Driving through any Nigerian city, town or village, you will notice one feature that is common to all. Apart from the filth and the disarray that is practically now native to Nigeria, apart from the noise and the preponderance of hawkers and micro businesses, you will notice a large crowd of people outdoors! And if you look closely, you will find that they are mostly not doing anything! And you will notice that the majority of loiterers are on the younger side.
There are just too many young people loitering or sitting about with nothing to do! That is the common feature in Nigeria today! You will find these young men in the shade of trees, in bars, sit-outs and in hangouts doing nothing! They just gist and while away their days, their most productive days! These are the unemployed, the unengaged and the idle! Indeed, millions of Nigerians who are at their most productive years are left idle and idling.
Most times, it is not that they want to remain idle, it is simply that there is nothing for them to do! The Nigerian state, the Nigerian system, in spite of a Ministry of Planning has simply not planned for whole generations of Nigeria! We have not planned for their training and we have not planned for their productivity; we have not planned their usefulness either to themselves or to the country. That is indeed the sad part of the problem. It is sad that a country as large as Nigeria, as important as Nigeria, has no plan for its youth which automatically means it has no plans for its future! But that is for another day.
Rather than find employment for our teeming populace, our import based economy employs thousands in the economy of other nations! Rather than empower our own, we empower youths in other countries through our voracious appetite for everything with a foreign label! Each time we import from overseas, we export a job and each time we bring in furniture from abroad, we send many Nigerians into the unemployment market! Each bag of rice we import, each apple we bring in, each keg of palm oil we smuggle in, we rob many a youth of opportunity for employment and growth! For those who are unfortunately ignorant of basic economics, let me enumerate why our youth can’t find work! They cannot find work because; doors are imported; bathroom fittings are imported; furniture is imported; bicycles are imported; machetes are imported; khaki for uniforms are imported; dog food is imported; Naira notes are imported too; wines and spirits are imported; plates and cutlery are imported!
If we ban the importation of the above listed items, our economic boom and work opportunities will be virtually limitless! Let’s for now use only what we can produce here! India did it and today, they are better for it. So did China. You simply can’t eat your cake and have it! The only way there can be work in an economy, in a country is if they produce what they consume! If we produce locally, there will be work for everyone. In several of my essays in workable models of economics for nations, I cite China and India as examples of how to practice internally self-regenerative economics that is in line with our culture.
Babangida introduced the SAP which involved the banning of certain imports but it wasn’t sustainable because it was not structured on a framework of alternatives on the part of the government of the day. Indians and the Chinese did the same but it worked in their countries because it was pursued with vigour! All official purchases was limited to locally produced and locally sourced items! Engineers, scholars and creative people were funded to come up with solutions to local problems. They were funded to design machinery, no matter how rudimentary, but what do we do here, we hound and even prosecute local producers! We destroy blacksmith shops, we destroy local modular refineries, and we hound and close the workshops of artisans rather than create industrial parks or estates for them. To create mass employment, all government need do is create the right and conducive environment for local production to thrive. The local manufacturers will themselves train and absorb all those who you see today under mango trees and in motor parks and in joints!
But it cannot be done when official vehicles used by top government functionaries are imported. It cannot be done when the luxury loving elite pride themselves that nothing in their homes is Nigerian made! What a mess! To create full employment, you simply ban frivolous imports. It is as simple as that. We were taught that, “necessity is the mother of invention”. Lock a carpenter in and over time and practice, he will bring out really refined wooden items designed beautifully. Lock a fisherman in, he will catch the fish and bring it home. Give a hunter the incentive of sales and he will scour the jungle in search of game. Lock a child in to concentrate, he becomes a genius. Lock Nigeria in, we’ll rule the world. The Indians were here, the Chinese too, in our colleges. They went back home, they forgot about the West, they concentrated on what they could do. They didn’t mind that their products were considered primitive, they didn’t mind that they were laughed at. They knew that with practice, their manufacturers would get better!
Today, their story has changed forever. They now export to the West. They now own factories in America. How many people know that Range Rover is now Indian? It is just our will. The political will to do the right things for our own economy, the will of customs to enforce import bans, the capacity of our elites to curb their long throat. These are still lacking and as a result, our young people will keep roaming the streets in hunger and in anger. Importation ban is simply the way out and there will be mass employment!