Tolu Ogunlesi: The land is grim; the land is green (YNaija Frontpage)

One thing you quickly learn from doing even a tiny bit of traveling around Africa is that Nigeria, even by African standards, this country is pretty messed up.

The debate is still on about how we can establish connections (accountability and transparency) between the governing class and the governed. The protests of January 2012 showed a glimpse of what is possible. By imposing an unfair direct tax on the people, the government got a chance to see how accountability actually works. I desperately hope the lessons have been learnt. With Nigeria, one is just never sure. There’s a shocking disregard for learning from the past — exemplified brilliantly in the way the presidency has handled the six-week disappearance of the First Lady.

Yesterday I learnt something new. That years ago an academic coined the term “de-developing country” for places like Nigeria.

It appears to be PHCN-billing season, and the senseless bills are going out. After all the noise made about prepaid meters, it appears that the government, instinctively drawn to corruption, isn’t exactly keen on the transparent regime that prepaid meters will institute. PHCN prefers to bring outrageous bills, based on insane ‘estimations’ of power use (even when the periods of supply exceed those of non-supply), so as to compel users to ‘negotiate’ and bribe. Please tell me, how hard can it be to ensure that Nigeria is flooded with pre-paid meters?

Look at the state of our airports? Look at Murtala Muhammed International? 13 years, and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue since, Nigeria cannot boast of a decent International Airport, or interstate highway. Are we cursed? Against this backdrop consider for example the fact that $10 million was recently budgeted for the renovation of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Mausoleum.

Also consider the current bill for the establishment of a National Flood Control Commission, in a country that already has River Basin Authorities, a Ministry of Water Resources, a Ministry of the Environment, and an Ecological Intervention Fund.

At a time in our history when we’re clamouring for a reduction of a bloated government structure (recall the Oronsaye Committee), it’s hard to imagine the news of this Flood Control Commission as anything but a big joke.

Examples like this abound, of a shocking disconnect between the elite and the populace.

One thing you quickly learn from doing even a tiny bit of traveling around Africa is that Nigeria, even by African standards, this country is pretty messed up.

So as not to end on a depressing note, perhaps I should mention a number of inspiring steps I’m seeing; that may symbolise hope for the future of Nigeria.

I’ll start with agriculture. There’s no doubt we have a visionary Minister, determined to transform the way agriculture is viewed in Nigeria. He wants to replace our traditional ‘self-sufficiency’ / ‘food security’ mindsets with an Agriculture-as-Big-Business mindset.

Imagine the potential agriculture has to make a dent on our unemployment statistics. But a Minister, no matter how visionary or ambitious, cannot do it alone. He has to be able to count on the president for support, and on the private sector for investments.

This is where the efforts of Transcorp, for example, are commendable. The company, through its subsidiary, Teragro, has a goal of producing all the concentrate that is used in the local manufacture of fruit juice. Before it opened its factory in Benue State last March, apparently all of Nigeria’s consumption (of concentrate) was fed by imports. Imagine that madness — importing all our fruit juice concentrate?

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu is doing fantastic work with smallholder farmers in Imo State. It took recognition by the Rolex Awards to bring him to our notice. The challenge goes out to the infinite pockets of significant wealth in Nigeria, to put their money behind public officials and entrepreneurs who are of a different breed.

I know that TY Danjuma has publicly lamented about not knowing what to do with a few hundred million dollars. Dear General, I know what you can do with that money. The fields are ripe and the harvests plentiful.

We need money to make agriculture as cool as the “entertainment industry” currently is, for young Nigerians. We have the land, we have the people. The space of our dysfunction is the space for our redemption. And what a space! What possibilities!

Nigeria has to get millions of young people off the Idle Lists. Time is not on our side. And the alternatives are too dire to comprehend.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (2)

  1. Tolu I couldnt agree more. Nigeria is one big mess! After years of bouts of depression triggered by the rubbish that goes on in Nigeria, I can finally say that I have honestly given up. Not because I want to but because after a recent visit to Nigeria, I see no hope. The mindset of the average Nigeria is so illogical that I cant begin to see how we can solve all these problems with the current mindset. Also, I guess that because I have a choice, I choose not to be bothered by Nigeria!

  2. The mind set of Nigerians really has to change.And our leaders are not exempted.Also the rich should start investing their money.Let the money not be idle.They will make profit and also create employment.It's time for us to make a positive change.Indeed there are great prospects in Agriculture.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail