Before we continue with today’s discourse on the induced barrenness of twenty-eight states in Nigeria, it would be important to acknowledge the exploits of Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti state. While one would not dwell on things said about his administration, it is important to observe that after more than twelve years, electricity was restored back to the ancient city of Omuo, the headquarters of Ekiti East local government area, in Ekiti State.
A strategic town that links the Southern part of the country to other geo-political zones and is a border town with Kogi and Ondo States had been in darkness for more than twelve years, and three democratically elected administrations had ruled the State, ditto members of the House of Assembly, and the National Assembly.
Despite the restoration of light, one does not see the electricity going round easily as many electric poles have fallen, many transformer points overgrown with weeds, and many wires removed.
This remains despite its strategic location, and the availability of agricultural resources, how many foreign firms would have loved to invest in an area where darkness rules? As it is with many Nigerians and the never-say-die attitude, many homes had resulted to self-help these past years with solar and generators as means of getting electricity.
Many residents however were downcast, because it would signal the return of ‘armed’ light bills collectors who would engage in ‘estimated billings’. Battle is therefore being prepared before the war starts.
Therefore, it is a general known fact that power distribution companies have refused to distribute prepaid meters so that their inefficiency can continue while they reap where they had not sowed. Why is the mighty federal government, with all powers at her disposal, weak in ensuring that all households have prepaid meters?
Stemming from above, an environment that promotes investments usually attracts such. Many State Governors in Nigeria waste funds in making the cities and mostly state capital an architectural edifice, while neglecting the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’. So, the good roads, social amenities (where they are available), good schools, security, light and other things that foreign investors would love to enjoy along with their investments stop at the capital.
Meanwhile, the resources, land, and labour, which the investors need for their businesses to thrive, are nonresident at the capital city. Good economic advice is the need to situate your organisation close to where you would incur the least production cost, and the capital city is often not the place.
The Babangida administration was aware of this and therefore embarked on the development of the rural areas through the directorate for food, roads, and rural infrastructure.
Until this day, many remote villages are still reaping from the benefits of that initiative. The population influx into the cities is caused by government’s deliberate neglect of the rural areas. If there were an enabling environment for productivity, many would gladly stay in the villages and even create an environment for foreign investors to promote the nation’s economy.
There is also a saying in Yoruba land that ‘eni mofa, o ,mofa, eni mofa o ,mofa, beeni ifa ta lofa’. It means those who know Offa do not understand Ifa the Oracle, but those who understand the Oracle do not know Offa. Ironically, Ifa is a very good and viable business in Offa.
The question then is: ‘who would show the Ifa priests, Offa? That is where the local governments come in. The most important and often neglected role of the local government is the identification of the essential resources, and areas of investment that would contribute to the development of the nation.
It is the duty of local governments, to embark on researches, interactions, and identification of the various resources; that can be tapped into in their local areas. The information so gathered should be aggregated, processed, and delivered to the State government through the ministry of local government.
The responsibility of either setting up yearly economic summits and or reaching out to selected investors and the federal government for the successful exploitation of available resources, for international transactions and national development, lies on the state governments.
Rather than do this, local government personnel sit in the offices, manipulating data, wait for national allocation without researching into the gold mines that are within their local areas.
Even the sought after national allocations are rarely used for the development of the local governments for the attraction of more investments, but are often treated as their allocation from the national cake, which must be devoured.
It is advised that local governments should invest in information dissemination, advertisements and networking that can attract investments into their local areas. Once a local government area is conducive for investments, local and foreign entrepreneurs would need no begging to establish there.
Furthermore, there have been cases where investors run away from good areas due to the overbearing nature of the Governor, administrators, and host communities. Operating within myopic sense of entitlements, some offensive demands have been made which make investors take to their heels.
Now, Lagosians are happy with the prospects inherent in the Dangote’s refinery on their land. But, we would recall that when the hostilities and demands of the members of the communities were becoming unbearable, Governor Fashola waded in, educated the people and also threatened to give the Dangote group another site.
With egos deflated and rational thinking prevailing over primordial gratification, the refinery stands tall, generating revenues to Lagos State, economic advantages and development to the host communities, and in distant time, giving Nigeria (ns) relief against artificial scarcity and subsidy frauds.
When seeking for a memorandum of understanding, let the general benefits to the people remain the greatest intention of the trade agreements. This is to ensure that the benefits of future generations are not consumed on the altar of selfish aggrandizement.
When the lustful demands of the custodians of the commonwealth becomes overbearing, surely investors would seek for more accommodating environments to engage their wealth. Dear administrators, barrenness of our lands begin from your lust and insensitivity.
Let us remember as the good old book says that the ‘profit of the land is for all to enjoy’. When the conditions are just and fair, investors would throng our land, and development would happen naturally.
As we pursue a good MOU, let us also encourage our people to develop themselves and accommodate those strangers who come with their wealth to build up our environment. It is from these investments that national income, technology transfers, trainings and employment come from.
A piece of bread to the area boys is just like a 25KG of rice given as palliatives to a whole estate. It cannot go round, while those who get it can never be filled. However, a rice mill established in the same community would feed the people, create businesses and wealth for many years to come. That would reduce the numbers of ‘vulnerable Nigerians’ than the distribution of borrowed fifteen million dollars to unknown households.