Undoubtedly, Nigeria is challenged. This Government is facing the challenge of leveraging the huge natural and human resources to ensure rapid economic growth. We believe that growth is the best antidote to poverty. With growth, we have a chance to wipe out the stigma of abject poverty, and our people can enjoy the advantages of being citizens of an increasingly prosperous country. Without growth, Nigeria will remain a poor rich nation.
No safe running water to drink, cooks with, and bathes with. My beloved Nigeria has invested a great deal of wealth and billions in terms of US dollars in order to bring electricity into major towns and villages, yet the national Assembly wants to use ordinary Generators; and this government asks for it again. Did you believe that electricity that operates 24 hours per day cannot work here? When the power goes off for an extended period of time in the New Year, one realizes the importance of our electrical power grid.
In advanced countries, if the power were to go off for a few days during the winter will your furnace operate? When you look into the area of communication, you see massive differences between these countries and the rest of the world; Telephones, cell phones, the internet, television, etc. This radical improvement in communication permits all sorts of coordination that is not possible when one is using the mail, runners, or the pony express. In many cases you see cellular telephone networks developing in places where safe running water is not even yet available. When one is stopped in traffic jam on the highway, one does not appreciate what a tremendous advancement this infrastructure is. But when one visits Nigeria where even a dirt road that a jeep can travel over may be seen as quite a luxury one sees how useful these paved highways are.
I won’t go into health care because almost 50 million people in Nigeria do not have access to the health care system. Have cancer but no insurance? Tough luck jerk, just die. As one would expect, infant mortality in Nigeria is much worse than those countries where there is universal health care. Having a roof over your head seems elemental to us here in Nigeria, but one doesn’t have to travel far to see people living in shacks built from cardboard.
For well over three decades after independence, Nigeria adopted a dirigisme model of economic development. The State was the principal driver of the economy and the economy itself remained closed to the rest of the world. In those thirty years, Nigeria’s GDP grew at an average rate of 3.5 per cent. I call those years the “lost decades”.
Sad and it could change! If by the help of the government I think Nigeria has the chance to make some real changes within the next ten years. The first thing they have to do is to stop the flow of college educated people from leaving this country. Without them then all you have left over are the poor and uneducated. Trying to get rid of the nepotism for once and for all time pays. It is outlawed but ignored in the country side. It is normal there for those in the lower minority to be raped of government presence and abused of common right to live. These people need help and they need it now. This government must focus on the people that need the help. Give Nigerians the pride, they should feel proud to be Nigerian. In call centres there should not be false names given. They bred low self esteem in the long run.
Nigeria is sick. The ailment requires medication that could proffer “political and business solutions,” into Nigeria surroundings. Having achieved this feat, this government owes Nigerians a debt that can be paid looking into the question of national pride and the nation’s self image. Three decades ago 40% of all Nigerians were proud of being Nigerian. Today, only 2%, which are those in the executive arms of this government, enjoying loots and national welfare to the detriment of other Nigerians?
The question of national pride has always puzzled me. Where we were born as Nigerians; what language we learn as infants is again, seen as a real happenstance…..something over which we have no control. Why anyone should feel pride because of it is beyond me; especially, if we try to flesh out the basis of this pride. For most people the source of national pride is sports. So there will be frenzy last summer when Nigerians failed in the Beijing Olympics. On the other hand, I guess a certain shame set in as they did not get as many medals as they were hoping for. Some think that Nigerians are a very talented people. Proof of this is the lapses in the number of Nobel Prize winners; with the exception of one, Sonyinka; an achieved world fame abroad. Others think that Nigerian cuisine is just fantastic. They like to say that the three best cuisines in the world are the French, the Chinese, and the Nigerian. Hmmm! What about the Italian, the Spanish, the Thai, the Vietnamese, and I could mention many more. Nigerian men are proud that Nigerian women are so beautiful, when it comes to ebony. Again beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. We like what we are accustomed to. For example, I once had a Nigerian visitor who told me that she had never in her life seen so many ugly people as in the United States. In any case, 57% of those polled are actually ashamed of certain things they associate with the country. In 2005 that number was only 41%.
We don’t wipe away our tears. What Nigerians share is sobering? A majority of us feel we are worse off and more insecure than in the past. Nigerians care about: happiness, family, children, livelihood, peace, security, safety, dignity, and respect. Nigerians’ descriptions of encounters with a range of institutions call out for rethink on our national strategies. From the perspective of poverty, corruption, irrelevance, and abusive behaviour against the common citizen of Nigeria often mar the legal institutions of this country. “nigeria4betterrule” receive mixed ratings from the poor Nigerians. Poor Nigerians dreams that “nigeria4betterrule” may be accountable to them. Poor Nigerian’s interactions with traders and markets are stamped with their powerlessness to negotiate fair prices. If this government can be attentive to us, how then do Nigerians survive? We are on the verge of turning to our informal networks of family, kin, friends, and neighbours to make our world, pending when this regime sits-up.
The first decade of the new millennium has been the best since independence. In the seven years beginning 2000-01, Nigeria’s GDP has grown at an average rate of 6.9 per cent. Since 2003-04, the growth rate has moved to a higher plane and the average has been 8.6 per cent. 2006-07 was a splendid year with the GDP recording a growth of 9.4 per cent. One would have thought that the challenge of development in a democracy will become less formidable as the economy cruises on a high growth path. The reality is the opposite. Democracy, rather, the institutions of democracy and the legacy of the socialist era have actually added to the challenge of development.
Let me explain with some examples. Nigeria’s mineral resources include petroleum—the fourth largest reserves in the world—iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromate, diamonds, natural gas, coal, and limestone. Commonsense tells us that we should mine these resources quickly and efficiently. That requires huge capital, efficient organizations and a policy environment that will allow market forces to operate. None of these factors is present today in the mining sector. The laws in this behalf are outdated and the National Assembly has been able to only tinker at the margins. Our efforts to attract private investment in prospecting and mining have, by and large, failed. Meanwhile, the sector remains virtually captive in the hands of the State governments. Opposing any change in the status quo are groups that espouse — quite legitimately — the cause of the forests or the environment or the tribal population. There are also political partie
s that regard mining as a natural monopoly of the State and have ideological objections to the entry of the private sector. They garner support from the established trade unions. Behind the unions, either known or unknown to them, stand the trading or bunkering mafia. The result: actual investment is low, the mining sector grows at a tardy pace and it acts as a drag on the economy.
This government has not come out strongly to put in place a policy that streamlines all research and scientific innovations. We are threatened to remain backward. If we cannot give ourselves a priority on how to create things that can uplift our way of life, we lose out to the brains elsewhere at the expense of our own minds. That’s why, our scientists run elsewhere for greener pastures and they instead benefit those economies where they work. It could be an issues of attitude…but Nigerian scientists bury the wealth of their knowledge in their language. Only their peers understand that language. So we say, we need to train Nigeria sibling who can de-code the scientists’ language and make their research and innovation into a lay man’s language. That’s how we can push the science and technology agenda to meet the common person.
To me, this government spending can alter Nigeria’s future economic growth. Economic growth results from producing more goods and services (not from redistributing existing income), and that requires productivity growth and growth in the labour supply. If this government’ impacts on economic growth, through her policies, labour productivity and labour supply can be affected too. Since productivity growth requires increasing the amount of capital, either material or human, relative to the amount of labour employed. For instance, Nigeria government spending on education, job training, physical infrastructure, and research and development can increase long-term productivity rates, but only if this government spending does not crowd out similar private spending and only if government spends the money more effectively than businesses, nonprofit organizations, and private citizens. More specifically, this government must secure a higher long-term return on its investment than taxpayers’ (or investors lending the government) requirements with the same funds.
Nigeria is rich because of its natural resources; it is poor because it is unable to exploit those resources efficiently and profitably. India is rich because of its native entrepreneurial talent; it is poor because many policy and procedural hurdles stand in the way of the entrepreneurs. Nigeria is rich because of its young population; it is poor because it is unable to deliver quality education to all its children. Nigeria is rich because of its traditional systems of medicine and its capacity to adopt modern medicine; it is poor because of the weaknesses in the system to deliver basic medical services to rural Nigeria. Nigeria is rich because of its strengths in concept and design of programs; it is poor because of lack of accountability and reluctance to punish the wrongdoers. Nigeria is rich because its people and its businesses save and invest; it is poor because of its obsession with outlays rather than outcomes. Nigeria is rich because its people set great store by values and moral standards; it is poor because of declining standards in public life. Nigeria is rich because its people are hardworking, resilient and pragmatic; it is poor because often commonsense is devoured by ideology.