By Denrele Animasaun

In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years. The current quality and quantity of investment in this young generation in health and education just isn’t good enough”. Yeah, he said it, so he was very direct. Rightfully so and he knows how it is on the ground, after all, he has a first hand, decade long first-hand knowledge of many of our improvised communities, this man has ploughed his hard earned money, his foundation spent  $1.6 billion on health programs in Nigeria. Gates comments could not have come at a better time and he definitely was right to speak out; that it is time for Nigeria’s government to do better but Gate’s message isn’t new, it has been expressed by millions of Nigerians. The sad thing is, far too many Nigerians believe they do not have a voice and that they had no power, they believed that nothing will change. The systematic culture has overwhelmed millions that, in the end, they just give up and stay quiet.

There have been many who have tirelessly raised their concerns and presented their programmes to respective ministries for investments only to be met with walls of corruption and dishonest officials demanding money from would be investors before they consider . They have no clue of the potential of investing in people or potential of economic growth for many.  If only they understand that social philanthropy billionaires like Ted Turner and others started this in the 1980s and have helped millions and millions by giving back. This is a new concept in the Nigerian psyche. It is about time that rich Nigerians familiarise themselves with the concept.

Presently, Gates intends to work together with Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and has been a close partner of the Gates Foundation. If the Nigerian government does a few things differently, then the country is poised for lift off, “I really think that of all the countries I have seen, it really hangs in the balance. If they can get health and education right, they can be an engine of growth, not just for themselves but for all of Africa,”

Right now, Nigeria can no longer continue to limp along into a barren future and reducing many more to penury. This has got to be addressed and there is no better time than the present. Nigerians should not have to wait until the coming presidential election for a better future. They have lived on empty promises and nothing will change if this continues.

The Emir of Kano once recounted a conversation he had with a top politician, who said; Nigeria is rich because of the number of private jets!  See the problem with short sight and self-serving people ?It is always about grand standing and self serving.

Yes, of course there are cosmetic scatterings of high- rise buildings, real estates and fancy cars but the majority of the population has not seen positive changes to their standard of living. In fact, this has got worse and the gap continues to widen.

Gates, typically merely followed his point with statistics and they are dismal; that Nigeria is still one of the most dangerous places to give birth and the country’s very young face chronic malnutrition. One in three Nigerian children suffers from malnutrition. Nigeria has perpetually been rated as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. There is little opportunity to grow businesses in Nigeria, most businesses; are very small and are unable to get financial help with loans from the banks. Gates noted that these obstacles have hindered Nigeria from living to its full potential. And  according to the University of Washington modelling, commissioned by Gates, it is  estimated that if investment isn’t increased in health and education, then the per-capita GDP, rising steadily for decades, will flat line. This is the fact.

So why has Gates spoken out now? He said he wanted ‘to spark action and debate’. That he has done most succinctly too. The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in the people as one of three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritising physical capital over human capital. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.” I for one, applaud his candour and his frankness. Now is the moment for our politicians to be brave and step up to the plate. Our young people deserve a future worthy of their potential.

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Everyone has ups and downs. Life in Nigeria is tough for many presently. Unemployment, bereavement, overcrowding,i llness, schooling, bullying and other social issues can contribute to mental ill health. So if you are beginning to feel low and unable to cope with every day life over a prolonged period of time.. if you are beginning to not find joy in your normal pursuits, you don’t want to go out. You feel like sleeping all the time or not able to get to sleep because you are thinking too much.

Are you finding it hard to concentrate or things are beginning to get on top of you, or you wish you could run away or that your life is not worth living? Have experienced a type of abuse or feel traumatised because of what you have witness or experienced?

Are you numbing your pain with drugs, alcohol or you are taking risks because you don’t care anymore?

Are you over eating or not eating enough because you are worried and anxious?

If you are feeling so low in mood that you think life is not worth living, please seek help,talk to someone you trust or @ IMANI or similar groups, who will listen without judging you ,they will listen without prejudice.  The sooner you get help the better the outcomes.

I wish you all well. It’s good to talk.

It’s important to get help early. Mental health conditions can be treated and getting help early can prevent difficulties from getting more serious.




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