The latest edition of the World Happiness Report (WHR) released recently by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, sponsored by the United Nations to mark the International Day of Happiness on March 20, 2023, ranked Nigeria as the 95th happiest country in the world. A total of 155 countries were ranked on the strength of their happiness status.

The report assigned a happiness score on a scale of zero to 10, based on an average over a 3-year period. Nigeria scored 4.981 points. While Finland is ranked top as the Happiest country in the World for the sixth consecutive year, Mauritius tops African countries with 5.902 points, followed by Algeria (5.329), South Africa (5.275), Congo Brazzaville (5.267), Guinea (5.072), Cote d’Ivoire (5.053), and Gabon (5.035).

The report was based on people’s assessment of their happiness, as well as economic and social data, measured by life evaluation and emotions, and how they evolved in crisis situations. Countries were also ranked based on their average life evaluation over the three preceding years from 2020 to 2022. The World Happiness Report is also based on other critical factors such as life expectancy, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, social support in times of trouble, low corruption, and high social trust, generosity in a community where people look and care for one another and freedom to make key life decisions. This year’s ranking was an improvement for Nigeria compared to the last one in 2022 when it was ranked 118th, two spots lower than its position in 2021, indicating the country’s declining perception on key indicators. Also, last year, Nigeria ranked below 20 African countries, and no African country was in the top 50 spot.

However, based on the criteria used for the latest report, the 95th spot on the global ranking is a slide in fortune. It is sad that Nigeria has dropped in critical indices of socioeconomic development, which the World Happiness Report ranking is just one of them. In 2003, the World Value Survey reported that the “World’s Happiest People lived in Nigeria.” Nigeria beat more than 65 countries in that survey. Also, in 2012, the US-based Gallup Poll reported that 88 per cent of Nigerians was optimistic about their future and that of their country. Not anymore.

No doubt, the latest report is a true reflection of the situation in the country. Nigerians cannot be happy when they are grappling with excruciating economic hardship and other problems. Life expectancy in Nigeria in 2022 was 55.44 years and 55 .12 years in 2021. Nevertheless, ours is lower than life expectancy in South Africa with 65.25 years, and even neighbouring Niger Republic with 61 years life expectancy. According to Macro trends, Nigeria’s GDP per capita currently stands at $2.006, with an annual growth rate of -0.43 per cent.  A recent survey by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Trading Economics global macro models and Analysts, Nigeria’s GDP growth and rising national debt are not good for sustainable growth.

According to the Transparency International (TI), corruption in Nigeria is festering, with the country ranked 150th among 180 countries in the global corruption index. TI says giving and receiving bribes in high places, as well as other fraudulent practices impact negatively on the state of citizens’ happiness.  Beyond this, other factors that mirror the low level of happiness in Nigeria include high levels of poverty, unemployment, low disposal income, rising cost of living, erratic power supply, poor leadership and governance, among others.

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For instance, 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor. Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. The government’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years has been a mirage. Instead, at least six million Nigerians fall into the poverty hole each year. Many Nigerians don’t know where their next meal will come from. Besides, unemployment is soaring as high as 37 per cent, especially among the youths, who constitute a large number of the population, according to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). Inflation rate is rising, currently at 21.9 per cent, the highest in over 18 years. The disposal income of an average Nigerian is less than $1 per day. The crime rate is high. Nigeria’s misery index, which is a combination of inflation and unemployment, now stands at 73 per cent, indicating an increase of 12 points.  Social discontent and disillusionment pervade the country. Undoubtedly, these factors undermine happiness.

In all, it is not the acquisition of material wealth that guarantees happiness. Happiness is a holistic view of the wellbeing of a society, among others. Therefore, we advise the government to take a critical look at the factors that undermine happiness in the country and tackle them head-on so that Nigeria’s ranking will improve in the next edition of the report. Good governance and leadership are critical factors to ensuring a happier and healthier people.

In spite of our abundant human and natural resources, it is sad that Nigeria is at the bottom rung of most development indices. We must overhaul our leadership recruitment process so that must only the most qualified are elected into leadership positions. Above all, let the government enhance the security and welfare of the people.