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Rumour-Factualization: The truth in the lies of diversification

Though oil remains main source of revenue, it is not correct to say the economy has not diversified or that no effort has been made for diversification

“If you tell a lie big enough and been repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. 

This was one of the quotes attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, though versions of this were also attributed to Lenin and Hitler.

In our country, there are so many lies that have acquired the toga of truth simply because they were repeated often enough. I have called this process ‘rumour factualization’,

One of these lies or myths (I believe ‘myth’ sounds more respectable) in the run-up to the 2015 elections in the country was that America predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015. 

In an article entitled ‘Did America really predict Nigeria will break-up in 2015?’, published in the Daily Trust on September 5 2013,  I challenged this myth and argued that no such document existed anywhere – even though several people claimed to have read it. 

I argued that the closest to such prediction was a 17-page report, which was the  summary of the outcome of a one-day conference of ‘US experts on Africa’ convened in January 2005 and sponsored by the country’s National Intelligence Council to discuss likely trends in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 15 years. 

Though participants in the one-day scenario mapping conference were obviously downbeat about Africa’s possibilities within the period under focus, they also discussed what they called ‘upside surprises’. 

I believe that the rumour that America predicted the disintegration of the country in 2015 probably originated from that conference, which was more like futures studies.  

But the lie that America predicted that the country would disintegrate in 2015 was repeated so often that it acquired the toga of truth – or became ‘rumour- factualized’.

Today I will like to interrogate two popular myths that are repeated so often that they are acquiring the toga of facts.

Previous governments made no efforts to diversify the economy

Going back to farm is the solution to unemployment and youth restiveness

I am aware that choosing to interrogate the above myths may make me susceptible to accusations of defending the PDP since the above coincidentally are part of the mantras of the government of the day. 

My honest aim is not to defend or indict any party but to provide contrarian narratives to current discourses. 

That has been my pattern. In free speech jurisprudence, it is believed that it is only through unfettered and robust exchanges in the marketplace of ideas that the truth will be discovered. 

In any case, I have always set for myself three rules of responsible column writing: Have I done my research? 

Am I expressing an opinion earnestly held?

 Am I using respectful and sensitive language? 

Since I have ticked the three boxes, I feel I should interrogate these myths despite the risks of being labelled.

Previous governments made no efforts to diversify the economy

A very common mantra these days is that Nigeria is a mono-cultural economy and that past governments made no efforts to diversify the economy, which made the country susceptible to the vagaries of oil fortune in the global oil market. 

I believe this is only partially true.

A lot of information about the structure of the Nigerian economy came out in 2013 when the country re-based its GDP. 

After the rebasing, the  revised GDP for 2013 became N80.2 trillion (or US$509.9 billion) –  an increase of about 89 per cent based on the old GDP estimates for 2013 which was N42.4 trillion (or US$269.5 billion). 

True the new GDP numbers only mean that we were measuring our economic activities better, not that we became rich overnight.  

But the rebasing clearly showed that the country’s economy is more diversified than previously reported and that the structure of the Nigerian economy has also changed significantly. 

For instance while previously agriculture accounted for 33% of GDP and services accounted for 26 per cent, with the rebasing, it was found that agriculture accounted for only 22 per cent of GDP while the services sector increased to 51 per cent of GDP. 

The services sector covers activities such as transportation, information and communications, arts and entertainment, financial and insurance services, real estate, public administration, education and health services. 

The rebased figures also showed that oil & gas accounted for 15.9 per cent, manufacturing 6.7 per cent, telecoms 8.7 per cent and Nollywood 1.2 per cent. 

Prior to the rebasing, the contribution of crude oil and natural gas to the nominal GDP was 40.86 per cent in 2011, 37.01 per cent in 2012 and 32.43 per cent in 2013. 

The entertainment industry, as typified by Nollywood, was not previously seen as a significant contributor to the GDP.

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