Nigeria on Tuesday (today) clocked 59 years as an independent nation. However, looking back, the journey to nationhood which began on October 1, 1960 has been laced with several challenges.
In this Special Independence Day interview with Olaotan Falade of TheNewsGuru.com (TNG), revered activist and university don, Prof. Tunde Fatunde in his usual blunt, no-hold-barred self-examined the economic journey of Nigeria so far, highlighted challenges, apportioned blames and recommended solutions for a prosperous economy.
Question: How would you describe the economic journey of Nigeria so far as she clocks 59 on Tuesday (today)?
Nigeria is 59 years old. That means in 41 years, Nigeria will be 100 years. Human beings make the economy. The economy is a reflection of the Nigerian conditions of human beings. The way they produce, consume, preserve are all encapsulated in the economy.
What are the basic economic indicators of Nigeria? Right now as I talk to you, there are over 17 million out of school children. It is the highest in the world according to United Nations. They don’t have access to education at all. That is a potential economic force that is laying wasteful.
As at 2019, Nigeria allocates just 8.5% of her annual budget to education and vocational training. This is despite the fact that we have enough human and material resources to make sure that out of school children and adult population of illiterates are totally crashed or drastically reduced to the barest minimum. Mind you, we are in the 21st century driven by the digital revolution and knowledge economy.
However, what we have is mismanagement of resources by subsequent governments from 1960 to date. None of the governments are interested in fixing Nigeria’s problems. Consequently, Nigeria is not in the 21st century. And what this means is that the 21st century is governed by the knowledge economy. It simply means that it is only those countries that have invested in education and vocational training that will reap the positive effect of the knowledge economy. And unfortunately, Nigeria is not on that list.
Since 1960 that we gained independence, it has been business as usual. That is using the state resources to settle the purse of the few ruling class without any quota of resources left for the improvement of the livelihood of Nigerians. The improvement of the livelihood of Nigerians can only happen by massive investment in education and vocational training.
You see when a nation refuses to invest in those key areas, what you get in return is poverty, under development and national crises as we have it now in Nigeria.
Until our leaders make decisive commitment to invest in education and vocation training we are going nowhere. This is because the century we are in is distinctive in itself. You don’t even need raw materials again to become the superpower. Japan has no raw material and it has the third-largest economy in the world. The Japanese Government even import their drinking water. For you to know how bad it is. And yet they cannot be pushed aside in the comity of prosperous nations. How they achieved this is simple. They massively invested in knowledge economy via education and vocational training. Israel is also a good example of another country prospering with no raw material. However, their success is the failure of Africa. A continent so richly blessed with nothing to show for it.
Question: Do you think the recent policies of government (cashless policy, VAT increase, ban on foreign goods, etc) can help position the Nigerian economy?
Look if the fundamentals are absent, the policies no matter how sweet they appear will fail! We are just chasing shadows. Human beings build economy via education and vocational skill. All the Asian tigers as we know them today built their economies via quality investment in educational and vocational training. How much is VAT going to give compared to the 200 million Nigerians waiting to converted to economic powers via educational and vocational training. This is what the Nigerian government should be doing instead of chasing few coins of naira. That is the reality. If we don’t get the fundamentals correct, we are going nowhere.