Imagine, you have a football team. At the individual level, the team is made up of otherwise very good players. But their modus operandi is for all of them to migrate to wherever the ball is.
Of course, an early goal is the desire of every team. The kick-off has just been taken and the ball has moved to the opponent’s side. True to type, your 11 players have migrated to wherever the ball is, attempting to push it into the goal.
Meanwhile the opponent’s team has a good defence that is staying on its duty post. The ball is pushed back to your side, a side that is totally empty – including an empty net! Before your team could return to position, the ball had gone into the empty net. And, it is a goal!
At the end of the day, your opponents are coasting home with as many goals as the feat is repeated! This is what Nigeria has been doing in virtually every aspect of its national life.
In the beginning, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy throughout the country. The Northern Region relied on its groundnut plus its leather products; the West relied on its cocoa; the East relied on its palm produce; while the Midwest depended largely on its rubber and timber. That was largely before the advent of oil.
As soon as petroleum was discovered in commercial quantity, we all hanged our hoes and cutlasses and migrated to the oil fields. And so, we left agriculture lying prostrate.
In our new found land, we met a lot of money to eat, to waste and to throw away. The few privileged ones lived as if there was no tomorrow. Money was not their problem but how to spend it. We soon succeeded in bastardizing the new found land. Today, we seek to return to agriculture. Our new song today is diversification. We talk in a tone that suggests that oil is a wasting asset; and this wasting asset is sick but before it finally dies, we must return to agriculture. What a reckless talk – thinking based on ignorance!
True, there have been efforts to discover alternatives to petrol. But petrol is just one small aspect of the petroleum industry. They may succeed in dethroning petrol but whatever machine is put in place of the petrol engine will need to be greased and oiled regularly. Petrol may be dethroned, but whatever is made to replace the petrol engine will go on a highway built with bitumen. The dethronement of petrol will certainly not remove the use of gas in our homes and industries. We can go ahead to show that there are hundreds of bye products of petroleum that will make King Oil to remain perpetually king. And Nigeria is abundantly blessed with them all!
How well did we fare in the petroleum industry, so-called? Not too well. It was just a fat cow for the few privileged ones.
In Saudi Arabia we have been fascinated watching the king, Salman Bin Abdulazizal and the
Crown Prince, Mohamed Bin Salman, when at the touch of a button, they immediately see every drop of oil that is coming in and leaving the system; and they are able to know the exact balance they have from the comfort of their palaces.
On the contrary, nobody knows the quantities produced and sold in Nigeria. The quantities of oil produced and sold are what the International Oil Companies, IOCs, say they are.
Evidently, what cannot be measured cannot be controlled. What really do we expect from a system burn into confusion and by parents called the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, that is hardly subjected to any real audit? Of course, in every system, there are people who benefit from confusion. An organization like the NNPC may exist to serve such.
A friend from Saudi Arabia reminded me recently that the standard practice the world over is to sell off 90 percent of the crude as soon as it comes out of the ground; thus leaving the remaining 10 percent to be refined for the use of the citizens.
My friend said that after Saudi Arabia has made its money from the 90 percent sale of crude, it is able to refine the 10 percent and issue same free of charge to its citizens.
On the contrary, the 10% left for local refining in Nigeria, is the cause of all problems. Because of the absence of refineries, this 10% must be sold to foreigners at rock-bottom prices; who refine it and resell to us at their own sky-rocketing prices.
Again, is this not the same petroleum industry that has devastated our farm lands everywhere in the Niger Delta Region? What we have is oil spill here; oil spill there; and oil spill everywhere! In those places there can never be any meaningful return to agriculture!
Sadly, everything we do here is like the science of dabbling through. In the U.S., less than 5 percent of the population is into agriculture. Their system is so efficient that if the 5 percent truly goes into agriculture, there will be surplus food, which will go to waste after they have fed their people and given out to the hungry in Africa and other parts of the World.
In Nigeria, we are asking people to “diversify” by returning to agriculture. In essence, we are asking them to re-migrate to agriculture with the same mind frame with which they migrated from agriculture to petroleum – ill prepared and ill-planned.
What they call agric loans are, indeed, the very beginning of vote – buying. The miserable amount are given off-season and very close to elections. The handouts are not meant for repayment. They are benign tokenism – dished out to party faithful.
Who is talking of Agric Extension Workers where there are no farms and no collaterals for the so-called loans?
No one is against diversification if it is made to be what it should be. In our present instance, there should be no lip-service to agriculture and in realizing the need for agriculture, we should not abandon oil. They both hold great potentials for this country and they must both be properly developed for the good of all.
It is a new dawn. Our past mistakes have been consigned to history. We have never really applied ourselves to anything – in agriculture and in petroleum. It has been half-measures all the way. But our new language is “Diversification”.
Diversification? Yes, true diversification that recognizes that Agriculture and Petroleum hold great potentials for Nigeria; and true diversification that does not, therefore, seek to sacrifice one for the other. True diversification that would make us farm like the Americans do; and develop our petroleum industry like the Saudis have done. We also want the true diversification, which recognizes that these attributes should be applied to every aspect of our national life; and it will be well with us. God bless Nigeria.