On January 28th, 2016 Channels Television aired a community programme where a man in Benin, Edo State with little education and has never left the shores of Nigeria was able to build an operational unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as drone, without any special training using everyday tools and parts within his environment.
This is just one in the tones of unsung stories of innovations and creativity Nigerians have been producing for decades. While these talents go to waste, we spend billions of dollars yearly procuring the same innovations produced by foreign firms.
A friend said to me over the weekend “If Mark Zuckerberg were a Nigerian and he created Facebook in a garage somewhere in Lagos or Ogun state, the innovation would not pass the four walls of his house.” And he is right; Nigerians would still not have used ‘WhatsApp’ if it was developed by a Nigerian, we prefer ‘Uber’ to ‘Easy Taxi’ ‘Amazon’ to ‘Konga’, unfortunately for us, days such as these are over.
Nigeria is dying and it is only a matter of months before our economy collapse, saying we are in austere times is merely playing it mildly, when a country of over 160 million people produce nothing but depend on the production of other countries to meet daily needs, it does not only portray such country as unserious and lazy but also as incapable of self-sufficiency and independence.
The narrative of ‘Nigerians should embrace made in Nigeria products’ is a cliché that will never work. It is high time government at all levels declare a state of emergency on importation. Nigerians should not be persuaded to buy made in Nigeria products, Nigerians should be forced to buy made in Nigeria products. We are way passed seeking for patriotism, what we should be seeking for now is survival. There is no other way out of this, it is either we patronize local products or Nigeria dies.
The recent Central Bank of Nigeria’s list of banned items is a right step in the right direction but rather too little. Our condition requires a radical approach and as such, the list deserves expansion to all imported goods, products and services with exception to raw materials, machinery and industrial equipment.
The days of medical tourism should stop. Yes, our hospitals may not be one of the best in world but they are not doing badly either. The unnecessarily gallivanting of Nigerians abroad for medical checkups makes mockery of our status. This is not to say banks should not make forex available for specialized operations or severe medical conditions, those are different ball game entirely. But if you live in Nigeria, eat our local foods, breath our air and cannot trust any of the A-list hospitals with ordinary medical checkups then you have over stayed your welcome, please relocate.
I think it is time we ban importation of mobile phones, computers, cars, electronics and related gadgets. If truly Nigeria is a huge market for Toyota, Samsung, Tecno, LG and likes, then it is high time they invest in our economy; it is high time we have Samsung Nigeria, Toyota Nigeria, Tecno Nigeria and co. International brands and companies must move beyond opening sales outlets in Nigeria or signing sales contract with Nigerian companies, they must start building manufacturing –not mere assembling- plants in Nigeria. We can no longer continue wasting our hard-earned money (apologies to looters) to improve foreign economy while ours wreck. You want to sell to Nigerians? Come to Nigeria!
The importance of our Technical colleges cannot be overemphasized. Government must draw up a workable template for Nigeria industrial revolution. Our country has a huge volume of an untapped innovative brains wasting away in banking halls and government parastatals as a result of desperation to make ends meet. Our Polytechnics and Technical Colleges should not be a face saving haven for people who could not get admission into universities but an institution where innovative and creative minds are trained and pushed to take over the world. Nigeria needs to model the frame works of Polytechnics and Technical Colleges into something more sophisticated than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
It is time for a Nigeria identity, brands forged in the fires of Ladipo, Aba, Nnewi, Owode-Onirin, Agbara. We need brands that will compete side by side with the Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Nike and others. All these can only be possible when we develop our local talents, train, motivate and encourage the dreams and madness of our countrymen and women; for it is out of madness that the greatest innovations in the world are made.
But all these will be useless if government policies do not encourage such. The federal government must create an enabling environment for investors to come into the country. The days of unnecessary bureaucracy and bottleneck approach it is known for must come to an end. While it is important that every investor pay a premium for certification before commencing business operations, it won’t cost us anything to overlook such fees in exchange for a more beneficial future. Lands and tax waivers are also essential to encourage companies investing in an unknown terrain all for the greater good.
Finally, we will be wasting our time talking about economy, the survival of Nigeria and development of local productions if we do not have a sensible and well implementable Labour law. Currently, Nigeria has one of the cheapest labour in the world. While we may want to run a capitalist economy it should not interpret to erasing common sense and natural justice.
The corporate slavery re-christened ‘contract staff’ should be looked into as a matter of urgency. There is nothing cool in being a slave in one’s country all in the pursuit of happiness. Most acclaimed employed Nigerians today are contract staff earning way less than the effort and energy they put in to work.
The National Assembly must enact a labour law that represents and protect Nigerian workers first before any other. Companies must be made to sign an undertaking to not only ensure that 80% of their workforces are Nigerians but also draw up a training blueprint that will enable Nigerians possess the right skills to take over from expatriates in the next three to five years.
Adekoya Boladale is based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a public affairs analyst and political commentator. His contributions have been featured in The Africa Report (France), The Star (South Africa), Ouestaf (Senegal), Islamic Channel (UK), Sahara Reporters (New York), Premium Times (Abuja), Punch, Guardian and Vanguard Newspapers (Lagos). Boladale is on twitter @adekoyabee