How Nige­ri­ans un­der de­velop Nige­ria

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT - Tun­ By Tunde Asaju with Tunde Asaju

Ithor­oughly en­joyed the fun of the de­bate on the US De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture show­ing that Naija has im­ported more rice this year than it did in two pre­vi­ous years put to­gether. Early in the year, the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion launched it’s rice rev­o­lu­tion then as­sured its cit­i­zens it would ban rice im­por­ta­tion al­to­gether. Like most gov­ern­ment prom­ises, it has failed to de­liver on it. If you ask Al­haji Lai, he is likely to tell you that the ban would still take place. And to show that they are se­ri­ous, they could ac­tu­ally put a po­lit­i­cal ban in place. For those who do not know, a po­lit­i­cal ban is one that the gov­ern­ment has no idea of keep­ing or no in­ten­tion to make it through. How much of the rice be­ing served in Arse­hole Rock is lo­cally made?

I have asked my­self when did rice be­come an es­sen­tial com­mod­ity? At the na­tional level, per­haps it was thirty-some­thing years ago when the Buhari/Idi­ag­bon regime turned ma­jor food­stuff and gro­ceries into so-called es­sen­tial com­modi­ties and flogged peo­ple to queue for them. Un­til then, Naija peo­ple got by with their Abaka­liki and Niger rice, which from my vil­lage per­spec­tive was eaten only on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. Things have changed, and not only are we claim­ing that rice is a sta­ple on the Naija ta­ble, we’ve raised po­lit­i­cal dust over whose jollof is best.

Rice be­came a king among the foods we eat be­cause it is a global com­mod­ity. If Oy­ibo peo­ple boil and serve it via their fast-food chains, it must be good. Naija is sup­posed to have the ca­pac­ity to ex­port lo­cally grown yams, but you won’t find cit­i­zens rush­ing to buy yams as they do for­eign rice. In fact, un­til re­cently, a tu­ber of yam costs less than a loaf of bread, an­other for­eign im­port.

No­body has crit­i­cally looked into the link be­tween bleached rice, canned for­eign food that and nu­tri­tion less noo­dles, that mar­keters have im­posed on us. Yet, they have taken over the sign­post­ing of in­sti­tu­tions, a sub­tle mar­ket­ing gim­mick tar­get­ing our in­no­cent chil­dren. There is some­thing in­her­ently wrong in peo­ple that feel in­fe­rior in the con­sump­tion of their own prod­ucts but feel el­e­vated on the so­cial peck­ing or­der with the pref­er­ence of for­eign goods. Every­where you go, tokunbo is bet­ter! If in doubt, ask your me­chanic.

As a friend of some im­porters, I am amazed at the rate at which we as cit­i­zens de­stroy our own econ­omy by stok­ing the em­bers of in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex. Ships sail to African des­ti­na­tions with in­cred­i­ble junk. Cars are loaded with rice, spaghetti and mac­a­roni. Pam­per pro­duc­ers must be strug­gling as we have flooded the lo­cal mar­ket with for­eign made pam­pers. Imag­ine the thought that makes par­ents be­lieve that a child weaned on lo­cally made pam­pers lim­its his po­ten­tials? Id­iots like me were raised with rags put to­gether as defe­ca­tion re­cep­tors, yet we have beaten those raised on bread and but­ter in the best schools at home and abroad. Back in the day, the ex­cre­ment is washed away and the ‘pam­per’ put back to use - re­cy­cling. The im­ported plas­tic is non-com­postable liv­ing in our land­fills for 700 years!

Our peo­ple even im­port bot­tled wa­ter. If they come from Europe, they take at least four weeks to get to their des­ti­na­tion. From the Amer­i­cas, the time is an av­er­age of six weeks. We shouldn’t even talk about Aus­tralia. We’re talk­ing of wa­ter boxed in a steel con­tainer trans­ported over cold, damp, then hot and dry tem­per­a­ture. On ar­rival at the port, it could re­main in the scorch­ing heat for be­tween two to four ex­tra weeks. It is then trans­ported in open trucks be­fore be­ing ware­housed and then dis­played in the heat be­fore it gets to the for­eign-crazy-con­sumer. Plas­tic is made of resin - a po­ten­tial car­cino­gen.

Per­haps there’s a link be­tween kid­ney or liver dis­eases and can­cers, which Naija hospi­tals are ab­so­lutely ill equipped to han­dle. We are not a coun­try that looks into is­sues like these. Some par­ents I know im­port fruit juices too made by the same trade­marks that are man­u­fac­tured in coun­try.

When we shout that the econ­omy is un­der­per­form­ing, that un­em­ploy­ment is high, we of­ten don’t turn the mir­ror to our lit­tle tastes and our­selves. We blame it all on gov­ern­ment, which de­serves some of the blame. How much do we con­trib­ute as in­di­vid­u­als?

Lo­cally pro­duced rice may not meet na­tional de­mand, but if we take pride in its pro­duc­tion, we could im­prove on yield with time. Ev­ery pack of pam­pers im­ported de­stroys lo­cal pro­duc­tion, lead to un­em­ploy­ment, com­pany re­lo­ca­tion or low wage pay­ment. Ev­ery can of juice im­ported re­duces lo­cal pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity.

The de­funct Bi­afra had no ac­cess to for­eign bombs to pros­e­cute its war, it in­vented the Og­bunigwe but that ca­pac­ity is un­tapped. Aba shoes are un­matched any­where in the world and com­pared to for­eign ones, are cheaper; we’ll wear sec­ond hand than pa­tron­ize them. Lo­cals in the creeks re­fine the crude that we need; our se­cu­rity forces burn down their sta­tions rather than or­ga­nize them into co­op­er­a­tives and link them to tech­ni­cal know-how. Yet, Buhari’s one re­fin­ery-a-year is not re­al­ized.

Yes, gov­ern­ment de­serves the blame for lack of pol­icy di­rec­tion, but dear Naija at home and abroad - how are we as in­di­vid­u­als con­tribut­ing to the un­der­de­vel­op­ment of our coun­try?

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