Why Nigeria is still poor, America still rich

on   /   in Viewpoint 11:19 am   /   Comments

ABOUT this time last year, I was in America for three months. It was both a business and professional trip. I visited family members and met with both business associates and ministry partners. More than a year later, I am still perturbed by the same issues that consumed my mind then. Situations have not changed and if, anything may have become worse for Nigeria.

It is good to give a statistical background. According to the United Nations, as of 2010, the Population of Nigeria was 158.423.182 (158 million) with a growth rate of 2.5%. What is more telling is our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in US$ exchange rate, which is 272.600.000.000, while our inflation rate is a whopping 12.1% as of 2012. GDP is the sum of all the goods and services produced by a country within a specified period. It serves as a barometer of a country’s economic health and her standard of living. Nigeria has 0.4% of the world GDP and is ranked #37. A useful publication is “Explaining the World Through Macroeconomic Analysis.” posted on January 07, 2011 in Investopedia.com.

Investopedia defines inflation as “a sustained increase in the general level of prices for goods and services.” Most people know that a high rate of inflation is not good and double-digit inflation is disaster waiting to happen (if it has not already happened). See “The Importance of Finance and GDP.” Conclusion: Nigeria is poor.

Let us juxtapose these with the statistics for America. Their 2010 population was 310.383.948 (310 million), with a 0.9% growth rate. American GDP in dollars was 15.650.000.000.000, and inflation was 2.0% for 2012. US is ranked #1 and has 21.8% of the total global GDP. Some of these figures were extrapolated from factfish.com and were retrieved on May 18, 2013.

Using these facts as a backdrop, I will give four reasons why America is rich and Nigeria is still poor.

1.System of Government.

When we copied the American system of government, we did not study it well. Both the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions were handed to us by outgoing military regimes. American has 50 States and I don’t know how many local government areas (counties). Nigeria has 36 States and 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). The Americans practice true federalism with accountability and checks & balances at all levels (National, state, county, and city/municipality). Nigeria, on the other hand, well I don’t know what brand of federalism we practice. Okay for nomenclature purposes, I will christen it

“Naija for show Federalism” (NFSF). I don’t recall reading anywhere about any American state going to Washington monthly to collect its allocation or any cry for state creation so that they can get a piece of the national cake. We, of course, know that our brand of democracy is one of the costliest in the world. The inflation figures show that our system of government needs re-tooling. In a recent article by Zik Gbemre that was published in Politics Governance, he stated, “We need to have a leaner government. It is either we have a unicameral legislature or if it must be bicameral, then they have to sit on a part-time basis and be paid honorarium.”

2.Accountable Leadership.

In America, the leaders seem to look at themselves as servants of the people, not the other way around. In fact, an American leader will resign if he feels he is not serving his people right. In addition, if there is any appearance of impropriety, the leader may step down. Forget the Clinton/Lewinsky Fiasco.

The medical records or health of an American elected representative is usually not a secret. I don’t believe there is a recent American Governor (or President) who travelled outside for secret medical treatment (sorry, “vacation”). The closest will be when the Governor of New Jersey recently faced criticism because he went to do lap band (weight loss) surgery for a few hours without telling his chief of staff the whole details. Try that in Nigeria. Leadership in Yankee territory is by example. No blaring of sirens by politicians and there is an abiding resolve that no one is above the law.

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and President Barak Obama of America

3.Responsible Followership.

American citizens tend to have a passion for their country and are involved in their government. As one of their Presidents told them, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” There seems to be an innate patriotism in them. Followers outnumber leaders.

Sometimes I argue that the problem with Nigeria may not be with the leadership, as much as it is with the “followership.” Note (another disclaimer): Followership is not a word in the English dictionary. The Pastor says to ask your neighbour, “Are you a good follower?” Concerning the elections, I have stated in the past that the Nigerian electorate has a responsibility to make sure elections are not “do or die.”

In a recent scholarly article titled State, Youth and Electoral Violence in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic: The Imperative of a Comprehensive Nationally Coordinated Youth Empowerment Programme, David Moveh of the Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello University states, “At the heart of Nigeria’s crisis of governance particularly as manifested in electoral violence is a complex linkage between the state and the youth, who are the prosecutors of the violence. Regrettably, hundreds of Nigerians have lost their lives in the crossfire or as paid fighters for the country’s political leaders.”

4.Industrialisation & raw materials

When I attended the 2013 Industry, Trade & Investment conference in Ibadan, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, CON, stated that no nation can be rich simply by exporting its raw materials. You must add value to (process) it. In Florida where I grew up, the State is known for its oranges. However, the oranges are grown there, but not exported. Instead, they are processed into orange juice and sold for profit.

The economic irony in Nigeria is our exportation of raw material such as crude oil and importation of petroleum at a loss. They say here, “go figure!” The GDP indicates that we have a long way to go. Yes, energy is tied to industrialisation. America has 24 hour light seven days a week. Without electricity, you cannot have large industries. Today, it appears as though the power situation in Nigeria has worsened since last ear.

A friend was positing why he believes that Governor Fayemi lost the last election. According to him, the governor was giving the people what they wanted (such as rice) and not what the people really needed. As 2015 approaches, we should all vote for leaders that has the political will power to do what is really needed. This includes the local government elections, the House of assembly elections, the gubernatorial race, the National Assembly and the presidential elections. No seat should be spared our scrutiny.

Rev. ALEX AKPODIETE, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.

    Print       Email