By Paulinus Nsirim
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State has once again raised the ante of national consciousness of how to grow and sustain the country’s economy, with his very unequivocal advocacy for states to embrace the principle of comparative advantage, as should be practiced in a proper federalism, which he would promote vigourously, if he becomes President of Nigeria.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with leaders and delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State on Monday, 25th April, 2022, where he went to solicit their votes to give him the presidential ticket, during the party’s forthcoming primary election next month, Governor Wike stated that such approach would not only compel states to exploit their areas of strength for economic advantages, it was also capable of creating jobs for the growing youth population on a sustained and sustainable basis.
The principle of comparative advantage holds that a country, or in this case, a state in a sovereign unit of federating components, particular in economic terms, has the advantage of producing a particular item at a lower opportunity cost to something else, when compared to other states.
Comparative advantage is usually more utilized amongst countries who are trade partners on a bilateral or multilateral basis, but in a country like Nigeria, where virtually every state and federating unit is blessed with either a natural resource or conducive climatic conditions for large scale agricultural production, it becomes imperative in a post modern economy, for such individual states to fully exploit such advantages, within the limits of legal and constitutional elasticity to its advantage.
The argument for true federalism, restructuring and resource control, in one form or the other, actually predates Nigeria’s independence and the confirmation of our status as a republic, but since then, each state and zone has grown into the realization of its areas of strength, geographic and demographic advantages.
This knowledge is not necessarily for trade logistics or comparative economic negotiations between the states, but notably, in the determination of the revenue allocation formula, which unfortunately, has been centralized to, most times, ensure some form of equitable distribution across board, to accommodate states, which may not be so richly endowed naturally or those who are simply too lazy to harness and exploit the gifts which nature has put in their climates and bowels.
However, with the ever increasing population figures, especially amongst the virile and active youth cadre and the dwindling gains from our one resource oil economy, which has drastically affected generated revenue for Federal allocation, the need for diversification and exploitation of other resources outside oil, becomes imperative.
States can actually become more creative by thinking outside the box to shore up internally generated revenues, create sustainable jobs and encourage micro, small and medium scale entrepreneurship outlets to harness and utilize resources of comparative advantage.
Governor Wike, in highlighting the scenario of comparative advantage as a very viable economic anchor said: “We are importing everything in this country. We are not also exploiting our comparative advantage. What can Kaduna State do in terms of agriculture? What can Kano really produce? What can Gombe really produce?
“We need to ask to know in what areas do they really have advantage. Such consideration is very important. For example, if Kaduna can only produce rice, what we will do will be to tell the governor of Kaduna State, and with the federal government agreeing, that we want it to be the hub of rice production in Nigeria.
“In that sense, it is not only to feed Nigerians but also to package for exports. Therefore, we can say we need 40 hectares of land from the State government. The Federal Government will bring N40 billion. It will be a special purpose fund. Government will not run it. So that the venture doesn’t collapse.
“If Rivers State, for example, can produce palm oil, we will say, give us 10 thousand hectares of land where we will be planting palm oil seedlings. Federal government will bring the money. It will not be given to the State, but it will be put in a special purpose fund. We will engage experts to operate it as a business venture. That is also to create a lot of jobs,” he postulated.
The key takeaway of this very simple and practicable economic initiative is that it will be in the best interest of states to be allowed to produce the goods and services in which they have the highest comparative advantage, with central government support, but without the obvious and deliberate over-centralization of the bureaucratic process of implementing such policy, that presently exists in the country today.
A clear example of this over centralization is the Anchor Borrowers Programme, supervised by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), which has already swallowed humongous funds, yet food is still scarce in the country.
Indeed, it is quite interesting and instructive to note that Governor Wike is the only presidential aspirant amongst all the PDP contestants, who has embarked on a vigourously robust, marathon Consultative visits to states of the country, meeting with the leaders, members, national assembly caucuses and delegates of the PDP, interacting happily with opposition brother governors and paying royal homage impressively to prominent traditional rulers in all the zones of the country.
His major theme of driving development and ensuring security has resonated quite loudly and consistently in every consultative gathering and courtesy visit he has addressed and is gradually but steadily gaining roots in the consciousness of many Nigerians, who are only too aware of the precarious and uncertain times we are presently living in.
No one, except Governor Wike has actually vocalized these national problems with fearless authority, as noted quite distinctly by the revered Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, and is providing real confidence, bold and courageous suggestions and solutions to bring Nigeria out of its present doldrums.
This latest advocacy for states to embrace, harness and exploit their comparative advantages, going forward, is another excellent complementary initiative to enhance security and development and will only be possible when Nigeria finally has a President like Governor Nyesom Wike.
Governor Wike understands what the real problems of the country are and possesses the admirable capacity, unwavering confidence, unparalleled experience, requisite astute administrative and strategic acumen to provide practical, effective and definitive solutions to these challenges and move Nigeria to the great height where it belongs amongst the league of progressive and respected nations globally.
This is indeed the right time for Nigerians to make the right choice by choosing a leader who will bring the country out of the woods.
Nsirim is Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State