Opinion | The Long Road To Nigeria’s Industrialization: The Need for Critical Interrogations

By Ogbu Ameh

The state, the government and its bureaucracy are subjects of diverse discourse in terms of ideological underpinning, policy formations and implementation, politics and the competition between equally diverse status groups for control and domination of political power and access to the commanding height of the national economy.

Industrialization is a manifest concept by the bourgeoisie capitalist emergent status groups in Europe at the beginning of the industrial revolution. There existed an intrinsic nexus between; capitalism, industrialization and technological innovation. In Africa, the reverse has been the case as the political and economic elite comprador bourgeoisie lack the discipline of Calvinist Ethics and visionary leadership required to translate concepts into concrete realities for development.

It is against this backdrop that we can properly understand the causes of underdevelopment on the continent of Africa and its concomitant highest proportion of poverty especially in Nigeria the purported giant of Africa. All the past and present superlative development plans since independence are mere theoretical exercise in futility as the state actors and bureaucrats high up in various MDAs are adept at killing or sabotaging the plans before it grows into fruition.

It is at this point of departure that we can begin to interrogate the Why and How the industrial and agricultural revolution envisaged in successive national plans fizzled out into thin air. A recent seminar/ workshop organized by National Automotive Design and Development Council speaks volume to another effort in futility towards industrialization just like many before it. The theme of the seminar workshop focuses on the impact of automotive industry on the economic growth of Nigeria; lessons from China, India and Southeast Asia.

Do the countries on the the African continent and their political elite ever learn lessons? I am compelled to ask this question begging for answer since ever. We are always learning and even very good at it, but hardly put the knowledge into positive use in our countries for change and transformation. We are just too good at the blame game as we trade blames from one successive government to another. As we upgrade from the blame game to outright killing of one another in the name of ethno religious sentiments cloak in politics of identity.

The curses placed on Africans that blind the people from the path that leads to knowledge economy and the prudent management of its resource economy had ever trapped the continent in development deficit. As I continue in search of answers to my questions through critical interrogations, I ask once again: with respect to the focus of the seminar refers to above and other development conversations ever on the front burner of national discourse, where is Africa and her nations among the league of industrialized nations? Why is it that individual Africans and Nigerians specifically in the Diaspora excel in terms of global competence and achievements, but as a people, nations and continent we are backward, underdeveloped and today the world headquarters of extreme poverty, diseases and miseries?

The reference to Nigeria being cursed as popularly believed by the common man seems more of superstitious belief as there seems no empirical reasons to explain why citizens of a vastly resource rich country like Nigeria should be wallowing in poverty due to low GDP, unemployment, poverty and deplorable infrastructure deficits. The reasons mostly and often given by critics and public affairs analysts are replete with wide scale corruption in government’s MDAs and among state actors. Corruption in public offices percolates into private offices through bribery during contract awards and procurements. Corruption was the keyword in the coup speech that sacked the First Republic government (1966) in Nigeria. It was a mere 10% back then compare to its geometric leap and bound through successive governments in Nigeria.

Each time the military junta used this keyword to justify why The Saviour on the Horse back must be given legitimacy by the civilians they extent the frontiers of corruption to an all time high proportion. There is evidence in the profligacy of public monies on White Elephant such as the many abandoned steel mills and complex, refineries, petro chemical industries, automobile assemblies and many other basic requisites manufacturing industries that were an initial shot at industrialization. Those in authority recklessly abandoned all these across the country without remorse over the time. The return to civil rule which allowed civilians to practice democracy neither offered any panacea nor assurance of correction of the junta misadventure into politics.

Rather, when Nigeria returned to democracy, public corporations and industries were hurriedly privatized and sold to companies without technical competence but had politician agents on ground to vouch for it. This shenanigan alliance made a bad situation worse. The realities on ground today are due to the action and inaction of past state actors. Nigerians blaze the trail across the world but back home, there are disunited by primordial sentiments, mutual suspicions with strong ethno religious underpinnings and corruption. Today, the mistakes of the past continue to hunt the present as the government and state actors keep doing things in the same old ways and expecting change.

Nigeria and her citizens are global laughing stocks around the world in recent times and up until now; as we are live witness to the dehumanizing condition of Nigerians on a desperate journey across the Mediterranean and the desert. A survey conducted by the US-based research firm Pew Research Centre revealed that: “in Nigeria, Africa’s most populated nation, nearly half (45%) of adults say they plan to move to another country within five years, by far the highest share among twelve countries surveyed across four countries in Africa. Those who dare to stay back amidst equally dehumanizing high level of killings, crime and terrorism are trapped in poverty while politicians and state actors subject them to the drama of the absurd. Agitations are rife before and after what happened in February 2019 called elections that we still hear echoes of gunshots and the sorrowful cries of the bereaved. The ‘One Nigeria’ slogan to some of these people remains the biggest clog in the wheel of progress leading to industrialization.

Many others within the camp of the discontent advocate restructuring even if the entity must remain as one after more than a century, that tinkering with the present political structure would not be a bad idea for a revolutionary change. They strongly believed that it is time for a clear departure from the norm to break even with the past. If we cast our minds back to the recent electioneering campaigns in the build up to the general elections, the upstart political parties and their candidates outperformed the mainstream old parties and their equally tired and analog candidates.

To get out of this neck of dead wood, the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ advocates who are emasculated or compromised should used the next three years to strategize for 2023 as the world is already leaving Nigerian youths behind in terms of national leadership positions in the 21st century. If the youth of every nation provides the active productive energy and action to preserve it, then the onus is on them to rescue Nigeria from the looming disintegration, anarchy and war as Nigerian Lives Matter even when the government fails on its side of the Social Contract.

My trajectory and position in this piece echoes United States Counsul-General’s admonition to Nigerian youths recently at the three day Young African Leaders Initiative Techcamp Reconnect Workshop in Lagos state. He told the young Nigerians that the real solution to Africa’s problems could best be developed by Africans. He further noted that, finding sustainable solutions to these identified problems have been hampered by corruption, absence or misallocation of resources and gross mismanagement.

Hence, the onus is incumbent on the youths is to think out of the box on how best to expand their space in the political arena. A herculean task it seems, but every generation must brace up to the challenges of its time. The challenges before the Nigerian youths today is enormous, but the first and most important step is to articulate altruistic agenda and present to the people holistic pragmatic alternative solutions to address the pressing issues facing the Nigerian state and the government.

Comrade Ogbu A. Ameh, National Convenor, Generation for Change Africa Initiative (GFCAI) wrote from Abuja.