Education and technology as antidote to poverty, underdevelopment in Nigeria

(By Sakaba Ishaku)

If the Russians and the Chinese have been able to successfully work with Nigerian scientist to launch SAT 1 and II into space, I believe we can do more in the area of agro-based and agro-allied industrialisation.  You don’t need all the degrees of this world to be able to fabricate a machine to be used on the farms as the average Nigerian farmer cannot afford a combine harvester produced by Caterpillar or Fiat, but should be able to afford a small wheel barrow size harvester to be produced in Ajaokuta which will propel the nation into greatness.

UNITED States of America has been able to achieve stability over the years by addressing economy. U.S. is a more heterogeneous society than Nigeria. As they were fighting to advance their economy they were indirectly arresting all other societal problems. Poverty is a threat to national security; the crisis of Nigeria as precipitated by aggressive poverty had blindfolded and bedeviled numerous political leaders no matter how intelligent and determined they are.

Nigeria has over relied on a monocultural economy in which the people at the grassroots are deprived of direct earning of dollars through productivity.  National wealth trickles down from federal allocation, which can never be fairly distributed hence only a few individuals are involved in the generation and distribution of the so-called national wealth.

You need enforcement leaders against all odds to achieve set targets.  Laudable programmes cannot see the light of the day when there is an aggressive, apprehensive poverty ravaging the face of leadership.  Wealth generated by a handful of individuals cannot certainly satisfy the nation.

The grassroots must be involved in wealth generation through their individual efforts in their various careers and it is only when such is done that the nation will be saturated with wealth. Over 70 per cent of Nigerian population are agrarians.

If corruption is indeed the problem of underdevelopment of the Nigerian economy, then setting up anti-graft agencies such as EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau implies just dealing with the symptom instead of tackling the root cause of the disease.  Political will is of strategic importance.  However, credible research must be carried out to identify the root cause of corruption. Is it insecurity, poverty, skewed political system, illiteracy, culture, religion, greed or avarice?

Way forward

It is an incontestable fact that Nigeria is blessed with vast untapped arable land in the North and some parts of the South.  Mineral deposits also litter the nooks and crannies of the country and sufficient manpower to harvest these resources are handy.  What is then really wrong?  Most people prefer to invest in politics rather than entrepreneurship; even the investment lords are now divesting and moving into politics. I would like to believe that because of the advancement in the instrument of violence, there can never be a total war again on this planet except if belligerent nations want to set the globe ablaze.  Modern wars today are mainly economic wars, which are fought in factories.

Whereas the rest of the world are living in the 21st century, our farmers in Nigeria are living in stone age and you can never use instruments of stone age civilisation to win a 21st century war.

Establishment of Ministry of Non Oil Export

There should be a Ministry of Non-oil Export, which will coordinate the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Investment Promotion Council and other allied parastatals.  It shall be the responsibility of this ministry to identify special export crops and other resources such as sesame seed, rice, tomato, sorghum, soya beans, cashew nuts, yam, cocoa, cotton and more as well as solid mineral deposits such as gold, Iron ore, copper tantalum etc around Nigeria.

Budget should be passed to support about 2000 farmers identified around Nigeria to be taken to China, South Korea, USA, Japan and Germany for training on modern approaches to farming for at least a year. They will come back to serve as models to other farmers in this country.

The second stage should be the invitation to Chinese and South Korean engineers to Ajaokuta to work alongside with Nigerian engineers in developing African affordable technology for farm application. It will be necessary that such implement is compatible with our culture. The equipment is to serve the farmers in various areas from diary products, to crops and even mining.

It shall be the responsibility of the Non-Oil Export Ministry to source market around the globe for both raw materials and finished goods coming from the farms, as the average Nigerian farmer does not know how and where to sell his products.

Provisions should be made in the budget for the Ministry to buy off products from the farmers to be sold abroad and such will go on until the farmers themselves understand the dynamics of the market.

If the Russians and the Chinese have been able to successfully work with Nigerian scientist to launch SAT 1 and II into space, I believe we can do more in the area of agro-based and agro-allied industrialisation.  You don’t need all the degrees of this world to be able to fabricate a machine to be used on the farms as the average Nigerian farmer cannot afford a combine harvester produced by Caterpillar or Fiat, but should be able to afford a small wheel barrow size harvester to be produced in Ajaokuta which will propel the nation into greatness.  Hyundai of South Korea for example can partner with Nigerians to produce these portable affordable machines as South Korea has had some familiarity with our experiences having gone through our stages of development herself.

If our farmers continue to apply the out dated approach of using hoe and cutlass, we shall never get anywhere. For us to cut the importation of cement, rice, and fish for example, we must develop the domestic technology for their massive production and processing.  Also, identified South African and other Chinese companies with decades of experience in mining can partner with Nigerian government to extract and process gold, diamond and other mineral resources which have been neglected.

Resources that accrue to the Federal Government through removal of oil subsidy can be channelled towards that.  For a genuine transformation to be seen to be achieved, it is only when that small-scale factory owner in the village and that huge mechanised farmer in the community own the largest estate in that village or community as against the local government Chairman or Senator. It is then the generations of youths coming up will repudiate politics as a means of primitive wealth accumulation; it is then they will embrace entrepreneurship.

In the area of education, we should give kudos to the President for initiating six additional universities around Nigeria.  Energy and resources will need to be channelled towards education to produce middle-level technologically skilled manpower because it is to such the nation will belong in the near future — as masters of the nation. Ideally we ought not look unto a professor to fabricate a simple implement.  The middle-level personnel certificates will be acquired in the factories such as Peugeot automobiles and Ajaokuta Steel Complex and not in schools as they will be exposed to more practical work than mere academic exercise.   This practical education will then become a culture and way of life of the people.

All efforts will be a mirage if we allow the monster of aggressive poverty to dictate our actions because it has forced a lot of government policies to crash. We have over the years had DFRRI and its variants such as NEEDS, NAPEP etc, and none has achieved its set objectives.  Education is power so also is iron.

The so-called oriental tiger economies of Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea…. were able to achieve their proverbial feats because if they set a target, it must be achieved against all odds.

Conclusion

It is important to mention in conclusion that when there is an infraction of the law by an individual and the culprit is allowed to scot-free, national development is what is impaired, indeed impeded. For the nation to move forward the laws of the state must be strictly enforced with leadership leading with good example that would be emulated by the citizenry.

• Sakaba Ishaku wrote from Owerri, Imo State.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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