By Jide Ajani
This is a peep into Nigeria’s future, another 50 years from now. Looking at past records on the economic front, the today’s plans for the future and a political climate that is at best inclement and at worst disastrous, this report attempts a peep into Nigeria’s future.
We can call it national fear. Using the past to ascertain the present; and using the latter to determine how the future would look, the stark realities would be one of gloom and doom.
Reason: If the incremental downward trend in the development path of the Nigerian nation is anything to go by, then the picture of what the country would look like in another 50 years would be frightening. But there is great hope.
President Goodluck Jonathan could not but appreciate this in his October 1, speech, when he said “the future of Nigeria and generations yet unborn is at stake”.
He then admonished that Nigerians “must start the journey to the next fifty years with credible elections, with a clean break from the past. We must show the whole world that we can do things the right and the equitable way. This is my pledge and I will never deviate from it”.
But barely had the echoes from President Jonathan’s voice reduced than the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, set off a car bomb as it had promised, just a few hundred metres from where another independence anniversary celebration was just about taking place – The Eagle Square.
President Jonathan expressed hope that “the Nigeria of the next 50 years must be a land of delight”. Some optimism!
But when the President said “the signs are not difficult to see”, stressing that “we have a hardworking population, a growing sense of Nigerianness and a new generation of leaders with new ideas”, he may have actually seen the signs but read them wrongly.
The car bomb blast in Abuja exposes that wrong reading. How else would the ominous signs be read but with a bomb blast just metres away from the venue of the Jubilee celebrations of a nation that vividly demonstrates a sense of unease.
The question almost always asked is about developing nations is: Which should come first – economic emancipation or a culture of stable progressive democracy?
In the case of Nigeria, this same question applies. For a country that was generally seen as being on the path to greatness with strides recorded during its first decade of independence, many can not today, 50 years after independence, vouch for a future of political stability and economic prosperity.
Unfortunately for Nigeria, it was listed among the prospective four failed states.
In the July/August 2010 edition of FOREIGN POLICY, Nigeria was, thus described:
“The overall story of the Failed States Index is one of wearying constancy, and 2010 is proving to be no different: Crises in Guatemala, Honduras, Iran and Nigeria – among others – threaten to push those unstable countries to the breaking point”.
For negative effect, it added: “The worst case scenario? A renewed insurgency in the Niger Delta , more religious violence in the country’s centre and – in the most unlikely but still occasionally rumoured outcome – (the ‘C’ word). Regardless, life for the average Nigerian is getting worse, not better. After years of just muddling through, even that might no longer be an option for Nigeria”.
Observers say once there is political stability, the economy would be organized for progress.
No matter. A review of Nigeria after three decades of independence shows that in 1991, Business International, in a 150 page report stated that after a trying decade, dominated by political instability and economic recession, Nigeria is on the mend”.
The report said Nigeria grew 4% annually since 1987.
The World Bank’s World Development Report of 1991 ranked Nigeria as the 13 poorest nation in the world. But five years earlier in 1987, that year’s edition of the report placed Nigeria 54th. By that year’s category, Nigeria was placed in the middle-income category. In 1988, Nigeria was to lose six places. It placed 48th in the poorests’ ranking.
By 1989, Nigeria began to fare better from the rare. It was no longer catergorised as a middle-income nation. That year, it ranked 31st. Nigeria has since been in the group of the low-income nations.
By the end of that decade, Nigeria was ignominiously romancing such nations as Mozambique, Bangladesh, Somalia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Lao, Malawi, Madagascar, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Chad and Nepal. What that means is that of the 124 countries ranked, the 12 countries listed earlier had weaker economies than Nigeria’s.
Conversely – and on the African Continent alone in that decade – countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Liberia, Mauritania.
According to that report, a country is termed poor if its GNP or average income is below $370 per annum. Worse, a country is termed extremely poor if it is less than $275.
In Nigeria’s case, its GNP has never ceased to decline. From a GNP of $800 in 1985, it declined to $250 in 1989. The ranking of that year, 1991, the GNP of other countries like Benin Republic, $380; Togo, $390; Guinea, $430; Angola, $610; were far higher than that of Nigeria’s.
What brought about this is what Vanguard’s Business Editor, Omoh Gabriel, described in a report as “a culture of sell oil and share the proceeds”, which he said “has taken over the psychic of the people. Nations Nigeria was at par with 50 years ago have gone far ahead in economic development out of dint of hard work and visioning.
In 1961 Nigeria’s total revenue was N223.65 million which was entirely from non oil export earnings.
It rose to N477.70 million in 1962, N498.19 million in 1963, N554.43 million in 1964 and N654.34 million in 1965. In 1966 the total revenue rose to N612.88 million and in 1970 total revenue stood at N634 made up of N166.60 million earnings from oil. With the export of crude oil on commercial basis from 1970, Nigeria revenue profile changed for the better as total revenue jumped to N3,724 million with non oil contributing just N813.40 million.
As at 2009, Nigeria’s earnings stood at N3.191 trillion with non oil export contributing a mere N865.561billion.
With the advent of oil export, Nigeria and Nigerians seem to have gone to sleep depending only on oil which price is determined by the vagaries of the international market and the quantity determined by OPEC’s quota allocation. In the opinion of the World Bank representative in Nigeria, between 1965 to 1987, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Savings decreased from 17 per cent to 10 per cent.
In comparing 12 countries growth rate at the time with Nigeria, it was discovered that during the two decades from 1965 to 1987 the World Bank found that Korea, with a population of 42 million in 1987, joined the rank of middle income countries by increasing its per capita income from US$650 to US$2,400. During this same period Malaysia and Brazil accomplished the same while Nigeria’s per capita income declined from $440 in 1965 to a mere $375 with a high population of 120 million in 2004.
Further Nigeria’s per capita was $420 in 2000 lower than what it was in 1965. In 2001 it rose to$ 432, $407 in 2002, $452 in 2003 and further to $510 in 2004. This implies that in 2004 Nigerians welfare is not anywhere near what Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil attained in 1987. In the same period the World Bank observed, Korea’s industrial share in GNP increased from 25 to 42 per cent; in Indonesia from 13 to 32 per cent and in Argentina about 42 per cent of GNP.
By World Bank calculation, the most potent factor in economic growth is gross domestic savings. From 1965 to 1986 Korea’’s savings rate increased from eight to 35 per cent; for Indonesia from eight per cent to 24 per cent; for India from 16 per cent to 21 per cent.
For Nigeria, it decreased from 17 per cent to 10 per cent and for Japan it was maintained at 32 per cent. The situation in Nigeria remains largely the same as savings has not improved beyond what it was in the 1980s if not worse off.
Going by World Bank reckoning, while Korea achieved about 94 per cent level of secondary school and tertiary enrolment, Nigeria, during the same period (1965-1986) achieved 29 per cent. The implication is that while these countries have reached a self sustaining growth, Nigeria has been trapped in debt, $32 billion in 2004, deficit budgeting N315 billion in 2003 and population explosion 120 million 2004 and estimated at 140 million in 2010.
As at 2008 that figures are available while Nigeria’s per capita income is put at $2,300 South Africa has a per capita of $10,000. Saudi Arabia has $20,700 per capita just as Singapore a city state has a per capital of $52,000. Malaysia with which Nigeria development indices were about the same in the 60s has as at 2008 a per capita income of $15,000. South Korea a country of similar status with Nigeria 50 years ago now has a per capita income of $26,000. Indonesia is also ahead of Nigeria in per capita at $3,900.
The effect is that the living standard of the populace is on onward decline and this has dragged more Nigerians into the poverty line. In fact, a recent study shows that more than 70 per cent of Nigerians live below two dollars a day.
All these on the economic front! On the political front, the most basic of democratic tools, the voter register in Nigeria has been rendered a fraud by politicians who continue to invent very negatively creative ways of polluting the document.
The electoral commission has a new chairman but with the early stumbling steps of assuring Nigerians of sticking to timelines for registration of voters and elections for January and a sudden request for extension, some observers are already expressing skepticism about success.
Yet, the political class has not changed their attitude to elections. When the Samuel Cookey Committee, set up by General Babangida in 1987 went round the country, seeking views on what type of electoral system Nigeria should engage, there was a preponderance of views support an open ballot system.
Those who wanted this system premised their desire on the major fact that openness would be a first step to ensuring a free and fair electoral system where one man’s vote would mean one man’s vote. But it would take countless mishaps, before Professor Humphrey Nwosu, then chairman of the National Electoral Commission, NEC, to come up with Option A4.
This produced what many still consider the freest and fairest elections yet in the country but it was annulled. Except and unless the political class changes its mindset, it would remain a very difficult task for the election management agency to organize and conduct free and fair elections.
Over the years, especially in the last decade, there had been many instances of attempts by politicians to deliberately subvert the process. The reason for this is two-folds:
First, when they subvert the process, they turn round to blame the election management agency. If, at the end of the day, they achieve the utmost objective of winning the election through their subversive acts, they turn round to say ‘in spite of the efforts to rob them of victory, they won.
There is a consensus that the shape of the Nigeria to come rests squarely on how the general elections of next year are handled.
Even while saluting and celebrating with Nigeria on her 50th independence anniversary, President Barrack Obama, speaking through the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, noted that the elections of next years must be free, fair and credible if Nigeria must attempt to negotiate that bend from failure to success.
And whereas there is Vision 2020-20, a policy initiative which seeks to ensure that the Nigerian nation ranks among the 20 best economies of the world by the year 2020, the signs on ground are not in any way supportive of achieving that lofty ideal.
It would have been wonderful to have a Nigeria where “lofty heights are attained, to build a nation where truth and justice shall reign”, indicators only present challenges to enthroning such.
In another 50 years, Nigeria could become a very great nation because of numbers and the energy of its population. The danger in the numbers, however, is that if the energies are not deployed for the good causes and in the right direction, there are dangers ahead; and grave ones at that.