By Jide Ojo
Since Omoyele Sowore’s spearheaded the #RevolutionNow! protest of August 5, 2019, I have been a guest analyst on several radio and television programmes to discuss the import and desirability of a revolution at this point in time in Nigeria’s history. Among the media stations that have invited me over for discussion on the matter include: Arise News TV, Independent Television, Channels Television, and Nigerian Television Authority. Others include, Nigeria Info 95.1 FM and Love 104.5 FM (Crowther Radio). I have always maintained my stance that while Nigeria needs fundamental restructuring, the nation can ill-afford an uprising or undemocratic regime change, the kind Sowore and his supporters are calling for. Why?
I am of the considered view that election is the best way to institute a change of government. Embarking on violent protests in order to “bundle out” people in government can be counterproductive. A mob action breeds anarchy. There is no gainsaying that street protests can be hijacked by miscreants who can go on a looting spree thereby wreaking havoc on the very people the protesters are meant to protect their interests. I think what has happened to Sowore is a tragedy of good intentions! He meant well for the country but adopted a wrong strategy for a noble cause. In the light of what has happened in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Yemen and what is happening in Hong Kong and Venezuela, many world leaders will hardly tolerate a call for any violent regime change, no matter how benevolent.
Having said that, as some callers asked on some radio programmes where I featured, “Is this how we will continue?” Of course, not! We do need a revolution but not a violent regime change. We just had our sixth general election in this Fourth Republic in February/March this year. Among the elected are “the good, the bad and the ugly”. So is life! What we need is citizen engagement to demand good governance from our respective political office leaders across the three arms of government and the three tiers of government.
We need industrial revolution! Yes, that will happen if we can overcome our energy challenge. By that I mean self-sufficiency in provision of affordable and constant electricity supply. So also is the dire need for optimal domestic refining of crude oil. The gas being flared from the crude refining process is what is needed for the thermal stations built to generate electricity. For instance, Egbin, Geregu, Omotosho power plants depend on gas for electricity production. Simply put, overcoming our energy challenge will revolutionise our industrial sector. Micro, Small, Medium and Large scale enterprises will flourish once we are able to get our act together in the energy sector. This will reduce operational cost, increase production, increase employment opportunities and reduce poverty.
As a basis for industrial revolution, we do also need a fundamental change in our education sector. We are in a knowledge-driven world. Our education curricula need to be overhauled to be in consonance with contemporary societal needs. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics popularly called STEM education holds the key to our industrial revolution. Research and Development, Innovation and Creativity are non-negotiable. Information and Communications Technology is very imperative for our educational breakthrough; from primary through secondary to the tertiary level.
In many advanced countries of the world, pupils in nursery and primary schools are being taught the basics of computer and are given computer-based tests. In our public schools, many students only learn computer to be able to do the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. In these contemporary times when e-library, e-commerce, e-payment, e-banking, e-voting, e-government have become the order of the day, lack of computer knowledge is a big minus
Another revolution Nigeria needs is agrarian revolution. For us to achieve food security, we need self-sufficiency in food production and the agriculture value chain. The millions of foreign currency spent on food importation are not sustainable. Backward integration and import substitution policies are highly desirable. This administration is on track with the drive to make the country self-sufficient in rice production. Through the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme of Central Bank of Nigeria, millions of rice farmers have been supported with soft loans (low-interest credit scheme) to enable them to engage in improved rice farming. This is a step in the right direction. There is also an ongoing effort to support livestock farmers in order to improve dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, ice cream, etc.
The agrarian revolution I envisage includes the fundamental change in the agriculture value chain. First is the adoption of modern farming techniques through mechanised agriculture. Two is the processing of agriculture produce into semi-finished or finished products. So, rather than producing cocoa, ginger and coffee beans for export, they are processed into beverages. Rather than export timber, they are processed into plywood, planks and furniture. Instead of export cassava, they are processed into industrial starch and pharmaceutical products. Rather than export rubber or palm oil, they are locally processed into tyres and soaps. Instead of export citrus fruits, they are processed into fruit juice. Thus, by this value addition which is made possible by the establishment of agro-allied industries, post-harvest losses put at about 40 per cent in some cases will be greatly reduced while earnings from the semi-finished or finished products will be much more than selling off those products as raw materials.
I must hasten to say that for the three aforementioned revolutions to happen, there is a need for physical security. This is why government at all levels needs to redouble efforts to make the country secure.
By far the greatest revolution we all need is ethical revolution. Our ethics and values have been greatly distorted and eroded largely by lack of proper parenting, peer group influence and exposure to uncensored western culture. Core values that we used to hold in high esteem such as honesty, integrity, respect for elders, patriotism, nationalism, hard work, tolerance and patience are today in short supply. In their stead are a rat race for money, religious bigotry, ethnic jingoism, disrespect for elders, dishonesty, abuse of office and many more. Violence, which was alien to us, is gradually becoming our new normal. Kidnapping, banditry, bigotry have become daily phenomena. Despite the exponential increase in religious and worship centres, our ethics remain largely warped.
Last week on this page, I wrote a piece entitled, “And you said you’re not corrupt!” The commentary was meant to expose how we all are culpable of corrupt practices even though of petty nature. It is very easy to call people in government unprintable names and call for their removal for being corrupt. However, much as some of them may be involved in grand and political corruption, a majority of us are cut corners and engage in sharp practices as well as malpractices. We all must shun corrupt practices and live by the right values rather than being sanctimonious.