I have tied the performance of our democracy to the economy because the two complement each other and determine the overall progress of any nation. Poverty has posed one of the fiercest problems facing developing countries of the world. Unfortunately, Nigeria despite its huge oil deposits and natural endowments is still categorised as a developing nation.
Some of the countries grouped with Nigeria in this category include India, Seychelles, Mauritius, Angola, etc. this appellation has haunted Nigeria like a plague. What on earth would make Nigeria remain under this category when it has everything to make it compete at the global theatre? Even India has no reason to be categorised as a developing nation going by the huge success it has recorded in technological advancement and agriculture.
I was watching a programme on CNN early this week, which centred on the progress the country has made in technology and internet, and marvelled how they were able to manage their diversities and endowments to achieve global recognition. This has left me very disconsolate, wondering why we had allowed many opportunities to be great elude us.
According to the United Nations backed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) it was expected that poverty in Africa would be halved by the year 2015. Now 2015 had come and gone, and we are still where we were when the proposal was first made some time in 2012. Incidentally, by early 2014, there were clear indications that Nigeria might not be able to attain this global set goal at the stipulated time, and this portended great danger for Nigeria.
The real danger in our inability to achieve this target lays in the fact that it would have grave repercussions on our fledgling democracy.
What I am saying in essence is that strong economy and tranquil political environment promote sustainable democratic system. Almost all the poor countries of the world are engulfed in one conflict or another. India, the largest democracy in the world, despite its huge technological impact globally, is still enmeshed in constant political conflict and ethnic insurrection. This is why the Casmir region has remained a largely volatile zone. The consequence of this development is that India has remained in the woods and lacked the muscle to grow into a global economic octopus.
It will not amount to overstatement if I should refer to India as the biggest discovery in the area of computer engineering and appreciation. India and China are two countries that have posed a huge threat to the U.S. economy, because of the rapid growth in the GDPs and Per Capita Income.
Other Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan, have shot into global prominence by their creativity and survivalist tendencies. Japan, from time, has excelled in electronics and electrical, assuming a recognisable place in global economy. The Asian economy has grown with such rapidity never ever experienced on the face of the earth. It has challenged the United States and Europe to go back to the drawing table.
Large quantities of goods that are imported into the United States come from Asia, especially China. This is so because labour in Asia is cheaper and easily accessible. The cost of production of goods and services in the United States are quite exorbitant, making many companies turn to Asia for respite. The way things are going, it may come to a time when the Asian economy will dwarf the United States’ and Europe’s. The recent global financial instability is a pointer to what is to come.
East Timor is a small country but with rich resources enough to draw global attention. The influence of China on the small island nation is quite visible. From the report I read some time ago, East Timor is gradually growing into a very influential country because of its rich natural resources. Even though a sizeable population of its people are poor there are great prospects that all that will soon change as their leaders are working round the clock to use what they have to get what they lack.
What about Brazil? With a population of 48 million people more than Nigeria’s population of 140 Brazil has made remarkable impact on the global economy. Today, Brazil produces rich exportable agricultural crops such as oranges, bananas, grapes, rice, etc. The amazing thing about Brazil is that it has managed to sustain its large population and maintained a relatively stable economic and political environment at the same time. On the whole, Brazil is a case study in resilience and sturdiness.
Brazil may be facing a minor political logjam with the temporal exit of its President; however there are prospects that it will grow out of the problem very soon. Already the country is gearing up to play host to the next Olympics in spite of the threat of the Zika virus. There is no doubt that the economy of Brazil will receive a huge boost after the global sports tournament.
Seychelles, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, and even Angola have already shown capacity of meeting the UN MDGs within the stipulated time. Looking at these countries holistically none can compete with Nigeria in terms of population and resources. Except Angola that has rich oil reserves the other countries are like fries when compared with Nigeria. But how they have been able to attain the global heights they have achieved so far remains a puzzle.
From available records these countries have demonstrated unusual knack for excellence despite their relatively low population and limited natural resources. However, it can be said that the ability of the countries to get to where they are at present can be attributed to their uncommon commitment to national vision and democratic ethos. The patriotism and zeal to advance have combined to elevate them economically and politically.
According to the World Bank, these four countries have a better and more agreeable environment to do business than any other part of Africa. Is this not surprising?
South Africa is a well-known case of indomitability and ruggedness. Despite a long period of apartheid rule South Africa has grown into a giant in Africa, particularly in technology. That the country was selected to play host to the 2010 World Cup was an indicator. Another puzzling fact is the swiftness with which it fixed the required infrastructure for the global football extravaganza.
In any case, South Africa demonstrated to the world an unusual ability to be a global leader by the example it set some years ago with the resignation of Thabo Mbeki as their president. What Mbeki did has continued to challenge leaders in Africa to divest selfish, parochial interests from the common good. It has set a very high standard which our leaders, especially those in the West African sub-region, must copy unrelentingly.
North African countries, especially Egypt, have shot themselves into global limelight with their disciplined, stable and focused leadership. There was a time countries in the area, such as Tunisia and Algeria, were threatened by cacophonous political turmoil precipitated by ethnic cleavages and extremist inclinations of some persons. But today there is relative peace in North Africa. Libya is another country that had demonstrated a strong will to rewrite its chequered history until the death of Muammar Gadaffi. Before his death the country had transformed remarkably from a pariah state into a highly sought-after friend by the United States and its close allies. Apart from restoring diplomatic relations with Libya the U.S. has shown a deep commitment to invest hugely in its economy. It had been anticipated that Libya would outgrow United Arab Emirate and Kuwait in beauty and elegance in infrastructural development.
Those were the expectations before the U.S. swooped on the country and killed Gadaffi. Today, Libya is completely embroiled in internecine wars with ISIS and other terror groups exacerbating the situation.
It is amazing that relatively unknown countries in the West-African sub-Region such as Ghana and Burkina Faso are doing very well, while Nigeria is barely surviving. Liberia, which is recovering steadily from long years of ethnic insurgency, is making dogged efforts to reinvent itself in global economy. Interestingly, several rich companies are migrating to Liberia to invest in their steel industry, banking and manufacturing. It will not be long before Liberia regains its place of pride in Africa.
Ghana is worthy of special mention here because some 31 years ago many of its citizens took refuge in Nigeria as a result of the poor conditions of life in that country at the time. How Ghana got to that abysmal level remains a puzzle. I remember when Ghana ranked as the world’s largest producer of cocoa. How it also lost this strategic position is what their economic planners should try to unravel.
But I am impressed with the way Ghana recovered and within a very short time surpassed all expectations. Today, many Nigerians and Nigerian companies are falling over one another to do business in that tiny country. Another area of interest to Nigeria is Ghana’s educational sector. Ghana boasts of reputable universities and colleges that are globally recognized. Again, the rate of infrastructural development in the country is quite impressive, and this makes life better and attractive to foreign investors.
I am compelled to reach the sad and unfortunate conclusion that Nigeria is not doing enough to join the league of developed countries and remove the derogatory toga of a poor nation it wears at the moment. We have everything to achieve this goal. Probably what we lack is the will to do so. This is why we, as a people, must summon courage and take our destiny into our hands.
There is no doubt that the United Kingdom that colonised Nigeria is perturbed by the turn of events in its once advancing colony.
Why has life turned a nightmare for many Nigerians, especially the poor and disadvantaged, in spite of the huge financial resources that spew from oil daily, not minding the recent bombings in the Niger Delta? The 2008 National Budget was predicated on less than 50 dollars per barrel, but today oil sells at below US$50. What did we do with the proceeds from oil when the price was between 100 and 150 dollars a barrel? Instead of getting richer Nigerians revelled in poverty and neglect.
The level of poverty in Nigeria is amazing. Many citizens feed from the dustbins. Only a few of us can feed and clothe well. Where will Nigeria be when the present hullabaloo has died down? What will remain of the economy, which is already in distress?
I am worried that the cost of transportation and prices of staple food have skyrocketed. Take for instance, a bag of rice. It sells for as much as N20,000 as opposed to the less than N10,000 many paid for it less than three months ago. From where then will help come?
There is no way we can attain our national goals with this kind of orientation and attitude to governance. President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic team must do something extraordinary to arrest the current drift before anarchy sets in.
I wish to state unequivocally that our leaders owe us a duty to govern with the fear of God and unequalled altruism. There is no way we can make progress as a nation without killing the morbid acquisitive tendencies in us. It is pitiable that the major reason many of our people seek political offices is to see what they can grab. Only a negligible percentage seeks political offices for the good of the majority. Too bad!
Judged side by side with its contemporaries Nigeria is lagging behind in many areas of development. May be another lesson for our leaders?
Something in me tells me that unless something drastic is done to arrest the drift Nigeria will one day disappear from the face of this earth. I do not want to sound alarmist. As far as I am concerned, I am only stating a fact which stares all of us in the face. What reason do we have to remain a poor nation when countries that shared this inglorious appellation with Nigeria some 43 years ago have grown into richly industrialized and prosperous nations? From all indications these countries attained greatness through sheer hard work, resilience and visionary leadership.
No matter what anybody may say Nigeria has no justification to be where it is at present on the global map.
The problem with Nigeria is that we have not had a sustainable democratic polity. Since independence, it has been one military coup after another with little to show for it. The lack of true and committed leadership has robbed Nigeria of its deserved advancement and growth in every facet of life.
I pray that very soon Nigeria will get out of the woods and assume its rightful place in the comity of nations.