How Nigerians under develop Nigeria
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?