Nigeria: The Sleeping Giant of Africa

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The major sectors in Nigeria are being hijacked by the individualistic political elite who dictate the pace of the game to the detriment of their “beloved citizens”. The roller coaster in which Nigeria has found itself on calls for a total surgical examination in order to stabilize the economy and the course of our nation.

However, a nation born with a “golden spoon” needs not to wallow under the shadow of abject poverty. But such is the case of Nigeria, the fight against corruption by the Nigerian government speaks little of her fight against backroom enrichment. Some writers say that corruption is endemic in all governments, and that it is not peculiar to any continent, region or ethnic group. As the Panama Papers leak proved corruption cuts across faiths, religious denominations and political systems and affects both young and old, man and woman alike.

Corruption is found in democratic and dictatorial politics; feudal, capitalist and socialist economies. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures are equally bedeviled by corruption. And corrupt practices did not begin today; the history is as old as the world.

But are the roads in the country of Nigeria better than 25 or 30 years ago? Are we having better power supply today than what we used to have in those good old days? Are there more functional industries now than then? Is our water supply now better than years back? The railway system and other transportation methods, have they really been improving? The educational sector, is it better today?

It is doubtful if the answers to the questions above are positive. Recently, foreign media reporting on the intended fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria, disclosed that Nigerians have really not benefited from their oil wealth.

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Former Venezuelan Ambassador to Nigeria Enrique Arrundell. Image from Foreign Ministry page on Flickr.

Former Venezuelan Ambassador to Nigeria, Enrique Fernando Arrundell once said that: “In Venezuela, since 1999, we’ve never had a rise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with N12, 000 here (Nigeria), in Venezuela I’ll pay N400″.

“What is happening is simple. Our president decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of the foreigners. You have to have your own country.” – Former Venezuelan Ambassador to Nigeria

He continues: “The oil is your country. Sorry I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations on the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of the Venezuelans. It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 percent of the income goes to social programs. That’s why we have 22,000 medical doctors assisting the people in the community. The people don’t go to the hospital; doctors go to their houses. This is because the money is handled by the Venezuelans”.

Although, the country of Venezuela has been embattled with human rights violations, and Arrundell was linked to a bizarre $100 million dollar 2006 case involving Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, a 2-person law firm in Mississippi, a white-haired Caribbean con man and imaginary tankers full of fuel. The message is still clear:

Why has Nigeria not been able to get it right?, with more technical manpower than Venezuela, with over 150 million people, and very intellectual people all around. If you are not handling your resources, how are you going to handle the country? Nigeria is the only oil producing nation where the citizens suffer beyond description.

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 Health vs Wealth

In Nigeria, too many things have gone wrong in which the state of our health sector is another heartbreaking aspect of it. “Health they say is wealth” but then, how many Nigerians can boast of balanced healthy conditions when two-thirds suffer from depression.

According to the State of the World Children report released by UNICEF in 2010, about 778 newborn babies die daily in Nigeria. 1 woman dies every 10 minutes from pregnancy complications and (or) childbirth; and Nigeria is ranked as the second highest contributor to the number of maternal deaths worldwide, second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo. And if you think about all the political crises, wars and economic distress the DRC has faced over the past ten years, would you not wonder why it is Nigeria that is second to the DRC?

The average Nigerian lives on less than 2 USD daily. About 80 percent of the population lives on subsistence farming, yet these subsistence farmers have not, and cannot claim ownership of farmlands due to the land tenure systems and land laws in Nigeria. The large percentage of these farmers still live in rural areas devoid of basic amenities like water, roads, electricity and adequate shelter.

Is this how to be the “Giant of Africa”? This state of decay can be traced to one source – corruption and bad policy administration in Nigeria.

In addition, the level at which the average Nigerian’s standard of living keeps declining is an indication of a porous administration whose only interest has been purely on acquisition of wealth while her people wander haplessly in search of succor in a strange man’s land.

The United Nations Development Program’s latest report on human development places Nigeria on the lower rung of the living standards scale and demands urgent scrutiny and action by policymakers.

The global agency’s Human Development Report 2011 reveals that the standard of living in the country increased only marginally between 1990 and 2007, the year on which the report is based. The report indicates that the number of poor Nigerians has doubled over the last 30 years. In this, it corroborates a recent World Bank Assessment stating that 70 percent of Nigerians are poor in a country where economic growth has in real terms failed to reduce poverty on account of the government’s refusal to diversify the economy, rising unemployment and failing or non-existent infrastructure.

Nigeria has the potential to be a great nation, endowed with endless natural and mineral resources to be used for the upkeep of her people. The question now is: is the Nigerian government ready to face facts, embolden its citizens, and awake the sleeping giant?