The Federal Government decision to shut our land borders to arrest revenue loss, economic sabotage and other offences and criminal activities is a welcome development but, it must be pursued with all sense of seriousness, patriotism and zeal. No doubt, other countries may have done it to achieve economic greatness and self-reliant, the processes they followed to arrive at this greatness are very crucial for government to emulate. We must desist from the usual Nigerian fire brigade attitude at doing things. For the Federal Government to successfully shut the borders and achieve desirable economic result every citizen must be carried along and, that is absent from this recent Federal Government’s border closure policy. The arrogance usually attached by government officials in dishing out policies is what we find; they owe the people explanations on every policy they embark on.
The Federal Government failed to carry the people along as far as this border closure is concerned. The citizens of Nigeria were not properly informed, educated, mobilized and sensitized of the border closure, the merits and demerits of such decision. Majority of Nigerians are in the dark, do not understand, and have privately and publicly turned their back against the closure. They view it as government’s sadistic measure against the ordinary people of the country. The masses are a critical sector of government in any democracy hence every government’s socio-economic, political policy must get the peoples’ backing for such to succeed. Nigeria is a big country, with diverse ethno-religious groups that find negative meanings in every government policy. How can a large percentage of your population not understand, and give support to an economic policy that will be of immense benefit to them? This is where the Ministry of Information, National Orientation Agency, NGOs, and other stakeholders needed to have been used by this government to help in interpreting the positive gains in this policy to the Nigerian people.
How can President Muhammadu Buhari who authorized the border closure travel to a foreign land for 3 weeks private visit? To do what? Is this a good example? Was this how Singapore, China, Malaysia and other Asian tigers built their economy? Certainly not! Nigeria cannot be gotten right until our leaders learn and begin to appreciate that when rules are made they must set the example. Why are our leaders crazy about traveling outside the shores of Nigeria? Discipline is far from government officials in their approach to duty as impunity is their guide. Our leaders must believe in Nigeria, think and leave, act Nigerian. Lean Kuan Yew wrote in his book; From Third World To First, about his disappointment on Nigerian leaders, he said; ‘… I went to bed that night convinced that they (Nigerian leaders) were a different people playing to a different set of rules.’ He made this remark because of the attitude of Nigerian leaders who claimed to have shut their borders against foreign items to encourage local production, yet the same leaders are seen at public functions wearing, eating, and drinking imported goods. How would your citizens take you seriously, he wondered?
The government must move away from rhetoric and provide the basics that would encourage the economy to stand. If the government continually fails to build our infrastructures, the closure of our borders remains a shortfall. Our roads are in terrible situation, electricity condition is worsening, there are virtually no hospitals as people still seek for medical attention outside. The government must provide adequate support for our local and multi-national companies to remain in Nigeria rather than re-locating to neighbouring or far countries for business. As at today, some local and multi-national companies re-located outside the shores of Nigeria because of high cost of production. It is then prevailing on the government to as a matter of urgency to begin building conducive environment for such companies to return.
There are several checkpoints on our roads manned by men of the Custom, Police, Military, NDLEA, Local Government officials, and others, specifically to extort Nigerians. A businessman/woman or common trader transporting his/her goods to another part of Nigeria is milked by these agencies daily, thereby causing him/her undue pain and frustration. By the emphasis introduced to the border closure, it has only afforded higher opportunity for corruption among our Custom and other security officials at our land borders and road checkpoints. This is unhealthy for the growth of our economy, marketing and distribution of finished products. It does not encourage patriotism, creativity, innovation amongst citizens. These numerous and unnecessary checkpoints within the country should be discouraged forthwith.
What support is the government providing for the Nigerian youths involved in scientific and technological innovation? There are talents abound in Nigeria but with no support from State or Federal Government. In the developed world, we hear how the State would encourage, give financial aid to researchers and inventors because the ultimate gain belongs to the government of that country. A visit to Computer Village, Alaba International, Aspanda all in Lagos; Aba, Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano and other cities in Nigeria will show how innovative Nigerian youths are but, unfortunately there is no incentive from the government to support their ingenuity. How then would the country grow or develop? During the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, we are told that Biafra refined petroleum products for their domestic use. It happened again some years ago when the Niger Delta militants refined their own petroleum oil for domestic use, so why can’t Nigeria have a functioning refinery, if its own citizens could refine petroleum products?
The border closure and indeed other policies of the Federal Government can only have a grip when our leaders begin to live by example. Nigerians are good followers but have not had committed, inspiring, charismatic, progressive leaders at the centre since independence. All we have had at Nigeria’s seat of power are people who think of themselves, family, ethnic, religious and political affiliation far and above the country. That is the bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment!
Written by Uzodinma Nwaogbe / 0708.438.1845