West and North Africa

Which Way Nigeria!

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Courtesy of the schoolgirls’ kidnapping in Chibok, northern Nigeria, an uneasy peace is settling in Nigeria or so it seems; since the pronouncement by countries including the U.S., U.K., France and Israel to offering help in the form of intelligence and reconnaissance to the Nigerian authorities for hunting the militant group responsible for the kidnappings.

While the continued violence may scare off fresh prospects, most long-term prospects understand that while recent acts of violence in the country’s poor northern region are awful, it’s not new, and might not affect the so called (industry-rich south).  A simple explanation might lie at Nigeria's geography; the northern region has seen ever-increasing poverty and unemployment, a far different economic environment than the industry-rich south. Or, maybe we should look more at statistics.

The National Bureau of Statistics -NBS declared that poverty has risen in Nigeria, with over a 100 million people living on less than a $1 (£0.63) a day, despite economic growth, statistics have shown. Nearly 67% of Nigerians are living in "absolute poverty" Still on the report, in the north of the country poverty rates were recorded at 77.7%, compared to the south at 59.1% and Nigerians consider themselves to be getting poorer. With the margin one can deduct that relative poverty was most apparent in the north of the country than the south and that despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the UN. The poverty in the north is in stark contrast to the more developed southern states due to rampant economic activities hosted in the south. But let’s be honest, there are no grey lines around poverty in Africa. Poverty is poverty.

“Even if one understands the Nigerian system (which is highly unlikely), the outcomes still cannot be predicted. To be honest it’s all running along a logical paradox of interactive complexities,” therefore we must perceive the Nigerian system as accidents waiting to happen…theoretical speaking!

Let us take the opportunity to look at some other corroborating factors like institutional corruption or to put it mildly gross mismanagement of financial and human resources.

I recalled in 2000 participating in a Felix Meritis foundation ("Happy through Merit") EU lecture conference on 'Transparency and Governance' held in Maastricht, I jolted into a Transparency International document on Nigeria explaining that, “Corruption in Nigeria is pervasive and corrosive problem which over time has been perceived as capable of threatening the very existence of the nation' . By then I thought this was probably a document been positioned in line for a new theory, I just shrugged it off.

But today this is fast becoming a social reality in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s anguish exhibits in diverse ways. From a badly run economy that has impoverished the common people to failed infrastructure, non-existent health sector, mal-functioning education system, massive unemployment, unprecedented corruption and wretchedness to crime, sadly majority of Nigerians now live in sorrow.

Today, Political corruption (as it is termed in the Nigerian context) is actually threatening the very existence of the nation. Institutional corruption at different magnitudes has made the various governments in Nigeria unable and incapable of addressing the nation’s problems, particularly the provision of the basic needs of the citizens. This is driving Nigerian people towards fighting back through the only way they know best which is violence. The unmet human needs made the masses react aggressively, by partaking in violent conflict and committing conventional and unconventional crimes, particularly violent crime, in the quest to satisfying their basic needs in the society.

Wasted  Wealth…..

International NGO Transparency International claims Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and since independence in 1960, billions of dollars of Nigeria’s oil revenue have been drained off from state and government reserves into Swiss bank accounts of the country’s rulers.

In Nigeria oil rights are held by the government, and getting them means having a personal relationship with the right ministers and knowing how to grease their palms. Oil companies have relied on these tactics to get cheap Oil. Oil multinationals make eye watering profits which they use to lobby their individual governments to rubber stamp oppressive Nigerian regimes and encourage Nigerian state corruption exorbitantly.

Still with political corruption, in the last few years, Nigerian Lawmakers voted for themselves high income and remuneration, the highest amount of money ever received at any legislature in the whole world. So, we have a senator earning about 1.7 million dollars a year.  When by contrast, their American counterpart is earning just over two hundred thousand dollars a year. With so much earnings going to law makers, in a society where 67% of the population live on less than a $1 (£0.63) a day, this is as worse as it gets.

Apart from financial wastefulness, there are the colossal wastes of human resources. In Nigeria the greatest challenge for attaining good quality education that is capable of bringing about sustainable development is inadequate funding by federal, state and local governments. One reason for these inadequacies is the upsurge of private colleges and universities owned by politicians who have no knowledge of education management. These Politicians divert moneys allocated to public education into funding personal and private owned colleges and universities. As stupid as this may look, the irony is that these Politicians send their children abroad to the EU and US for better education.

Another problem of Education in Nigerian schools today is the politicization of Education; which has seriously affected the development of education. Today many educational institutions are opened and run in many states on political ground or other flimsy reasons such as personal self-esteem. Private or public, this loss of control is a great barrier for effective educational development at all levels and has created an unstable condition of indiscipline of teaching staff and students which is fast manifesting in examination malpractices, secret cult menace and corruption within Polytechnics and Universities etc.

With no learning materials (readers and ICT) and non-functional libraries, crises in Nigerian schools, colleges and universities today has led to complete “brain-drain”, students of today are no longer interested in academic excellence but when and how to graduate from colleges and universities.       

With so many examples of gross mismanagement Nigerians are saying enough is enough…in their own way …. In the absence of good governance, there can be no accountability. Good governance plays a critical role in ensuring collaborative, peaceful, coexistence and progressive process of democratic culture and socialization. It also attracts investment to a country, improving productivity and competitiveness, promoting political stability and enhances rapid socio-economic development.

Big Brother Interventions……

According to a Yale report, the current financial crisis is probably the worst the world has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. American and EU Hedge Fund businesses has exposed the world to what is now known as the subprime mortgage crisis, reintroducing the world to an era of bank failures,  credit crunch, private defaults and massive layoffs. In the new, globalized world of closely interdependent economies, the crisis affected almost every part of the world including probably the Nigerian Wealthiest and corrupt politicians.

Over the past few years, Economists and central bankers are still struggling to find ways and means out of the financial crisis. The timing of the rescue is uncertain, and the certainty of any effective strategy remains in question. One certainty for this crisis: there are no localized solutions for a problem that extends throughout the world. Or so it seemed. Strangely there some thoughts that for some strange reason some countries’ might see intervening in Nigeria’s internal affairs (security wise) as a possible long term solution? The uncomfortable truth is that; in these times of world hunger, Nigerian wastefulness is receiving extensive coverage in the international media showing missing Billions of Dollars while the EU and US are ailing in economic problems.

Let us pause for a moment and imagine the briefings from the US, UK and France intelligence and reconnaissance crew heading for a military mission in Nigeria might sound like!

‘Ladies and gentlemen, our first order of business in Nigeria is to find out where the Oil-wells are located.

It’s no secret that for long Nigeria has been in the Western radar as the new economic battlefield for GRABS!!!!!!

Today’s happening is the results to Politicians undermining of socio-economic development in Nigeria. The current Commander should not be blamed for the security and socio-economic challenges the country is experiencing because the issue predates the present administration. It’s a structural issue that needs structural approach.

This is a curtain–call for Nigerians to Search their Souls and ask themselves; Which Way do we want Nigeria to go? 

New opportunities for Change….

As you read this, Nigeria’s catalogue of woes appeared to have reached unfinished work. Her people groaned under the burden of repressive successive governments, mass unemployment and scarcity of social amenities. A very first reactor from non-Nigerians will be;

‘Where are the credible and honest Nigerian people, men of integrity, who want to serve?…. Anyone’s guess is good.’  

Nigerians must find some new strength for change, the momentum is now, but there are too few options.

One might be to exercise a right to secede by hosting a national referendum and let the voters make the choice themselves. A split will allow other similar ethnicities to form an autonomous nation or re-join a new independent north, west, east or south. Borders are merely lines on a map and can be adjusted.  

In the same vein a second option will allow Nigerian’s to rely on external protection in the sense of a tacit and peaceful re-colonialisation by the EU or US.  Political understandings that can help break the cycle of repressive successive governance and institutional corruption.

The last option could be to hope for a new republic, which I think is inconceivable for now.  Any coups d'état is likely to be actively opposed by certain segments of the Nigerian society and by the international community. Opposition can take many different forms, including disintegration of different regions, attempted regional-counter-coups or international isolation of the new regime.

In the case of Nigeria, coups d’état’s has always been the biggest hindrance to good-governance and economic development and if that be the new situation it will amount to a prolongation of the status quo.

In the final analysis any socio-political change can only be generated by the Nigerians themselves. The statistics on poverty (though shaved) are very much frightening from a country that prides herself as Africa's biggest economy with Oil Wealth.

The poor majority from the north, south, east and west must work together using poverty as the common ground for developing a sustained campaign for socio-economic change.      


#Bring back our Girls


P.M.I Oviawe (dr.)
International College of Commerce


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