We shouldn’t be surprised. We were far more productive in the 1980s than now. Nigeria was a net exporter of refined petroleum products in the 1980s. Today, we import all our refined petroleum products. We rode in locally assembled cars, buses and trucks. There were Peugeot cars in Kaduna and Volkswagen cars in Lagos.
There were Leyland in Ibadan and ANAMCO in Enugu producing our buses and trucks. Steyr at Bauchi producing our Agricultural tractors. And it was not just assembly, we were producing many of the components. There were Vono products in Lagos producing the seats.
We had Exide in Ibadan producing the batteries, not just for Nigeria but for the entire West Africa. Isoglass and TSG in Ibadan producing the windshields. And there was Ferodo in Ibadan producing the brake pads and discs. Tyres were produced by Dunlop in Lagos and Mitchelin in Portharcourt. And they were tyres produced from rubber plantations located in Rivers State.
At that time, we were listening to radio and watching television sets assembled in Ibadan by Sanyo. Nigerians were using refrigerators, freezers and airconditioners produced by Thermocool. We were putting on clothes produced from the UNTL textile mills in Kaduna and Chellarams in Lagos, not from imported cotton but from cotton grown in Nigeria.
You see, our water was running through pipes produced by Kwalipipe in Kano. We had toilets that were fitted with WC produced at Kano and Abeokuta and we were cooking with LPG gas stored inside gas cylinders produced at the NGC factory in Ibadan. Nigeria was good the. Our electricity was flowing through cables produced by the Nigerian Wire and Cable, Ibadan and Kablemetal in Lagos and PortHarcout.
Don’t forget also that we had Bata and Lennards producing the shoes we were putting on, not from imported leather but from locally tanned leather at Kano and Kaduna. We were mainly flying our airways, the Nigeria Airways, to most places in the world. And the airways was about the biggest in Africa at that time. At that time, most of the food we ate were being grown or produced in Nigeria. We were producing all of the above and more in the 1980s.
Today, Nigeria imports almost everything. There lies the source of the terrible exchange rate we are experiencing today and everyone reading this has a critical role to play in reversing this very ugly trend. It is not enough for us to complain about the exchange rate or point out what others are not doing or are failing to do. The key question is what are we producing or what are we planning to produce?
We need to wake up as individuals and as a nation. We need to stop complaining and start acting. We need to concentrate on the solution instead of glaring at the problem. It is time to ponder and think of the way forward progressively before it becomes too late. We have been talking about these problems and more for a very long time. What solutions do we have?