Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Panacea

Ben Lawrence

Ben Lawrence

Our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, deserves a million full-throated guffaws for scaling the first hurdle in his pledge to battle joblessness. The news is that 200,000 unemployed graduates have been drafted to teach in, schools and work in the agricultural sector. Does it not prove that government is the engine of growth in any economy, not the greedy private sector?

All the gains made by our past leaders in providing infrastructure, education, manufacturing and agriculture were propelled by government offering stimuli and direction in the 1950s to 1970s. Some commentators often claimed that Nigeria had made no breakthroughs industrially and in infrastructure since independence. One starts to wonder how old they are not to have seen the mighty leap forward taken by those who ran Nigeria between 1952 and 1979. This nation was comparatively ahead of the so-called Asian Tigers, minus Japan, in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, Nigeria had broken through in middle-level industrialisation as far back as 1971, courtesy of a speech made by Ibrahim Damcida, then permanent secretary, Ministry of Industry, at the opening of Hoesch factory in lkeja. It was also a world leading producer of cocoa, groundnuts, palm produce and cotton. Nigerian commentators must learn to situate their claims with facts. It is the same way they blame Buhari today for an economy that completely collapsed in 2006 when all the major multi-national manufacturers moved their plants outside Nigeria because of bad government that did not provide enabling municipal facilities that speed the wheels of industry-power, good roads, railways and water. After buying IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, Nigeria ran on the reverse gear 50 years backwards. Sani Abacha arrested the drift towards the abyss until his sudden death. Insanity returned with Nasir el Rufai and others holding sway under Abudusalami Abubakar and in that youth’s confession, creating desks in the Ministry of Finance for the IMF to run down all we laboured to build over 50 years.

How can anyone in his right senses say Nigeria has not moved ahead since Buhari climbed the seat of power?

States, with good leaders, are disproving the skeptics and turning out millions of tonnes of rice. Anambra has added the export of vegetable to its portfolio. Food security is the first step to stabilising any economy. Cross River is planting miles of palm trees, Edo is planting rubber, palm trees and building a power plant. Imo is planting cocoa, rubber and palm trees. It has started to make money from palm produce. The northern states know the value of agriculture and are producing yams, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cabbage and citrus of varying types.

What are the states of the South-west and South-south, short of Edo and Cross River, producing? What have they done to revive cocoa farming in the West at a time the crop is enjoying a boom in the futures market? Ivory Coast and Ghana still survive mainly on cocoa. Why has Ogun not started large-scale cassava farming for both local and international consumption? Starch is needed in the industrial world and also as fodder for animals in many first world countries.

They are asking for more local governments when the thoughts should be on restructuring to eight regions, each zone to provide for itself and give some percentage to the centre for security and foreign relations.

The South-west is still treading the beaten track of looking up to Abuja for sustenance in the midst of plenty at home. The so-called leaders of the zone are chasing the shadow, complaining of roads their son, Olusegun Obasanjo, neglected to maintain while in office. Why is the South-west now short of visionary leaders? Was it not the zone that produced Herbert Macaulay, Hezekiah 0. Davies, Obafemi Awolowo, Samuel Akintola, Remi Fanimokun-Kayode, Ladipo Solanke and other great visionaries? Why are the present ones lazy when in the not-so-distant past, the zone displayed such thinking men like Lateef Jakande, Olabisi Onabanjo and Olusegun Osoba who broke new grounds in national development.

Let us return to government responsibility to provide jobs for the people contrary to what Obasanjo and his gang postulated that every Nigerian should be on their own and, the devil should grab the hindermost of the till. It is difficult to point to a presidential race in America that the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) endorsed a non-democrat since Franklyn Roosevelt in 1932.

But the organisation did it this year for a veritable independent candidate named Donald Trump. The Rainbow Coalition that had existed for longer than 80 years could not find a common ground. And the president of that country, Barrack Obama, could not read the handwriting on the wall while he bestrode the world like a colossus, basking on a deceptive success. The industrial states were ailing thanks to free trade; so Hillary Clinton went into the race with a heavy load of unemployment deficit caused by globalisation. Perhaps, that was why Larry Summers, that great genius in economic management, distanced himself from the Obama crowd because he felt everyone should have their huts in a global village.

China, India, Japan, Korea and other Asian nations are protectionists. They make no apologies for their policies because they have no chips on their shoulders. So they rather export surplus labour instead of allowing aliens to take their jobs or dump disused goods in their countries. And they are strict and hard in enforcing all these strictures for survival, shorn of the so-called human rights, which the organisers do not implement in their countries.

Buhari still needs to go a mile more to make a dent in our present social and economic crises. He needs ministers with vision and ability to lead the people in crisis; not the Kemi Adeosuns, Babatunde Fasholas and Ibe Kachikwus who have expressed hopelessness in the task before them.

Buhari should cast his net wide to catch people of proven abilities like Buba Marwa, Adams Oshiomole and Kemi Akande. He needs them in his cabinet. They are no rookies in their charges, unlike some he parades in his fold now. A properly organised nation that has taken care effectively of agriculture, manufacturing and public works does not post endless unemployment queues. And direct labour is the solution in public works and agriculture as Audu Ogbeh is demonstrating now in his ministry. Let contractors allow Nigeria to breathe. Most of the other ministers think like PDP surrogates…

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