Nigeria’s Crude Reality



We knew crude oil before we knew ourselves as citizens of one country. That is the tragedy of Nigeria. The curse of the Black Gold hangs heavy on our necks.

Had crude oil been discovered in Nigeria some decades after independence, surely, our rallying points would have turned out to be very different – much more edifying, appealing and saner – today.

But so far, our tortuous journey as a geo-political entity and people has been substantially defined by the struggle for the control of the wealth accruing from Nigeria’s huge oil deposits.

While other nations and countries have been shaped and tampered by their profound consciousness in shared values such as freedom and nationhood, protecting the ideals and identity of the motherland, upholding human dignity and rights of their peoples, Nigeria was built on very faulty foundations by the colonial British empire.

It was for the sole purpose of enhancing the colonizer’s commercial interests. Perhaps it was only logical for Nigeria to proceed from being a colonial trade outpost to a free country of citizens whose common goals and aspirations are the sometimes deadly struggle for the control of oil wealth.

In this atmosphere so thick with the dizzying fumes of dubious mercantilism and a back-biting urge for primitive and repulsive accumulation of oil wealth, corruption and its attendant ills are bound to abound, profusely. Our so-called nation is bound in its chaotic alliance more by the consciousness of our stupendous oil wealth than, as our national anthem seems to claim – freedom, peace and unity.

Rising poverty, brutal quest for political power and dominance, religious extremism which has bred decades of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, spiralling inflation with no end in sight, a rising wave of unemployment and widespread discontent and disillusionment have become all too common throughout our country.

Apparently, Nigerians had of themselves seamlessly progressed and transformed from being victims of foreign exploiters to depraved shylocks locked in a perpetual battle to corner the country’s oil resources for their regions, states and families. All sense of patriotism, talk less of nationalism, is jettisoned in this deadly strive, heavily powered by religion and ethnicity.

In other climes, enterprise, innovation, the application of human talent and ingenuity and patriotism drive and sustain human and national development and progress.

But not in Nigeria. Which explains the desperate struggle for political power, and in fact all other opportunities that have the potential of opening up avenues for the acquisition of this oil wealth.

That is why the wheels of our national and subnational state structures are almost solely lubricated by oil money. The ingenuity of our leaders begins and ends in this monthly ritual of sharing our country’s commonwealth.

But our own crude reality is not, should not be, the benchmark, the rule, for a country that is so richly endowed by nature. Take a look at others and you will realise that we are an abnormal exception, in fact an aberration of the worst form.

Even though Dubai’s economy is not oil-based, it has channelled the little resources it got from oil in the 1960s and 1990s into building other sectors. That diversification has greatly enhanced its economy – largely dependent on trade and commerce.

As a result, it has become an international investment hub. The emirate’s Hope Probe, part of its space programme established in 2006, has been orbiting Mars since 2021. They are now planning on sending their own astronauts to space in the not too distant future.

Certainly, Dubai’s little oil wealth has not spawned the kind of frightening monstrosities Nigeria’s immense resource has so profusely and catastrophically done to us.

Saudi Arabia is a leading oil exporter. It has deployed its huge resources to deliberately insinuate itself into the global economy through making high yielding investments in blue chip enterprises and corporations all over the world.

It has done this through the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia which was founded in 1971 with an asset base that currently stands at about $800 billion.

It is also using that Fund to boost its sports industry by channelling billions of dollars into that sector. This has attracted renowned international football stars to the largely desert country and placed it on the world golf circuit through the LIV tournament.

The kingdom has also embarked on a highly ambitious project that is set to give it a chunk of the world’s tourism, industrial, investment and entertainment space, among others. It is envisaged to be on a scale and nature that will make it compete favourably with the best internationally.

It is doing this by sinking a whopping $500 billion into building a futuristic mega city. Known as NEOM, it is located in the North western Tabuk Province and will be made up of a floating port, a ski resort and a mirrored city, among others.

From the two instances above, we have seen how both little and huge oil revenues can be used as triggers for monumental socio-economic and political transformations.

Can we also change Nigeria’s crude reality into a very positive and humane one chiefly geared towards uplifting and dignifying our citizens and country at large?

Yes, it is doable. But that is a discussion for another day.

NB: Part of the title and the inspiration for this piece were drawn from Brian Black’s 2012 book, Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History.

…GYANG is the Chairman, Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative – JCCRI. Emails:; chrisgyang

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