“One of the most effective ways to empower a group is to help them get finance. Yes, money .Whether it be women, minority groups etc. Without economic independence, freedom is a hoax”-Magnus Nwagu
Many poor nations especially those in sub-Saharan African regions suffer in the hands of their donors who capitalise on foreign aid provision to advance their economic and political interests. In some instances, conditions attached to foreign assistance continue to hamper the progress of dependent nations. Nigeria with a population of over 200million too is not left out of the consequences of been economically dependent on other nations. Although our founding fathers earlier set a foundation for economic independence, the discovery of oil and abandonment of agriculture led us to the crisis facing us currently. The burden of this essay is to examine a case study about how a group of women gained economic independence, dive into history to dig out our pitfalls and proffer the way out to attain economic independence.
From the wooded vessels operated manually, to speed boats using powerful engines, a group of women in Siaya County have made a breakthrough in the business initially dominated by men. They have ventured into the business by owning several boats, even as they continue to practice the culture that bars women from accessing vessels. Pamela Akinyi got married to an angler in 1998 who owned a boat and this helped her to be quickly introduced to the fish trade. A few years later, technology drove the family boat out of business. She later joined other women in scrambling for fish from anglers, a situation that exposed them to various forms of exploitation. Presently, out of the 60 fishing boats at Misori Beach, women own 15. Thanks to the deliberate efforts by the beach management to untangle women and make them economically independent.
WHY WE BECAME AN ECONOMIC DEPENDENT COUNTRY
Relating the above case study to the situation in Nigeria, it is a necessity for the country to take the path of economic independence to be free from undue external influence. Women originally were not allowed to own boats due to customs and unfavourable policies but through smart brainstorming, the women who were once exploited by anglers who owned boat are gradually becoming economic independent. Same could be applied to the situation of Nigeria.
Prior to Nigeria’s independence from Britain, palm products, groundnuts and cocoa was the major source of income for the nation’s economy. This made Nigeria a powerhouse in the agricultural world as nations all over the world depended on us for agricultural products and labor.
Although mechanisation wasn’t adopted nationwide during this period, our subsistent farming techniques helped us to cultivate enough food for our teeming population. We relied mostly on what we produced, governed ourselves in the way that suited us and were not reliant on the western world for commodities as low as tooth pick. This trend continued until the era of oil boom. The discovery of oil at Oloibiri in 1958 coupled with increased demand for crude oil led to exponential extraction and exportation of the resource. This shift created distractions to the booming agricultural sector as the focus of the nation shifted to oil exploration. With this, the agricultural sector, which had been a backbone of the economy for ages, was relegated to the background. This I believe was the crack in our economic clay pot. As the world progressed with new discoveries and technology, there was a sharp decline in the global price of crude oil and this affected our earning as a nation. This together with the interplay of other factors regressed us into an economic dependent nation who depend in the developed world for machines, aircrafts, drones and petty products like clothes candle toothpicks. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is slave of the lender”. This is currently in play as the western world continue to pile pressure on us to dance to unpleasant tunes of their policies and way of life.
THE WAY OUT
As one closely considers the case study examined, it is worthy to note that the women on the Misori beach took their destinies in their hand when they decided to start owing their own boats. Nigeria needs to go back to the foundation of agriculture laid down by our founding fathers if we hope to become an independent nation. Venturing into this will help broaden our economy, promote exportation and reduce importation. Mechanization should be adopted in our practice of agriculture to increase output and make the sector attractive to the youths that play vital roles in economic independence.
The ban of rice importation and the border closure by the Nigerian Government is a commendable move towards self-sustenance. Farmers in Benue state with their peers in the civil service now spend quality time on their rice farms to cater for their families and meet local demand. To actualize full economic independence, the country needs to equip her working population with technical skills, hybrid inputs and quality equipment that can guarantee bountiful yield.
In addition, for Nigeria to overcome embargoes, sanctions and unfavourable policies from other counties, she needs to cultivate a production culture among her citizens. This could be through the modification of the education curriculum. China for instance uses this measure to endure sanctions and embargoes levelled at her by other nations. Nigeria too can follow this path to become an independent nation.
Nigeria owes the international development association $11.7 billion and reports from the World Bank ranked her fifth on the list of 10 countries to which it has the highest debt exposure. With such scary debts accumulation, there is need for the country to increase exportation to service these debts. In recent time, there have been reports of rejection of exports from Nigeria for failing to meet standard practice. This limits our earning as a nation and diminishes the value of our currency. To this end, it is important for bodies like the Standard Organization of Nigeria and other monitoring agencies to make sure our products/ services attain the required standard, and guidelines before exportation to reduce rejection of our products improve our earnings and make us independent.
With unemployment rate at 33.3% according to Nigeria National Bureau of statistics, the economic independence of the country will help create jobs while improving the living standards of Nigerians. It is presently a custom for products like PMS, gasoline and kerosene to be refined in other countries before been imported into the country for consumption. With local refineries lying dormant and many a youths wasting idly, we need to refine our petroleum products locally to enhance our economic independence and limit our over dependence on other nations.
Furthermore, during the month of August 2021, Nigeria suffered brain drain when a Finnish firm employed the services of a 22 years old drone maker Ignatius Asabor who made special drones from locally sourced materials. With the country littered with many technologically perceptive youths and the importation of drones on an increase, there is need for the Ministry of Science and Technology to assemble, incubate and commission young innovative Nigerians to produce equipment for the near future. Doing this will ease the burden of depending on the Western world for things we can produce locally.
A former Nigerian Senator, Ben Murray-Bruce once sponsored an electric car bill that generated negative reactions from Nigerians on twitter. The objectives of the bill according to him helps to “comply with the clean energy policy, encourage the use of modern technology, deemphasize oil consumption and reduce air pollution”. With electric cars on the verge of replacing petrol powered ones, there is need for engineers and students in higher institutions across the country to embark on laudable researches that will enable us to produce electric cars to meet local and international demand.
Finally, as the most populous black nation on earth, many African nations look up to us as an elder brother. During interactions with my peers from other nations of the world, they seem to voice their hope for Nigeria to take lead while they follow in her steps. In view of this, we need to join forces with our leaders to implement policies, enforce laws and work to create a self-reliant nation devoid of undue external influence.
The “I CAN DO SPIRIT OF A NIGERIAN” assisted us through our fight for independence from Britain in 1960. Just like the women in the case study, we need to take our destiny as a nation by the horn and adopt the policies discussed in this essay to become an economically independent nation.