13 July 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos — The first thought that flashed into my mind when I saw this headline on my newsfeed was: “Oh my God! Nigeria!” Then I started to have spasms of panic attacks.
OK, it wasn’t that dramatic – but I was terrified.
I clicked to open the page and quickly read information that coloured my mood for the rest of that day – June 5, 2017.
Let’s have a quick look at bullet points from the US Report as presented by Stanford University economist, Tony Seba. The report was innocuously titled: Rethinking Transportation 2020 – 2030.
• There would be no more petrol or diesel vehicles sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for transportation will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we know it
• People will stop driving altogether. They will switch en-masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are 10 times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles (1.6 million km)
• Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024.
• Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. There will be a “mass stranding of existing vehicles”. The value of second-hand cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle.
• It is a twin “death spiral” for big oil and big autos, with ugly implications for some big companies on the London Stock Exchange unless they adapt in time.
• The long-term price of crude will fall to $US25 a barrel. Most forms of shale and deepwater drilling will no longer be viable. Assets will be stranded. Scotland will forfeit any North Sea bonanza. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela will be in trouble.
• It is an existential threat to Ford, General Motors, and the German car industry. They will face a choice between manufacturing EVs in a brutal low-profit market or reinventing themselves as self-drive service companies, variants of Uber and Lyft.
• They are in the wrong business. The next generation of cars will be “computers on wheels”. Google, Apple, and Foxconn have the disruptive edge and are going in for the kill. Silicon Valley is where the auto action is, not Detroit, Wolfsburg, or Toyota City.
• The “tipping point” will arrive over the next two to three years as EV battery ranges surpass 200 miles and electric car prices in the US drop to $US30,000 ($40,600). By 2022, the low-end models will be down to $US20, 000. After that, the avalanche will sweep all before it.
These were a few of Professor Seba’s predictions – the ones most relevant to us, Nigerians as a nation.
After reading this “blood-curdling” information from the US media, I switched over to online Nigerian Newspapers as is part of my daily morning routine. And believe me, what I read there was very comforting, uplifting and even comedic – I found myself smiling.
I read stuff like: It’s Either Biafra or Death – Nnamdi Kanu, Our Grouse with the Igbo – Ango Abdullahi, Niger Delta Youths Threaten the North, Don’t Include us in Your Biafra – Niger Delta Spits Fire, True Costs of Presidential Jet Parked in the UK for President Buhari, Federal Government says “NO” to Restructuring, with prominent names like El-Rufai, President Buhari, Bukola Saraki and Tinubu springing up – and I was immediately relieved. I’d been transported in time and space to the world I am used to.
When I got to the part of the Great Senatorial Musician and Entertainer – the one that wears academic gowns to the Senate and promises to rape people’s wives, I was so impressed. The Oga was at the stage (what the Senate floor has become) fighting (some say “begging”) for his senatorial mandate not to be taken back by his constituents. Port Harcourt ran out en-masse to welcome our Freedom Fighter, who up till this day, has not produced an economic model/blueprint for the new state he wants to create – has he even mentioned the word “economy”? Almighty oil can take care of all our problems – just like it has done for the last 57 years.
I went to the comments section – that beautiful, entertaining space under every Nigerian newspaper where all the prejudiced, bigoted, short-sighted, jobless and empty-headed Nigerians meet to trade ethnic/tribal insults – the online warriors, shooting bullets and throwing atomic bombs at each other. The Igbo man was shooting down the Yoruba man, the Yoruba man was responding in kind with his own insults, the Hausa man and the Niger Deltans were not left out – sporadic shooting everywhere. It was the Biafran war again, only the online version; fought not with guns, bullets and fighter jets, but with an MTN subscription and an Android phone, from the comforts of their living rooms, probably watching DSTV and consuming lumps of eba the size of a child’s head.
Bullets like “Yorobbers”, and “Biafraud” almost struck me dead as I read, but thank God I survived. And when I read some people’s statements calling Nigeria a zoo, I asked myself: guess who the animals are?
Didn’t that International Report call us The Happiest People in the World? The people that had absolutely no troubles. I laughed, not only in Spanish but also in French and Pidgin English – I laughed like a madman in seven different languages. Ignorance is blissful and crude oil is sweet. The house is on fire and the owners are running after rats. Well done, sirs! Well done, madams!
Not one word was said about the energy crises, nothing was spoken about the imminence of self-driven electric cars that was going to disrupt our lives, and phase out a significant part of our national income and budget – forever! Nobody was talking about the Jack Ma prediction, that Artificial Intelligence was also about to create unprecedented unemployment in millions, forcing almost everybody to learn new skills to be relevant. Nobody. Nobody was asking questions like, “if indeed electric cars emerge to phase out petrol operated cars as expected, would Nigeria be able to cope, given the current epileptic condition of our power supply?”
Nobody was talking about the impact or adaptive strategies, or how we can race to recover lost time and perhaps save the futures of our children. Nobody, not one newspaper or media house raised the issue – and why would they? If they did, probably the comments section would be empty as the online warriors would not be able to comprehend things of such magnitude, let alone comment on them.
Those agitating for a referendum/restructuring and those against mostly take their positions based on their perception of the flow of oil resources – but what if there was no oil? Does Nigeria have an economic blueprint to survive without oil? Does Biafra have an economic model that ensures that if no drop of oil was sold it would be economically viable?
The first year of President Buhari’s regime saw over 4.6 million Nigerians lose their jobs and the nation plunged into a recession worse than any that has been seen in the last two decades – that story began with the gradual fall of oil prices to about $40 per barrel. Our income per capita contracted between 2014 and 2016, our government talks about loans to fund the smallest expenditures. When oil reaches the predicted price of $25 dollars – if we are still together – I wonder what our numerous online warriors, ethnic in all shades and colourations will do.
The National Cake we all have been fighting to “corner” for more than 60 years is about to be toast. Our large oil multinational companies will be forced to adapt or die. Our oil-dependent economy is blowing up in our face – and it doesn’t matter if you’re a South-Easterner, South Westerner, Northerner from any of the zones, or South-Southerner, you’re about to feel the impact. Because whether the country is divided or not, restructured or not, the era of oil revenues it disappearing; it’s gone!
Restructuring – that heavy word – would be forced upon us. And I’ll tell you why. Our 36 states, a good number of which are not viable economic entities would be forced to depend on the overburdened centre for sustenance. The centre, without the benefits of oil revenues, will say, “Please take care of yourselves!” It would be forced to devolve powers and autonomy to these regions to generate and control their incomes, as well as collapse/merge several states. No more oil resources to “corner” from any region, no more oil revenues to move to Swiss accounts. Restructuring by necessity.
What we need right now is to come together – irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religious background – and figure out how to solve the problem that’s ahead. We cannot, like ostriches, bury our heads in the sands, or think that we can wish away the changes that are happening globally. No, we also would have to adapt or die. We must understand that 90% of the things we worry about would not ensure our survival when this drastic change happens.
This is an express call to Nigerian Youths to think. Come of age, young Nigerians. If your father was the “street drunk” that returned home only to demand food and beat up your mother, you’ll learn how to be responsible and fend for yourselves before you are 15. But it’s the same thing that’s happening to our country. Our leaders – fathers as they actually are – do not care whether you starve to death or youth unemployment rate goes as high as 90% in the next eight to fifteen years, but you must care because it is your life, your future!
You are not safe. Your job is not safe. Your life would be endangered as crime, despondency and insecurity will increase – people will lash at the state as the source of their frustrations, and they will do it through any means possible. We have MEND, Boko Haram, MASSOB, IPOB, Fulani herdsmen, Badoo and others as testimonies to how bleak our futures can be if more of such groups should arise.
We must understand that it is neither Buhari nor Osinbajo’s job to kill corruption in Nigeria – at least not theirs alone. They need our help; they need our support. There’s no Messiah – no one-man-army that is capable of healing all Nigeria’s wounds. We must all do it – together, because if the plans to contain corruption should fail, we Nigerian youths will suffer it the most, living our primes in the era after the locusts.
I try to imagine what would happen if all these energies we deploy in fighting each other could be channeled to chase the government to stabilise power supply, or reduce the costs of doing business in Nigeria, or impose transparency and accountability, or the removal of the locusts from our national leadership, or to create viable alternatives to oil (including technology). If only we used the energies we use to divide and insult ourselves and country to accept responsibility and actively pursue the change we seek, every minute, every second, every day, I only wonder how wonderful our lives will be.
I want every Nigerian between the ages of 18 – 40 to realise that if electricity alone is stabilised in Nigeria, the trickle down economic benefits would touch every youth in Nigeria – irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religious background. Costs of goods will fall, new firms and indeed whole industries would be born, employment would be created, entrepreneurship will be boosted, our GDP will rise and our per capita income and standards of living will begin to mount.
I can positively say that this alone would be ten to twenty times more beneficial to every ethnic ground than secession or referendum would bring to any ethnic group – ten to twenty times.
So I’m not saying don’t rally, or don’t fight or have conflicts. Conflicts are essential for the development of society – and I encourage them, they are good! But if we must have conflicts we should at least be purposeful and intentional about them. If we must fight, let us not fight against our brothers, rather let us fight with them to impose the sovereign will of the Nigerian people on the land, to demand a restoration of our rights and dignity as a people, to ask for equity, fairness, justice, and transparency, to build structures that would ensure our economic survival and enable us to thrive in a changing world. Every Nigerian, irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religious background would benefit from this new nation.
God Bless Nigeria.
(I’ll publish Part II of this writing to deal with sound and solid long-term, mid-term and short-term strategies to be able to contain this imminent threat.)
Amarachi Obiego is a writer, consultant, and entrepreneur. He is passionate about Nigeria’s economic development with young people between the ages of 18 – 40 taking the lead. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.,