By Ademola Oyetunji
In an era where Nigeria grapples with economic challenges and governance issues, the country’s current state starkly contrasts with its past, marked by periods of prosperity and ambition. Once buoyed by the riches of agriculture and later, the discovery of oil, Nigeria’s journey from affluence to its present predicament tells a story of missed opportunities and mismanagement.
Reflecting on the golden years, Nigeria, in the post-civil war era under General Yakubu Gowon’s leadership, boasted of financial abundance. With significant investments in infrastructure and a booming oil sector that positioned Nigeria as the sixth-largest oil-producing nation, the country appeared set for sustained growth. However, the anticipated development was overshadowed by corruption, theft, and poor management, turning a potential blessing into a curse.
Agriculture, once the backbone of Nigeria’s economy in the late 1950s and 60s, saw regions thriving on exports like groundnuts, cocoa, rubber, and palm oil. Landmarks from this era, such as Cocoa House, Liberty stadium, and the First Television station in Africa (Western Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation), now NTA Ibadan, stand as reminders of what was possible. Yet, the lure of oil wealth eventually led to a neglect of agriculture, exacerbating the country’s economic woes.
The political landscape, dominated by a class of elites comprising military personnel, politicians, bureaucrats, and technocrats, has been criticized for prioritizing personal gain over national welfare. This trend has continued, with successive administrations accused of plundering resources, thus deepening the plight of ordinary Nigerians.
The removal of fuel subsidies and the harmonization of the exchange rate by President Bola Tinubu’s administration in May 2023 marked a critical juncture. The subsequent devaluation of the Naira and the economic hardships that followed have been attributed to powerful individuals manipulating the economy for personal benefit. Efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stabilize the currency and promote economic resilience face significant challenges, with policies often undermined by those benefiting from the status quo.
The CBN, under Governor Olayemi Cardoso, has introduced measures to safeguard the Naira and encourage responsible banking practices. However, these efforts require the concerted support of the federal government, security agencies, and regulatory bodies to address the root causes of economic instability effectively.
As Nigeria stands at a crossroads, the need for decisive action against economic sabotage is clear. The collaboration between the Ministry of Finance, CBN, law enforcement, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is crucial in paving the way for recovery and ensuring the welfare of Nigerians. With ongoing protests hinting at broader civil unrest, the urgency to address these economic challenges cannot be overstated.
Ademola Oyetunji, contributed this piece from Ibadan, Nigeria.