As I stood there in my red Chanel suit, breathing in that rare presidential oxygen whilst swearing my oath of office, I looked around and I could feel a surge of emotions. Not of happiness but of pity. I felt pity for the priest officiating the swearing-in ceremony, for the masses chanting the words ‘God, bless the President’, for the government officials looking at me with much admiration in their eyes, for the musical band ever poised to entertain and for myself, the first female president of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nigeria is the giant of Africa. With a landmass of over 923,000km2 and a population of about 190 million people[i], the title is well deserved. Nelson Mandela once said, “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect”[ii] Whilst this statement triggers a sense of pride in us, Nigerians, it is also a wakeup call to leave the shackles of underdevelopment behind and set the pace for other Africans to follow. Nigeria gets 70-80% of her revenue from crude oil[iii] and now that a barrel sells for just 70USD[iv], we have to jettison our over-dependence on this non-renewable resource if we are ever to see the bright new world of positive transformation. Frankly, it is paradoxical that although Nigeria is a nation rich in abundant natural and human resources, she still depends on foreign aids for her survival. The reasons for this anomaly are not far-fetched. The national revenue has been misappropriated for far too long and our priorities are misguided. The multifaceted remedy to this situation is by amending the national budget to fund sectors of the economy that are underfunded, explore other means of funds generation, curb corruption and put in place economy-friendly policies. After my strategies for sustainable economic development is successfully modeled in Nigeria, I will urge other African states to adopt it.
Religion they say, is the opium of the masses. But in Nigeria, it is the opium of both the masses and the government. This is seen in the fact that there is total tax freedom for all churches, mosques and their associated business enterprises in the country.[v] As if that is not enough, each year, the government spends over 1 billion USD providing subsidy for pilgrimage trips to Jerusalem and Mecca.[vi] This is the first issue my administration has begun tackling and that was why I felt pity for the priest at my inauguration ceremony. With the number of religious buildings in every hook and cranny of the country, the problem of noise pollution and wastage of good government lands rears its ugly head. With tax imposition on these religious bodies, several benefits such as the reduction of noise pollution, availability of more government lands (on which basic infrastructures can be erected on) and an increased revenue for the country will be realized. No matter how you look at it, this is a perfect strategy for transformation. Gone are the days when we were complacent with our ‘black gold’ being taken abroad for refining. Thus, after the withdrawal of this pilgrimage subsidy, the revenue accrued over the years will be used to establish and maintain a world-class refinery for our crude oil.
Also, it is traumatising that in my bid to create more funding options for economic growth, the ever huge state annual spending on overseas scholarship (which amounts to 120 million USD[vii]) will have to be curtailed and the aspiring scholarship enthusiasts will be disappointed. Hence, my sympathy for the masses. Imagine Nigeria not having to part ways with that huge sum of money annually and the economic transformation it will finance. In the 2018 THE[viii] yearly university ranking, there are only 25 out of the 5,300 USA[ix] colleges higher than The University of Ibadan, Nigeria. This shows that our local institutions of higher learning have the capacity for development. I will reallocate a percentage of these funds to making our universities both an academic and a research center of world-class standard. This will create a win-win situation both for the students and State with a rippling effect to other pillars of economy. This will be evident in the production of graduates inculcated with the advanced knowledge they once sought abroad and the provision of the nation with the ground-breaking scientific results and technologies we so desperately need. Moreover, let’s face it, human resources, not crude oil is our greatest asset as a country. This is why we need to develop it not only by investing in education but in agriculture and entrepreneurship as well. In this light, the remaining percentage of these funds will be used to provide seed grants to young farmers and entrepreneurs in the country. This will respectively lead to the transformation of agriculture from its subsistence status to agribusiness and the tapping into sectors of the economy we have never ventured into.
In addition, it is no rocket science that the lack of functional systems of governance is a bane to the socio-economic stabilization of any nation. An unmistakable fact about corruption is that it has led to much wastage and sealing the loopholes that allows it is critical. In this regard, I will endeavor to capitalize on a number of strategies. First and foremost, since lack of transparency and accountability has stagnated growth in African states, all government officials will have to declare their assets before assuming office. All property they cannot account for will be confiscated by the state. Also, I will decrease the allowances of all government officials because frankly, it is outrageous for say, a senator’s basic salary to amount to over 1 million USD per annum. Finally, in order to make embezzlement by the state officials minimal, I will make the highest currency in the country 100NGN[x] as opposed to the 1000NGN in circulation at the moment. They would need ten bags to move funds that usually fit in a bag. This will discourage stealing in the sense that it makes it more conspicuous. Oh, how I pity these government officials! The funds recovered from my corruption-curbing efforts will be used to increase the allowances of all health workers so as to reduce the number that leaves the country in droves every year. Also, with these funds, our hospitals will be revitalized and brought back to her glory days.
It is no longer news that the Nigerian Entertainment industry is second to none in Africa.[xi] Save for the fact that there are no clear-cut laws governing the industry, everything seems to be going well for it. I want to be the leader that totally removes that anarchy from the doorstep of entertainment. The fact that the economy booster of a show, The Big Brother Naija is usually held in South Africa every year is mind-boggling. The status quo of tons of music videos and movies being shot outside the shores of Nigeria is very disheartening. The employment opportunities these shows and video shootings offer are being served on a platter to citizens of other nations while our youths wallow in poverty. Such a situation needs no tolerance in a state that seek to cement its economic growth. Bringing this to a halt will be one of my priorities. Knowing what I have in store for the industry is what made me feel pity for the musical band at my inauguration.
Not to be taken lightly, is our desperate need for the awakening of our local industries which will fuel significant economic transformation like it did in China during her industrial revolution. This translates to me saying goodbye to my Chanel suits and other foreign designer accessories in my collection. I will move gradually from placing a restriction to a total embargo on the importation of foreign intermediary and processed products into Nigeria. Any foreign industry that has a wide customer base in Nigeria will be allowed to do business here if and only if, they would bring the industry into the country and employ our youths. Then, they would have to pay tax to the government. The revenue generated will be used to work on the Kainji Dam to produce adequate hydroelectric power for these industries and our local industries which I will encourage through public-private partnerships. Nigeria and Africa are on a journey to greatness and I am glad I will be the pilot of the trip.
As my alarm clock buzzed 5:30AM, I woke up with a lot of clarity. Clarity in the form of the realization that I am not Nigeria’s president, the realization that I own no Chanel suit and above all, the realization that I do not know what the cuisine of fame tastes like. It was all a beautiful, bright dream and I am just a medical student somewhere west in West Africa.
[i] Akinyemi A.I (2010). Demographic dynamics and development in Nigeria. African Population Studies. vol.27: pp.239-248
[ii] Adewale M.P (February, 2013). Nelson Mandela on the tragedy that Nigeria represents to Africa. The Patchwork Nation, New York Times. p.20
[iii] Lysonski S. (2013). Nigeria in transition: acculturation to global consumer culture. Journal of Consumer marketing. Vol.30:pp.493-508
[iv] USD means United States Dollars
[v] Bureau of Democracy, human Rights and Labor (2004). International Religious Freedom Report for 2004. Retrieved at https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2004/35460.htm on 06/05/2018 by 7:05GMT
[vi] Chijioke N., Ajibola H. et al (August, 2017). Senate, CBN rift looms over 1 billion pilgrimage subsidy. The Guardian Newspaper. p.25
[vii] Maryam G.H (November 23rd, 2014). Kano spends N12b on overseas scholarships-Kwankwaso. Peoples Daily. Retrieved from http://www.peoplesdailyng.com/kano-spends-n12b-on-overseas-scholarships-kwankwaso/
[viii] THE stand for Times Higher Education
[ix] USA means United States of America
[x] NGN refers to Nigerian Naira
[xi] Roberts O. (March, 2014). The value of the Nigerian entertainment industry. Business Day. Retrieved from htpp://www.businessdayonline.com/the-value-of-the-nigerian-entertainment-industry-2/ on the 06/05/2018 by 8:19GMT
What do you think?