THE NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES:
THE VANGUARD FOR THE TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF NIGERIA
henever the issue of national economic development is discussed, there is a tendency for some people to attribute the private sector as the primary engine of industrial and economic development. This is why the argument is often made that if any government wants economic development to take place, it must allow, encourage, support and create the conditions for the private sector to thrive and generate businesses.
By persistently arguing that the private sector is the right way to go, governments and policymakers, for decades, have taken various measures to accommodate and or support all kinds of activities that individuals have put forward in the name of private sector economic development. Those who support the private sector, it seems, tend to overestimate the capability of the sector to generate economic development while underestimating the critical role of the public sector in setting the agenda and the atmosphere conducive to business development.
While it is true that the private sector plays a major role in the development, modernization and sustainability of the economy and employment, the public sector seems to be the fuel that generates industrialization and technological development. Therefore, it is more appropriate to say that economic development, particularly in the area of industrialization, is achievable when both the private and public sectors work together harmoniously. Thus, countries that have industrialized and are at the fore of cutting edge technology do so by cleverly promoting and reinforcing both sectors. Quite often, it is the public sector that takes the long-term risk of experimenting with all kinds of innovative technologies and then passing on the knowledge gained and the resultant products to the private sector for mass production.
In closely examining industrial and economic development trends throughout the world, going back to the past, it is arguable that the public sector, particularly the armed forces, has been the major catalyst for the strategic technological development of society. The private sector often hitches a ride behind the public sector and reaps the rewards of the creative and innovative ideas and products generated by the public sector through long-term research, experimentation and development. Consequently, if Nigeria is to develop technologically and become a major continental and global industrial economic player, it must concentrate its effort by using the armed forces strategically to develop the industrial sector of the economy.
Specifically, the following arguments are made here:
- While it is agreeable that the private sector is a major contributing factor in technological and economic development of society, it is the public sector that actually promotes and coordinates the process for industrialization and technological development of society;
- Within the public sector, the armed forces are the most important elements in galvanizing society for technological development;
- The industrialization of the Nigerian economy will pick up very quickly if the armed forces are strategically utilized to serve as the catalyst for doing so.
- While it is agreeable that the private sector is a major contributing factor in the economic and technological development of society, it is the public sector that actually promotes and coordinates the process for industrialization and technological development of society.
Indeed, the private sector is a crucial element for any country to develop and sustain itself technologically and economically. However, it is not as important as it is always being portrayed, based on the following reasons:
- Most private sector economic activities are geared toward immediate financial gains. As such, there are not many private business owners who would be eager to wait for ten or twenty years in order for their investments to yield profit. As a result, they tend to invest in quick money making businesses.
In Nigeria, the general trend is for businessmen and women to engage in activities that result in immediate financial gains. This is why contracts, import/export, telecommunication provider services, trading, and outright embezzlement of public funds are the major means of generating private wealth. It is assumable that that a large proportion of the private wealth in the country today is actually acquired through embezzlement and contracts. These kinds of businesses cannot lead to industrial development. Nigeria is not able to move forward technologically due to the fact that the kinds of employment generated by the immediate money-making businesses are not able to create sustainable massive employment for the burgeoning Nigerian population
- The private sector is generally not too interested in overall societal development since those who invest are most particularly driven by self-interest. Private investors generally do not care much about the overall impact of their activities on society, even though they claim that they are trying to create employment and improve the wellbeing of the citizens.
This is why in Nigeria, a sizable proportion of business men and women want to earn the largest financial reward for doing little or nothing. This is also why certain individuals have oil blocks that generate billions of naira to them for basically doing nothing apart from having political connections. Many Nigerian business people and would-be-business owners do not realize that their individual actions have a way of negatively impacting society at large.
- Due to the need to make quick profits, private sector economic activities tend to corrupt society by short-changing standard operating procedures. In Nigeria, due to the scramble to accumulate wealth by any means necessary, corruption is endemic and is dragging the country down financially, politically and socially.
- Private sector investors generally do not like to take the kinds of financial risks necessary to invest in major industrial development activities that could take ten to fifteen years to generate profit. In Nigeria, there are not many businessmen and women who would be willing to invest in major industrial activities that may take up to fifteen years to yield profit. This is why the employment situation is deplorable because the kinds of jobs created by the private sector are not sufficient to generate employment for millions of Nigerians.
- Private sector investors are always ready to jump ship as soon as the economic predictors point toward a downward trend in the profit margin. This is why the global economy is very unstable as various stocks go up and down.
- Private sector investors do not like to invest in futuristic products that might benefit society at large but not their immediate profit margins. This is why in many developed countries, the public sector is mostly responsible for subsiding long-term industrial development activities through tax cuts, low-interest loans, financial grants, and direct subsidization of the private sector. In the US, for instance, tax loopholes and support programs are intentionally created to encourage private business investors to invest in certain areas of the economy.
- The private sector is unnecessarily competitive, short-term driven, disorganized and chaotic. It can turn society upside down by corrupting morals and societal ethics. It is always necessary for the public sector to regulate the private sector in order to bring sanity and stability to the market place and society in general.
The factors identified above greatly contribute to why millions of Nigerians continue to experience economic hardship. They also contribute to why Nigeria has not grown as a major economic power. If Nigeria were to depend on the private sector alone to build the economy, the country will not grow technologically and economically. Apparently, the public sector must bear a greater responsibility in strategizing, planning, and shouldering the technological development of Nigeria.
- The public sector actually contributes more toward the technological and economic development of society than the private sector
Quite contrary to the view that the private sector is the engine of economic development and growth, it is actually the public sector that plays the crucial role of promoting and coordinating the effort. The following items provide the reasons why the public sector is the number one generator of economic growth anywhere in the world:
- The primary purpose of the public sector is to serve the public. To serve the public, the government must engage in all kinds of activities in order to generate economic growth.
- The government is willing to spend millions if not billions of funds for research and development activities. In fact, in every country in the world, especially in the industrialized countries, the governments provide all kinds of funds, including grants, short-term loans, scholarships, and interest-free financial arrangements that enable researchers, universities and even the private sector to conduct research and development programs needed to develop new products. In the United States, the government subsidizes almost all the activities of the private sector. Even the oil industry is partially subsidized by the government.
- Generally, whenever the private sector collapses due to recklessness and greed, it is always the public sector that bails it out through financial support. In fact, Japan has been bailing out its private sector for more than years now, since the economy slowed down. The United States spent about $700 billions of dollars to bail out the private sector when the economy crashed in 2009. Other countries do the same.
- The public sector can take the risk to invest in new ideas, concepts and technologies, even though the possibility of generating profit is zero. On the other hand, at any given time, only a few private sector businessmen or women would be willing to invest in new ideas, concepts and technologies if there is no possibility of generating profit.
- The public sector is willing to take financial risks and invest in innovative and creative ideas, concepts and technologies because the long term interest of the society outweighs the short-term profit margin. This is why many new technologies are initiated through government effort. After the public sector has turned an idea into a practical reality, then the private sector rushes in to cash in on the new product that the government generated through its programs.
- Within the public sector, the armed forces are the most important elements in galvanizing society for technological and economic development of society
- Of all the institutions of government, the armed forces are the most critical elements in the industrial and economic development of society. One major reason is that the armed forces are directly responsible for the survival of the state. Therefore, the strategic interests of the armed forces are tied irrevocably with the strategic interests of the state. This forces the armed forces to sustain the state in order to ensure its own relevance and survival.
- Compared to the private sector which is unnecessarily competitive, short-term driven, disorganized and chaotic, the armed forces are the most streamlined, organized, disciplined, and dedicated to protection of society. Thus, the armed forces have the wherewithal to commit themselves to any project and see to its completion in a military fashion.
- In particular, the military institution has led society in technological development and innovation through the production of cutting edge military weaponry and equipments during wars. The reason Is that in order to avoid defeat, the armed forces are compelled to develop all kinds of weapons needed to overwhelm enemy forces. Through such efforts, new industrial products are produced. The list of industrial products developed through military efforts is innumerable.
- Almost all the industrialized states in the twenty first century achieved their technological development through the military's research and development efforts.
- Through a vigorous technological development of its military forces, Japan was able to defeat Russia in 1905. From thenceforth, Japan became an industrial power. This was why it was able to invade Manchuria in 1931 and became the most dominant technological and economic power in Asia until its defeat after the US dropped the atomic bombs to end the Second World war.
- After its defeat in the 1st World War, Germany was a ghost of its former self. By the 1920s, the country was in shambles. Yet through a strategic military development, Germany became the most advanced technological power in the world in the middle to late 1930s, surpassing France and Britain which emerged the strongest after 1st World War. Thus, immediately before the 2nd World war, while France relied on its old military technology and pitched its defence through the Maginot Line, Germany was able to develop the most sophisticated weapons, aircrafts and military tanks through its military research and development program. Hence, when Hitler decided to initiate the 2nd World War, no country, including Britain, France, Russia and even the US was able to match its technological advancement.
- After the 2nd World war, both the United States and the Soviet Union copied German technical blueprints in order to develop their own sophisticated technological weaponry. Likewise, many German scientists and engineers were taken or captured by these two powers to build their own technologies. Space technology greatly owes its existence to the effort of the German military.
- Both South Korea and Taiwan developed technologically through the military route. It should be recalled that at one time these entities were ruled by military dictatorships. The military leaders of the two countries were interested in the technological and economic development of their states and used the military as the focal point to achieve their strategic goals. Today, the two entities are major economic players in Asia and in the world.
- Both China and India too used the military route to develop their technologies. The military forces of these countries initiated research and development projects which resulted in the ability of these countries to acquire industrial skills necessary for the manufacturing of technological products that now make them major economic powers in the world.
- In the Middle East, Israel is a major military and economic power. The country has been very successful in industrializing because the military establishment and the private sector have been able to work together to enhance the country's technologically and economically. As a result, Israel produces high quality military and commercial products. Israeli military is capable of producing, refitting, and enhancing aircrafts, tanks, vehicles of all sorts, and electronic devices. It has even produced pilotless drone aircrafts that have become the most cost-effective means to gather intelligence and fight an aerial war.
- Both Brazil and Chile, in the 1970s, focused their industrial development through manufacturing of military products. After doing so, they were able to transfer the technical skills to the private sector. Today, the private sectors are benefitting from the innovative efforts of the armed forces.
- The internet revolution that is now sweeping the globe actually came by way of military technology. The US and other major military powers for decades relied on satellite communication systems to connect various military units throughout the world. The US military later transferred the technology to the private sector and since then the world has been inundated with all kinds of micro-technological communication devices.
Evidently, the military establishment has been the greatly responsible for inventing, developing, and enhancing various technologies. After using such products for awhile, the technologies are then transferred to the private sector as part of a national strategy to develop and boost the economy.
Perhaps, the exception to the military serving as the vanguard for technological development of society in the modern era involves Malaysia and Singapore. These two countries have been able to do well industrially and economically through a strategic development of the private sector. However, it must be noted that even in these two countries, the public sector played a key role in coordinating the industrial development effort. The political leaders were very foresighted and dedicated in advancing the economic development of their countries. It should also be noted that Singapore also produces military products, even though it is not a military power.
- The industrialization of the Nigerian economy will pick up very quickly if the armed forces are strategically utilized to serve as the catalyst for doing so.
There is no doubt that the industrialization of Nigeria will pick up very quickly if the armed forces are strategically utilized to serve as the catalyst for doing so. The reason is that in almost every country that has industrialized, the military institution played a major role. In Nigeria, the armed forces are the most disciplined governmental forces in society. The armed forces have the capability to act with military precision to accomplish goals in a timely manner when directed to do so. Moreover, military needs have been the bases for facilitating technological growth historically. By concentrating on the development of military technology, the economics of scale would take place and spread the culture of industrialization to the rest of society.
The strategic Development of Nigeria
Having successfully built a naval boat, the Nigerian Navy has demonstrated that given the appropriate attention, political and financial support, and a research-friendly operational environment, it can develop and build technological products that could boost Nigeria's industrial growth. In this regard, the following are suggested as a strategy for Nigeria to evolve into a technological and economic power:
- The Nigerian armed forces should no longer be treated merely as a security outfit, intended to quench political fires in various parts of the country and elsewhere. Instead, they should be viewed as instruments for the strategic industrial development of the country.
- The Federal Government should invest extensively in a research and development program. The program should be placed and operated by the armed forces.
3The Research and Development Program should be led by a senior military officer with an advanced engineering or science educational background.
- The Research and Development Program should be subdivided into four branches. Each branch should be attached to each of the three major armed services, namely, the army, navy and the airforce. The fourth branch should cater to civilian products by working directly with the private sector to produce commercialized industrial and consumer products.
- Since the Navy has already produced a naval boat, its R and D branch should continue with the personnel that built the boat. The Navy's R and D Program should look at other products it can produce for the African market, including fast boats, cruisers, tugboats, ships etc.
- The Army's R and D should work towards producing motor vehicles, tanks, buses, and certain kinds of weaponry for the wider market, not just for Nigeria.
- The Airforce's R and D should focus on producing planes, helicopters, and missiles.
- Generally, one quick way to acquire any technical skill is to start the effort by taking an existing product, dismantle it bit by bit, take pictures, make technical drawings, measure various parts, and thoroughly describe the function of each part. After doing so, reassemble the product. Thus, if the Nigerian Army wants to build a military tank, it should dismantle one of its military tanks and carefully describe, analyze and measure every part of the tank. After doing so, it should reassemble the tank. Similarly, if the Nigerian Airforce is interested in producing its own planes and helicopters, it can do likewise. By so doing, the engineers and technical personnel working on various technical products would develop the necessary technical knowledge about the products, thereby, resulting in the duplication of the parts and the manufacturing of new boats, tanks and aircrafts.
Almost every country that is now industrialized did exactly as described above. This is why the US is always interested in Russian military technology and the Russians are always interested in American military technology. Each time any of them captures a plane or a tank or a weapon belonging to the other, the item is subjected to a thorough engineering study by dismantling it and reassembling it to know how it works. China is masterful in studying other technological products and developing its own products from the knowledge gained.
- To make the technological development effort a national program, the following actions are recommended:
- A special recruitment program should be established by the armed forces to recruit the best Nigerian science, mathematics and engineering graduates from various universities to work in the R and D Program;
- Nigerian University professors should be encouraged to share their engineering skills with the country's R and D Program through special consulting services arranged with the universities;
- Highly skilled auto mechanics, regardless of their academic backgroun, should be recruited to work in the R and D plants. It should be noted that Nigeria is filled with highly skilled mechanics that can even build a car by themselves if they have the funds to do so.
- The Navy should pay special interest to highly skilled boat builders in Nigeria. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Ayetoro people in the former Western Region/Ondo State and Amassoma people in the former Eastern Region/Bayelsa State were particularly noted for building passenger boats that ply the coastal waters of Nigeria. Such people and others who have the necessary skills should be recruited to work in the Navy's R and D production plant.
- Similarly, during the Nigerian Civil war, Biafra had a functional R and D program. Individuals who worked for such a program and who are still alive should be mobilized to join the National R and D Program.
- The fourth branch of the R and D Program should be dedicated to the production of commercial products such as automobiles, bicycles, motorcycles, house wares, and agricultural products.
- Due to the importance of the Nigerian Steel Mills to the national security and development of the country, they should be integrated with the Research and Development Program and lead by a military officer. It is necessary for a military officer to take charge of the steel mills so that its operations are streamlined to meet the material needs and specifications of the various branches of the R and D. Program.
It would be the responsibility of the steel mills to produce technical parts that would be needed to build various industrial products. This means that the steel mills would be responsible for producing parts that would be used for building all kinds of engines. This role is very crucial if Nigeria is to be able to produce any technical equipment from the beginning to the end. It should be recalled that the engine used for the naval boat built by the Nigerian Navy was imported. It is necessary for Nigeria to produce its own engines.
It is strongly believed here that if the military's role in Nigeria is enhanced to embrace technological development, Nigeria's economy would be transformed in such a way that massive employment would be generated.
- Where necessary, Nigeria should establish special bilateral deals with other African countries and obtain critical raw materials to boost the Nigerian steel mills.
The strategy of using the armed forces as the catalyst for the industrial and economic development of the country, no doubt, is a win/win for all Nigerians. It would help in industrializing and modernizing the economy. It would result in creating thousands of jobs. It would enable Nigeria to become a major producer of industrial goods for the African continent. It would create a sustainable economy capable of enhancing the general wellbeing of Nigerians and other Africans. Finally, it would help the military to shed its "shoot and go" image. It should be noted that the Nigerian armed forces, like those in other African countries, suffer from their colonial heritage, Likewise, it should be recalled that the Nigerian Army is an offshoot of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) that was established through the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to subdue, conquer and colonize the African people. By becoming an agent of positive change, the armed forces would shed the image of being merely security forces designed to impose an unpopular political order on the Nigeria people.
However, for this plan to work, Nigerian leaders must drastically reduce corruption and the embezzlement of public funds by highly placed public officials and contractors.