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Resource Control - Natural Resources Vs IT resources

Written by Mike Vongtau

System Link Nigerian Ltd., Jos, Plateau State.

Here are my views on the on-going battle for resource control presently rocking our
nation, Nigeria.

It's with keen interest that I've followed the over-heated debate and clamour for resource
control by some individuals, groups and state governors (predominantly from
south/south) since Nigerian's transition into her 3rd democratic era in 1999.

The latest twist however seems to be the most dramatic with the south/south delegates to
the on-going National Political Reform Conference demanding and insisting on 50percent
derivation funds. Dramatic in the sense that it's has been so much intermingled with so
much intrigues, politics, scheming, attacks and counter-attacks.

Not that I have anything personally against the resource control initiative. No! I don't
have any qualms with the 50 percent derivation demand. Infact to be honest, I'm neither
for nor against it. No, I'm not confused and am not indifferent about the whole issue. It's
just that I believe in a greater, better and bigger course than the resource control which I
think the south/south governors and their delegates are plainly not aware of or simply
don't know the value and importance of…..which I believe is IT. Yes, I mean information
technology. Knowledge they say is power and I would like to add to this that IT power is
super power.

It's quite pathetic that we have so much enormous power within our fingertips (through
IT) and yet we are doing nothing about it, yet we are languishing in poverty. Instead of
utilising and maximizing the power and potential of IT to transform our lives and society,
we are busy at each other's neck over the issue of resource control. I strongly believe that
IT is one of the greatest and most powerful tools/resources we have in our disposal to
bring about a revolution in our economy, society and citizenry.

Frankly speaking, I don't think resource control is the solution to the ills, problems and
upheavals in these states (I mean the south/south states) or any state of the federation for
that matter. I know this is quite a tough and controversial issue but let me try and prove
my point.

As you would recall with me that during the oil boom days of Nigeria in the 1970s, we
made a lot of money from crude oil (just as we are making now as crude oil hits $60 per
barrel), but where has it taken us to today? Nigeria is still the 13th poorest nation in the
world, 80 million of our population are still leaving under the world poverty average and
our external debts stand at a staggering amount of about $35 billion.

To further buttress my point, I would also like to site the Africa dilemma as a perfect
example. From all indications (going by the level of natural resources we have in this
continent), Africa is supposed to be one of wealthiest continent in the world. Africa
supplies an astounding 98% of the world's diamond (the world's costliest stone), over
50% of it's gold, and we are also the world largest producer of platinum amongst others.
However contrary to expectations, Africa is not only the poorest continent in the world
but also the most indebted as well.

I'm not trying to discard the importance of resource control nor am I trying to undermine
the power of our natural resources. No. Rather I want to stress the fact that natural
resources alone cannot do the magic. I believe that natural resources are just too short
term for us to be too dependent upon. I think we need to constantly remind ourselves that
these resources have expiry dates - I mean wether we like it or not one day they will get
exhausted. Therefore we need to plan long term, we need to be long term focused, long
term oriented and long term driven if we are really interested in making a reasonable
impact in our society, our nation and the world at large. Personally speaking I think
information technology is the answer.

From my little knowledge, I've come to understand that we are in the information age and
everything is going digital (with the emergence of the e-relationships, e-communication,
e-banking, e-commerce, e-education, e-training, e-cards, e-money, e-government, e-
registration, e-mails, etc). The world is becoming a global village as more and more of
the world is coming on-line.

The importance of IT cannot be over-emphasized in this 21st century. It is becoming very

curial and increasingly indispensable in every aspect of human life/living, government
and the economy. IT is a crucial sector of all facet of the economy. It is the most
powerful tool we have at our fingertips. An IT literate population with optimal access to
and use of IT is important to any nation's economic and social survival and well being in
this present age and dispensation.

I would like us to borrow a leaf from the Japanese revolution. You would recall with me
that Japan was terribly ravaged and was almost close to nothing (materially, structurally
and economically) after World War II. However today the story has changed. Today
Japan is a super power, a world economy, one of the G8 countries, a big term foreign
exchange earner and one of the wealthiest and most advanced nation of the world. So
what made the difference? I believe Japan invested long term - they invested enormously
in IT education, training and infrastructure, research and development. It is interesting to
note however that Japan has no natural resources but has achieve all these feats based on
long term investments in the IT sector.

Another country also worth mentioning is the US. Today the US can boast of being one
of the most powerful economies of the world because of its IT industry. I was privileged
to know through the Internet that the American Internet economy alone has contributed
1.2 million jobs and over $301.4 billion to the American economy overall (in the year
2004). In the US e-commerce alone has boost employment by 0.8 percent and driven up
wages by 4.0 percent. Of all the 400 richest people in America quoted by Forbes, more
than half of them are in the IT industry (Microsoft, Goggle, e-bay, oracle, America
online, Intel, dell, apple etc) or have IT driven companies.

Other countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and India which were
some years ago referred to as backward countries are today fast developing countries
(most atimes refered to as emerging ecomonies) due to their investment in the IT

I believe our government can take a clue from these countries and learn from their
experience. Instead of fighting each other over resource control, I believe we should be
fighting for IT control. I wish our state governors would be as zealous and desperate for
IT penetration in this country the way they are currently with resource control.

I wish government would make IT education compulsory in our primary and secondary
schools and higher institutions of education. I wish government give serious attention and
invest sufficient funds to enlighten and educate it's citizenry on the importance, relevance
and benefits of IT to their personal lives and career, to the society and the economy at
large. It is my desire that our government would embark on massive efforts to mass-train
Nigerians on IT literacy.

I wish every state would tap into and exploit the power and potential of the 120Gbps SAT
3 undersea fibre optics cable to the benefit of all Nigerians. I wish all schools, hospitals,
churches, mosques, organizations, parastatals etc would establish and maximize their
various IT departments. I wish government would establish an institute for information
technology in each of the 8 geo-political zones in the country to encourage every
Nigerian to get IT literate.

I believe that if government will pursue IT education, awareness, penetration,

infrastructure, policies and usage with the intensity we are doing with resource control,
then in the next 5 years, Nigeria would become a world superpower. I believe IT is the
key to revamping and revolutionalising our economy, improving the standard of living of
the average Nigerian and our society at large.

I have a dream of an e-Nigeria taking her rightful place in world affairs and rulling the
world. Please let us all pass on the message and the dream.

Nigerian dream the dream.

Nigerians live the dream.