Nigeria’s Unhealthy Crave For Foreign Products

By Chikaobi Idenyi

Necessity, they say, is the mother of inventions but it is irksome to see that we do not support and encourage our very own numerous inventions in the face of so many necessities surrounding us.


While growing up in the early 2000’s, I can’t say the precise date now because I was very young then and my memory cannot fully recall, I remembered watching a television program on the then defunct Minaj Broadcasting International (MBI) anchored by the then Legendary Chukwudi Ukoli Ugbaja, (I hope I got the name right) of a young man in Onitsha who designed a tricycle and was using it to drive around town. I recalled the crowd of people that gathered to get a glimpse of the tricycle and the young man that designed it when Chukwudi Ukoli Ugbaja and his camera crew caught up with him to interview him on his invention. The young man shed light on how he came up with his designs and also used that platform to solicit for support and sponsorship as he had little formal education.


Few years down the line, Nigeria is importing tricycles from India with millions of dollars of our scarce foreign earnings. This happened under one of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s poverty alleviation programs, National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP) of which the tricycle got its legendary name ‘KEKE NAPEP’. Keke is a Yoruba word for bicycle which is very funny as the tricycle was so looked down upon, it was referred to as a bicycle. A Bicycle I must say, according to the government at that time, that have come to eradicate poverty from Nigeria and poverty it did give some serious beating.


During the Nigerian vs Biafran war of the late 60’s that culminated in 1970, there were stories of how Biafrans invented and developed their own weapons to the amazement of the Nigerian government of that time which made the war to drag longer than they anticipated. Howbeit crude their technology was at that time, the truth is that it was very effective as they were able to inflict serious damages to the Nigerian military formations. Stories have it that when the war ended in 1970, Biafran engineers submitted the blue prints of their inventions to the Nigerian military government of that time which the military set ablaze in the presence of everyone present (this part of the story is subject to verification).


Countless times have we heard our leaders tell us that the fight against insurgency suffers huge setbacks because the United States of America blocked us from buying arms from her or any of her allied countries. I am always taken aback whenever the reality of the position our successive governments have chosen to take every time dawns on me. It is obvious that we have left our fate in the hands of other countries to dictate to us on how to put our house in order. If we are being blocked from sourcing these things from outside, it is a wakeup call for us to look inwards and create whatever we need to solve ‘our’ problems from within.


We always look for quick fixes to our long term problems and long term problems cannot be solved in a quick fix. Quick fixes are only short term solutions which are designed to manage a situation for a time or to wriggle out of a tight corner and not to go all the way; For instance, if a vehicle breaks down and requires that it be towed by another vehicle, it doesn’t mean that the faulty vehicle will be towed all the time, it’s just to get out of that situation to a repair shop. If after repairs the vehicle still need to be towed before it can move, then there is a serious problem somewhere.


A look at our educational sector paints a grand picture of how our leaders and elites always opt for the easy way out instead of facing the monster ravaging this critical sector. I can beat my chest that for every session in our public schools, there must be at least two strike actions or a threat to embark on one by the staffs of these institutions but our elites have chosen to always look the other way by sending their wards abroad, where there is an already made system of education that is working, to study while boycotting the opportunity to actually look inwards and make our educational institutions as desirable as the ones abroad.


There are a host of other issues in different sectors of our nation that if I start to mention them one after another, there won’t be room enough to exhaust the list. Is it our love for foreign pieces of furniture at the expense of our locally made ones? Need I mention clothing, books, food and drinks, drugs, toiletries, cosmetics, real estate investments and even technological gadgets? Yes I said it, technological gadgets!


Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a world of crazy technological inventions and modifications that we ourselves are even playing serious catch-up to and I must say that we are at the bottom of the food chain as long as technology is concerned. If we really want to get out of the bottom of the chain, we have to shut our eyes to the ones out there already and look inwards. Though our inventions, for a start, may be crude and rough due to the methods we applied or because it is our first time, we shouldn’t be discouraged or resort to mocking ourselves. Consistency and patronage will increase our confidence and improve our finesse on subsequent inventions and or modifications to the ones we already have.


Nobody gets it all right at the first attempt hence the adage “beginners luck” for those that tend get it at the first attempt. The first computer that was made was as large as a standard room or bigger but the society did not make a mockery of it rather they celebrated it, welcomed and sponsored its continued modification until it became what it is now. Today, a typical computer can be held in the palm of our hand yet will still perform a million functions more in milliseconds than the first computer that was as large as a room.


There are numerous inventors of different gadgets scattered across the country and what they need is acceptance/attention, patronage and sponsorship but our crave for already made items from other countries will not allow us to look inwards and develop ourselves and promote our local content. Rome, they say, was not built in a day and the government cannot do it alone.


Let us cash in on the success story of our very own movie industry, Nollywood,which not minding the quality and caliber of movies that came from abroad into the country, persevered and continued to work amidst criticisms and badmouthing to break forth and become one of the most sort after movie industry in the world. Kudos to all that contributed to this success story in any way. If you ask any of them, they will surely tell you that it wasn’t an easy road to have traveled on.


I therefore call on our elites and the general public, let us curtail our desire for foreign goods as they are not better than our locally made ones, it’s just in our head that they are better, if we really want our nation to get out of the bottom of the food chain. Also, let’s not be in a hurry to move over to greener pastures, rather let us strive to make our pasture greener than the ones we see out there by watering more at the right time, mowing and weeding our pastures appropriately.


On a serious note, a president, minister, senator, ambassador, governor, LGA chairman, counsellor or individual that patronizes foreign items to the detriment of our locally made ones, is that one a patriot? He that knows what is good and doeth it not, to him it is a sin.


Photo credits:Bellanaija, History Matters

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