“Your leaders have no respect for their people.They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people.They take people’s resources and turn them into personal wealth.There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable.”
- Nelson Mandela
The statistics are simply scary. One is talking about the inexcusable social inequality and injustice in Nigeria. These are characterised by the pervasive poverty level, the irredeemably corrupt, conscienceless, kleptomaniac ruling elite; blindly driven by the greed for personal gains and of course, the grinding wheels of the acquiescent and ignorant led majority.
Looked at from the Human Development Index, which is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in the three basic dimensions of human development, there is nothing to write home about. The three key areas of long-term healthy life, access to knowledge and decent standard of living paint a parlous picture of pure deprivation of the long-suffering masses. That is, by their so-called leaders, and painfully too, under a democratic dispensation.
For instance, Nigeria’s HDI for 2014 stood at 0.514, putting the country amongst the lowest global rankings of those in the low developing category. In fact, Nigeria placed 152 out of the 188 countries and territories so assessed. And it was the only oil-producing country languishing in that shameful socio-economic stratum. Also, according to the 2015 HD Report Work for Human Development for 188 countries assessed by the United Nations, life expectancy index was 0.44, education index was 0.59 while the GDP index and HDI value were placed at 0.36 and0.466 respectively.
Furthermore, between 2005 and 2014 Nigeria’s HDI value rose from 0.467 to 0.514(10.1 per cent), an average of 1.07 per cent. When the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0.320, a loss of 37.8 per cent due to inequality in the distribution of HDI dimension indices. Sadly, Nigeria’s sordid social inequality was comparable to that of Ethiopia and Congo at 29.4 per cent and 36.2 per cent respectively.
Do not be confounded by these figures. What all these translate to is that there is HUNGER IN THE LAND. Incidentally, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo not too long ago admitted that about 110 million Nigerians were still living below poverty line despite the policies of past governments to improve their welfare. His reason was that the policies were wrongly formulated and as a result did not have any direct impact on the people. Said he: “When you look at the economic and social policies, and you look at the level of illiteracy in parts of the country, some are extremely bad and some with cases of about 80 per cent or 90 per cent of children out of school, and other cases of unimaginable decayed infrastructure.” According to him, “governments have not been accountable to the people, otherwise policies should have roots in the real conditions of the people.”
He aired his view during a courtesy visit by members of the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, at the State House, Abuja. But Nigerians want their leaders to walk the talk.
Between May and July, 2016 inflation rate galloped from 13.7 per cent to 15.6 per cent. Compared to that of South Africa of 6.3 per cent, Republic of Niger of 2.3 per cent, Zimbabwe of -1 per cent and Mali of -0.4 per cent, there is nothing to cheer about. And all that is because the dynamics of consumables and essential needs such as food, kerosene, transport, housing and utilities. The reason is the close correlation which exists between fuel hike and inflation. Nigerians may have endured it all in their characteristic legendary resilience but the sudden hike in fuel price from about N97 to N145 per litre has had deleterious effects on the quality of life of the average Nigerian. As it happened in Venezuela, so it did in Nigeria.
One had expected that the political leadership of the current administration would concentrate much more energy on re-jigging the economy coming at a time of the free fall of oil prices in the international market. We had admonished Mr. President back in 2015 to assemble a team of top technocrats and seasoned economists, who know their onions, irrespective of their political or religious persuasions and be ready to listen to them. But that was never done.
As usual, the tightening of monetary policies has led to devaluation of the naira. Since we do not produce or export much of homegrown products, importers would spend more naira to the dollar. With insurgency in the North-East, which has led to food shortages in addition to hike in the price of farm produce, a recycling of economic policies will not get us out of the wood. Our policymakers should think out of the box. We need foreign exchange for industrialisation. We should stop transferring our economic fortunes to foreign hands. We need to revisit the policy of liberalisation and the social benefits of privatisation.
And of greater significance is the need to critically address the obscenely high cost of accessing political power as well as running the machinery of government. The governors and the legislators should come to terms with the harsh economic realities and tread the path of frugality as President Muhammadu Buhari has amply demonstrated so as to become true servant leaders as the late President Umaru Yar’Ardua advocated. With another steamy soap opera of the alleged budget padding fiasco playing itself out at the House of Representatives, while the Sarakigate is still rolling, it is obvious, as one has identified back in 2001, that here in Nigeria, corruption has many colours. It does not belong to any political party, ethnic group or religious belief.
Our political leaders should therefore, reflect on the wise counsel of the Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum, New York (June, 2010) :
“While other nations are faced/with the challenges of the 21st Century/, we are bogged down by the avarice of the elite./Every time we believe we have seen/the worst from our country,/the shameless, opportunistic power grabbers /take us back to a new low.”
- Ayo Oyoze Baje is a public affairs analyst and author based in Lagos