OIL: OUR COLLECTIVE MISTAKE.
A small History;
Nigeria as a country covers a land area of 923,768 sqr km equivalentt to 356,667 square mi with more than 250 tribes, an estimated population of 177.1 million people as at 2015 and 2 most conspicuously religions, Islam and Christianity. Out of the landmass about 14% is covered with water. From the brief explanation one can understand that Nigeria is enrich with a vast landmass and water. We have 3 major forest zones to our advantage with very moderate temperatures across the country. Most of our land is green more especially during the rainy season. We also have a very good vegetation.
The Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated in 1914 by the British colonialists, and we got our independence in 1960. After the amalgamation, we used to live in peace with one another despite our ethnic and religious differences. Due to our vast fertile land, Agriculture then used to be our principle exchange earner. Not only that, we used to be self sufficient as a nation but not anymore. We were blessed with foodstuffs like beans, groundnuts,cocoa, rubber, palm kernel, gum Arabic, millet, sorghum and root crops like yam, potatoes- both Irish and sweet and so many other food types. Almost every crop can grow on our land. We could feed ourselves, and we were strong in our unity in diversity, and this is despite our ethnic and religious differences. All these were BETWEEN 1914 AND THE LATE 60s.
The Oil Search and Discovery;
Like I said Agriculture was the backbone of the Nigeria’s economy from Amalgamation of 1914 to up to early 70s. The Nigeria’s Oil was finally discovered in 1956 after more than 50 years of exploration at a town called Oloibiri in the Niger Delta by Shell – BP, and we joined the comity of Oil producing nations in 1958, when the first well came on stream producing 5,100 bpd.
That is the beginning of what we faced today. Let me remind us that the resources used for the exploration mostly came from the PROCEEDS OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCED. THE OIL SECTOR THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE NOW CLAIMING MORE RIGHT TODAY WAS DEVELOPED AND FUNDED BY THE AGRICULTURE THAT WE ALL ABANDONED YESTERDAY.
You see Oil was discovered exactly 42 years after amalgamation, and we started exporting it 2 years after. The question here is;
With what resources was the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria been ran 44 years before the start of oil export?
Our Collective Mistake;
Nigeria as a country was self sufficient up to around July 1967, that’s before the Nigeria’s civil war of between July 1967- Jan 1970. That means we could feed ourselves and even export. Almost every Nigerian was a farmer then, like in my part of the country almost every household engaged in farming, the poorest in the household is the one that can farm to feed itself for at least throughout the year. But we used to farm in commercial quantity from Kogi and Niger that used to give us fish and yams because of the rivers, down to Benue, Plateau and Nassarawa that have good fertile land for especially root crops of any type, to the Northeastern states of Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba, Borno and Yobe that have a very good vegetation for any kind of crop to be cultivated. Not to talk of the Northwestern states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa and Kano that can grow and were farming almost every type of cereal crop in commercial quantities. I could remember in my state the Kano state apart from the Maize, Millet, Sorghum and Beans, there used to be Groundnuts Pyramids, we call it “Dalar Gyada” which was normally exported and was one of the earliest major foreign exchange earner to our country.
When you go to the Southern part, we used to produced crops like Cocoa, palm kernel and Rubber all in commercial quantities. All the proceeds of these harvest were CHANNEL TO THE EXPLORATION PROJECT. THEN THE LEADERS THINK FIRST AS NIGERIANS AND WERE ONLY WORRIED ABOUT HOW THE COUNTRY WOULD MOVE FORWARD. THE CITIZENS ALSO NEVER DISTRUST OR HATE ONE ANOTHER, NO ONE REGION HATE ANOTHER AS SUCH THE NORTH AND THE OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY DID NOT MIND TO PUT IN THE COMMON PROCEEDS FROM THE AGRICULTURE IN ORDER TO DEVELOP THE NEW DISCOVERED OIL IN THE NIGER DELTA. We all have the Nigeria’s spirit at heart.
Our first major setback as a nation was the coup of the 1966 that was carried out mainly by the officers and soldiers from one section of our country that killed our leaders from also a particular section of our country. That was indeed the first major setback of our unity as a nation. Then after that came the unfortunate civil war that lasted for almost three years (July 1967 – Jan 1970). Indeed these two events really affected our unity greatly, but that is a subject for another day.
Nigeria as a country joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1971, that’s a year after the civil war, 11 years after independence and 67 years after amalgamation. We became the 12th Oil exporting countries in the world.
Wow, that was the beginning of the end!
But you didn’t ask how were the refineries built? That explanation will come later anyway!
Yes, it was the beginning of the end of our Agricultural engagements as citizens. The government’s started getting 80% of its earnings from oil and that was the joker!
Then IT BECAME ALL EYES ON OIL! THE LANDS WERE ABANDONED, FARMING THAT WAS THE BACKBONE OF OUR ECONOMY BECAME AN OLD PASSION TRADE AND ALSO A DIFFICULT WAY TO MAKE MONEY AS SUCH IT WAS ALMOST COMPLETELY ABANDONED EVEN BY THE NORTHERNERS THAT HAD IT AS A NATURAL TRADE, THAT WE IN THE NORTH, USED TO INHERIT FARMING AND FARMS FROM PARENTS AS PART OF OUR HERITAGE SHARE. IT IS THERE IN EVERY HOUSEHOLD IN THE NORTH, BUT BECAUSE OIL IS AN EASIER AND FASTER WAY OF MAKING MONEY
WE ABANDONED OUR FARMS,
WE LEFT OUR HOMES,
WE STOPPED LISTENING TO THE VOICES OF REASON OF OUR ELDERS.
THE RESULTS OF ALL THESE OUR COLLECTIVE CARELESSNESS AND MISTAKES IS WHAT WE ARE REAPING TODAY. It was that carelessness that lead us to becoming an Oil Mono Economy, and the result is the hardship that we are experiencing now.
We used to feed ourselves, we used to harvest our foods ourselves, but because of the Oil that we definitely know that even if we did not find ourselves here, may one day dry off, we now can no longer produce what will be enough for us for a month, talk less of a year. We prefer to import what to eat than harvesting it ourselves, and this is despite the abundance fertile land that God bless Us with. This is indeed OUR GREATEST COLLECTIVE MISTAKE WHICH WE ARE NOW PAYING THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS, if I may use the President’s words.
Now that we have a situation that is compelling us to return to the drawing board and a government that is ready to do whatever is necessary to divest from this lazy Oil mono economy that we put ourselves into, to more realistic multiple faced economy where Agriculture will take it’s rightful place, then may be we will get out of this sorry and unfortunate situation that we put ourselves.
Visualize the two pictures below and may be you will get the message.
We collectively made a great mistake, but it is never too late to rectify, even though we must surely pass through murky waters in order to make amends.
Long live my dearest country NIGERIA.
Kabir Dalha Kabir