My thoughts on our path to greatness

Rauf Aregbesola, Governor State of Osun

The occasion of the 57th anniversary of national independence should give us a cause for deep reflection and critical thinking without necessarily taking anything away from the celebration. 

I use this occasion to congratulate Nigerians, the good people of Osun in particular. It is a thing of great joy, irrespective of our collective or individual circumstances, to be alive to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence.

For some of us who were born before independence, it was a momentous event for us. Though I was a child at independence in 1960, the ferments of the struggle against colonialism still remained with us in my growing up years while the substitution and replacement of white colonialists with our people that followed was dramatic enough to give us a deeper appreciation of independence.

With the benefit of hindsight, some of the hopes and aspirations of the pre and immediate post independence era have been betrayed and this is regrettable. We dreamt then of Nigeria becoming a superpower in one or two decades after independence. This dream was even shared by some of the great powers of the era who saw us as potential competitors, first for regional hegemony and also on a global scale in economic, social, political, sporting and diplomatic contests. Many of them have since relaxed, feeling their fears then were unfounded. However, the dream of greatness is an undying one. Nigeria can and will still be great.

Though this issue has been over flogged, it still needs reiterating – that our bane since military interregnum has been overt reliance on rent from crude oil. Let us be clear on this, oil is a blessing, not a curse. The problem is what you make of it. Oil has been a blessing in the Scandinavian countries, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Angola, United States, Britain, Norway, Venezuela, Canada, Russia and several other places where it has been well utilized as a catalyst for development and wealth creation.

Our own problem, like several oil rich nations, is that we live on its rent and do not build any productive activity around it. That is why, beyond exportation, oil is practically useless for us. We cannot even refine for local consumption until current efforts by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Even then, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources told us recently that 92 per cent of local consumption is still being imported at the cost of $28 billion in 2016. We then import every other thing, including food, clothing and most of our building materials.

Now, the price of oil has fallen and the portents are still bad. This is in the wake of a tectonic shift in technology from internal combustion engines to electrical engines in automobiles.

Nevertheless, a lot of people still believe we are rich with crude oil, only if there is equitable distribution of the resources. Now, corruption has made the scarcity to be worse. Corruption is evil, it disrupts the development process and should be stamped out. However, without corruption, we are still a poor nation, even with oil. 

Let us do this simple calculation. Nigeria’s daily production quota from OPEC is put at 2.1 million barrels per day. Let us note that we have never met this production and sales quota in the last 10 years. Nevertheless, if we multiply this imaginary production quota with 365 days, which make a year, we have 766.5 million barrels of crude oil as our total foreign exchange oil earning resource. This is assuming there is no production disruption from militants’ activities in the Niger Delta and unsold inventory which could be up to half a million barrels sometimes.

Since oil sells for an average of $50 now, this will give us $38.325 billion in total sales per annum. Remember we have not deducted production and associated expenditures; this is the gross income, joint venture partners are assumed volunteers.

If we divide this amount by 170 million, which is our conservative population estimate, it goes round to roughly $225.44 per head per annum. This is further reducible to $18.786 in a month. At an exchange rate of N370, it amounts to N7,000. This calculation simply means that every Nigerian is entitled to N7,000 monthly from oil wealth at best!

How about income from other sources? Since oil accounts for 70 per cent of total national revenue, this figure will only rise to  N10,000.
Let’s say someone wants to experiment with this calculation and give to every Nigerian N10,000 unearned income, it means there will be no government; bureaucracy and associated wages, paying salaries, no executive, legislature and the judiciary, no police, military, public education, roads, airport, international relations, etc. This without a doubt means anarchy.

I have gone to this length to demonstrate that we are not rich at all, even with the oil wealth. The per capita income from oil would probably have been better if we have just one tenth of our population. 

This makes the issue of diversification of our economy and productivity imperative. Productivity is the ability to alter any state of matter or service, alone or in combinations into a more desirable form – product or service. The process of bringing about that alteration, or the effort we put into achieving this, is called work.

The initial condition or base material for these processes is often as freely set by nature, while the derived output or product is as contrived by man in his imagination. Thus, sound notes put together productively equals music, otherwise it is noise. Rubbles put together constructively is a house, otherwise it is just a dump of rubbles.

The challenge before us as a nation is therefore to earn income from productivity, not from rent. On this note, I will like to posit that we should get 50 million of our compatriots to be working i.e. engaged in productive activities that will bring them at least N25,000 a month. From this, N1.25 trillion will be generated in the economy every month from real productive engagement. 

These jobs can be created and paid for by ways and means in diverse areas of the economy like agriculture and food production, clothing and footwear, housing, environment, critical public infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, railways, water resources development etc that will provide basic needs for the people and cut our imports by 90 per cent, reducing foreign goods to critical machineries and raw materials we do not have at home. This will catapult Nigeria into a superpower within two decades.

In Osun we are already working on this. We are striving to put at least one million of our over four million population to work. If they earn a minimum of N25,000 a month, a 10 per cent tax from this will give us revenue of N2.5billion every month. This amount will be sufficient to run the government, pay workers, develop our state and bring prosperity to all. 

If this is replicated in all the states of the federation, Nigeria will be prosperous without oil money. This is my dream for our country and it is my sincere hope that at this occasion of our independence celebration, leaders in the public and private sectors will critically engage this idea. 
Once again, I congratulate all Nigerians and wish us all a happy Independence celebration.

• Ogbeni Aregbesola is Osun State Governor

In this article:
Rauf Aregbesola


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