By Emeka Chiakwelu
Less than a week after Forbes Magazine chronicled the list of 40 richest
Africans in which 11 of them were Nigerians; another different list
emerged that was unfavourable to Nigeria.
The quantification and tabulation by Forbes, maintained that Aliko Dangote was still the richest person in Africa for two consecutive years,
2011 and 2012 respectively. Many Nigerians were probably proud to have one
of their own at the top of the list. Of course, Dangote works for his
money and has been providing jobs to Nigerians. He is part of the solution
by heavily investing in Nigeria and Africa, unlike those that siphoned
their wealth abroad.
And here comes the bombshell, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a
sister company of The Economist magazine, complied a list of its 2013
Where-to-be-born Index and of the 80 countries evaluated, quantified and
covered, Nigeria comes last in the ranking at 80 out of 80: “it is the
worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013.” This is beyond just a
bad news, it is depressing, no matter how you look at it.
Nigeria is among the worst and miserable places for wealth redistribution
and income inequality in the world. An oil and mineral resources rich
nation, where less than 1% of the population controls about 99.5% of the
country’s wealth. This implies that Nigeria wealth distribution is more
like a pyramid with tiny wealthy class at the top and large base of poor
and destitutes at the bottom. No country can progress without a thriving
middle class. Nigeria does not have a middle class, but few very rich and
the large very poor. This is a pathway to gloom and doom, not a recipe
for winning a future.
Nigeria a nation of private jet owners, tantalizing cars and expensive
wine drinkers, is also a nation of massive homelessness, joblessness,
disease infected water and starvation. Many women and children go to bed
at nights on empty stomach with malaria infected bodies. Nigeria is the
only oil exporting nation without reasonable electricity, drinking water
and health care facilities.
Wole Shadare and Faith Oparugo, writing in Guardian News on Nigeria’s
growing ownership of private jets wrote:
“WITH Nigeria holding the record of a country with the highest private jet
ownership in Africa, the aviation sector has brought into sharp relief the
paradox of a nation that is endowed with huge oil resources but where only
a few are wealthy.
In a country where the average Nigerian lives on less than $1 a day, there
is a super rich class of business moguls, bankers, preachers, politicians
and oil magnates whose private ownership of jets is more than that of any
other country. While the rich can afford such luxuries, the economic
crisis in the nation is seen in a situation where the aviation sector
needs financial succour from the Federal Government.
According to an official of Bombardier, the Canadian aircraft
manufacturer, Nigeria ranks behind the United States, United Kingdom, and
China among countries that top their orders for the supply of the aircraft
type; just as there are indications that N1.30 trillion may have been
expended in the last seven years. Nigeria is said to top the market for
private jet ownership.”
Well this this time around, the country of jet owners has been classified
as the worst place to be born in the world.
What does this really mean? Well, it is loaded and this is not good for
Nigeria and Nigerians. Without being defensive as usual, the world is
actually losing the hope they bestowed on Nigeria.
Nigeria is not a confidence nation and Nigeria without doubt, rely on how
the rest of the world sees her. This is important because the world is
telling Nigeria that her so-called image re-branding and public relation
are not working. The most important image re-branding is doing the right
thing, not tricking people to think otherwise.
The Economist Intelligence Unit assessment actually means that among the
poorest countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Nigeria is the worst
place to be born in 2013. Cynics and realistic Nigeria may refute such
an assumption and conclusion, but that may not be necessary because they
do not have the bigger microphone to dispute EIU assertion and convince
the rest of the world that Nigeria is the ‘best’ country to be born.
Nigerians do not have access to media industry as big as CNN, BBC or EIU
that can easily dispense and dissipate information to all the four corners
of the world. Therefore Nigeria has to lick her wound and move on as
usual. Nigeria is now becoming like a football to be kick around without
any consequences because our leaders and policy makers are so
inconsequential in global affairs and do not command any respect.
Is Nigeria really the worst place to be born? The answer depends who is
answering the question. Of course the fat cats and politicians will
resoundingly say NO, but the average Nigerian without food, electricity
and drinking water will say YES.
But it is also easy to pick on Nigeria, because of its management failure.
Nigeria’s natural and human resources have not been properly managed, due
to weaken internal mechanism of operandi . This is the principal factor
that deterred her from greatness and parked her where she found herself
Nigeria can be a miserable place for our youths whose unemployment rate is
at a disastrous and alarming level. Our youths are poorly educated, and
less than 5% of them are gainfully employed. This means that 95% of
Nigerian youths are roaming the streets without purpose and employments.
The implication of this scenario is crime, restlessness and vandalism that
are running rampant among energetic youths and elusive minds.
The rate of joblessness for the entire country is alarming, Nigerians
without full employment should be approaching 75-80%. The operating world
is ‘full employment’ and when an individual is fully employed, it means
that he is not underemployed and he can survive comfortably from the
Nigerian wealthy class are known for spending their fortunes in foreign
lands. Big shops in places like Dubai, London and many others cannot be
satiated until wealthy Nigerians step into their expensive stores and
impressed them with hard currencies. At same time it must be clearly
clarified that spending one’s earned income is his right. But when the
rich could not utilize their disposal income to help boast the well-being
of their country, then there is a problem.
Nigeria must be serious about improving the quality of life and well-being
of her people. The brain drain occurring in Nigeria is not healthy for the
most populous country in Africa. Nigeria needs all the brain power it
can muster and as much as it can gather to improve her economy for her
poor citizens. There are emerging leaders and active Nigerians that are
rising to the challenge of making their nation better but the critical
mass has not been approached.
As The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) narrated: the “quality-of-life
index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveyshow happy
people say they areto objective determinants of the quality of life
across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not
all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the
health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically
significant indicators into account. They are a mixed bunch: some are
fixed factors, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time
(demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors
depend on policies and the state of the world economy.”
Corruption has arrested affirmative development in Nigeria. The country
must slow down corruption to be able to win the future for posterity.
Corruption has become so bad in Nigeria, that even sports, the only
institution that Nigerians collectively adored has been touched by
corruption. The Nigerian Green Eagles coach recently narrated how bribery
and corruption played a role in selection of the players.
Nigerians are becoming sick and tired of hearing Nigeria called, ” the
most corrupt, the worst country, the bad and the ugly”. For once Nigerians
desire to be proud to announce to all and sundry – We are Nigerians
without anybody reminding them how backward, corrupt or bad Nigeria is.
When is that going to happen? Or Nigerians asking too much?
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political
& Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center
whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy
debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise,
democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict
resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.