On October 1st 2010, Nigeria celebrated her 50th independent anniversary, while the euphoria among the “high and mighty” is still at its peak, and the nostalgic feeling among average Nigerians is still fresh in our memory, it is instructive that we keep in view, the 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index. This Index was based on statistical analysis of more than 40 years of data collections and analysis for 104 countries worldwide. For many nations of the world, the findings by Legatum Institute, with input from the research consultancy Oxford Analytica and a panel of respected academic advisors in the fields of economics, history, development, sociology, and political science are not being taken for granted ,not at all, it is expected that Nigeria should not be an exception.
In Nigeria, the document, can be regarded as an eye opener that corroborates what eminent scholars, researchers, analysts economists, educationists, health practitioners, NGOs, civil organizations, media Institutions and several other experts have been postulating, times without numbers as portending a present and imminent danger, if not tackled. However and unfortunately, most of such foresights and forecasts have always been cast aside as rattling of ‘opportunists’ or ’rabble-rousers” who see nothing good about the government or the nation .And thereby labeled with all sorts of unprintable negative ‘accolades’. While, several others were jailed time without number to warrant a place in the Guinness Book of World Record, suffix to mention late Gani Fawehinmi among several other unsung heroes of yore.
Looking at the document, in its recent release, Letagum examines nations that have achieved great prosperity through high levels of innovation and entrepreneurship, robust commitment to personal freedom, and governing institutions that generally foster economic growth .In addition, it examines nations having a balance with strong families and communities, political and religious liberty, education and opportunity…” However ,among the 104 nations assessed ,Nigeria ranks 98th and thereby one of the 10 countries at the base of the Prosperity Index .The others being ;Algeria(96th)Tanzania(97th) Pakistan(99th) Cameroon(100th) Central African Republic(101st), Yemen(102nd), Sudan(103rd), Zimbabwe(104th).
While there are sufficient justifications for the inclusion of most of the other nine nations at the base of the index, the inclusion of Nigeria calls for a serious sober reflection. After which a serious and conscious step must be taken, so that we can effect and command a positive perception from the global communities, from henceforth. There is no doubt that Nigeria possesses all the natural and human endowments to do so and not otherwise.
The question might be asked, what are the parameters employed for such assessment. The institute made use of a combination of objective data and subjective responses to surveys, accounting for 90 percent of the world’s population. This data comprises 79 different variables, which are distilled into 9 different sub-indexes identified as a foundation of prosperity. The performance of each nation, in each sub-index is given a score, from which the overall Prosperity Index ranking is produced. This is achieved mainly, by averaging the equally-weighted scores of the 9 sub-indexes for each nation. Each nation that performs well across each sub-indexes scores highest in the overall ranking. The 9 indexes, (that is widely accepted as key factors that drive economic growth and personal wellbeing of any nation), are; Economic Fundamentals – a growing, sound economy that provides opportunities for wealth creation. Entrepreneurship and Innovation – an environment that is friendly to new enterprises and the commercialization of new ideas. Education – an accessible, high-quality educational system that fosters human development. Democratic Institutions – a transparent and accountable governing institution that promote economic growth. Governance – an honest and effective government that preserves order and encourages productive citizenship. Health – the physical well-being of the populace. Personal Freedom – the degree to which, individuals can choose the course of their lives. Security – a safe environment in which people can pursue opportunity. Social Capital –that is trustworthiness, in relationships and strong communities.
But for brevity, comments shall be made on -Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Education and Security.
In Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Nigeria ranks 94th.We all know that an average Nigerian is a ‘compendium of knowledge’ .Even the ‘stark uneducated” old men in our villages are naturally endowed in terms of creativity and ingenuity. If you take a trip to any newspaper stands anywhere in the country, the rate at which ‘common folks’ dissect every report, commentary and editorial, from one topic to another will baffles you beyond normal. East, West, North or South, the creativity of our artisans, technicians, or craftsmen is awesome. But poverty as a result of lack of opportunity, poor infrastructural development, among others has always denied such folks from translating such wealth of ideas and creativity into money. Going by this, it should not be strange, that we are more of a consuming nation than a producing one. Little wonder that one of the greatest ironies facing the nation today is that since the means of transforming ideas into physical achievement is no longer existing, the pool of budding young men and women in the entertainment industries is swelling day by day. Today, Nigeria is having more “stand up comedians” (in the first place is there anything like a sitting comedian) than any other professional sector of our economy. We have one of the largest and fastest growing film industries in the world. That Nigerians find solace (as “the happiest people on earth”) from all their troubles in being amused by entertainment cannot be a contentious issue for argument any longer. And hence, corroborating one of late Fela’s ever green lyric “suffering and smiling” .Has anyone ever bother to ask any of our entertainers what they wanted to be before going into the entertainment industry or what they would like to be if they happened to be in Europe or America. Is it not a pity that while other nations of the world are investing greatly in their youths, so as to produce more and more, outstanding entrepreneurs, doctors, pharmacists, ICT gurus, astronauts, engineers, technicians, researchers, lawyers among others, we are dissipating all our efforts elsewhere? This portends a great danger for any nation.
In Education; Nigeria ranks 94th. Presently, Nigeria lacks an accessible, high-quality educational system that fosters human development. Our present system of education only encourages a ‘reliant’ or ‘dependent’ population and not a vocational and self reliant population. Little wonder we are be-devilled with one of the highest no of unemployed graduates in the world, with a bonus of over 20 million “unemployable” youths. Needless to mention without being found guilty of exaggeration that education in the true sense of it, does not exist in Nigeria. This is because a tertiary education, where our wards cannot experience an academic year ‘at a stretch on campus’ without various degrees of strikes (by; students, lecturers, non-teaching staff) should not be regarded as education by any serious observer. Probably or perhaps, apart from our first generation Universities, most of our Universities lagged behind the rest of the
world in terms of research and scientific facility for enquiries, (which are the fundamentals of post secondary education). We might regard “ASUU” as “busy body” trying to be more catholic than the Pope or proving to be more Imam than Mohammed, the truth is that, the reality in most of our universities is fast becoming “I beg, let patch up, I will go to Ghana for my Masters”
In Safety and Security; Nigeria ranks 98th. Prosperity means Security. Security and safety function as both a cause and effect of overall prosperity. A secure nation enables its citizens to flourish without fear of attack or harm, and prosperous citizens provide the financial resources and social capital to maintain safety and security. Right from the Kano riot in the late 50s, (prompted by the Independence motion moved by Anthony Enahoro), none-indigenes from other regions or living outside its aboriginal region in Nigeria have always nursed a pathological fear of staying outside their region, which include and not limited to, fear of establishing and sustaining a capital intensive investment structure and having huge property in a ‘foreign land” i.e. areas outside ones region. Though, we might deny it, an average Nigerian, who had lived outside its region by the late 50s, to mid and late 60s is still hunted by the ghost of “abandoned property”, or “reprisal attacks”, once he finds himself outside his region .Needless to mention spontaneous apprehensions associated with electioneering year. Recently, the spate of kidnapping has reached a feverish high, beyond all expectations and speculations. Gone are the days when ‘albinos’ are mistaken for “oyinbo” as there is now no more “racial discrimination”, any one is qualified to be kidnapped-‘white, blue, yellow or black, rich or poor’. Is there any need to emphasize the traditionally accepted insecurity in Nigeria that is fast turning every rich man (in his own house), into a prisoner behind gigantic “walls of Jericho”, surpassing those of “Kirikiri”? An issue that is gradually and silently destroying our family and community culture. The last statement of which is the only favourable testament about Nigeria for now, with a ranking of 16th,under social capital indicating that Nigeria has an healthy networks of families and friends that make up a community and invariably a nation ,
The import of it all is that, as a people and as a nation it is expedient that we all strive to create an enabling environment for human development and commercialization of great and enduring ideas. If Philip Emeagwali, Professor Gabriel Oyinbo, Wole Soyinka, Dele Olojede and host of others Nigerians in diaspora and at the fore front of great human achievements, have stayed too long in Nigeria, nothing good could have come out of them, more than an addition to a growing numbers of despotic, but highly talented Nigerians at newspaper stands, beer palour, viewing centers and motor parks.
Rather than breed arguments, our policy makers should clearly understand the stark truth, that in the 21st century any nation that cannot generate adequate electricity, a major ingredient of industrialization, human development among others cannot be respected by others. Nor a generator driven economy survive, the stormy and competitive nature of present day commerce and industry. Basic amenities, like power generation must as a matter of national urgency be fully tackled, if we are really serious with vision 20; 2020.So that it will not fade away like the reign of the dinosaur nor, suffers the fate of the now proverbial ‘Year 2000’ (slogan) in the 90s. Our policy makers must create avenue that will engineer huge investments in human capital; education, health and social services, through which there would be restoration of hope in our people, far from merely surviving but also living in affluent. Moreover, there is the need for a sustainable infrastructural development that would transform our towns and cities into a 21st century standard. Much has been said about the need for an all encompassing electoral reform that would give power (to choose during election) to the people. These should not be seen nor regarded as a primordial expectation but as a necessity.
With a GDP of over $296 billion and huge reserves of crude oil, making Nigeria the second largest economy in the Continent, the leading oil exporter and 37th largest economy in the World. Endowed with abundant natural resources, huge and versatile human resources(envy of many great nations), these are not tall dreams from idle mind. Gani Fawehinmi, once commented, tears welling in his eyes “…….Nigerians are not supposed to suffer in the midst of such great wealth…”
The summary from this is that, no matter our gargantuan appeal and claim as “the giant of Africa”; a nation is neither free nor great, nor accorded its due honour among comity of nations when it has no respect for the economic, political, religious, and personal freedom of its citizens. This is the cardinal principle upon which a nation should be built and sustained, without which there is no nation.
And lastly, like in the word of the Letagum Institute “……Our hope is that the Prosperity Index findings will be of use to policymakers, journalists, business leaders, scholars, and interested citizens around the world….– it remains a fact of history that each nation needs to find its own path to success.”
The entire world is watching.