Monday 5 October 2015

Now that Nigeria is 55!

by: Bukola Adenubi

Nigeria is 25; the odds we did survive; Arise salute the nation; Come join the celebration; A people united will never fall; The sun will rise and the rain will fall; On our land vast and mighty, richly blessed by the Almighty, like bees in a hive … Nigeria is 25!” (Bongos Ikwue, 1985).

Thirty years ago, this theme song reverberated on our airwaves in celebration of 25 years of the existence of our great country, Nigeria. Indeed, “we have survived many odds”. From the Civil War between 1967 and 1970; the Boko Haram insurgency since 2002 to the prediction by the United States of America Intelligence arm in 2005 that Nigeria would cease to be a nation state in 2015, and so on … And now, Nigeria is 55!

Nigeria, a country located in West Africa, with more than 500 ethnic tribes, is a religiously diverse society, with Islam and Christianity being the most widely professed religions. Nigerians are nearly equally divided into Christians who live mostly in the southern and central parts of the country, and Muslims in the northern and southwestern regions. A minority of the population practise religions indigenous to them, such as those native to the Igbo and the Yoruba. “A people united will never fall”.

Since the 1990s, the Nigerian movie industry, also known as “Nollywood”, has emerged as a fast-growing cultural force all over the continent and is now the second largest producer of movies in the world. Also, in sports, football is extremely popular throughout the country and especially among the youths and has been a strong unifying force. The national football team, the “Super Eagles”, have made it into the World Cup on five occasions; 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 and was ranked fifth in the Federation Internationale de Football Association world rankings, the highest ranking achieved by an African football team in 1994.

Nigerian cuisines, like West African cuisines in general, are known for their richness and variety. Nigeria has also had a huge role in the development of various genres of African music. Notable and late 20th century and 21st century musicians have famously fused cultural elements of various indigenous music such as West African highlife and Afrobeat with American jazz and soul that have greatly influenced music worldwide.

Last year, Nigeria was the first country to effectively contain and eliminate the Ebola Virus Disease that ravaged three other countries in the West African sub-region, as its unique method of contact-tracing became an effective method later used by other countries, such as the United States of America, when Ebola threats were also discovered. As of this year, Nigeria is the world’s 20th largest economy, worth more than $500bn and $1tn in terms of nominal Gross Domestic Product and purchasing-power-parity respectively. Also, the debt-to-GDP ratio is only 11 per cent, which is eight per cent below the 2012 ratio. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank and has been identified as a regional power on the African continent, a middle power in international affairs and an emerging global power. It is also listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become one of the biggest economies in the world. “We work so hard to let the honey flow.” But it is certainly not Eureka!

Nigeria at 55 is bedevilled by a plethora of challenges. Despite the abundance of human, material and natural resources, basic infrastructure and social services are pitiably bad; economic facilities are weak; the educational system apart from being a poor social service, lacks quality, proper orientation and quantity; health care delivery system at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels destroys rather than saves lives; agriculture, the highest contributor to GDP at 40 per cent and the highest employer of labour at 60 per cent is underdeveloped due to neglect and poor policy administration.

The extraction, production and sale of oil and gas have been mismanaged, negatively politicised and corrupted; there is phenomenal corruption at the level of politics and governance; solid minerals which exist in abundance have been neglected or abandoned; ethics and values which are the moral guides and glue of a society have crashed to a level of negative transcendentalism, normlessness and criminality; peace, social and protective security are perennially threatened at the societal and individual levels; there is religious fanaticism and intolerance.

Due to the above, many Nigerians had immigrated to other countries such as the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, amongst others. The most noticeable exodus occurred among professional and middle-class Nigerians who, along with their children, took advantage of education and employment opportunities in the developed countries and this may have contributed to a “brain-drain” on Nigeria’s intellectual resources to the detriment of its future. Through my academic sojourn, from the culturally rich “Land of Kings” Rajasthan, India with its forts and intricately carved temples through the rapidly, developing city Doha, Qatar with its natural oil and gas wealth; multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual rainbow nation, South Africa, located at the southernmost region of Africa with the second largest economy in Africa; the world’s largest economy, the US, benefiting from an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity, the world’s foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations; Britain with its constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system of governance, I have thus seen that these countries were “made” of the people, for the people and by the people.

As we celebrate, we must also have sober reflections on the way forward. Nigeria’s prospects are enhanced by its strategic location, which will enable it to take advantage of booming demand across Africa and other parts of the developing world. Add to that a large and growing population and an entrepreneurial spirit, and the future looks bright. In order to unleash this potential and ensure that the next decade of growth brings sharp reductions in poverty, Nigeria’s leaders must pursue reforms aimed at increasing productivity, raising incomes, and delivering essential services like electricity, good road network, health care and education more efficiently. The government could pursue land title reforms aimed at opening more farmland without deforestation; expand the use of fertiliser and mechanised equipment; and support a market-driven shift to more profitable crops.

In urban areas, productivity suffers from a high degree of informal employment, sometimes, even by major corporations. This keeps too many Nigerians in low-skill, low-paying jobs and deprives the economy of the dynamism that competitive small and medium size enterprises create. The spate of internet start-ups that have emerged in Nigeria demonstrates that the skills are there, and tapping Nigeria’s Diaspora can augment that talent pool. To make it easier to do business in Nigeria, the government also will need to streamline processes for registering and running a legal business and, together with aid agencies and the private sector, increase investment in infrastructure. It will also need to intensify its fight against endemic corruption, which represents a tax on all businesses. Finally, to promote inclusive growth – essential to relieving human suffering and mitigating social and political tensions – Nigeria must improve public service delivery dramatically.

In this new dispensation in Nigeria, when weighed against existing realities, our President and any other human for that matter stand little or no chance of giving Nigerians the country of our dreams, in just four years. Nigeria is ours and only Nigerians can build and celebrate the country, if we all play our parts and do things right. Arise; salute our nation, Nigeria at 55!

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