Inundating and mind-boggling statistics cannot sufficiently solve our peculiar problems. We need to use an ingenious magnifying glass that can figure out every detail of our perennial difficulties. The true synthesis of our problems lies in the absence of concrete and assertive efforts with social consciousness and attitudinal change cutting across all spheres and sectors of our society. Since independence, it has become a known fact that every administration is usually faced with its own attending challenges, which shape the activities and yearnings of the people. However, this has been underplayed and made a recurring decimal in our proactive steps and measures towards actualizing social resurgence.
On Sunday 15th January, 1956, oil was first discovered in Oloibiri in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State in commercial quantity by Shell Darcy. Going by Ismail Alfa Abdulrahim account’s in his article ‘Nigeria: Economy Monopolization’, before the discovery of oil, Nigeria was known for agriculturally driven economy, exporting cash crops like palm produce, cocoa, rubber, timber, groundnuts and the likes. Agriculture offered huge opportunities and employed over seventy per cent (70%) of the Nigerian labour force. The sector provided raw materials for local industries which made development of sites and structures in the health and educational sectors possible. It enabled the nation to build some of her first generation universities and monumental edifices.
Notwithstanding, the discovery of oil brought a great economic turnaround but later became the nation’s economic mainstay. The agricultural sector gradually grew to a state of neglect and eventually dwindled. It has become a staring reality that subsequent administrations wedged their budgets majorly on proceeds made from crude oil. This in no doubt is a similar path toed by the current administration. The collapse of oil market has perpetually given the county’s economy a plunge and setback.
Several efforts have been made by the government and its agencies. The ‘Let’s go back to agriculture’ mantra has only yielded some significant result. Agriculture has often been perceived as let’s go back to the fields. The government has disbursed money to people to engage in farming. This is a giant stride, but corrupt agents divert such funds to personal use in some cases. The government has not succeeded in provision of mechanized facilities for agriculture to thrive. Agriculture can be fully exploited if adequate infrastructures are provided. The power supply needs to be stable in order to maximally run successful farms with storage facilities and good road network for commuters to transport farm produce provided.
Moreover, agriculture does not end in the fields. Government needs to build and encourage agriculture processing factories, as it were, which will sever as receiving ends to refine farm produce. Consumable and household products can be made with standards set for the people. The government should make agriculture more attractive by providing available markets for farmers to sell. Farmers can be organized and connected for colossal export through a well-registered and monitored platform. Also, it is reasonable enough for government to adopt policies that can promote domestic products, but is practically achievable by building sustainable agriculture that can take care, at least, sixty per cent (60%) of the demand before the total ban on importation of alternative products. Such policies will create lopsidedness and illegal importation which makes prices of the products hiked and inflated.
More imperatively, there are other avenues through which the economy can rise. Agriculture alone should not be seen as the ultimate solution to the economic challenge. The government should develop other sectors and harness resources that can actuate productivity. We need to build our SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) for self-reliance and economic growth. We need to broaden our production of locally made technology with standards achieved and orientate the people to patronize locally made products. We should increase our service delivery and make elegant steps towards invention and innovation.
Obviously, discovery of oil with its early boom has never been the bane of our economy. The bane of our economy lies in mismanagement and complacency. Over the years, successive governments have failed to leverage our resources. Oil is not the only resource that can lift our nation out of the wood and agriculture is not the ultimate solution. The solution is good maintenance and productive use of our resources and people through effective policies and machinery that can cater for the need of the citizens. We need proper orientation and self-enlightenment with collective effort to break the unpalatable indices of our economy.