It is time for Nigeria’s geo-political zones to move on from position sharing and take centre stage in economic matters

By Ayo Akinfe

(1) I will forever remain an eternal optimist, refusing to give up on the world’s largest black nation Nigeria. She lurches from crisis to crisis but alas, ultimately, she will get there simply because she has no other choice. If you look at the trajectory of history, all of the world’s large nations including Russia, India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, etc, were once basket cases but look at them today. As night follows day, Nigeria will one day be a global economic power. Have faith as the darker the night, the brighter the dawn

(2) Nigeria’s problems can basically be narrowed down to two major things. First that she is not productive enough as a nation, clinging on to crude oil for survival and secondly, that her people have allowed the elite to divide them along ethnic and religious lines, hampering any unity of purpose

(3) I have been a lifelong fan of Samora Machel’s quote: “For the nation to grow, the tribe must die.” Those of you religious folk will admit that there is biblical confirmation of this in Genesis. During the construction of the Tower of Babel, the task was incomplete because of the multiplicity of languages spoken. As language is the primary determinant of culture, it is obvious that the more ethnic groups you have, the less effective you will be as a people. If the people of Babel had spoken with one voice, they may have well completed their staircase to heaven

(4) Back to the issue of productivity, clinging on to one commodity whose price is very volatile, whose supply will dry up one day and whose usage is constantly being shunned in favour of alternatives is a recipe for economic disaster. Everyone of Nigeria’s elite who clings on to crude oil proceeds for survival knows deep down that this situation is not sustainable. However, they will not do anything about it because of the short term benefits they enjoy. Personally, I think Nigeria will not claim her rightful place in history until either the oil dries up or prices crash to a point whereby producing crude becomes unprofitable. When either of these happens we will see economic diversification and industrialisation

(5) Those of you that are historians will know that the way the industrial world developed was that they were faced with a challenge and to overcome it, they opted for an innovation, which ended up becoming the new vogue. We see the example of that today with new energy replacing coal-fired power stations because coal stocks are running low and it is environmentally unfriendly and with the way shale is replacing crude oil because the Americans cannot get Opec to sell to them at $5 a barrel

(6) Despite the wanton intellectual laziness we see in Nigeria, the good thing is that some people are thinking and doing things. For instance, the governors-elect of Lagos and Ogun states have already met and agreed to work together on creating an industrial corridor to exploit their close proximity to each other. Dapo Abiodun and Babajide Sanwoolu have agreed to establish a Joint Development Commission to drive their internally generated revenue. They are already talking to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria about working on a joint industrial plan. I want to see this expand into a geo-political zone policy

(7) Going forward, it is time for the Nigerian geo-political zone to take centre stage. We only hear about them when it is time to share appointments or zone offices. Has anyone ever heard of a north central industrial plan before, of a southeast integrated power programme of a northwest united agricultural policy or of a south-south ship manufacturing programme? These governors only come together when it is time to share spoils

(8) As President Buhari starts his second term, I would like him to appoint a minister for geo-political zones, whose job it will be to transfer matters like power supply, university education, teaching hospitals, regional rail links, port construction, water supply, agricultural expansion, etc to the geo-political zones. At the moment, there are 68 items on Nigeria’s exclusive list. It should be the job of this minister to whittle that down to no more than eight, transferring all the items to the geo-political zones, states and local governments

(9) For instance, the federal government can never know the requirements of Ndigbo with regards to the River Niger crossings as much as the five southeastern states. Building several bridges and rail tunnels between Asaba and Onitsha on the one hand and Illah and Nzam on the other must be the responsibility of the five governors and not Abuja. Although I must say, I want to see Anioma State created and become the sixth state of the southeast. A state stretching from Agbor to Atani, straddling the river will effectively be the River Niger Bridge construction company. It’s governor will mobilise the others to keep building bridges and extending technology as they do so

(10) You know the last person to show single-minded determination with regards to Nigeria was Frederick Lugard. He was prepared to do whatever it took to unite the country physically and went about his business like a laser-guided missile. We need someone with that kind of zeal to make economic growth his or her life mission