By Aliyu Nuhu
At 61 years of age the only progress Nigeria made is in population growth, something that is not properly managed. It jumps from 36 million people formerly, we are now approximately 200 million. A clear case of quantity without quality.
What do we have to celebrate while Nigeria today is in company of Somalia, DRC, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Niger, Iraq, Pakistan and host of other failed states in terms of development?
According to UNICEF about 20 million Nigerian children are not attending primary school, about 6 million that are attending will still come out illiterate due to poor quality of teaching. The worst is that the government pretends that all is well and is doing nothing about it. Almajiri system of education is still in practice and not properly managed. It is one of the indicators that Nigeria is not serious about its future.
Another tragedy is that, around 80 million Nigerians are unemployed, in fact about 98% of Nigerian youths are all without job or any form of social and economic engagement. Suddenly, Covid-19 came and made matters worse as more people are losing their means of livelihood. Banditry and kidnapping have chased people away from their farmlands.
Nigeria is without electricity, roads, railways, good airports, clean water and sanitation, public toilets and all other critical social and economic infrastructures.
The government naively claimed that the economy is growing forgetting the relationship between economic growth and job creation. How can growth be justified with 80 million unemployed citizens? How can growth be justified with 3000mw of electricity? That is far below what South Africa generates from renewable energy. According to the Ministry of Energy, South Africa’s total domestic electricity generation capacity is 51,309 megawatts. About 91.2%, or 46,776 MW comes from thermal power stations, while 4,533 MW or 8.8%, is generated from renewable energy sources.
How can growth be justified with industries failing, the entire Northern Nigeria is without viable industry! All the critical sectors that make a nation strong are either absent in Nigeria or in shambles. The chemical, commercial, communication, manufacturing sectors, dams, defense, emergency services, energy, banking and other financial services, food and agriculture, health care, information technology, nuclear reactor, material and wastes management, transport and waterways, all and sundry are either not working or completely corrupt and dubious.
Don’t roll the drum to celebrate, as a matter of fact we should remain in our houses and mourn our collective failure as a nation.
The Mo Ibrahim foundation just placed us among the 10 worst governed countries in Africa. The Economic intelligence Unit (of the London Economist) placed us among the world’s failed nations. And these institutions are not the opposition, it is not PDP that is giving this grim picture of our country.
It is easy for Nigerians to rise and say we are not a failed state, but going by the definition of state failure, a nation that fails to discharge its obligation to its citizens, is indeed heading to the direction of a failed state.
Everyone knows Nigeria cannot provide basic security to its citizens. We have hundreds of thousands of people displaced by insecurity. This is the kind of story associated with state failure because the state, after failing to secure lives, will also not be able to bring the criminals to justice.
We are never worse in terms of security, people are killed daily in our cities. They are kidnapped and attacked in their homes. Corruption has never been worse, yet the courts have simply joined the thieves. In Nigeria today, nobody gets jailed for corruption.
To me there is no need to celebrate, we should all put our hands on our heads and cry. Our leaders, both past and present should bury their heads in shame for bringing our country to its knees.
Nigeria is also practically not good for the poor and vulnerable. If you can’t get plum government appointment, just be rich.The rich are allowed to claim fuel subsidy, evade tax, have import duties, manipulate commodity prices, bet on stocks with privileged information they get from golf clubs. The equivalent of all these or even less, when done by the poor, is called stealing. And the poor also had their bad ways as well. Leaders looting by example while followers learning by instinct.
Nigeria allows great deal of latitude to the rich. The courts are even scared of them. This is our way of making up to them for creating a society in which everything can be done for money, while nothing is worth having at all.
I can only say happy independence to the Nigerian rich, they, along with our leaders, help in ruining this nation. They are now reaping the fruits of their labour. As things get so bad, there is no peace for them to enjoy their wealth. They are an endangered species on the highway. Kidnappers are looking for them the way hunters look for antelope. At home there is no peace. Even behind heavily fortified walls, they sleep with open eyes. It will continue to degenerate because peace exists only in a society that has shared prosperity among its people.
Sadly again, Nigeria is the most badly governed and mismanaged nation on earth. Most poor and backward countries owe their present condition to war, natural disasters, geography and size, but it is not the same with Nigeria. It is its people in the hierarchy of the leaders, the rich and the poor masses.
Vietnam was in a state of war for 20 years. Korea was at war for three years. Today they are developed economies.
Nigeria only witnessed civil war for three years and remained in peace for the best part of its 61 years existence, earning about $1 trillion from sale of oil. Yet with all that money it achieved nothing in terms of development. Most of it has been shamelessly mismanaged or stolen!Today Nigeria is 61 years old. Here are some reasons for sober reflection and adjustments by our leaders.
1. In 1960 Nigeria has only 2 universities. Today it has 40 federal universities, 40 state universities and 61 private universities. However its people have to run to Ghana, a country with only 9 universities to study. The reason is because the 141 universities in Nigeria are below international standard due to corruption, mismanagement and neglect. The country, according to UNICEF has 10.5 million children outside primary school. It means in 20 years, about 30% Nigerians will not be able to secure employment as security men, because the job will require basic literacy as qualification. Public primary and secondary education system has collapsed in Nigeria. Parents spend their earnings to educate their children. This goes to say adding weight is not equal to good health.
2. Twenty years ago India has the largest number of pure scientists in the world but it was considered a poor country compared to China because the number of scientists did not transform India into net exporter of goods and services. It was until India changed its ways and started producing technicians like China that it began manufacturing goods and earned the respect of the world. Numbers matter but vision matters most. The Indians were not seeing the world as the Chinese. Like India and China, Nigeria has abundant human and intellectual capital which have been wasted by neglect due to poor attention to education. And because of that our numbers produce nothing. In this age with our size we cannot produce needles, toys and bicycles. These are simple products that don’t require rocket science.
3. Today we have 193,600kms federal highway. Out of that length, only 28,200 kms are paved in the whole 60 years of the country’s existence. The paved highways are death traps killing hundreds of people daily. Meanwhile in 1960 Nigeria had 8,800km of paved federal highways in relatively good condition. The increase in the length without quality today does not translate to progress. Nigeria is considered the worst country among it’s neighbors in terms of road infrastructure. Quality matters more than numbers.
4. In 1960 Nigeria had 118 mission hospitals, and 101 government hospitals. Today it has 22 Federal Medical Centers, 23 giant teaching hospitals, about 46,000 state owned hospitals/health centers and hundreds of thousands private hospitals, clinics and dispensaries. But Nigerians run to Ghana to treat skin infection and UK to treat ear infections! For most heart and brain surgeries we have to go to India or Egypt. Some of us go to Niger and other neighbouring countries!
5. In 1841 Britain and Wales had a population of 15 million people. However Great Britain virtually held the entire world by the jugular, colonising all and every important nation and defining their destiny. Dynamites come in small sizes.
6. Today the US has a population of 325 million people but controls and sets standards for the world with a population of 8 billion. By contrast Nigeria has a population of 182m and military of 400,000 strength but is overwhelmed by a rag tag Boko Haram with a strength of 16,000 followers or even less.
7. Nigeria has 91 million hectares of arable land of which it is able to cultivate only 42% of it using crude and simple tools. Industrial scale holding is nonexistent in Nigeria. Despite being able to produce large quantities of rice, beans, sesame, cashew, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, gum arabic, kolanut, maize (corn), melon, millet, palm kernels, palm oil, plantains, rice, rubber, sorghum, soybeans, bananas and yam; Nigeria is not a net exporter of agricultural products and it imports food to feed its population. FOA report put Nigeria slightly ahead of Niger, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Burkina Fasso and Sierra Leone in food security. Today Nigeria is facing food crisis due to inflation. Most households cannot feed. Those barely eat, eat poisonous, damaged or expired foodstuffs.
It is not how old you are but how well you are. It’s not your numbers that matter but the quality. I feel we have nothing to celebrate. Let’s not be a bunch of jokers!
Aliyu Nuhu, a public commentator, writes from Abuja, Nigeria.