Last year, I went on a plant tour of Peugeot Automobile, Kaduna; one of the major investments of the past thirty in Nigeria. PAN came along with VW, Mercedes Benz and Fiat in that lost age of import-substitution-industrialization. Unfortunately, Nigeria did not follow through the process of industrialization promised by the Second and Third National Development Plans. By 1999, the mantra of privatization became central to economic thinking, and PAN in Kaduna was privatized. When I did the tour, I saw a premises filled with lots of vehicles in need of buyers, in a country unable to support national industry, while the elite remains totally enslaved to a taste for foreign goods. It is always a point of surprise for me that our ruling class has chosen the capitalist mode of development, yet it does not attempt to protect fledgling national industry, such as PAN.
Nigeria will not successfully build capitalist success if national industry is not given the support that makes them able to survive the huge advantages of multinational corporations. It is therefore interesting to read a recent news item that Vice President Namadi Sambo has given an assurance that government is committed to the dual task of reviving and creating an enabling environment for the smooth functioning of existing automobile industries in Nigeria. This was during a meeting with the managements of PAN, Bank of Industry, FIRS, BPE and Union Bank. While it is good to make these promises, it is even better to understand the deeply patriotic need for industrialization as a major plank of the effort to eliminate underdevelopment and genuinely alleviate unemployment. The creation of an industrial workforce is one of the contributions which companies like PAN and others in the automotive and heavy industrialization like the Ajaokuta plant can make to national development. They mop up huge sections of the unemployed into the labour market and assist in the drive for modernization. That is why it is in the strategic interest of the state to assist in their survival and growth. Nigeria’s government should match words with action.