…October 1 must therefore become the watershed for our leaders and citizens to move away from the unbridled quest for the acquisition of power to national economic development and industrialisation… It will be most beneficial to Nigerians to see its leaders competing on development indices, rather than throwing banters on how to retain power at the national and sub-national levels.

October 1 marked Nigeria’s 61st Independence Anniversary with a never-ending quest for a direction that gives the citizenry a definite and tangible value for their collective investment in the Nigerian state.

At independence, the country, rising from the ashes of colonialism, looked forward to a great and prosperous nation, as a regional leader and a well respected global player in the international system.

However, government and governance have been most focused on the acquisition and retention of power, with minimal attention to the industrial and economic development of our nation.

With ravaging poverty, making the country the world poverty capital; intractable insecurity, making life worthless; religious and ethnic tension, tearing apart national leadership; corruption, ravaging every facet of our national life and inflicting a cancerous blow on the fabric of the country; and the insensitivity of the political elites to national malaise, etcetera etcetera, Nigeria has continued to regress on all fronts, thus leaving the country to fate and chance.

Yet, the story can be reversed. With abundant human, natural and intangible resources, a focus on industrialisation by governments at all levels can change the narrative. A radical and surgical move away from the primordial and conservative approach to governance has the capacity to leapfrog the nation into harnessing its potentials to produce what we need, reduce dependence on imports, retain capital in Nigeria and nigerianise the commanding heights of the economy.

What are we doing with our few agricultural crops? What are we doing with our crude oil? What should we do with our various solid minerals – bauxite, limestone, gold, clay, gypsum, iron ore, salt, zinc, lead, Cassiterite (tin ore), dolomite, tantalite, marble, magnesite, kaolin, bentonite, oil and gas, uranium, lead, zinc, lignite, phosphate, glass, sand, lead, and lignite? Also, wolfram, columbite, uranium, magnesium, barite, coal, gemstone, to mention just a few of them scattered all over the country? Many of these endowments are either exploited by foreigners with local compradors, for exports as mere raw materials or illegally mined for a few unpatriotic business persons for their individual enrichment.

We can recreate our sense of purpose by realising that, in the words of Dr Caesar Osaheni Iyayi in his new book The ABC of How To Industrialize Nigeria: “We must take urgent steps to transform Nigeria from an agrarian society to a manufacturing economy. There is no alternative. It is bend or break. If we fail to industrialise, we will never be able to defend ourselves and shall therefore be at the mercy of foreign powers that dealt ruthlessly with our forefathers. If we fail to industrialise, then we are doomed to suffer another wave of slavery or extinction on African soil”. He went further to posit, and accurately so, that there is no country in the world that was industrialised (developed) by foreigners.

Consequently, I think that October 1 must therefore become the watershed for our leaders and citizens to move away from the unbridled quest for the acquisition of power to national economic development and industrialisation. I like to see more debates on industrialisation models and strategies in the country, rather than on power rotation. It will be most beneficial to Nigerians to see its leaders competing on development indices, rather than throwing banters on how to retain power at the national and sub-national levels. The people want to see what tangible progress, rather than manufactured indices, will translate to visible impact on their lives. It is the expectation of the people that government encourages more private Nigerian entrepreneurs to embark on industrial ventures by employing expatriates in areas of the deficit of technical expertise.

Nigeria needs to industrialise. Our country needs to move away from the realm of potentials. Admirably, Mr President appreciated this in his Independence Day broadcast when he said, “I fully understand the anxiety of many Nigerians on the inability of this country to go beyond a never-ending potential for becoming a great nation to an actually great one.”

Nigerians, a resilient, hardworking, skilful and dedicated people with a propensity for positive advancement in am enabling environment, need a pragmatic political leadership to lead the way. Unless and until we have such a leadership who breaks away from the culture of an unworkable governance model, extraneous matters of ethnicity and religion, and the unnecessary politicisation of service delivery, the building of industries, infrastructures and workable institutions will continue to be a mirage. Today, we are witnesses to how the pragmatic leadership of the late Lee Kuan Yew and his successors in Singapore moved the country from a third to the first world. Singapore, with little or no natural resources, developed its human resources to attain its current industrial status.

Our survival as a nation depends on our ability and commitment to Industrialise Nigeria. We cannot wait any longer.

The time is now!

Samson Osagie, is a lawyer, governance and development expert.

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