If you can accept hay, or grass cut down to be dried and used as fodder, as a metaphor for agriculture and the agro-allied industry, you shouldn’t have problems appreciating the suggestion that making hay while the sun shines can be an apt counsel for building Nigeria’s agriculture and agro-allied industry from revenue received from the sale of crude oil – while it lasts.
To be sure, the two-fold problems associated with fossil fuel are fearful: The first is land pollution that corrodes farms, and increases cost of constructing roads, and infrastructure, in communities where crude oil is mined. The second is global warming or carbon emission that is associated with the use of hydrocarbon or fossil fuel.
Those who understand the huge, though not insurmountable, logistics of migrating the world’s economy away from fossil fuel, can tell you, “ho ha,” in Igbo say, that the end for the use of fossil fuel is not immediately in sight
The denizens of the world economic order have not completely accepted that wind, solar, nuclear, or any other source of energy, will completely replace fossil fuel, the undisputed king of fuels, which still gives more than handsome returns.
That may explain why America, which has incidentally resumed exporting its crude oil after a self-imposed ban of more than 40 years, has returned to purchasing Nigeria’s oil. Think of the renewed demand for fossil fuel as the bad penny that always shows up.
Traditional uses of oil include petrol, diesel, kerosene, black oil, and lubricants – for powering industries, vehicles, ships, aircraft, electricity generating plants, even war – will still continue. Ditto for new uses, like fertilizer, pesticide, synthetic fabrics, furniture, plastics, tyres, drugs, and just about everything used by modern man at home, work, and leisure.
So, for now, a world, without fossil fuel, is almost unimaginable. As J.H.A. Bone, an American news reporter, observed in 1865, “From Maine to California, (oil) lights (America’s) dwellings, lubricates (America’s) machinery, and is indispensible in numerous departments of arts, manufactures, and domestic life.”
He adds: “To be deprived of it now would be setting us back a whole cycle of civilisation. To doubt the increased sphere of its usefulness would be to lack faith in the progress of the world.” Indeed, the technologies so far invented are not as substantial, effective, and efficient as fossil fuel.
The situation, which remains virtually the same after nearly 160 years, confirms the thinking of Houari Boumedienne, a former Algerian leader, who quipped that oil is not merely a fuel, but a source of life itself. To dismiss fossil fuel without a viable, durable, and long-term, alternative, is to set 21st century civilisation more than a tad backward. The wheel of the modern economy is turned by oil.
As a source of energy, fossil fuel, with its baggage, is not going to go away very soon. Think of all the inventory of pieces of equipment that are powered by crude oil in one form or the other, and imagine the engineering, and financial, even cultural, implications of replacing or converting them to other fuels.
The fossil fuel gospel will linger longer despite the inherent contradictions of the oil business: The alternation between its shortage and glut; the erratic lows and highs of price fluctuations; and intense conflicts of interests between producing countries that own the oil, and prospecting international oil companies that own the technology.
By 2004, the world was consuming about 80 million barrels of crude oil per day, with America, the world’s biggest economy, consuming 25 per cent, and China, the world’s second largest economy, consuming another 12.5 per cent.
So, before completely yielding to alternative fuels, like hydrogen (that emits harmless water vapour), water, solar or plants, the world will still keep faith with fossil fuel, the way the clock, the calendar, and the equinox, keep faith with time.
Technology is yielding even more fossil fuel, not only from the traditional sources, but also from tar sand or bitumen, shale, coal, or some other “heavy oil” sources. American prospectors are even incurring huge debts to exploit shale oil.
If the foregoing sufficiently establishes that fossil fuel, which Nigeria has in quantum, still retains bright prospects, counsel that the assured future petro-dollars should be used to procure the infrastructure, and industrial plants and machinery necessary to graft a vibrant agro-allied industry unto Nigeria’s agrarian sector, is timely.
Any Nigerian policymaker, or John Doe on Main Street, in Any Town, Nigeria, who has not come to the realisation that Nigeria’s future is tied to agriculture, and an agro-allied industry, is most unrealistic. The business of adding value to food and cash crops should be the next focus of Nigeria’s agricultural and industrial policies.
This is the way to retain, within Nigeria, the returns accruable to those who are able to add value to primary agricultural goods. Crude oil’s number one legend, John D. Rockefeller, has amply demonstrated that anyone who can add value to a primary product will surely reap the bigger profit.
To avoid becoming guilty of using poetry to discuss an issue as every day as energy consumption, it is best to be plain-speaking, and declare, once again, in very clear terms, that revenue from Nigeria’s oil industry must be used to turn its entire economy into a humming agro-allied industry.
It is regrettable that there are no articulate polices to meet the shortfall coming from the banning 41 consumer items from the foreign exchange window of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Many of these items, rice, margarine, palm oil, vegetable oil, poultry, tinned fish, wooden doors and particle boards, are derived from agriculture.
Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto thinks that a good agriculture policy should reduce the rank of Nigeria’s hungry. If accompanied by an articulate agro-allied policy, it should substantially liberate Nigerians from poverty.
Government must make good use of the oil revenue while it lasts. Nigeria must learn from the fact that oil has dried up in Titusville, Pennsylvania, the cradle of America’s oil industry, and “Colonel” Edwin Drake, who first drilled oil in Titusville, in 1859, died in penury.
If President Muhammadu Buhari ever needed a state of emergency, using Nigeria’s petro-dollar to build up a viable agriculture, and agro-allied industry that will feed Nigerians and fuel the economy, offers a perfect excuse.
Maybe you will join your voice to that of Henry Boyo, who is shouting himself hoarse, asking why Nigeria’s foreign reserves are sitting idle in the overseas vaults of J.P. Morgan and other investment banks, while the Nigerian government goes about a-borrowing Eurobonds.
The Emir of Kano, and former Governor of the CBN, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has observed that the “Federal Government is spending 66 per cent of its revenue on debts, (which means, only 34 per cent is spent on capital and recurrent expenditure).“ This is scandalous, and also not very bright.
Nigeria is in this catch-22 because of the failure of its policymakers to procure necessary capital assets to exploit an agricultural and agro-allied industry, where Nigeria has a comparative advantage.topics from