FOLLOW THE LEADER - Issues With Shola Ola

Before we begin, let me point out that this article will be divided into three parts: the political, the religious and family angle… So let’s begin with the political:

It is not news that the economy of our nation is currently in recession resulting in Naira losing its value by more than 100 percent and loss of livelihood of many of our people. The recession itself which is as a result of the continuous drop in the price of oil, our major source of foreign exchange, has created a kind of hardship many Nigerians have never witnessed before. The impact of this is not only being felt by households, even many states government finds it difficult to discharge their responsibilities to their people. Some states are said to owe their workforce 12 months salaries, and as a result the workers themselves cannot meet their own obligations to their families. As a way of coming out of the recession, there has been a lot of campaign on the need to go back to agriculture which used to be the mainstay of our economy before the discovery of oil. Also, there are campaigns on the need to patronize made-in-Nigeria goods so that Nigerian manufacturers or entrepreneurs can stay in business as well as save foreign exchange. The idea behind this is, if the local manufacturers can stay in business, it means many Nigerians would remain employed.

Until now, our people have always favoured foreign goods at the expense of those produced on our soil. The reason sometimes is just ostentatious display of show self-worth. As bad as this is, one may not be wrong to say that the people are simply toeing the footsteps of their leaders. Our leaders themselves have in the past proved to the people that foreign products supersede those produced on our soil (Nigeria’s minister for information, Lai Mohammed, who ‘incompetently’ said Senegal’s jollof rice is better than Nigeria’s on CNN is an example here; but that is a talk for another day). They rather go for Italian furniture, shoes and suits than patronize local makers of such items even at a price twice higher than those made in the country. Their children prefer to study social studies in United Kingdom or United States than study it in Nigeria. They themselves prefer to go to Germany or UK to treat flu to staying in any Nigerian hospitals. Not too long ago, our law makers in the upper house, in spite of the recession, imported several SUVs for its members’ use, whereas local automobile industries like Innoson are begging for patronage. It’s obvious that those days where political office holders and government officials ride in cars assembled in Nigeria are gone.

Because of the attitude of Nigerians towards local products, some entrepreneurs purposely inscribe foreign names on their products to lure customers’ patronage even when the quality of such product is the same as can be found anywhere in the world. Of course, the main complaint about made-in-Nigeria products has always been that of quality when placed side by side imported ones from advanced countries. However, if our local manufacturers and entrepreneurs are supported by the people and government through patronage, their products will no doubt compete with foreign ones one day.

Just like Nigerian music of today is widely more accepted than the foreign ones by our youths, than in the 90s, with our support Nigerian entrepreneurs would someday produce goods that can compete with imported ones: After all, the Chinese products of today are definitely better than those of yesteryears.

The current economic situation is a wake-up call for us all. While the crusade to revamp our agricultural sectors and patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods continue to gain grounds, our political leaders need to move beyond rhetoric and lead by example. If our leaders would lead by example, the people would have no choice but to follow.

Shola Olayiwola is a freelance writer. He loves to write and defend the course of his country.