Pulling Nigeria out of poverty and underperformance – Austine Edim

9 min read

Summary: The vast majority of Nigeria’s economic problems have roots in social issues. Indeed, social issues give birth to most of the problems nations face. The government needs to dedicate resources and expertise to solve the social problems its citizens face. Doing this should improve the economy, as well as other critical sectors in the country.

Nigeria really needs to think deeper and bigger about its citizens — and the society as a whole — beyond what we currently have or have had these past years and decades as a country. With the kind of unprecedented social problems and the various symptoms of psychological dysfunctions experienced mostly by our youths across Nigeria today, we’ve got to really rethink our socio-political or socio-cultural standards and ideology and expand our imagination in terms of how our society should be organised, governed, or instituted. With the imprints of our checkered colonial history and the impact of the centuries-long transatlantic slave trade on our collective psyche as a race, Nigerians/Africans have faced too much psychological harassments and hence unconscious self-loathing (inflicted by the West’s shrewd geopolitics and systemic imperialism) to allow ourselves continue along this path of economic and social self-enervation, going forward.

The truth is, even from the very richest person or the ones occupying the highest social strata, at different levels of our society today, to the very common person on our streets, we are all essentially ‘poor’— the poverty of lacking a truly inspired, charitable, generous, liberal and progressive spirit. From Dangote, Nigeria and Africa’s richest person, to the very powerful political, military, traditional or religious elites and all leaders of this country, down to the man at the last rung of society, it is safe to say we are all essentially “poor” as a collection of people. It seems that what we have all rather mastered over these years, as a nation and people, is the zero-sum model of leadership, management, or governance. Instead of focusing on increasing society for all and expanding our collective capacity to produce, innovate, disrupt, empower and maximally prosper, we have rather perfected the art of ‘skimming our way through’, doing our best to “restrict” real fundamental growth, both nationally and subnationally. Of course, what you have today is an “organism” whose growth potential has been forcefully gagged or stifled, and the natural outbursts is these diverse unprecedented social ills and the socioeconomic or socio-political disharmonies and stress we now experience as a country.      

How else is Dangote not considered “poor”, when in 2013 as Africa’s richest person with a net worth of $16.1 billion and ranked 43rd richest person in the world according to Forbes, he was far ahead of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who had a fortune of $13.3 billion and was ranked 66th in the world? (Someone like Elon Musk did not even make the first 300th in that list, having just made the billionaire status with a net worth of just $2 billion the previous year). Today, however, while Dangote still remains Nigeria/Africa’s richest person under a severely shrunken economy, he now has receded down to the 195th position on the global list, with a net worth now down to $11 billion; Mark Zuckerberg, in comparison, now holds a net worth that has skyrocketed many times over to $97 billion, as at this writing, and is now the 5th richest person in the world. Elon Musk, on the other hand, whose meteor-like ascension is simply phenomenal to say the least, is now the 4th richest person in the world, with a net worth in excess of $165 billion. Talk about the “miracle” of an organisation or nation committed to radical growth, continuous research, development (R&D) and innovation!

About Dangote, therefore, the way his net worth has generally plummeted over the years during this period, and the fact that he still remains atop as Africa’s richest person with no seeming competition from anyone in sight within the country or continent, if this is then not an indication or evidence of a society’s general underderperformance and socioeconomic decline, then what else is? Nigeria’s economy under Obasanjogrew at an annual average of 7 percent in his eight years in office as president. Late President Yar’Adua’s three-year stay saw the economy also grow at an average of 7 per cent annually, with Jonathan administration witnessing a 6 per cent average annual growth in his five-year administration. For the last five years, however, our economy has greatly shrunken, today recording an average growth rate of 0.7 per cent within the designated period. With our obviously enormous and unprecedented potentials, in human and natural resource endowments, these numbers and economic condition is rather disgraceful and reprehensible. We should recall China’s 10 per cent double digits consistent annual growth between 1979 and 2018 (for four decades!), which was a result of its holistic cultural reforms and economic restructuring of 1978!

I mean, fellow Nigerians, we’ve got to be serious about our national life as a people. Is it not a shame, a crying shame at that, that in the entire country, even in the prominent and most high-end parts of the biggest cities of this country, we can’t boast of even fiveto six hours of steady, uninterrupted power supply per day? I mean, this is almost a century and two score years since the first steam-generated power station was opened in the Holborn Viaduct by Thomas Edison in 1882, to supply electricity to street lamps and several close private dwellings in London; over 137 years since the first house was lit by electricity later that year by the Edison Illuminating Company at Appleton, Wisconsin, in the United States. With all the evolution in energy technology and the various alternative sources, the world has since mainstreamed public power supply as a basic household, industrial, commercial or municipal utility for all towns and cities across countries. It is sad that after all these years, we are still struggling with less than 5000MW of available power to the entire country, since the British built the first electric utility company in Nigeria in 1929. With just about 60 per cent of the national population electrified, at least 16 million Nigerian households are still without access to electricity today. 

As another national elections come up in 2023, please it is not time to rehash our popular mediocre economic plans and lifeless manifestoes of “Agenda 2023”, “Five-point Agenda”, and the rest. We’ve got to really show true depth and uncommon commitment in coming forward with the BOLDEST NATIONAL DREAM and very inspired STRATEGIC VISIONARY FRAMEWORKS, to put this country and its people on a sure path to real global-level growth, radical development and/or cutting-edge advancement in all societal sectors in the years and decades to come. We have got to be much prouder of ourselves and our individual citizens to give this nation and its occupants the very best that we all truly deserve. No more mediocrity and mediocre standards; no more of this cut-throat zero-sum competition and the quest to dominate one another. No more politics of control, selfishness and parochialism in our projections in all sectors of our society. It’s time for powerful GROWTH; growth and all-round societal progress that caters to all and for all. It’s time, indeed, for a NEW NIGERIA!!

In that new Nigeria, we must, as most of the developed countries of the world are currently doing, begin to value our economic and societal development much beyond just GDP numbers, to the broader goals of truly uplifting the happiness levels, wellbeing and social or living standards of all our citizens as a collective. We have to actively embrace and benchmark our economic wellbeing by the many other alternative economic development indicators like the Human Development Index, Genuine Progress Indicator, Happy Planet Index, etc, and match this with concrete policy targets and yearly deliverables.

We should recall that in 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 65/309 “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Definition of Development”, where member countries were invited to measure the happiness levels of their people and to use the data to guide public policy, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals targets. On April 1, 2012, the World Happiness Report was first released as a foundational text to UN’s high-level meeting, “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.” It outlined the state of the world’s happiness and wellbeing in different member countries and drew international attention to this priority economic or societal development measure. Since 2016, this Report has been issued annually on the 20th of March to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Happiness and to further give all countries available data and relevant information to pursue this objective of increasing the standard of living, social wellbeing and happiness levels of their people as an important metric of their economic development.

With the release of this Reports, there has been a race of nations on this regard, with countries like the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, China and the rest of the developed world consistently striving for a place at the top ten or top twenty of the lists. Levels of GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom to make life choices and lack of corruption feed into the overall score and ranking of countries. It is however the Nordic countries of north-western Europe which have consistently made the top ten positions on these lists. The 2020 edition was released in March this year, with Finland emerging for the fourth straight year as the happiest and most socially stable country in the world. She is followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden as second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in that order. Rather ambitious by its nature, also, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which ranked 21st this year, up seven places from its ranking in 2016, has set a goal to take the world’s happiest country position by 2031 and it is using a scientific approach to actively measure citizen’s happiness and social wellbeing in the country. Under the endorsement of its exceptionally visionary and bold leader, His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, ‘happiness’ falls under its Smart Dubai 2021 initiative.  

The reason the Nordic countries have been doing so well in these rankings, as the Reports highlight, is not surprising. These countries have well-structured policies, institutionalised social support systems and first-class infrastructures, put in place by their governments to provide opportunity for the finest socioeconomic living experience for their citizens. High quality healthcare services (in most cases free), high quality free public education, a well institutionalised social welfare system to support out-of-work youths and the elderly, including family counselling, stable, functional and high-quality infrastructure and public utilities, are a few highlights the Report captured as being responsible for the Nordic countries’ lead in this important economic development measure. Interestingly, on the flipside, the Report also looked at countries where people are most unhappy and socially uncertain. Of course, apart from Afghanistan (a country torn apart by war and destruction), many of the most unhappy countries in the list have been sub-Saharan African countries, for which Nigeria is a part, with Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Rwanda, Lesotho, etc, leading on that front. I am making a case today, that fellow Nigerians, we have to change this trajectory and narrative going forward!

We’ve got to think more about expanding the social and economic depth and breadth of our society and its systems. We have to think more of our citizens and their welfare and wellbeing, the family units, including all the causes of dysfunctions and psychological imbalances or pressures that we have seen being unleashed on the country today in the form of the different insecurity issues, and the crime and other social misbehaviours of our young people. It is always easy to dodge these deep and underlying questions and causes; to just pass the buck and slam the youths and young people for their ‘social dysfunction’. But it is time we own up to the “challenges” we have created and get more personal as a government or society’s leadership, to critically address the psychological health, wellbeing and social development of our citizens as a collective. With at least 10.5 million kids out of school today, over 42.5 per cent youth unemployment, poor public school systems and learning environments, a poor teaching culture, low remuneration and motivation for our teachers; with national poverty levels at 43 per cent (89 million; 2020 figures), life expectancy at the global lowest in 55 years and the child mortality rate at about the highest in the world – at 117 deaths per 1000, we must indeed own up to the “problems” we have created over these years and embrace the courage to change this REALITY forthwith.

Perhaps it is time to think of creating our own Ministry of Happiness, Citizens Empowerment and Social Wellbeing and engage or partner with the finest experts in psychology, leadership and human development, faith, economics, management, sociology, technology, surveys an dadta analytics, etc, to come up with the most robust and comprehensive plans and result-oriented frameworks to offer real care, guidance, counselling and support, especially to the vulnerable citizens and family units amongst us. We’ve got to kill this widened inequality, this zero-sum leadership and governance paradigm. We’ve got to kill the paradigm of poor road networks and public utilities across our country; poor institutionalisation, mediocre public education and institutional standards. We’ve got to kill this political culture of selfishness and class struggle, kill low living standards in all its colourations, kill the era of irregular power supply (we should have nothing less than 24 hours constant power supply, like that obtained everywhere else in the world) once and for all in this country.

This is and should be the time for decisive leadership that would present a profound national vision and sincerely show the entire nation a clear path to the NEW NIGERIA. This country at this point deserves nothing less than a sincere, generous, bold, visionary, large-hearted, courageous and competent leader, whose dream is nothing short of a first-world societal order and national development or transformational ideal. That is what this nation deserves. And the time is now!     


• The welfare and wellbeing of the citizens need proper attention by the government, initiatives like health insurance programs, temporary assistance to the needy, housing assistance, and earned income tax credit.
• The government needs to tackle all the root causes of deficiency and mental instability or pressures that lead to insecurity, crime, and other social misbehaviors.
• Poor road networks and public utilities should be budgeted for and flagged for maintenance by the Nigerian government across the country due to poor institutionalization, second-rate public education, and institutional standards.

Source: Premium Times

Keywords: Society, Development, Socioeconomic, Economic, Countries

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