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Roadmap of Nigeria's development, by Onu (2)

Posted by on 2005/06/09 | Views: 304 |

Roadmap of Nigeria's development, by Onu (2)


Concluding part of a speech, "Upon This Rock Will Nigeria Arise," delivered by former civilian governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu to a Special Session of the Kano State House of Assembly on June 1, 2005. Onu was also the 1999 presidential flagbearer of former All Peoples Party (APP), now All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

Concluding part of a speech, "Upon This Rock Will Nigeria Arise," delivered by former civilian governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu to a Special Session of the Kano State House of Assembly on June 1, 2005. Onu was also the 1999 presidential flagbearer of former All Peoples Party (APP), now All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

In the journey for Nigeria's economic greatness, agriculture in the short term should enjoy a pride of place. Our agricultural policy should aim at achieving four main goals, namely: food security, encouragement of agro-allied industries, export of agricultural products and aforestation to combat desert encroachment and soil erosion. Any nation that cannot feed her citizens is in trouble. At independence in 1960, Nigerians depended on locally produced food, as importation of food was low. This has changed. Today, we import among many others, sugar, milk, rice, fruit juices, chocolate and even vegetable oil. This has adversely affected our economy. The good news is that if we put in the right effort, we can be self-sufficient in all these and even export to many other countries. With an aggressive pursuit of both production and export trade in agricultural products, the agricultural sector can in the next two decades provide at least 25 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings.



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In order to achieve this, we should select some food and cash crops for immediate attention. They should include but not limited to oil palm, cassava, cocoa, rubber, maize, groundnut, rice, gum Arabic, cotton and flowers. For many years, we have been leading the world in cassava production. We should move quickly and like Thailand, the second largest producer of cassava in the world, exploit the potential of cassava as an industrial raw material for the production of starch, flour, chips, pellets for animal feed, adhesives, glues syrup and many other products.

We need to move speedily to improve the yield of our agricultural products. Currently their yield, both crops and livestock alike, is low when compared with international standards. Our cocoa farmers by 2000 harvested 200 kg average yield per hectare as against 2000 kg average returns for farmers in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. Our rice farmers harvest 2 tons per hectare average yield, a sharp contrast to a 20 ton per hectare average yield for farmers in Thailand. Similarly, a Nigerian farmer gets an average yield of 5 tons of tomatoes per hectare as against 100 tons for an Israeli farmer. Even in livestock production, the picture shows a similar trend. There is no doubt that even doubling the yield, which would still be far below international standards, would lead to a remarkable increase in output resulting in the availability of more food for our people.

Our agricultural production cannot significantly improve until we start paying attention to the work done in many of our agricultural research institutes. Many of them have done very important work, which can be useful to our agriculture but no one seems to care. We close our eyes to what they have done and close our ears to what they tell us. We must start a vigorous programme to apply the results of their research so as to improve productivity in our farms. Their findings should no longer be allowed to only decorate the shelves of their libraries, as is the case with many research findings in our universities. The planned programme to rationalize the number of research institutes may help but what is very important is to demand performance from each and every one of the institutes. There should be reward for good performance and punishment for inefficiency.

Our aim should be to have the highest global yield for our crops and livestock, particularly in areas where we have comparative advantage. Information should be made available to our farmers to advise them on the most appropriate type of crop to plant in a given area, the best yielding seeds available as well as the best planting and harvesting techniques. In order to ensure that such vital information get to the farmers at the right time, extension support centers should be established in all the States of the Federation.

Farmers should be encouraged and assisted to take out insurance policies that protect their crops and livestock against natural disasters and human accidents. This will ensure that regardless of the severity of any disaster, the fortunes of farmers would always be protected. In addition, farmers should be protected against the use of inferior and hazardous agricultural inputs especially pesticides. A policy should be put in place and enforced to ensure that pesticides and such other agricultural inputs, which do not conform to international standards, are prohibited from entering the country.

Professionals such as agronomists, aqua-culturists, veterinarians and animal scientists, among others, should be encouraged to go into farming. Their farms could serve as model farms for other farmers to learn from. Botanists, plant breeders and agricultural scientists should receive maximum support to help domesticate many flowers now in the wild. This will help the growth of gardens and also improve our foreign exchange earnings through export of flowers, which already has a market in Europe, North America and Asia.

In order to enable farmers embark on agricultural projects that require long gestation periods, with good returns on investment; efforts should be made to inject massive funds into the sector. Credit should be advanced at low interest rates ranging between three and five percent to encourage such long-term investments.

The private sector should be encouraged to play a more dominant role in repositioning the agricultural sector through large-scale farming. This will lead to economies of scale, a vital necessity for our agriculture to become knowledge and technology based.

The growth of agro-allied industries should be pursued with vigour. Such will lead to local processing of agricultural products thereby adding significant value to our farmers. It will help both the creation of new jobs and additional wealth. It will also help the local manufacture of farm machinery, storage and transportation equipment as well as farm inputs.

Nigeria is blessed by Almighty God, in many ways. Our mineral resource deposits are large and mostly untapped. The solid mineral sector comprises of bitumen, coal, talc, iron ore, limestone, gypsum, and many others. Bitumen, which is one of the twelve identified solid minerals that abound in the country, has an estimated 42 billion tones of reserve. Its exploitation would become profitable as the price of crude oil rises. These solid minerals have the capacity to make significant contributions to the nation's economy. Their contributions will be more profound if we can employ technology to convert them into either intermediate or finished products of higher economic value.

We continue to pay heavily as a nation for our inability to process our numerous raw materials, here at home, into products we dearly need. Otherwise, we do not have any business importing cement when we have large deposits of limestone and gypsum. We do not have any business importing glass when we have sand in abundance all over the country. We do not have any business importing fertilizer when we have huge deposits of natural gas. We should not suffer long queues at our petrol stations because imported refined petroleum products are in short supply when we are the largest producers of crude oil in Africa. We should not be importing refined sugar when we can grow sugar cane in virtually every part of the country. We should not be importing salt when we have huge deposits of salt in the country. What we lack is technology. We should embrace it.

As Governor of Abia State, I encouraged technology. I pioneered the establishment of a Technology Village as a practical way of showing that where there is the will, there is the way. While launching the scheme's endowment fund, I had said: "modern technology ... is the tool that will guarantee us victory over hunger. It is the tool with which we will conquer poverty. It is the tool with which we will assure ourselves of good health... It is a tool that we need to have. It is a tool we cannot afford not to have". I am happy that several years after we sowed that seed in Abia, God's Own State, Nigeria has eventually woken from her slumber. Technology Villages are being planned in different parts of the country, the recent being the proposed Abuja Technology Village project.

If our population continues to grow at its current estimated rate, it has been predicted that by the end of the 21st century, that is 95 years from now, Nigeria could likely become the third most populous nation in the world, after China and India. Whether this happens or not, what is important is that Nigeria in future would have more mouths to feed, more hands to get jobs for, more heads to shelter, more bodies to clothe and more people to bring happiness to. In order to help solve some of our present problems and prepare adequately for the future, we need to industrialize our country.

In the near future, we should aim at the manufacturing sector contributing at least a quarter of our GDP. This can be done because in some other countries of the world such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Malaysia, the manufacturing sector in 1999, just six years ago, contributed between 19 per cent and 35 per cent to the GDP of these countries. I am confident that we can even do better if we put in place the proper policy mix of appropriate legislation and adequate incentives.

Our effort at industrialization cannot work efficiently if we cannot solve the problem of regular and reliable electric power supply. We need to involve the private sector in helping solve this problem. Also the establishment of small to medium coal powered plants near their deposits is desirable. Coal reserves in Nigeria are huge and are found in different parts of the country. By the end of the 20th century, in global electricity production, coal powered plants accounted for 40 per cent. Coal contributed 45 per cent in the U.S.A., 40 per cent in the United Kingdom, 80 per cent in India and 90 per cent in China. Yet our coal is one of the best in the world, with low sulfur content. We need to diversify our sources of energy.

As we pay attention to manufacturing, we should continue to encourage tourism and travel. This is the second largest industry in the world. In 2000, Egypt made U.S. $ 4.5 billion from tourism alone. There are many things about our history and geography that people will like to come and see. Our diversity, if properly harnessed, can boost tourism. Nigeria was home to many ancient empires and kingdoms. Some of them include the Songhai Empire that covered parts of Nigeria and Niger; Kanem-Bornu Empire that covered parts of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Libya; the Fulani Empire that covered parts of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon; the Oyo Empire that covered parts of Nigeria and Benin; the Hausa States; the Igbo City States and the Benin Kingdom. Tourists will like to see the art and artifact of ancient Nigeria reputed to be one of the best in the world. We have the favourable climatic conditions to allow people visit us all year round. We enjoy sunshine every month of the year.

To achieve this, we need to train more people, who are equipped with appropriate entrepreneurial and management skills, for engagement in the tourism industry. It is high quality service that can make the industry grow. Our roads should have signs to facilitate easy and smooth movement of people. We should also develop maps with tourist sites. The Internet can be useful. Naming of streets and numbering of houses should be organized in such a way as to avoid confusion so as to have easy access to automated information. The points of entry into the country should be of international standard. Our hotels and motels should be inspected more frequently to ensure that standards are met. Tourists do not visit places where their lives are in danger. Our internal security system should be further strengthened to protect life and property. An efficient mass transit scheme should also be put in place to ease the movement of people within the country.

I have shown how Nigeria can become a very prosperous and great nation. A vital ingredient to consummate this greatness is a leadership with a principal goal that is shaped by the forces that determine the historic necessity facing a society at any given time. The bloodless achievement of independence in India may not have been possible without the non-violent philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi). The peace and prosperity of post-apartheid South Africa could have been difficult to achieve without the forgiving and reconciliatory disposition of Nelson Mandela. The unity achieved in Tanzania may have been impossible without the patriotism of Julius Nyerere. Indeed, the vision and foresight of Kwame Nkrumah enabled Ghana de-emphasise ethnicity in the conduct of her national affairs.

The forces that shape societies create situations that nurture the emergence of a particular type of leadership at a given time in a country. Such a leadership usually emerges in response to the dictates of these forces. At this stage of her history, Nigeria needs economic growth and sustainable development. Her citizens need food on their dinning tables, jobs for the unemployed, shelter for the homeless and more money in their pockets to pursue their happiness.

As we work to reposition our economy, we should also work to ensure that democracy does not perish from our land. This is because experience in other countries has shown that economic prosperity and democracy go hand in hand. In Africa, by the end of the 20th century, Botswana and Mauritius were two countries with the highest annual economic growth rates that also enjoyed democratic rule. South Africa, Mozambique, Benin Republic and Ghana have also recorded positive economic growth indices following the resurgence of democracy in these countries. Nigeria should encourage the growth and sustenance of democracy by building enduring political institutions with respect for the power of the vote as the ultimate basis for popular choice under the rule of law.

Finally, prosperity is not a partisan politician. It is a universal humanist. In the search for solutions to our economic problems, we should bridge gaps that divide and strengthen bonds that unite. Politicians, whether in the ruling or opposition political parties, are all Nigerians. No matter the differences in our political affiliations, one thing is certain: we all desire development for our nation and prosperity for all our people. This is the challenge which our generation must confront and which we should solve collectively. I am confident that we can achieve this. It is upon this rock that symbolizes the collective happiness of the Nigerian people, that Nigeria will most certainly awaken and arise!

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