In the not too distant past, men were honoured by their dignity of labour and women respected for their substance and power. Then, the country and her people were mainly farmers and traders who persevered in their craft to build the nation and make ends meet in the home fronts. But through sheer luck of natural endowment, the nation struck ‘gold mines’ first, in one of the farming fields along the swampy coastal region of the Niger Delta in the South-Southern part of the country. Within a twinkle of an eye, the country became not only famous but very rich and prosperous because of the ‘black gold’.
Thus, the beginning of the honeymoon when in 1956 Oloibiri oil well was discovered and things happened so fast like flash of light as strings of title like the giant of Africa was bestowed on Nigeria just as she cut an edge in the comity of nations and was revered by super nations like Britain and America among others. Indeed, before one could say Jack, the nation became uncomfortable with its traditional age long farming occupation. Without a second thought, the nation had to part ways with the ancestral culture and never thought of the need to improve farming by mechanised form.
Of course, successive governments followed the same pattern to jettison farming and led the nation to embrace western culture of eating canned foods as our ports became a dumping ground for all sorts of imported products. At some point, the entire world was informed by the then Head of state, General Yakubu Gowon that Nigeria’s problem was not how to make money, but how to spend it. Indeed, the earnings from crude oil that ought to provide proper living conditions for Nigerians as the years progressed became a dramatic illustration of how a blessing could turn into a curse. At the moment, the nation is at the crossroad as blames and counter blames fills the political space over mismanagement of the nation’s wealth and resources. This was exactly what David Rief, the author of “In praise of forgetting” argued in his book that the commemoration of past wrongs can become a moral cudgel, cynically weaponised over and over again for political gain.x
There never could have been a better moment than in this trying time over the national gloom for Nigerians to hope that the Senate ebullience would send caution to the federal government on borrowings. Of course, this brings to bear what Rief posited above. The Senate president Ahmed Lawan, in his wisdom believes, that the Hallowed Chambers cannot stop Buhari from borrowing, because the recourse to foreign borrowings remained the only way to fast track infrastructural development in the country. He rather, blamed the past administration led by People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which earned huge oil revenue but failed to make hay when the sun shone.
Indeed, for many years, Nigerians have been inundated with tales that the country’s woes and their consequent misery, poverty and suffering were a direct manifestation of military rule. Presently, having achieved over two decades of uninterrupted democratic rule, the narrative and blame seems to be heaped on past democratic administration of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Nigerians have been told repeatedly by the ruling government that their suffering must continue for as long as it takes to clear the 16 years debris of the PDP misrule. Notwithstanding, almost six years of being in government, noticeable traits of mismanagement in the PDP era have become even more pronounced, rather than disappear in the ruling government radar. It has become a matter of routine principle that Nigeria’s political leaders tend to blame past administration for any set back. Yet, many among them played active roles in the said previous government that squandered the country’s wealth.x
Of course, the obvious reality that no one may buy Nigeria’s crude oil in the near future is very worrisome as the nation’s largest buyer of crude oil, India is showing signs of becoming the largest benefactor of renewable energy. This has big implication for Nigeria which funds about half of its budget through crude oil earnings. Notwithstanding, financial experts fear about the failing economy, over the years, oil market drop by losing major crude oil buyers. For instance, report has it that, as much as two-thirds of Nigeria’s crude for October export is yet to find buyers. Yet, the ruling government is armed with contrary views assuring citizens of cheering news, that there is no cause for alarm.
Obviously, one does not need to be cajoled with these fancy remarks by the ruling government about the nation’s stable economic financial position before recognising the fact that the nation is threatened by her inability to shy away from a mono-economy. While other countries are thinking outside the box and investing in life after crude oil, Africa’s largest economy is tottering on the brinks, and the situation appears not to be improving as unemployment, insecurity, poor healthcare system among others are taking toll across the entire country. It is disturbing that, the relevance of crude oil is waning across the world, but Nigeria seems docile about life without oil.
Indeed, when major buyers, like France, Spain and Netherlands are looking for alternatives, the fact remains that, an unprepared life beyond oil could be catastrophic for Nigeria especially as the European Union (EU) is speeding up plans to switch to zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs) as part of its fight against global warming. It is disturbing that Nigeria’s political leaders are so calm and relaxed about these concerns and reality staring at us. Ultimately, the issue is not whether the fears are justified or not, the issue remains as always that Nigeria’s governments past and present were so complacent with the easy money from oil instead of detaching themselves by way of diversifying the economy.