Curse of natural resources
“The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes” Alaxander Hamilton.
At the moment, “Wealth, Poverty and Politics” is the title of the book that I am reading. The author is Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. My strong desire to unravel the apparent mystery behind why nations such as ours – Nigeria are “starving and suffering in the midst of plenty” equally was responsible for reading a similar book title “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some Are So Please” written by David S. Landes.
Also, “The Wealth of Nation (about 1000 page) by Adam Smith, “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson are amongst the several books I have had to consume their contents just to quench the insatiatiable longing for the cause of Nigeria’s depressing backward condition.
Obviously, it is an awkward thing to admit the prevailing bleak economic and developmental reality in the country notwithstanding the overwhelming and abundant human and natural resources at our disposal. To be candid, this is startling to me.
There are not only nations with meager or deficient natural resources, and poor countries with fat natural resources, some of the poorer countries have been so affluently endowed by nature enough to stir a whole literary foray claiming that there is a “curse of natural resources”. There is a disguised curse in the land, apparently.
Virtually all the oil rich nations the world over with the exception of Russia, etc have their people particularly their government destitute of harnessing their populace developmental capacities and potentials.
The innovative competence, that ability to be proactive which is inherent in humans is complacently allowed to lie latent, and undeveloped in them because of oil in the ground. They have become sedentary wealthy nevertheless unending.
No wonder, this pattern of lifestyle and stereotype creates chasm between the rich and the poor. Likewise, it supports brain drain in the affected country.
A large number of the distrusted and distraught citizens who, finding no enabling environment within their locality must need go in search of a conducive territory without.
As economist Henry Hazlitt asserts: “The real problem of poverty is not a problem of distribution but of production. The poor are poor not because something is being withheld from them but because, for whatever reason they are not producing enough”
Eliminate natural resource production; think about manufacturing realized by the dint of human ingenuity and total creativity. When exploring the influences of geographical, cultural and other factors pertaining the production of wealth, a sharp distinction must be made between influence and determinism.
Terrestrial determinism would have specific friendly natural settings on average directly create economic prosperity and social betterment whether by providing richer natural resources or by having a climate more favorable to working, for instance.
This can be controversial especially when one considers indigent countries like Nigeria and Venezuela with easy natural resources and prosperous countries like Japan and Switzerland with barren or minimum natural resources.
Has it occurred to anyone why countries although colonized by the same (Imperial nation) Britain, are not equally rich or flatly poor? Some are economically stable while others are still grappling with attaining the rudiments of development, and or in a way glorifying poverty and mediocrity –yet contentedly poor.
In his recent address, the Vice President of Nigeria Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, probably in his subservient image-making efforts of his boss President M. Buhari categorically declared that “the President is poorer today than he was in 2015”, when he was originally sworn in as Nigeria President.
What a heck! Anyone in his right mind could get dismayed hearing those ultra-shocking words from a man of such caliber. Diligent studies have shown that actually the poor has more tendency to be either corrupt, brutal or belligerent.
Similarly, being rich does not ostensibly define propensity to be corrupt, slothful, dishonest or crooked, rather it basically signify industriousness; it demonstrates the gains of painstaking ventures and perseverance.
The infallible scripture says, “The slothful man says, there is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets”. Proverbs 26:13: 22:13. Mr. Acemoglu sounds a point in his treatise – “Why Nations Fail”, when he said in Page 62, “Canada and the United States were English colonies, but so were Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
The variation in prosperity within former English colonies is as great as that in the entire world. The English legacy is not the reason for the success of North America.”
However, the view of the author of the first book I mentioned here is that although these countries are former colonies of England and might have been influenced by the culture of England, it is also true that the people who founded Canada and the United States were Englishmen, descendants of people steeped in the culture of England as it unfolds over the centuries.”
Whereas Sierra Leonians and Nigerians were descendants of people ingrained in the very different cultures of a region of sub-sahran Africa for many centuries and suddenly we got exposed superficially to the whitemans’ culture and way of life barely a century at what time “their own indigenous cultures were by no means extinguished in the historical brief period when they were part of the British Empire”
Rivers, mountains, oceans, and islands are amongst the geographical factors that isolate peoples from each other and thereby help to determine the extent to which the affected society or territory attain development or the lack of it.
Do you intend to ask, “Do we not have all these natural amenities in large supply across the federation and evenly deposited in Nigeria? Tim Marshal quipped an answer. “The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the people that now inhabit every part of the earth”
The weeping fact, (with regards to the Nigeria situation) is that our ubiquitous rich mineral resources and worthy superior human assets ought to put us on good pedestal of technologically advanced and socio-economically developed comity of nations.
In conclusion, a responsible government with foresight and altruism will eschew the lazy tradition of “looking deep into our ground” frantically for oil and gas and embrace the idea to look perceptibly into the lives of the citizens who are massively endowed with vast potentials and tap into those.
This is exactly what and how those other advanced economies did to whom we, with rich oil in our ground, run to cap in hand, for financial aid.
What a paradox! What an absurdity! It is high time the leadership of our country Nigeria, got set for an organized non-violent avant-garde movement unianimosly spearheaded by the hitherto muzzled peoples and bonafide citizens of Nigeria.
The purpose shall be to tell our supposed responsible political leaders in all stratum of the national leadership hierarchy that days of sugar-coated rhetorics, demagogery, rabble-rousing and dolling out deceptive promises are long gone.
The misnomer where the people are in constant apprehension, jittery and fearful of their elected leaders must be rectified and reversed.
The political stewards are supposed to be accountable to the people of Nigeria who so trusted them sufficeiently to send them with their votes to lead them.
The divine apportion of the geographical entity of Nigeria to the entire tribal, ethnic, components that made up Nigeria as one united and indivisible nation should not be abused, misused or in disuse.
Let us appreciate the precious and enviable natural deposits under our feet which are economically advantageous and viable and appropriate them judiciously, creatively, equitably and prudently. God bless Nigeria.
Orajiaku, Freelance Journalist/Social Activist wrote from Lagos State.