Nigeria Needs To Adopt Productivity As A Religion
In 2018, I had an interaction on Twitter in which I made the following statement: “The solution to poverty is productivity. Nigeria has a huge population of unproductive people. There are multiple factors behind this phenomenon. None of these factors are currently being adequately addressed. This road is going to be a long one.” (source)
I was reminded of that 2018 tweet by Emeka Okoye. This is August 2020, over two years later, and we are still no closer to being a productive nation. It is a highly disheartening thing.
The country still lacks 24-7 uninterrupted power supply. If you get 8 hours of power, you are in a privileged location. To be sure, there are a few places that get close to 24 hours supply of electricity, but they are mostly extremely privileged locations of the high and mighty, and they pay a higher power tariff for it.
There is no nation on God’s green earth that is prosperous without being extremely productive. None. And for productivity to happen, certain factors must be in place.
Human Resources First
Chief among them is human capacity. Not many people understand the level of human capacity deficiency we have in Nigeria, but ask any entrepreneur or human resource person who has tried to fill vacancies. It is a herculean task. In my case, I am a digital publisher who runs a handful of platforms. Content is what we do, and our greatest headache is almost always the lack of competent writers to fill roles.
Yes; writers. Consider how basic writing is. Yet, “writers” send in job applications that do not meet the most basic levels of English language. Even the top newspaper houses are not exempt. I shared a tweet recently about how people think I am exaggerating when I say that finding writers with a decent command of English to hire is difficult. It was in response to how grammatically awful a Guardian article was. Check it out HERE.
There is a lack of a critical mass of skilful people in the country, and it does not matter what field or sector we are talking about – writing, banking, insurance, law, engineering, teaching, driving, carpentry, engineering, accounting, medicine, digital media, security, etc. Until that dearth becomes history, we are not going anywhere. Humans drive productivity.
China and India have made the progress that they did in the last few decades partly because they invested in developing their human resources in that period. If we want to replicate their successes, we have to overhaul the education system we run. It is so grossly inadequate. If we start now, it will take us about two decades to produce the first set of results. Think about that.
Government keeps talking about Nigeria’s natural resources. This was where we missed it as a country – thinking that natural resources would make us properous. In reality, the development of human resources is what makes nations great. Here in Africa’s largest country, we abandoned human resources and fixated on oil. Our education system fell to shambles and that was the beginning of woes.
Vision 2020 Was A Joke
It is a long road to developing the quality of human knowledge and skills that we need as a nation. It will take two decades to deliver. If we start now, we can talk about Vision 2040. We are yet to start, so 2040 is not looking good at all. I kid not.
When government began talking about Vision 2020 years ago, I was one of those who said it was a joke. This was because there was little being done then to address the factors that would make 2020 produce anything significant. Nations do not become prosperous by talking or praying. They do it by producing competent hands who work to get those results.
A huge chunk of this falls on government. Without government getting their act together, it won’t happen.
Other Factors Of Production
What other factors are required to be in place? Besides human resources, governement policy is a big problem. In Nigeria, government policy almost means one thing: “frustrate everyone who attempts to be productive and reward those who couldn’t care”. It may not be what they had in mind when drawing up those policies (and it speaks of the quality of minds that we have in government too), but that is what the results suggest.
Government regulation is often more about putting a rope around the neck of entrepreneurs than helping to make sure that they thrive. Policies that choke the life out of open business, followed by multiple high taxes and levies. Meanwhile, because many industries are at a budding stage, what they need are incentives and support to grow.
Then there is the factor of public infrastructure. Electricity, Internet access, and roads, among others, have remained big problems, and they need to be fixed. Without these, productivity in the country will remain horribly difficult, inefficient, and unprofitable.
What Of Money As A Factor?
Money will always be a factor of production, but contrary to what many people think, it is not the most important. In Nigeria, what has throwing money at problems done for us? We have sunk billions of naira in Ajaokuta. We have petroleum refineries that have been unproductive and unprofitable for years. New airlines spring up as old ones die off. Some years ago, a ghost national airline was even launched by the Federal Government. We have rail systems that have been under construction for over a decade. The re-construction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the busiest stretch of road in the country, has gone on for eternity. I can go on: listing the country’s failed development projects is so easy because there are hundreds of them scattered here and there. But that is not the goal here.
The goal here is to show that money – even direct foreign investments – is useless and unhelpful if the other factors of production are not in place. Completely useless. Things will get built, but they will be badly built and in some cases not function at all. Those that function will be badly run. This has been the case again and again.
Corruption is a problem, to be sure. But corruption is not exclusive to Nigeria. Humans everywhere are corrupt. In the USA, Italy, India, China, Canada, everywhere you look, you will find that humans are corrupt. As a matter of fact, Nigeria is not even among the top countries with the highest fraud rates. What we need to do is develop systems that check corrupt practices.
So, while corruption exists here, it is not our biggest problem. The lack of productivity is. Being an unproductive country whose available resources are being stolen just makes things worse for us.
Productivity As A Religion
I agree that Nigeria needs to adopt productivity as a religion. That is because religion appears to be the only thing that we take, well, religiously. That is the approach we need to have towards productivity.
There are too many people who have nothing to do. When people have nothing to do, they do not earn an income. A country with many people not earning an income is nowhere near prosperous.
There are also too many who are grossly under-skilled at what they do. The consequences of this are similar to the consequences of not having anything to do. Sometimes, the consequences are greater, because a lot of damage gets done. Buildings collapse. New roads become crater-ridden in weeks and months. Human bodies are butchered in hospitals. Human minds are butchered in schools. These are expensive consequences.
There is a lot that we can do to change this situation. We must adopt productivity as a religion. But it is sad that even now in 2020, we are still far from beginning that journey to being a highly productive country.