This is 2015. This has been emphasised for us to take another look at the number and the year again. How many of us did not think that virtually everything would change after the year 2000? Maybe those much older but as a secondary school student in the late 1990s, the year 2000 offered a picture of possibilities and unbelievable human progress. Certain things have to be put in perspective to access progress and in doing so, one cannot afford to ignore the fact that while the world has generally moved several steps forward, certain parts of it have continued to fall short of their potentials and expectations. Nigeria is one of such.
This country is blessed; it is so easy to know. It is the only country in Africa that goes to the African Nations Cup and without any special preparation returns home with at least a bronze medal on most occasions. It is the one country where its students are guaranteed to beat all comers in universities around the world. Nigeria has a record number of doctors practising in the United States and the United Kingdom. We have professionals scattered around the world. Go to any country, including Iceland, Finland and even Somalia, Nigerians are there creating value and adding to their GDP. While a lot has been made of our stories with drugs and advanced fee fraud, a search on the Internet would reveal to you that Nigerians are doing a lot more at creating value for humanity around the world than they are in making the world a tougher place to live in.
The easiest way to measure value is money. Take the numbers, remission to sub-Saharan Africa has averaged about $60bn per year, of that number, remission to Nigeria is about $20bn per year. That is to say, a Nigerian earns $33 for every $66 earned by other sub-Saharan Africans in the Diaspora. However you want to interpret it, that’s massive! Nigeria’s greatest resource is its human resources and this has been its most abused resource.
This country is guilty! It has spent half a century obsessed with minerals and crops while the very thing that makes nations attain development is left abandoned. We will never move forward as a country as long as we continue to treat our citizens like abandoned future in an abandoned house. Day in and out we hear about people getting robbed in traffic in Lagos, no one has shown enough care to protect the people. The Lagos State Government has finally moved to restrict the movement of trucks in Lagos seeing as Lagosians were getting killed in droves via accidents mostly related to the activities of such trucks. The government runs to serve the people, it is the job of government to nip a challenge in the before it is considered as a menace but more often than not, our governments leave our citizens at the mercy of such challenges until we wail and rant and cry and scream and several lives get lost before government finally moves. It speaks to how much of a value we place on the human life in Nigeria.
News of people getting bombed in the North-East, unending and underreported communal clashes in Jos and other unwholesome realities have left us in a state of acceptance; that it is okay for Nigerians to die like life is not as useful here as it is made to look elsewhere. Let us face it, we do not value human life in this part of the world. How many police officers have been successfully prosecuted for extrajudicial killings against the number of such incidents? We are simply used to seeing Nigerians die, like chickens in a poultry hit by a plague.
For almost a decade now we have been reading reports of our country supplying the world with its highest out of school children, what have we done since then? We have simply added more children to the mess. We haven’t been short of resources to correct challenges such as these, we have simply not allocated resources appropriately. Take this; the immediate past Kaduna State Governor spent N10bn building a Governor’s Office he thought he’d use for another 8 years – he was sworn in after the former governor died – but as time would have it, he was soon voted out just months after commissioning the project. Really and truly, in a state like Kaduna with some of the country’s greatest social challenges, was that the best use of N10bn? We spent N7bn on another National Conference that was never going to be binding on us based on the way it was set up. As it is today, that National Conference has found its way through the dark path that leads to irrelevance as several other similar national conferences before it. Was that really the best use of N7bn? You see, ours has never been about the lack of resources, it has simply been about the misallocation of resources; a system built on our lack of appreciation of our human resources.
Will things change? You tell me. Does the current government look like it’d turn the tide and begin to focus on the best use of our resources? There are talks of a national carrier for instance, is that really a pressing need in the face of our current limited basic infrastructural facilities? Except the national carrier will be completely funded by the private sector, an attempt to float one with Nigeria’s limited resources would emphasise government’s disconnect with modern economic realities. South African Airways has gulped some N400bn in bailout funds over the last decade, Kenyan Airways is a flying box of debts. The Emirates and Etihad of this world are run on models that ensure profit is just as essential a motive as national or territorial pride.
Good intentions are never enough. Our country is desperate for the right ideas and solutions and only one source will always guarantee that; the right people. As long as we continue to treat our own citizens as dirt or at best as aliens in their own country, nothing will change no matter how good intentioned the President is. These are fundamental issues. The people must come first. That is not negotiable.
When that happens, we’d not need to scream to have governments do something about potholes before they become life-sucking wells on our roads. When that happens, our government would be as embarrassed about the millions of kids out of school in Nigeria as it would be if each time our President steps outside the country, he is asked about the children still out of school. Do they need to be reminded to be embarrassed about things that are embarrassing to the image of the nation and its future? The greatest form of disrespect to the Nigerian people happened recently but it passed without essentially being noticed. Senator Godswill Akpabio then as Governor of Akwa Ibom commissioned what he claimed was a world-class hospital in Uyo less than four months ago. He had a minor accident recently; when it was time to visit a hospital, guess the one that was closest to him? The regular hospital in the United Kingdom. Is there a better way to raise the middle finger on an entire population? Yet, our people get that finger in one form or the other from those we trust to lead us right. Things must change!