By UbongAbasi Ise | Published On Wednesday 28 September, 2016
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952
The underwhelming cerebrations on Saturday 1st October, 2016 across Nigeria, marked 56th year of negotiated withdrawal of British imperial overlords from the country’s political sphere. It became so regrettable that the independence anniversary had met the nation in a miserable, gloomy mood cast upon her by technical economic recession.
Maybe Nigerians, prior to Britain’s departure, never knew that there is more to independence than political freedom. Perhaps Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah’s single-minded underpinnings on political power as the foremost necessity for Africa’s prosperity had had strong appeal on Nigeria’s consciousness. In 1957, Nkrumah called on Africans thus: “Seek first the political kingdom and all else will be added unto you.” But the basic ingredient was lacking, or say the call failed to take into cognizance the importance of economic relevance to national independence progress. In this connection, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s voice was to come out from Nigeria to redirect the country’s pursuit of prosperity on the strength of economic power. Conversely, Azikiwe Puts, “Seek first your economic freedom; all the strength you need for sustaining your political power will be readily available…” However the point where Azikiwe’s postulation departed from Nkrumah’s is where Nigeria should coalesce all its national energies in forging a strong independence in the current world order.
The systematic contradictions between Nkrumah’s and Azikiwe’s views are not very far from being complementary to each of other. But it would make more meaning if Nigeria had realized that self-rule of any country is predicated on a good economic standing. Of course there is a prevailing belief today that he who controls economics controls politics.
At 56 years after gaining independence politically, Nigeria is still desperately depending largely on external economic forces in order to stand on her feet, and perhaps, still laboring to make infantile moves toward development at basic level. Elder Nnamso Umoren, a retired Permanent Secretary from Akwa Ibom State civil service and the President, Talent Business School in Uyo, in his recently published book, titled ‘Dakkadda – Arise: You Were Destined To Be Great’, made a timely effort on page 25 in capturing a poem written by a Lebanese, Kahlil Gibran in 1923 thus:
“… Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave,
Eats bread it does not harvest,
Drinks wine that flows not from its wine press…”
Indeed, Nigeria’s deplorable economic situation at the age of 56, is pitiable. Bulks of the country’s consumables including fuel are imported from foreign territories. All the country has to offer for foreign exchange is mainly crude oil, with its price constantly plummeting in international market thus putting the country’s economic performance in jeopardy of fluctuation, panic and uncertainty. At 56, members of National Economic Committee were teaching Nigeria economics by recommending sales of assets in order to shore up fake external reserves. Who knows whose hands these assets could have ended into? It might be political interests or cronies to politicians. Afterall, Nkrumah had said “seek first the political kingdom and all else will be added unto you.”
Those that advocated sales of assets, more especially, refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna including Nigeria’s 49% shareholding in Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG) company needs to read Robert Kiyosaki’s definition of asset in his 1997 popular book, Rich Dad Poor Dad . In simple, plain terms, Kiyosaki defined asset as “something that puts money in your pocket.” He later pointed out that “If you want to be rich, simply spend your life buying assets…”
How could a 56 year old Nigeria be able to produce massively in order to meet the optimum consumption of her teeming population without possessing enough assets?
On Independence Day last Saturday, the President, Muhammedu Buhari delivered an address on which helped, to some extent, to dispel speculations surrounding sales of national assets. According to the President, “We are to repair our four refineries so that Nigeria can produce most of our petrol requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries. That way we will save 10 billion US Dollars yearly importing fuel.”
Therefore, this Independence Day’s promise of “stream of new refineries” should begin with Akwa Ibom State, the country’s biggest producer of crude oil. If the country sincerely wants to gain economic independence by looking inward, therefore Akwa Ibom should be the first port of call. The state offers tremendous investment opportunities. Nigeria would do well if Akwa Ibom State is increasingly seen as a vista of vast economic wealth. Apart from crude oil, the state is blessed with deepest seaport which could have conveniently accepted large vessels, and reduce traffic congestion at Lagos ports; the state also boasts of plethora of mineral resources, and fertile land suitable for agriculture. Indeed, the state as a whole can be a national’s asset that constantly put more money in the country’s reserves as Robert Kiyosaki would say.
Indeed, Akwa Ibom State has all it takes to be to Nigeria what the State of California is to United States. In June this year, California overtook France to become the sixth largest economy in the world. In 2015, California’s Gross State Product stood at $2.46 Trillion with the growth of 4.1%. Therefore, there is no doubt that Akwa Ibom State with refineries and functional deep seaport would bring succor to Nigeria’s frail economy.
Economic independence through domestic production would save Nigeria traumatic experience of recession, and Akwa Ibom should be the starting point of this trend.