Opinion: Nigeria: Still a crippled giant at 58 – By JIDE OJO
The Crippled Giant is a coinage borrowed from Prof. Eghosa Osagae’s classic book, “The Crippled Giant: Nigeria since Independence”. Although I have not read the book, African Studies Review of the tome says it “is an excellent summary of Nigerian political history…The work is notable for an even-handed analysis of both history and theory. The result is an introduction of the highest quality to the study of Nigerian politics.” I have had the privilege of being invited on several radio and television programmes to discuss Nigeria at 58, including reviewing the President’s speech on October 1; my conclusion is that Nigeria, though a well-endowed nation with great potential, is still a perpetual underachiever.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech to the nation last Monday lacks statistics. He talked about fighting insurgency, corruption, cleaning up Ogoniland, youth participation in politics and governance, challenge of climate change, his bid to unite Nigeria, support to the Independent National Electoral Commission to be truly independent, the menace of social media and plan to ensure Nigeria meets Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in 2030 and Agenda 2063 of the African Union. These, to my mind, are hot air, mere platitudes and rhetoric. Where are the milestones of achievements? What do statistics say about our economy, politics and governance? Very depressing statistics I dare say.
In its 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Nigeria scored 48.1 in overall governance, ranking 35th out of 54 in Africa. This is, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. It said though Nigeria ranked 35th, its score was lower than the African average of 50.8 and lower than the regional average for West Africa which was put at 53.8. The Human Development Index, composite statistics of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, is used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. According to Vanguard newspaper of September 15, 2018, Nigeria ranked 157th out of the 189 countries sampled. The country’s life expectancy at birth was also put at 53.9 years. In the “Low human development” group, countries that ranked higher than Nigeria are Tanzania, 154 (0.538) and Zimbabwe, 156 (0.535). Nigeria followed at 157 (0.532).
You possibly must have heard that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day. According to the Cable News Network, “The findings, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute, show that more than 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for about two-thirds of the total number.”
According to a 2017 Q3 report of the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria recorded its highest ever aggregate unemployment rate rising from 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 18.8 per cent. Capital market operators, under the aegis of Association of Stockbroking Houses of Nigeria in August 2018, decried the volatility in the stock market which has led to loss of over N701bn or 5.2 per cent of investors’ investment for the eight month period ended August 29, 2018, blaming it on heated political environment. The bearish trend has continued unabated. Inflation remains at double digit just as Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 11.23 per cent in August 2018. The rise which was driven by increase in food prices was the first in 2018. The National Bureau of Statistics disclosed this in its latest Consumer Price Index report released on Friday, September 14, 2018, in Abuja.
According to the United Nations’ Children Education Fund, Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children – the world’s highest number. Sixty per cent of those children are in northern Nigeria. Primary school enrolment has increased in recent years, but net attendance is only about 70 per cent. This figure is being disputed as it may have gone up. According to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, at a meeting with the state commissioners of education as part of the 63rd National Council on Education recently in Abuja, said: “The only challenge was that we could not provide accurate figure to that effect. International organisations use 10.5 million as the figure of out-of-school children. But our local statistics indicated that 12.7 million was the highest figure and 6.7 million was the lowest figure.”
What about corruption? How have we fared in the war against the menace? In the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index which is the most current, Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 point and ranked 148 out of 180 countries globally, according to the Berlin-based Transparency International. While the World Health Organisation recommends a ratio of one doctor to 600 people in a community, Nigeria has a ratio of one medical doctor to 6,000 people in a given community. Prof Mike Ogirima, the President of the Nigeria Medical Association, in March this year said currently, there are about 45,000 medical doctors in the country with an estimated population of 170 million.
In August 2018, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said electricity generation had hit 7,000 megawatts while distribution had risen to 5,222 megawatts, an all-time national high. This is what we are celebrating 58 years after independence. As I write this, many industrialists and private citizens still run their businesses and homes on generators. These are the inglorious statistics the President was clever not to mention in his October 1, 2018 Independence Day speech.
I have rolled out all these heartrending statistics to buttress my claim that 58 years after Independence, Nigeria remains a crippled giant. The potential are no doubt enormous. We have world class human capital; our population provides ready market for investors; our oil and gas deposits, solid minerals buried in the ground of many Nigerian communities; limitless opportunities in agriculture, Information Communication Technology, sports, entertainment and tourism are all money spinners. Unfortunately, this country, from independence, has been plagued with bad political leaders who are majorly concerned with self-aggrandisement rather than working for public good. People of ideas and vision are often muscled out of electoral contests by political gatekeepers, political entrepreneurs and godfathers who would rather install “blackmail-able” surrogates and puppets. The Machiavellian principle of the end justifies the means has become an article of faith in the practice of Nigeria’s mercantilist politics.
To emancipate ourselves from this crop of rapacious rulers masquerading as leaders, there is a need for citizen action. Not only must good people participate in politics and electioneering process, we must also, as a matter of right, demand good governance. The 2019 General Election looms. As citizens, we must ensure that all of us who have yet to collect our Permanent Voter Cards make out time to collect them. Those who have collected theirs must ensure that they come out to vote for credible leaders in 2019. I know many youths who were disenchanted with the process and outcome of the September 27, 2018 supplementary election in Osun and have threatened to burn their PVCs and apply for visa to leave the country. However, my appeal to them is that there is a judicial Election Dispute Resolution process that has the power to review electoral outcomes and do substantial justice. I believe that our votes will count in 2019 and as such we all must play noble roles in the emergence of credible leaders in the next general election. When a new set of leaders are eventually inaugurated on May 29, 2019, we must demand good governance and fulfilment of their campaign promises. Punch
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