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In the beginning

October 17, 2010

According to Michael Crowder, author of “The Story of Nigeria”, the period 1906-1912 which preceded the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates is

“one of the most crucial in the history of Nigeria”

It marked the beginning of effective administration, the rejection of standards and customs eg, new forms of administration and justice, education in the western way of life etc, and it was the first time Nigerians were subjected to Western influences eg, Christianity. Of particular importance was the new economic world order that followed. Crowder points out that

“Britain’s overriding interest was economic”

It is no surprise that the institutions established were geared towards serving this primary purpose. Nonetheless, Nigerians embraced these new forms. Western education became the key to success in the new economic order and the ticket to social elevation. Not all traditional laws were jettisoned.

For instance, land laws, fundamental to the traditional structure of most Nigerian societies, remained intact. Such that indigenously owned land was not transferable to individuals, expatriates and companies.

These changes, particularly the administrative institutions inherited from colonial times, the availability of post-primary education and the skills imparted, and land laws may have stifled Nigeria’s post-independence socioeconomic development.

Three of the themes of development economics: level of human capital, underdeveloped financial and other markets and lingering colonial impacts, lend weight to how Nigeria’s potential may have been enhanced or curtailed.

Rapid economic expansion between 1945 and 1960, due to rising commodity prices of agricultural produce, was insufficiently supported by significant industrial growth. Though the new level of economic activity increased employment opportunities, it was difficult to find Nigerians with the requisite abilities to fill these positions.

Expansion of educational facilities, mainly through the Universal Free Primary Education, did not douse the demand for clerks, technicians, administrators, and professionals.

“In 1955, Nigeria was only educating 800 undergraduates and 12,000 secondary school students a year”.

 

Almost half of current expenditure was gulped by primary education, reducing the amount available for higher education. Thus, the desire to Nigerianize government service positions and managerial posts in commercial houses, was exacerbated by the lack of trained manpower

“paralleled by an excess in supply of elementary school leavers”.

Employable only as clerks, these school-leavers could not even return to the farms to apply their new knowledge to improve the farming system. Hence, by independence Nigeria was in a dilemma: vast numbers of unemployed school-leavers and a dire need for higher level manpower to fill positions hitherto supplied by the colonial power.

Invariably, this stymied the execution of Nigeria’s ambitious development plans. Crowder quotes an expert on the problem of school-leavers:

“No social and economic problem in Nigeria is so urgent as that of finding employment for the ever-increasing number of school-leavers.”

 

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