NIGERIA, FROM THE GIANT OF AFRICA TO A BAD EXAMPLE FOR AFRICA
July 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
All over the world, countries have a way of describing their selves with short phrases and aphorisms to prove their greatness and strength, the United states of America proudly calls herself, God’s own city, man’s own paradise. Israel is land of milk and honey, Australia calls herself the lucky country. Ireland says she is land of saints, Japan is the land of the rising sun, South Africa is the rainbow nation, the funniest and sweetest one is what Switzerland calls herself, land of chocolates and cuckoo clock.
Nigeria says she is the giant of Africa because of her endowment with abundant natural resources and rich manpower. Nigeria was created in 1914 started a journey as an independent country on 1st October, 1960 when the British colonialists handed over power to an indigenous government. Nigeria was left with some home grown enemies, among which are tribalism, regionalism, bigotry and political ineptitude.
Gen Yakubu Gowon, the former military head of state was so eager to prove to the world that Nigeria is the giant of Africa, he told an international congregation that the problem of Nigeria was not money, but how to spend it and what to do with it. That was believed by many to be the beginning of an era of decadence and decline, and it continues to this day. Some also believe that statement is the genesis of the cosy relationship between Nigerian leaders and some foreign powers.
Gowon was overthrown in a military coup in 1975. Regimes were changed, both through the ballot and through the power of guns and bullets. From military regimes that were not accountable and transparent to unhealthy democracies. Every regime that came on board would roll out programs and policies aimed at fighting corruption and economic recovery. Tragically, those regimes only succeeded in pouring out old wines in new bottles as the standard of living continues to drop in spite of the huge revenues generated from the sale of crude oil.
It is tempting to look back at the achievements made and the pace Nigeria was moving at during the colonial times without petrodollars in areas of industrialisation, education, housing,and infrastructure and draw comparisons to what Nigeria has achieved five decades after independence.
Most Nigerians need not to be reminded of the structures in the first generation Universities, and the houses built in the 40s and 50s by the colonial masters. The Textile industries and factories in Kakuri, Kaduna and bompai in Kano, and other edifices commissioned in the colonial days. The architecture, quality and standard of those structures are probative of the level of seriousness and commitment of the colonial masters and past leaders. Lugard Hall in Kaduna, Gaskiya Publishing house in Zaria are among the many structures erected in the past.
Corruption is Nigeria’s number one enemy, it has defied all practical solutions. Fighting corruption is unwinnable because it rides on the back of political nepotism and sometimes on the back of ethnicity, regionalism and religious bigotry. Corruption has its thumbprints all over government institutions. Railway transport system is one of the victims of corruption.
The railway system is a veritable and reliable means of transportation. Nigeria was the first country to have a railway system in Africa. It was the most reliable and efficient means of transportation in the 1920s up to 1970s. it was constructed by the British in 1901 in Lagos, it reached Zaria in 1911 and Jos in 1927. The rail lines run down from nguru in yobe state to Lagos and from kaura namoda in Zamfara state down to calabar, from malamadori in Jigawa state down to Kano and from Kano down to Zaria. The railway system, to a large extent aided cultural integration, industrialisation and construction. People could easily move to-and-fro, between the north and the south. Raw materials mostly cotton, groundnut, and cocoa were loaded in a train and transported to the factories where they would be transformed to finished products. Heavy equipments and machines for construction were transported from the sea ports to the hinterland via railways. Cities like Zaria, my hometown, and some places like the southern part of Kaduna city, and Kafanchan, were enterprising in the 1920s and 1950s.
The railway hub in Zaria now popularly called PZ was a destination and a depot for onward delivery of commodities to the south and vice versa, that made Zaria an enterprising city and attractive to traders and merchants. Railway provided Nigerians with job opportunities including the father of the present Vice President. Sadly, railway transport system in Nigeria is now history, it can only be described in past tense. The money spent on railways has not been justified. Maybe what justifies it is the increasing number of trucks and trailers on our high ways.The railway system died quietly without anyone asking why and no one made any noise like it was done when the fuel subsidy on PMS was removed.
Absence of railway transport system has left Nigerians with no option than the deplorable high ways that are mostly dominated by careless and senseless truck drivers whose egos are so huge, they sometimes think they are laws onto themselves, they threaten to hold down the economy of the entire nation by going on a nation wide strike whenever government takes a decision that is not in their best interest.The billions of naira spent on the maintenance and expansion of highways has only increased the risk of dying more than it has increased comfort and safety in driving.
Institutions of learning are collapsing, from primary education to tertiary. Government has not done enough in providing basic education, especially in far north. The number of school-age Nigerians that are out of school is increasing by the day as leaders continue to play the game of self-deception by launching programs and pet projects that only appear on dailies and tellies. Most of these programs and projects are initiated by politicians ostensibly to garner support from the general public mostly during election period. A program or a project initiated by a politician only has the same expiry date with the politician that initiates it. Adequate funding and commitment are required by govrnment at all levels to keep school-age kids off the streets not pet projects.
Citadels of learning are not what they used to be especially the first generation universities. Ahmadu Bello University, my alma mata, was once a world class university with world class structures and faculties producing world class graduates. It is now a shadow of what it used to be. The structures are weak and the apparatus of learning are mostly obsolete. The story is the same for other tertiary institutions.
It seems the spate of bombings and violence Will be final nail on the coffin of Nigerian Universities. Bayero university in Kano recently witnessed a twin-bomb explosion in its new site campus, shivers were sent down the spines of parents and students. University of maiduguri had to suspend academic activities in June 2011 due to the rising tides of violence and bomb blasts. Institutions of learning are now are targets of bomb attacks. People of means will now add violence and bomb blasts on the long list of reasons why their children will study abroad. Those who can not afford studying abroad will be left with no option than to study in horror and terror.
More troubling and frightening in Nigeria today is the widening gap between the ruling class and the followers, the ruling class continues to grow rich and isolated from the realities of the Nigerian state by living in luxury in cities and capitals while more Nigerians continue to wallow in poverty in rural areas.The depleting facilities and absence of basic amenities in the rural areas are feeding the problem of violence, congestion and crimes with high rates of recidivism in urban cities. Unless government provides job opportunities and enabling environment for business to thrive in rural areas, violence and chaos will continue to be the order of the day.
The decaying economy is attributed to the absence of electricity to power the industries that will propel economic growth. Government has spent billion of dollars and has been setting unachievable deadlines and targets. A deadline was set by former minister of power, Chief Bola Ige in 1999, he promised Nigerians uninterrupted power by December 1999. Ten years later, Umaru Musa Yaradua came with his 7 point agenda and promised Nigerians 6 thousand mega watts by December 2009, the situation still remains unchanged. Billions of dollars have gone down the drain in the name generating electricity. The only result government could produce was a live coverage of probes and hearings from the chambers of the National Assembly.
Some argued that economic survival of some Asian countries is tied to Nigeria’s demand for generators. Rumour has it that those generators are imported by companies owned by some people within the corridors of power.
Many analysts see a direct link between corruption, economic retardation and petrodollars. Nigeria abandoned other areas of income generation upon discovery of oil, and focused a hundred and one percent on crude oil. That compounded the problem by fanning the flames of ethnicity and regionalism, it has made the indigence of the oil rich delta see other citizens from other parts of the country as parasites and second class.
Failure of past governments to explore and harness the abundant natural resources in other parts of the country is what brought about the idea that other sections of the country are benefiting from crude oil without making any contribution to revenue generation and have equal participation in deciding what to do with the revenue generated. Truth is, there is no region in Nigeria that is poor, every region from up north to down south are endowed with abundant natural resources and manpower that are highly sellable in the global market.
The key to economic recovery is manufacturing and diversification. The heavy reliance on oil alone has made matters worse. The refineries and other agencies in the oil and gas sector cannot employ the millions of jobless graduate roaming the streets seeking for jobs. Government needs to invest and pay attention to areas like textile manufacturing, agriculture, mining and construction. Diversifying and manufacturing will make the economy grow.Nigeria will be delisted as a consumer nation. Jobs will be created and exports will be made thereby increasing revenue generation and per capita income.
Its saddening that Nigeria, the once prosperous nation filled with hope and prosperity can no longer boast as the giant of Africa. THE ECONOMIST OF LONDON recently termed Rwanda, a country that was fractured by civil war as the Singapore of Africa, it also described Nigeria as a country where the large population is not an asset in terms oh human capital. At the same time South-Africa is struggling to be in the company of the BRIC states, the world emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South-Africa).
Nigeria is not the giant of Africa anymore, it is now a text book example of how not to run a country. T.Y Danjuma, a rich man, a politician and a retired General recently drew parallel lines between Nigeria and Somalia, a country torn apart by civil war. He cautioned leaders especially the northern governors to sit up and live up to their responsibilities before everyone gets consumed by violence.
Nigeria has been reduced to a country people compare with Somalia, she is no longer the country where her leader would stand in pride as the leader of the biggest black nation and tell the world money is not the problem but how to spend. She is now in the leagues of not even Rwanda, but Somalia.
The up coming generation are in peril. Unless a miracle happens they may find their selves in Somalia.