: Bitumen, Kaoline, Gemstone, Fieldspar, Granite, Clay, Glass sand, Coal, Crude Oil
Osun: Gold, Talc, Tourmaline, Columbite, Granite, Marble, Clay
Oyo: Kaoline, Marble, Clay, Sillimote, Talc, Tale, Gold, Cassiterite, Dolomite, Gemstone
Plateau: Emrald, Tin, Marble, Granite, Tantalite/Columbite, Lead/zink, Barytes, Iron-Ore, Kaoline, Beronite, Cassitenite, Plurochlore, Clay, Coal, wolifam, Salt, Bismuth, Fluoride, Molybdonite, Fluoride, Molybelemine, Gemstone, Dioxide.
River: Glass sand, Clay, Marble, Lignite (Traces), Crude Oil
Sokoto: Kaolin, Gold, Limestone, Phosphate Gysium, Silicon-sand, Clay, Laterite, Potash, Flakes, Gold, Salt
Taraba: Kaoline, Soda Ash (Partially investigated)
Zamfara: Coal, Cotton, Gold.
But because of the way our country is structured, politically, as enshrined in the 1999 fraudulent constitution that ascribed a military imposed document to “…we the people…,” Osun State, for example, can do very little in accessing the mineral resources underneath its soil, as only the Federal Government can accord explorers/miners that the government of Osun State may encourage to come, the requisite license to proceed to Ijeshaland where the gold deposit is much. And given the atavistic nature of our retail politics, hinged, essentially on zero-sum equation, where it is “winner takes all”, such requested mandate on economic activity in Osun State may be denied in Abuja, especially if the Osun government is under the administration of a different political party from the one in the nation’s capital. It once happened to an idea of electricity power generation, as conceived by the government of Lagos State in 1999, when the PDP-run Federal administration, at dagger-drawn encounter with AD-administered Lagos State, ensured that the project was nonprofitable for the foreign investors, with which Lagos State government was in business under some public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement. Yet, today, the same Lagos State government is reported to have approached, literally on its bended knees, to seek the permission of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to enable it retain for the good people in Lagos State, the 3,000MW it wishes to generate, through the activities of some private investors. Perhaps, the Leviathan in Abuja will oblige, afterall, Lagos State, this time around, waves the same broom with the party that controls the levers of power in Abuja. Yet, the minister in charge of power once ran the shop in Alausa, Ikeja. But this is also assuming that the zero-sum political sensibility, currently running within the ruling party in Lagos State, is not brought to bear on this ‘begging’ mission of the incumbent in Alausa.
But it is this ‘begging’ culture, a presumed ‘privilege’ to be accorded a unit in a supposed federal arrangement that we must constantly interrogate, if really we are interested in building an economy to be nurtured for ‘sustained growth.’ And, on this simple, yet herculean task, the over 50 membership of Guild of Editors Corporate Online Publishers has its job already cut out, provided it hopes to be in business through patronage of advertisers. After all, only a vibrant economy, within a free political environment, where rights are claimed and citizens welfare, through the provision of requisite infrastructure, is not subjected to sets of privileges to be ‘dashed’ out, albeit it, conditionally to peoples representatives by a coordinate power at the centre.
The imperative of restructuring
I reckon it is time to bring this short address to a close, but it is also important to remind ourselves of where we were before the locusts arrived in 1966, adorning military fatigue and studded boots to eat off the very foundation of our nation’s economic growth. Again, we should remind ourselves of why we are being asked to ‘diversify’.This call, when it came, was meant to veer us from the ‘feeding bottle’ federalism, of each and all – from all corners of Nigeria, including my local government of Ifo, in Ogun State – to proceed to the centre of power, every month end, to receive from the ‘lord of manor’, its benevolence.
Let us not forget, for a moment, that what we are being ‘dashed’ by the putative benefactor are proceeds from the beneficiaries, constitutionally warehoused to Abuja, for where, for example, the Lagos, Bayelsa, Ogun, River states, receive a token of their contributions – less than what was ‘seized’ from them. Let us, again, not forget that, presently, not all are ‘equal’ contributors to this national coffer. Indeed, some do not bring any edible to the village eating mat, even when we all know that no member of our large family is a destitute, poor enough as not be in a position to feed itself, and still have enough to donate to our monthly ‘egungun’ festival for the blessing and benefit of our community. But this is only feasible if and when we resolve to arrange the terms and conditions of our relationships, to co-exist under equity and justice.
At this stage, perhaps for the necessary illumination on why we must commence an urgent dialogue with the Nigeria’s future ask the question: why has successive leaders of Nigeria acquired the dubious post-office tag of ‘corrupt’, ‘tyrant’ ‘clueless’ and indeed,’incompetence’. Yet, we may ask, why has our immediate post-independence leaders, adjudged as relatively successful, at least in terms of democracy and governance deliverables. For example, years, long after Obafemi Awolowo left office as Premier of Western Region, which comprised of what now constitute Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos, Edo, Delta, he remains a reference point in good governance and competent leadership. For instance, and this was inspite of Awolowo public disagreement with Odumegwu Ojukwuover his misrepresentation of what transpired over the Biafra course, the Biafran leader, at Awolowo’s funeral, saw in him, ‘the best president Nigeria never had’.
Before him, in a goodwill message, made public, on the occasion of Obafemi Awolowo last earthly celebrated birthday, the then military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, described Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the ‘main issue of Nigeria politics’
Let us get it right, lest we run into the ‘Bermuda triangle’ of historiography: the enduring crisis of legitimacy between individual role in history and the counter claim of de-legitimising the individual in the dynamics of historical reconstruction. To be clear, I am a firm subscriber to the doctrine of the individual pivotal role in the eternal movements of history, through its many modes and trajectories. But this is in so far as we do not lose the fact that, the ‘super hero’ of history is a ‘mere’ product of the environment, a variable among other contending, cooperating and conflicting forces that shape a declared end of historical activity, in which the individual is involved as co-participant. And those contending and cooperating variables include the way the operating theatre, where the drama of history is played out, is structured to enable the various actors to act their allotted parts in the various scenes. We should also not ignore the roles of the ‘prompters’, the ‘costumers’, the make-up artste. And indeed, the lightening of the stage.
My social sensibility and political relationship makes me a subscriber to Awolowo political philosophy, but I shall not be found amongst those who will submerge Awolowo’s operating environment under his richly deserved greatness, as an achiever of many firsts.Indeed, to do this is to do a great disservice to a man’s ‘political manifesto’ of a life-long struggle to achieve a country properly structure along a federalist agenda, befitting a nation made up of multi-ethnic nationalities and multi-religious persuasion.
Obafemi Awolowo in the West, and his fellow premiers in the North, East and later mid-West, were in healthy competition to out-perform one another, simply because the ‘First Principle’ Nigeria being, as enumerated under Lyttleton constitution of 1954, as adopted for the 1960 independence constitution, and later upgraded to the Republican constitution of 1963 gave them sufficient elbow room to operate as the imperative of the needs, based on their respective region’s incomes dictate. The Western region, for example, had its Marketing board from where it was able to lend money to the federal government of Nigeria when the latter needed a bailout fund to offset a budgetary deficit. Yet, it is on record that civil servants of Western region received monthly salaries and emoluments than their counterparts at the federal level, then based in Lagos.
Thus, my friends and colleague in the media, your task is to assist in the struggle for the re-making of Nigeria, so that we can have an economy to grow and sustain.
Regrettably, the option before us, even if we choose to live a lie, is between restructuring of the warped and indolent pseudo-federal arrangement and seccession-the option being offered us by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and other ethnic-nationality groups that has, since Nnamdi Kanu launched his secession bus, joined the long and bumpy road to Somalia.
I thank you all.
*Professor Akinyemi Onigbinde, a Senior Research Fellow in Programme, Centre for West African Studies, University of Birmingham, UK, is the Convener of New Independence Group (NIG), a socio-economic Think Tank.