Let me boldly claim that “I met” you when I was 10 years old. Yes, I believe I can loosely use the term “met you” because one morning, 36 years ago, our military handlers at Army Children School Zuru, loaded other kids and myself into military 911 trucks so we could “meet the Head of State”. We were driven to Zuru town from the military barracks and unceremoniously deposited along the route your motorcade will travel during the “meet and pass over”. I remembered playing with my friends and feeling very thirsty and hungry since our military “handlers” didn’t bother to come along with water or snacks for the little gallant military children waiting for their Head of State.
We played until we were suddenly corralled (like cattle) by our handlers, who ordered we line up along the road to “meet the Head of State” – not long afterwards, I “met you” as you zoomed pass in your air-conditioned car, while smiling and waving at me - I was ecstatic with joy, I waved and screamed and forgot my hunger, then it was all over, the hunger returned with vengeance, as if it was annoyed that I forgot its existence due to the euphoria of “meeting” you.
Thirty-six years later, I can still vividly recollect that day, your smile temporarily banished my hunger, without addressing the root of the hunger. Indeed, I recollect the economic cost of your tenure in office as the military Head of State on Nigeria. It wasn’t different from what is happening today, there was hunger in the land, just as there is hunger in the land today. Believe me Mr. President, your policies are responsible for the hunger in the land. How? Simple, your policies are killing investments.
Let me explain using an analogy that you can relate with. You own a lot of cattle, let’s assume you prefer some cattle because they are completely white all over, without any spot, what do you think will happen to those cattle which are black or that have spots? They will become sickly and die from neglect. Why? Because your herdsmen are working overtime to take care of your preferred white cattle.
Mr. President, the top 10 billionaires in the world or in Africa are either technocrats, investors, mining magnates, ICT CEOs etc., observe, not a single billionaire is a farmer! I repeat, not a single billionaire is a farmer. Therefore, how can Nigeria become a nation of billionaires who pay billions in taxes if you prefer farming over other sectors?
China has more arable land than Nigeria, yet she imports food (soya beans and pork especially) to satisfy her citizens. USA has more arable land than Nigeria, yet she imports food. Japan has less arable land than Nigeria and import lots of foodstuff, yet she is richer than Nigeria – why? Because like China, USA and India her central focus is on technological advancement, not on converting 20% of her population to farmers, and punishing 80% to hunger and higher foodstuff prices by closing her borders in the name of forcing them to purchase what the 20% didn’t produce (there are cases of rice producers re-bagging imported rice under local brand names).
Mr. President, do you know that Nigeria is the poorest nation on earth? This implies tiny Benin Republic is richer than Nigeria, therefore closing our borders make us poorer and frustrate the few Nigerians who are still ready to pursue technological research since they must share their ever dwindling income on the three Fs, namely fuel, food and fares (transport fares) – how can such folks pursue technological research when they spend the whole day looking for money to buy fuel, food and pay transport fares? Without technological advancement, how can Nigeria catch up with Ghana? Again, without food on the table, how can students study on empty stomach? Many Nigerians look like models NOT because they want to, rather, hunger forced them to slim down. Kai! Hunger is wicked.
Do you know Nigeria can make much money by placing tariffs on importation instead of closing the border? President Trump’s America is making tons of money from China and other nations through tariffs, so why not imitate him? Why should corrupt Customs, Police and Military officials make a lot of money each time they allow so called contrabands into the country or fuel out of the country? Why can’t the money go to our national treasury?
Have you ever wondered why our poultry farmers always produce expensive poultry, while poultry farmers around the world are producing cheaper poultry? Because local producers continue to import some of the drugs and other stuff needed to keep their chicks healthy! Investing in local research and development will produce local alternatives and drive down the cost of poultry products. This applies to rice as well.
Mr. President, here is my candid advice: Firstly, place tariffs on imported rice and other commodities that compete with local brands. Then use the income from such tariffs on research and development that will empower producers of local brands to catch up with imported brands in quality, quantity and price.
Secondly, harness technology to (1) track fuel tankers movement (2) monitor suspicious fuel stations and shut them down if they sell to smugglers. This approach is better than the current suffering in our beloved nation.
Mr. President, please don’t punish innocent folks. Rather place tariffs on importation and use the income from tariffs on research and development, it is equally imperative we harness technology to prevent illegal movement of fuel products across the border. GOD bless you - amen, GOD bless Nigeria - amen, GOD bless Nigerians – Amen.
Disclosure: I personally tried to persuade Nigerians not to vote for APC, why? I believed APC = Advanced Poverty Congress, and that their Next Level slogan = Next Level of Poverty - I think they proved me right. But being right doesn't make me happy, why? Because many women and children are suffering from acute hunger.