It took me a very long time to know that Nigeria does not need any natural resources to become great. Infact, the major obstacle to our becoming great as a nation is one of the natural resources we do have in abundance—crude oil. If there is anything that has stopped us from planning, thinking and working real hard, it is crude oil. We were so great and sincere people until oil was discovered in 1957. When petro-dollar came, we stopped thinking and being sincere and straight as a nation. As a people, we were doing better when we hadn’t discovered crude oil.
As far as I am concerned, oil isn’t a blessing to us as a nation; it is rather a curse, impoverishing our people. You may row and argue with me on this. Or I should have said that crude oil is only a blessing to our politicians and a curse to the common man—who daily walks on the dusty streets of our nation. For the umpteenth time, Nigeria is so rich in natural resources, but our people are so underprivileged and poor in every area of life. When there was no crude oil, we could take a good care of our people, but now that we have found crude oil, it has become totally unfeasible and impracticable to take a good care of our people. When there was no crude oil, our higher places of learning were amongst the best in Africa, but now that we are daily making billions of naira from crude oil, our higher learning places are nowhere to be found on this continent, let alone in the in one piece world.
For Nigeria to truly become great in the comity of nations and rapidly move from the 3rd world to 1st, we would need to replace our natural resources (especially crude oil) with superior intelligence, discipline, and ingenuity. How did late Lee Kuan Yew transform a desert and deserted nation without hinterlands to a very prosperous one? He elevated and installed the values of superior intelligence, discipline and ingenuity into their national life. These are the three national values that have made Singapore to be what it is today. If we can install same values into our national life, we would get same results they are getting. It is not too late for us as a people.
The orderliness and neatness that Singapore became known for was attractive to foreign investment—billions of dollars poured in, ensuring the country’s economic success. Lee of this world maintained a tight grip on domestic finance by preventing the internationalization of the Singapore dollar and limiting the operations of foreign banks. This meant international firms saw an opportunity to establish themselves on the tiny island nation. Sound financial and economic policy coupled with a corruption-free environment and technological advancement meant many multinational firms chose Singapore as a regional hub. We can replicate same in Nigeria, so that many multinational firms can choose Nigeria as a regional hub. One of the things that currently send companies and business men and women away from Nigeria is corruption and dis-orderliness. When president Buhari took over power from Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, he told the whole world that he would fight corruption to a stand-still. About three years after, we are still waiting for him to do what he articulated that he would do. If he ultimately fails to do as said, then we should forget about Nigeria becoming a regional hub for mega businesses and companies.
Late Lee was a disciplinarian. He ran Singapore like a severe private school. He brooked no dissent, bad manners, corruption, recreational drugs, sloth, laziness or rambunctious teenagers. He was famous for using cane to punish vandals and the death penalty for drug dealers. The only natural resources that the Singaporeans had were industry and discipline. Hardwork, discipline, family values and obedience were so cherished. We can equally make discipline, hardwork, family values and obedience our own national moral principles. But we cannot do that in a state of affairs where the law that sets the politicians free binds the poor man.
Furthermore, we need to start valuing high performance as a nation. We need friendly tax policies and open-market policies. We need to install sound education policies that will mould the future generation of Nigerians into an effectively bi-lingual university graduate. We need to raise our youths to ask questions, strategize and re-invent themselves. This is the only way they’d be able to compete with their age-bracket in developed nations. We cannot afford to raise them to be comfortable, accepting, implementing and maintaining the status-quo. We need to raise them to ache for more humanity and creativity. The leadership will need to help every Nigerian to discover their rainbow and ride in it.
Last of all, we need to develop in our people an entrepreneurial ingenuity to build the nation of Nigeria. Our youths will need to become entrepreneurial, bold and develop love for strategy and global citizenship, devotion to family and country, and passion for excellence. Remember, the federal government cannot build the Nigeria of our dreams, only the entrepreneurs can get the job done. The federal government can only create an atmosphere that makes ideas germinate. The present environment kills ideas! This is the future and we need to start building it now.