I am so happy that we have started looking at ways through which we can diversify our economy from an oil-dependent one to other economic areas.
For several decades, the United States depended on oil from some gulf states and Nigeria for its economic survival, and in some instances, this was used as political weapon against it.
Not satisfied with this, scientists began working on how to get oil from shale rock fragments. The success of this project actually brought about a reduction in America’s thirst for foreign oil. It also brought about the fall in price of the global crude oil.
The Americans, who realised that they could no longer continue to depend on foreign oil, had to look for an alternative. In Nigeria, we have also realised that we need to diversify away from oil in order to secure our economic future. The economic turbulence that we experienced when oil crashed to as low as $28 per barrel should serve as a lesson to us.
It is a good thing that President Muhammadu Buhari has highlighted the path to follow. This government is focusing on agriculture and extractive sectors, but do we have the political will to achieve this?
One of the easiest ways through which the Federal Government can accomplish this is to mandate state governments to either have state farms, or state extractive firms.
This should be done in such a way that while these firms belong to the state, business professionals will be in charge of its running. A good example is the Odua Group in the South West; this firm, owned by the six South West states, is a model to copy for other regions and states. With this, we can have successful government-backed, but publicly-owned firms.
There is also the need to support small businesses in these two sectors, and particularly the agricultural sector.
As an agricultural expert, I know that we can match whatever we are generating from oil through agriculture. Today, our population is said to be 180 million people, and we import billions of dollars in food annually. We can imagine how much an integrated farming enterprise will make from producing food for the people.
The truth is that oil is not sustainable; the Americans and Canadians have discovered shale oil, while many countries are also discovering the resource. Before now, it was only Algeria, Nigeria and Angola that were oil-producing nations in Africa, but today, Ghana, Ugandan, Gabon, among many others have also discovered oil.
President Buhari should, therefore, ensure that his economic vision for the country materialises before the end of his tenure, so that oil can only be bringing a tiny percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- Dr Femi Odurinde,