When I first visited Lagos in 1987 to write the NMS entrance exam, Oba Akran Avenue which was not far from Mangoro where I stayed, was a very busy industrial estate.
The same trend was observed when I later travelled for holiday in Lagos in 1991. The headquarters of the Dunlop Nigeria Plc was a beehive of business activities. It agitates the hope of hundreds of young men and women. The company sits on several acres of land side-by-side with the Guinness Nigeria Plc, and dominated the Ikeja Industrial Estate, just as it played a leadership role in the then-emerging tyre market.
Just like other companies, Dunlop began to experience some challenges due to an unfavourable operating environment, and production was scaled down before the complete shutdown of the production factory. The company’s woes were attributed to policy somersault by the government and the dearth of basic infrastructure in the country.
The decline in the industrialization of the country became very noticeable in the late 90s and unemployment began to grow. In an attempt to find hope from the situation that appeared hopeless, Nigerians decided to patronize an emerging business conglomerate, the religious houses, which is taking over the space of the companies’ warehouses. And now on the northern side of the Dunlop premises, where it shares boundary with the Guinness Nigeria Plc, is a new occupant, a Church, that is now “giving hope” to Nigerians.
The entire Ikeja industrial area, Oregun industrial axis, Ajao Estate industrial cluster, etc. suffered the same fate. Ikeja, Apapa, Agege, Orile-Iganmu, Oregun, and Ilupeju areas of Lagos State were once littered with clusters of warehouses. These warehouses are now converted to worship centres. The warehouses in Aba, Onitsha, Ibadan, Kano, and Calabar are possibly now occupied by either rodents or religious houses.
With the collapse of industries in Nigeria and the soaring unemployment, the Government at all levels became the major employer of labour. And now they can’t pay salaries. Meanwhile, the only thing they can’t think of is “downsizing” or “rightsizing” as they call it, to reduce wage bills. Some State Government that earlier implemented the minimum wage has experimented it by reverting to the old minimum wage without any fuss and sacking of some categories of staff.
One of the Governors has also gone ahead to introduce tuition in all the State Tertiary Institutions, a decision we are still not sure if it is a progressive one or a self-destructive one. Meanwhile, the Federal Government seems to have seen that experiment as a brilliant idea and may adopt the same style judging from a recent media report. They are calling it reducing the cost of governance. But they are not thinking of reducing the cost of our expensive democracy that is consuming a large chunk of our resources to reduce the real cost of governance. The people are always considered the problem.
We were told that the recession period was over a few months ago and the Presidency was wondering why Nigerians are not celebrating the announcement. But with the events over the last weeks, are we back into recession again?
Please don’t blame President Buhari if that has happened. We have never left recession. The recession actually started in the 80s when we stopped investing in human capital and those key facilities that sustain industrialization. All we were after is just to take the crude oil from the ground, sell and pocket the money. Little did we know that the real wealth of a country is in the people and not the natural resources below the earth’s surface.
With the money from crude oil, electricity structure expansion that could aid industrialization was stalled while the population was on the increase and the existing industries collapsing.
Even with the money from crude oil, we watch helplessly as our manufacturing industries crumble gradually with our men and women roaming the street without a job while the political class grow in wealth.
Getting a job now is like a huge favour. You now need a note from someone that knows somebody that knows a close associate of the Director-General, a Minister, or a Senator to get a job. You can also buy the job if you can afford it. You don’t need to have a responsibility, they could just create a seat for you to warm, and that qualifies you for your meal ticket at the end of the month.
People visit their respective religious houses to give testimony for getting a job.
While Asian countries without natural resources were investing in human resources, investment in education in Nigeria was stalled from the 80s even with our rich natural resources.
Foreign students even from neighbouring African countries stop patronizing Nigerian universities as they start to lose their values. Nigerian elites now patronize foreign universities for their kids.
A Deputy Governor recently celebrated the graduation of his daughter from an expensive private university in Abuja that caused a clash with a Commenter. Ironically, the State Government University under their management was not good enough for the daughter.
A lot of money is shipped out of Nigeria every year to pay school fees abroad. The best research publications from Nigerian universities were in the 70s till early 80s. Our universities at the moment lack the necessary funds and innovation.
Nigeria is blessed with a colourful and beautiful cultural heritage. Rather than developing our rich cultural heritage that used to be a tourist attraction, we decide to now patronize the heart of Europe, the US, and now Asia for tourism.
I remember in the 80s when villages were filled with people from the cities during traditional festivals. People don’t take their kids to their villages anymore to experience their rich cultural heritage. They are scared of their witches. They will rather spend millions to take their kids abroad for holiday to go see Castles and Museums in England, Paris, Dubai, etc.
An economy cannot grow where there is no innovation, productivity, and manufacturing. Without this, the country can remain poor with its rich natural resources.
President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020 during the peak of the fear of COVID-19 stated that: “We must all encourage and empower our scientists and medical experts to join the quest for a vaccine and cure to this universal plague”. A year later, there is no sign that the government has any meaningful plan for education, research, and healthcare delivery.
Unfortunately 72 months into President Buhari’s administration and about 23 months to go, the government is yet to focus its attention on one component that could transform the country: Human resources development.
The true wealth of a nation is human resources. Let’s put on our thinking cap. We need to develop a knowledge-based economy as the real wealth of a nation is in the people.