Monday, 21 June 2010

Being Nigerian; a pride or liability ?

Joachim Ezeji
According to Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, making Nigeria to work is akin to making the elephant to dance. Elephants have locked cartilages which allow them movement in only one direction and do not ease up pressure enough in their joints for the fluid exercise of dancing. But in circuses, animal trainers usually find a way to teach the elephants to hop in jerky movements which resemble a dance. It is a herculean task but it gets done. And if elephants can be taught to dance, Nigeria can be made to work.
What this means therefore is that the challenges facing Nigeria are enormous. Some are internal and some are external, some are within our control and some are outside our control. But the implication of this to the average Nigerian is a terrible burden.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission once had cause to disclose that since independence in 1960, Nigerian public officials have stolen over six trillion from the coffers of the state. But that is sure to be a poor and inaccurate estimate in for a country vis avis the realization that documentation is poor and the finance departments of government offices have been routinely set on fire to conceal fraud as was the case in Imo State between 2000 and 2007. The problem is that no one can effectively calculate the exact amount of stolen public funds. And according to Reuben Abati, “……..this is money meant for development and the pursuit of the purpose of governance to wit: to guarantee the security and welfare of the people”.
It was Senator David Mark who, quoting the World development indicators of Gross Domestic Product data base 2008,said that Indonesia which was comparable with Nigeria in many areas with similar GDP size in the 1970s has about $841, 140m GDP while Nigeria has GDP of $292,595m. According to him, "Malaysia, which got its first palm seedlings from Nigeria, in the 1960s is currently earning from the export of palm produce palm more than Nigeria. It is like a man gave birth to a word, and the word grew to swallow him. Currently, Malaysia has $355,225 GDP.
"In the case of Nigeria, it is the usual story of abundant human and natural resources committed to no use; and where they are used, leaders loot the treasury. In all indices of development, Nigeria is far behind. This is because all that Nigeria lacks is leadership", he stated. "Comment and facts on the economic situation and infrastructure facilities have shown that Nigeria has lagged behind in the quest for economic development and transformation within the framework of a stable leadership"
"The reasons cannot be farfetched: These leaders form the habit of diverting the huge earnings of oil into private pockets. Where are transparency, accountability and good governance in Nigerian democracy, when corruption has been a serious setback to our economic growth?" He however noted that, "some of our leaders are self centered, unpatriotic, greedy, impatient, reckless and insincere to the legacies of our forefathers, who fought and died for this country.
"For Nigeria to be a crawling adult at the age of 48 is quite unfortunate and calls for a sober reflection. It is good governance that translates our human and natural resources into political and economic development". He also observed that, "the complacent attitude of our leaders and inconsistency in policy implementation whose multiplier effect of are the energy crisis and the decay in infrastructural facilities remains issues of concern in the socio-political and economic life of the country".

But bad governance, more than ever before in the nation’s history is producing an increasingly unequal country in terms of the distribution of income, assets and economic power. This growing inequality can be seen between politicians and the rest of us, with many politicians accumulating all the country’s wealth through false allowance and expenses claim etc; and within the geopolitical zone, as new investments and juicy appointments concentrated in a few zones. It can also be seen within states, as certain areas remain no-go areas for federal patronage. The result is that areas bypassed often face declining employment and decaying infrastructure.
Just like in other countries of the world, Nigeria has cities, and in these cities there are formal and informal measures that moderate social and spatial inequalities. Informal measures can be particularly important when governments are too weak or ineffective to ensure formal provision of basic infrastructure and services.
In Owerri, as in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Kano etc, informal enterprises provide water, sanitation, schools and health care to large sections of the lower income population. The visibility of bad governance in Nigeria can be seen from the absence of, for example, universal provision of basic infrastructure (piped water, sanitation, drainage) to virtually all homes, and basic services (health care, emergency services, garbage collection).
The general absence of universal access to primary and secondary education in some states, and the widening poor provision for tertiary education- through provision for schools and higher education institutions, and measures to support retraining and re-skilling, to allow those whose skills were no longer needed to get back into the labour force is a problem .
Also the absence of safety nets that ensures basic incomes for the unemployed and those unable to work, and usually, special measures to provide shelter to those unable to afford it and help low –income families with children. The poor protection for the labour force against exploitative wages and dangerous working conditions, and the absence of measures to support economic growth or regeneration in the poorer areas, including investment in transport and communication infrastructure etc.
In many Nigerian cities, smaller urban centers and rural areas, there is still critical under-provision of basic infrastructure and services. Most people living in Nigeria have no public safety nets if they lose their jobs or fall ill, and little protection against dangerous working practices and inadequate wages. There are also issues of accountability with regard to the relationship between citizens and the private sector. Companies and corporations often ignore national and local laws and regulations on occupational health and safety, and pollution control, where governments are weak or corrupt. Workers fearful of losing their jobs are also less likely to question dangerous or otherwise exploitative working practices.
In view of all these short comings and many more, it is obvious that rebranding Nigeria as is currently being packaged should not be the priority. Already, being Nigerian is a burden and liability to most citizens; however those who seem to suffer the shame most are mostly those who often come in contact with nationals of other countries elsewhere. And these include Nigerians in Diaspora, and of course all those who travel with the green passport.

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