Roadmap to successful Nigerian economy

By: Willie Maduabuchukwu Obiano

The Nigerian economy is built on a faulty foundation. Like all foundations, it requires considerable skill to strengthen and upgrade an already faulty one.

A faulty foundation cannot support the weight of a structure, or keep it firmly on the ground. Therefore, it is only an adept team of individuals that can salvage a foundation by reinforcing the materials without completely dismantling the base of the infrastructure.

Nigeria is a country with myriad socio-economic problems, which have hindered its collective development since its foundation. It will be presumptuous to state that a change in government in 2023 will automatically resolve all the country’s challenges. This is because socio-economic development represents such a complex process, which requires the expertise of financial analysts and social engineers from numerous separate disciplines. The utilisation of these experts to achieve the common goal of national progress and measurable development can be attained with technocracy.

Technocracy is a model of governance wherein decision-makers are chosen for office based on their technical expertise and background. A technocracy differs from a traditional democracy, in that individuals for a leadership role are chosen through a process that emphasises their relevant skills and proven performance, as opposed to whether or not they fit the majority interest of a popular vote.

Consequently, the decisions technocrats make are based on actual data and objective methodology that is backed by thorough research, science and evaluation, instead of opinions.

There is no doubt that the poor management of public institutions and the tradition of conspicuous consumption have created several stumbling blocks for the economy. Nigeria’s tradition of conspicuous consumption, which many experts have observed in ceremonies such as naming, marriage and funerals have pervaded the leadership and institutional setup to a high degree, that the temporary affluence of the nation in the past soon evaporated as a direct consequence of lavish events, festivals and other ceremonies, all of which eat seriously into the nation’s till.

If the economy is to recover, the people (especially leaders) must learn to limit their cravings for wasteful celebrations, to expand the country’s resources in transforming it from an underdeveloped state to a developing economy.

Irrelevant consumption has also permeated the populace so much, to the point that the country consumes and imports almost everything, thus reducing its Gross Domestic Product.

There are significant problems, as shown by a closer examination of key facets of Nigeria's economic development and associated metrics. In terms of per capita income, the greatest economy on the continent is ranked 18th in Africa. This is a result of the sheer population size, as well as a reflection of the affluence (or lack thereof) of the populace and contributions made by citizens to the national wealth.

This indicates that despite the high human resources, a large majority are not contributing to GDP growth, thus reducing the economic potential of the nation.

Economic inequality in Nigeria is growing, with an ever-increasing economic gap between the relatively affluent urban southern region and the comparatively poor rural populations in the north. This gap is largely due to a lack of equal access to infrastructure and education in the north and is further heightened by security concerns.

Addressing the issue of infrastructure, virtually all sectors – power, transportation, communication, aviation, education, health, etc. – have weakened infrastructure, which hinder economic growth. According to the African Development Bank, a country’s infrastructure expenditure should be six per cent of its GDP at the minimum, to attain a reasonable level of sustainable development.

This gap in infrastructural development has adversely affected Nigeria’s growth trajectory. These effects are further exacerbated by dependence on the oil sector, which is estimated to contribute over 75 per cent of Nigeria’s government revenue.

This sector is not labour-intensive, has a limited trickle-down effect of wealth, and squeezes out other types of investment that might generate more employment in other, more labour-intensive sectors.

Countries with economic growth driven by labour-intensive sectors often see greater reduction in poverty. While Nigeria has seen increases in both the manufacturing and services sectors, the agriculture sector has shrunk and employment opportunities are not growing at the same pace as the population. Because of the lack of employment opportunities in labour-intensive sectors, wealth continues to concentrate among the affluent populations, while the country’s unemployment rate remains high. With all this being said, it is always easy to highlight a few aspects of any nation’s problems.

However, it is challenging to proffer pragmatic solutions that can resolve and restructure the entire economic bedrock of the nation. This is where the expertise of professionals is required. An excellent example is Willie Obiano, former governor of Anambra State; a technocrat, who decided to address these issues to bolster the economy of Anambra.

During his tenure as governor, Obiano developed and completed several legacy projects in various sectors that improved the economic ecosystem of the state. In 2014, he launched the Agricultural Revolution, a project that elevated Anambra to be one of the top three agricultural states in Nigeria, producing hundreds of thousands metric tonnes of staple foods and arable crops. Songhai Farms and SAB Miller agro-allied industries began producing sorghum and vegetables in Igbariam, which were exported to Europe.

Obiano spearheaded the popular ‘Anambra Rice’ that turned the state into a major rice producer, and he wanted the state to become a top producer of cassava and maize. To this end, the administration raised its agriculture budget by 500 per cent to N5.4 billion in 2017.

He commissioned Lynden Poultry Farms with the capacity to produce one million chickens a year. By early 2021, Lynden was producing 5,000 crates of egg daily, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

The Obiano administration’s strategic partnership with Graphil, an Anambra corporate investor, resulted in the export of nuts, spices, vegetables and tuber crops to other African countries and the Americas.

The man known as Akpokuedike created several valuable organisations that had a direct impact on the economic landscape of the state. Some of them are the Fisheries and Aquaculture Business Development Agency, Anambra Small Business Agency, Anambra State Primary Healthcare Development Agency and Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency, which have attracted investments valued at over $4.3bn.

Another initiative by the technocrat is in the health sector, where the oxygen plant he built in 2018 before the advent of COVID-19 supplied distilled oxygen free of charge to 540 health facilities in Anambra, thus saving many lives during the pandemic.

In the same vein, he created the Anambra Health Insurance Agency, which improved health delivery to the state populace at minimal cost of N1,000 per month for ailments that would have cost millions of naira, for registered participants at designated partner hospitals across the state.

People’s lives fare better when the government is efficient and responsive. When they have equal access to fair institutions that provide services and administer justice, they will have more trust in their government. Obiano built a Customary Court of Appeal complex at Nzam, Anambra West Local Government Area, making legal services available to the citizens.

He completed a stellar list of legacy projects, including a highly acclaimed International Cargo Passenger Airport, a 12,000-seater International Convention Centre, a FIFA rated Awka City Stadium, an international hotel, 18 bridges and three iconic flyovers.

He also changed the sub-national economy of Anambra, getting the state to be fully recognised as an oil-producing state. An approval granted by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission ratified the attribution of several oil wells to the state. The crude oil wells are Nzam-1, Alor-1, Ogbu-1, Ameshi-1, 2, 3, 4, Anambra River-1, 2, 3 and Enyie-1, 2, 3, and 4.

Obiano saw the need to strategise to maximise outcomes, value and yield from investments in not just the oil and gas sector, but in agriculture, trade, commerce and manufacturing.

Within 18 months of his administration, ANSIPPA attracted billions of dollars’ worth of investments into Anambra. The investors that signed up include Coscharis Farms, Delfarm Limited, Cardinal Developers, Ekcel Farms Limited, Grains & Silos Limited, Joseph Agro Limited, Lynden Farms Limited, Integrated Farms, IRS Consults, Temple SYC Inspection Limited, Falcon Corporation Limited, Africa Capital Business Support, Cotabs Engineering Limited and many more.

His legacies include giant strides in agriculture, education, healthcare, infrastructure and economic development.

This is what Nigeria needs; a team of technocrats to replicate what was achieved in Anambra on a national level. For Nigeria to bridge the developmental divide, it needs technocrats to improve productivity in all sectors. By enhancing productivity, through training and technological catch-up, the GDP per capita of Nigeria could be improved. Second, diversification of the economy must be carried out, if the nation is to achieve any meaningful progress in reducing unemployment and labour rigidities.

The inherent rigidities in terms of absorbing the existing labour force in the national economy exist because extractive sectors, by their nature, are capital-intensive and generate relatively small employment opportunities. So, the solution is to diversify the economy to create massive employment opportunities in every state.

Technocracy will, indeed, pave the way for a brighter future.