by Kede Aihie
The 1970s was arguably Nigeria’s best opportunity for economic sustainabllity, since independence (1st October 1960).
Oil has since the early 1970s dominated the Nígerian economy. (member of OPEC, since 1971.)
During the oil boom of the early 1970s, Nigeria’s revenue skyrocketed.
So, what did Nígeria, do with the high revenue yields.
The government embarked on building of ports, roads and public facilities and a free public education system .
The highlights of the 1970s, in terms of economic development, was charting a new course in education, healthcare, infrastructure.
Nigeria embarked on a spending spree, workers were given financial award (Udoji award).
The Udoji Public Service Review Commission, was headed by Chief Jerome Udoji, a lawyer. who made recommendations on civil service training, personnel policies and pay
The government extended, Udoji’s recommendation to salaried workers.
With an annual rate of inflation between 12 to 15 per cent, the spending spree was bound to have a negative effect.
This and steadily rising prices, have convinced many Nigerians that “Udoji”—as they refer to the commission and its work, in something of a rallying cry—will steady the economy. Some even envision new cars, motorcycles or business investments.
The Agricultural sector was left out, from massive investment.
While the government absorbed almost all the military government’s attention. In fact, the former head of state, General Gowon, boasted that money was not Nigeria’s problem, but how to spend it.
The governance structure, was not appropriately developed, due to the military dictatorship.
This period, was a missed opportunity for Nigeria to put in place economic diversification, in sectors, like agriculture, critical infrastructure and other key sectors.
The down side of the 1970 decade was the creeping in, of corruption“ from the revenues of oil, which some called the ” oil curse”
By late 1979, when revenue declined considerably, Nígeria was unable to sustain funding of public sector, democracy returned. The political operators, maintained, the Udoji award mindset.
This neglect, in turn, exacerbated Nigeria’s economic dependence on oil. While oil brought profits for the elite, little consideration was given to improving the standard of living or distributing wealth and benefits to the broader population.
The level of corruption was alarming, even by global standard, in that era.
Until the 1970s, Nigerian universities set their own admissions standards. Due to the growing number of universities in Nigeria’s sprawling higher education system, this practice became problematic, and, in 1978, the Nigerian government established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)
On reflection, the 1970s, was a decade of opportunities for Nígeria, which in hindsight, could have been better managed.