This week, during a Senate plenary, Nigerians who remain in doubt that the country’s retrogression is a direct consequence of the quality of its leadership were reminded once again by the Deputy President of the senate, Ike Ekweremadu.
What happened? Reacting to a bill sponsored by Senator Ben Murray Bruce to replace petrol vehicles with electric ones in year 2035, Ike Ekweremadu flippantly offered an opposition premised chiefly on the fact that Nigeria’s status as an oil-producing state compels it to “frustrate” the sale of electric cars in the country to promote oil purchase. The Senator believes that this makes perfect economic sense.
The problem with Ekweremadu’s thinking: It is hard to examine Senator Ekweremadu’s sentiments without arriving at the conclusion that, like most directing the affairs of the country, he is short-sighted and [willfully] ignorant.
Of all the possible acceptable reasons to question the feasibility of making a switch from petrol-powered cars to electric ones in about 15 years from now, the fact that he chose oil sales showed his profound lack of thought and imagination.
An opaque and incredibly corrupt process of importing refined fuel into the country makes it hard to ascertain actual consumption rate. But the introduction of subsidy, an intervention intended to insulate ‘poor’ Nigerians from high landing cost is a pointer that the country makes no profit from local sales of refined oil beyond enriching marketers at the forefront of this corrupt arrangement. In actual fact, as a result of the opacity surrounding the process, the country is presently caving under the burden of subsidy costs which runs into billions monthly [with false and inflated figures playing no little part], denying it funds for projects in failing sectors such as education and healthcare. Therefore, ‘frustrating’ the sales of electric cars in Nigeria, as suggested by the Senator, is unlikely to have any significant effect on its earnings from local sales, if at all there is any.
Assuming, he is focused on the international market, then his folly is even greater. If there is any indisputable lesson to learn from the recession and snail-like economic growth the country is enduring, it is the fact that international disruptions powered by tech and the increased production capacity of hitherto oil buyers such as the USA have combined to place a time-limit on the profitability of oil.
Every serious nation, including Saudi Arabia with vastly more stake in the oil industry than Nigeria, is already envisioning and preparing for a future without oil. Yet, a Nigerian leader, expected to lead the way into the future, is advocating an insistence on a commodity fast losing relevance and charging the country to do everything possible to frustrate an inevitable change.
Apply this level of thinking to other sectors and you will get why the leadership of the country thinks the only way to spur local production is to eliminate a cheaper and better alternative, impoverishing the populace in the process and rewarding incompetence.
History is replete with lessons on the outcome of fighting irrelavance by trying to stall development and progress. From the Luddites who resisted the mechanization of the textile industry, to buggy-makers and horse trainers who tried, and failed, to halt the adoption of cars as a better means of transport; it is clear to all that innovation is the only way to survive and maintain relevance. All, but Nigerian leaders like Senator Ike Ekweremadu who look into the future and still se oil.
No nation can grow beyond the reach of its leaders. To understand much of Nigeria’s problems, you only have to listen to those in position of power.