New Telegraph

The Paradox That Is Nigeria

Like billions of people living outside the geographical entity called Nige- ria, those living inside the 923,768 km² that make up the 14th largest country on the continent of Africa, Nigerians would love nothing more than to enjoy the necessities of life.

In truth, the average Nigerian would love to be able to fend for themselves with very minimum fuss; but we all know that the reality is far from this for the bulk of the people who make up the world’s most populous black nation. Instead, from once being the envy of many African countries due to the wealth of the nation and by extension her people, sadly, Nigeria is now officially the poverty capital of the world.

This unwanted record was achieved in 2018 when the Brookings Institution released its report saying Nigeria had knocked off India from the position! Incidentally, while Nigeria’s popula- tion is roughly 220, according to estimates, India’s is five times more, having officially replaced China as the world’s most pop- ulous nation in 2022, with more than 1.43 billion people, and yet the Asian giant has used her numerical strength to its advan- tage to make her economy the fifth largest in the world, only behind the US, China, Germany and Japan.

Paradoxically, while India has been able to become a nuclear power and one of only seven nations to have sent a mission to the moon courtesy of their visionary leaders, the same, however, cannot be said of their counterparts in Nigeria, where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening by the day.

Thus, while India has been able to tap into its diversity for the overall benefit of the nation, back here, people use our diversity for their selfish interests. This is why despite celebrating its 51st birthday on May 22, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has not really been able to bring Nigerians closer together – rather we appear to have become more fractured than ever.

Millions of Nigerians have gone through the scheme, which was conceived by Military Head of State General Yakubu Gowon as one of the means of smoothing the wounds of the brutal 30-month civil war, which had ended three years earlier. In theory, many of them would have ris- en to positions of authority and should have been able to fulfil the noble aim of the military leader in uniting us and yet no discerning Nigerian can say this is the case in this present climate.

This cleavage was further highlighted during last February’s general election when politicians whipped up tribal sen- timents to achieve their goals. This would not have been possible if those who had passed through the NYSC programme had truly imbibed its ideals. Unfortunately, even educated people, who are products of the scheme, still hold very strong tribal views and are quick to cast aspersions on people who are not from their ethnic stock.

While one must admit that perhaps just one year is not enough to eradicate this deep-rooted feeling, however, it should still be able to shift some preconceived notions we have of other tribes. In some of my previous write-ups, I had pointed out that I spent four years in the East for my university education (UNN), and then moved further east to Cross River State for my youth service and returned from both ventures having a better understanding of the people from those areas.

It is our failure to look beyond our ethnic group when it comes to choosing our leaders at all levels that have played a big part in not allowing the so-called ‘Giant of Africa’ to achieve its full potential. A nation so endowed with human and natural resources should not be in the state we have found ourselves in. For instance, despite having one of the best grades of crude oil in the world (Bon- ny Light) and being the largest producer on the continent and 15th in the world, the standard of living of a majority of the population is dire.

Despite having four government and one private refinery, Nigeria still relies largely on imported products to survive, which has been a massive drain on the economy. Money which should have been spent on building the nation’s infrastructure and improving the lot of the people has gone into the importation of petroleum products.

Incidentally, to rectify this last May, President Bola Tinubu abolished fuel subsidies and later gave the green light to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The twin policy shift, while making more money for the government, unfortunately, has also hurt the citizens with inflation shooting to new levels heaping more misery on millions of Nigerians.

Still reeling from this double whammy, last month, the government also gave the green light to the hike in electricity tariff for those in Band A from roughly N68/ kw to N225! The fallout from this is still reverber- ating with not only those affected up in arms but also both arms of the legislative arm of government (Senate and House of Representatives) insisting that the govern- ment should reverse the decision.

Incidentally, while this is only the latest official price hike in the nation, it is a bit surprising the backlash a private company has faced for also deciding to move its prices upwards in keeping with prevailing economic realities. South Africa’s MultiChoice has been in the eye of the storm since it announced last month another price increase – the third in the past year. While I’m also adversely affected by this latest hike, sadly, the truth is that no business is set up to be a ‘Father Christ- mas’ concern giving out freebies.

The same dire economic issues that have already driven out some of the household multinationals from the coun- try like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever are also buf- feting them. But unlike them, MultiChoice are still willing to give it a try at remaining but can only do so by increasing the cost of their products. Lest we forget some other South Af- rican concerns, like Game and Shoprite, have already left after complaining about the harsh economic climate they were op- erating in.

Lest we forget, whenever these com- panies pack up and leave, thousands of Nigerians lose their jobs. Paradoxically, despite the general suf- fering affecting all there is still a large number of Nigerians who will subjugate competence for ethnic bias when it comes to electing our leaders, and yet at the end of the day, these same people will also end up complaining like the rest of us!

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