By Ben Murray-Bruce
Anyone thinking they can stop the rise of electric cars by ignoring it or wishing it away is burying his or her head in the sand like an ostrich and hoping that others do not see them.
Electric cars are the future. There is no stopping them. It is not enough to be up to date in this game. We have to be up to tomorrow. The era of the internal combustion engine is gone. And it is now a case of if you can’t beat them, join them, because the only way we can beat them is by immediate local production and exportation to the world of petrol cars that are cheaper in the long run and more environmentally friendly than electric cars.
I do not see that happening. So we are left with only one viable option, which is to join the world as it transits from petrol cars to electric cars.
Take Germany as an example. Germany has gone beyond just electric cars. They now have an electric freeway where cars are charged while driving, without needing to stop.
People think I am disappointed that the Senate killed my Electric Car Bill. I am not disappointed as much as I am flabbergasted. You can’t stop the future! And let me tell you, electric cars are the future.
The reality in the world today is that electric cars are outselling regular cars. This will continue until those countries that depend on regular internal combustion cars will be isolated. They will be like people who are still using video cassette recorders in a world of streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and amazon prime.
Yet, Nigeria refuses to plan for this inevitability on the pretext that we are an oil producing nation. Norway is an oil producing country. Norway produces 2% of the world’s crude oil and 25% of the EU’s LNG Gas. But beyond oil, Norway is also a sensible nation with sensible leaders.
That is why Norway has set a deadline to ban the sale of regular petrol powered cars by 2025. That is why in March 2019, Norway became the first nation on earth were sales of electric cars have overtaken sales of petrol cars. 58% of all cars sold in Norway are electric cars. Who wants to buy something that will be obsolete in 10 years?
Electric cars are the future. Any nation that refuses to see that will be stuck in the past. It is a failure of leadership to shield yourself from the future. Yesterday has no letter O in it because there is no opportunity in the past. Tomorrow has three letters Os because it is pregnant with opportunity.
As the great Physicist and scholar, William G. Pollard said, “the arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
Nigeria is preparing for yesterday when we should be preparing for today.
2019 is a pivotal year for the electric car industry, not only because it is the first time ever, electric cars are outselling the internal combustion engine cars, also known as gas or petrol powered cars, but because it is the year when other continents outside Europe and North America are accepting this new reality.
The Automobile industry is already taking steps to wean itself off fossil fuels with Volvo, Peugeot, Saab and announcing announced plans to stop the production of petrol and diesel cars.
I warned about this for years. I tried to encourage the Nigerian government to see the future by driving in an electric powered Kia car on national TV and encouraging the government to promulgate policies to prepare Nigeria for a world without oil.
I was not doing this for my benefit. I was doing this for Nigeria’s benefit. This nation is spending more money paying fuel subsidies than on education and infrastructure combined. Yet, we are rejecting electric cars! We are just like a drug addict. Fuel subsidy is our drug. And those behind it will fight anyone trying to stop their drug supply.
With electric cars, Nigeria will free up resources for desperately needed social intervention. Fuel subsidies will be a thing of the past. We can spend the money on free education instead. We can use the money we are currently spending on fuel subsidies to provide free healthcare.
What is more, adopting electric cars will finally force us to fix our power infrastructure which will itself have multiplier effects for our economy because it will provide power, which is the lifeblood for a modern economy. Honestly, I am surprised that my colleagues in the Senate and the Executive branch have not seen this potential.
Water we do not want to become is a dumping ground for petrol powered cars, which we will soon become if cars is not taken.
I have suggested all these privately and publicly before, but those at the helm were not prepared to be forward thinking. They felt that this day would never come.
Now it is finally happening. Oil is a relic of the past. Nigeria cannot rely on it. We must start investing in our people as we once invested in oil or not only will we be a debtor nation, we will also become a beggar country.
Our population is growing faster than our economy, and with this new revelation about the automobile industry, it is only going to be worse if we do not act now.
I look at the 2019 budget for education and it is not even close to what we are spending on fuel subsidy, not to talk of what we are spending on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
We are even spending more money prospecting for oil in Northern Nigeria at a time when the world is phasing out crude oil. Venezuela, the country with the largest crude oil reserves in the world, is bankrupt! Oil cannot save Nigeria. Let Nigeria prospect for knowledge by investing that money on educating Northerners.
We must start subsiding education instead of petrol.
And we must make a shift from investing in oil to investing in gas. Liquified Natural Gas has a future. Crude oil does not.
Which is why I advise the federal government to do Tel things.
One, increase the budgetary allocation to education and make our curricular targeted at graduating job creators rather than job seekers.
Two, the federal government should complete the final investment decision on the Brass LNG in Bayelsa so that our future income from LNG from Brass will replace what we shall be losing from crude oil.
Let us remember that a prudent man sees the future coming and prepares for it, but an unwise man carries on as if the present will continue forever.
The future is not something we just await until it comes and then we adjust to it. No. No. No! The future is something that we must anticipate and prepare for. In fact, some people no longer anticipate and prepare for the future. They now create it. By creating inexpensive electric cars, the West has ultimately killed petrol cars.
Nigeria is holding on to a corpse and we think we have a living breathing baby. We need to wake up and smell the coffee or the joke will be on us when we are stuck in a 19th century paradigm in a world that is in the 21st Century.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. Let us prepare now by passing appropriate legalisation to prepare Nigeria for the coming world of electric cars. That is my admonition to the incoming ninth National Assembly. A word is enough for the wise.
Eddie Ugbomah was my friend and colleague, who shared my deep passion for developing Nigeria’s entertainment industry, particularly the cinema/theatre sector.
Eddie was a real Lagos boy, who grew up in the Obalende area of the metropolis, where he set about making friends that cut across social strata, gender and religion.
He captured the essence of Nigeria’s national progress long before there was anything like Nollywood, with movies like the Mask, which showcased Eddie’s strong desire to repatriate stolen Nigerian artefacts like the Queen Idia Mask and the Ife bronzes.
His movie, Death of a Black President, was the real attempt at immortalising the late head of state, Murtala Mohammed, on celluloid.
Another star is plucked from the firmament of the Nigerian sky. At 78, he lived a long life, but we would have been delighted to have him be with us for a little bit more. Long as he lived, I will still say he was gone too soon.
He was a great man and I will miss him. May his soul rest in peace even as his works rest here with us.
- Ben Murray-Bruce is the founder of the Silverbird Group and the Senator representing Bayelsa-East in the Senate of the National Assembly.