REALIZING THE NIGERIAN DREAM

Posted by BUKOLA ADENUBI on Tuesday, October 20, 2015




The name "Nigeria" was suggested by a British journalist, Flora Shaw in the 1890s, after the Niger River, which dominates much of the country's landscape. The country is located in West Africa, along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and just north of the equator. It is bordered on the west by Benin, on the north by Niger and Chad, and on the east by Cameroon. Nigeria covers an area of 356,669 square miles (923,768 square kilometers), or about twice the size of California, United States of America. It has the largest population of any African country with about 2.6 percent growth every year.

Nigerians are people with ancestry from Nigeria. More than 250 ethnic tribes call Nigeria home and the three largest and most dominant ethnic groups are the Hausas, Yorubas, and Igbos. Other smaller groups include the Fulanis, Ijaws, Kanuris, Ibibios, Tivs, and Edos. These ethnic groups had separate and independent histories prior to their grouping together into a single entity by the British colonizers. The seemingly absence of Nigerian nationalism coupled with an ever-changing and often ethnically-biased national leadership, have led to ethnic, religious, regional disputes and tensions which have commonly divided Nigerians.  However, in spite of the instances of extremism, most Nigerians continue to peacefully co-exist with each other, and a common national identity is seen amongst the many Nigerians who leave small homogeneous ethnic communities to seek economic opportunities in the cities where the population is ethnically mixed.
 
Due to the adverse economic conditions and lack of adequate security in the country, many Nigerians had immigrated to other countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, amongst others.  The most noticeable exodus occurred among professional and middle-class Nigerians who, along with their children, took advantage of education and employment opportunities in the developed countries and this may have contributed to a "brain-drain" on Nigeria's intellectual resources to the detriment of its future.
 
Nigerians in the Diaspora have become well known for their educational prowess as Nigerian culture has long emphasized education, placing value on pursuing education as a means to financial success and personal fulfillment. Nigerian immigrants have the highest education attainment level in the United States, surpassing every other ethnic group in the country, according to U.S Bureau Census data. Nigerians are also known for their sporting skills, rich culture, friendliness and accommodation of foreigners. A few unscrupulous people have however painted the nation in a bad light.

From the years of military rule to the advent of multi-party democracy in March 1999; the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, General  Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Mohammed, Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, General Sani Abacha, General Abdulsalami Abubakar,  Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and now again Gen. Muhammadu Buhari have piloted the affairs of this great nation but alas the nation still grapples with a lot of challenges. Oh Nigeria, our Nigeria, is this the Nigeria we dream of?

This Nigeria today is one in which despite the abundance of human, material and natural resources, basic infrastructure and social services are pitiably bad; economic facilities are weak; the educational system apart from being a poor social service, lacks quality, proper orientation and quantity; healthcare delivery system at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels destroys rather than saves lives; agriculture, the highest contributor to Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 40 percent and the highest employer of labour at 60 percent is underdeveloped through neglect and poor policy administration; the extraction, production and sale of oil and gas have been mismanaged, negatively politicized and corrupted; there is phenomenal corruption at the level of politics and governance; solid minerals which exist in abundance have been neglected or abandoned; ethics and values which are the moral guides and glue of a society have crashed to a level of negative transcendentalism, normlessness and criminality; peace, social and protective security are perennially threatened at the societal  and individual levels; there is religious fanatism and intolerance; important social and economic activities like sports and tourism are badly mismanaged and underdeveloped; foreign policy lacks clarity and Nigeria has a very bad international image, often reflecting the failures at home on and on and on. No! This is not the Nigeria we so passionately dream of.

Nigeria has only recently been acknowledged as having the continent's largest economy – 26th in the world and could expand its economy by more than 6% annually, with its GDP exceeding $1.6 trillion – moving it into the global top 20 by 2030. Moreover, if Nigeria's leaders work to ensure that growth is inclusive, an estimated 30 million people could escape poverty. Nigeria also has a rapidly growing consumer class that will play an increasingly important role in driving growth. By 2030, more than 34 million households, with about 160 million people, are likely to be earning more than $7,500 annually, making them aspiring consumers. This implies a potential rise in consumption from $388 billion annually to $1.4 trillion – a prospect that is already attracting investments by multinational consumer-goods producers and retailers.

Nigeria's prospects are further enhanced by its strategic location, which will enable it to take advantage of booming demand across Africa and other parts of the developing world. Add to that a large and growing population and an entrepreneurial spirit, and the future looks bright. In order to unleash this potential and ensure that the next decade of growth brings sharp reductions in poverty, Nigeria's leaders must pursue reforms aimed at increasing productivity, raising incomes, and delivering essential services like electricity, good road network, health care and education more efficiently. For example, to increase productivity and incomes in the agricultural sector, the government could pursue land title reform aimed at opening more farmland without deforestation; expand the use of fertilizer and mechanized equipment; and support a shift to more profitable crops. Moreover, improvements in distribution and marketing would allow farmers to keep more of the proceeds from the sale of their crops.

In urban areas, productivity suffers from a high degree of informal employment, sometimes even by major corporations. This keeps too many Nigerians in low-skill, low-paying jobs and deprives the economy of the dynamism that competitive small and medium-size enterprises create. The spate of internet startups that have emerged in Nigeria demonstrates that the skills are there, and tapping Nigeria's diaspora can augment that talent pool.
 
To make it easier to do business in Nigeria, the government also will need to streamline processes for registering and running a legal business and, together with aid agencies and the private sector, increase investment in infrastructure. It will also need to intensify its fight against endemic corruption, which represents a tax on all businesses.

Finally, to promote inclusive growth – essential to relieving human suffering and mitigating social and political tensions – Nigeria must improve public service delivery dramatically. The fact that Nigeria lags behind countries that spend comparable amounts on public services proves that it has scope to improve. All that is needed to ensure that assistance – from seed subsidies to immunization – reaches those who need it most, regardless of where they live in the country, is a strong commitment from Nigeria's leaders to build more effective and transparent government agencies.

In this new dispensation in Nigeria, when weighed against existing realities, our president and any other human for that matter stands little or no chance of giving Nigerians the country of their dreams, in just four years. It is high time, each person, from the head and first child in every household, the class captain in primary schools, the senior prefects, student union leaders, youth corpers, religious leaders, ethnic rulers, the counsellors, governors, ministers and indeed everyone, home and abroad raised his or her head up high, beat his chest and lift our nation high.  With nearly one in six Africans being a Nigerian, we are indeed the giant of Africa. Nigeria is ours and only Nigerians can build the country, if we all play our parts and do things right.

Taking a cue from the "I have a Dream" speech by a great man, Martin Luther King Jr., in the year 1963 when Nigeria became a Republic. I have a dream that 52 years on Nigeria will be great again. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Nigerian dream. I have a dream today that Nigeria and its citizens will have the security and prosperity that they deserve.
 
Dr. Adenubi writes from the Dept. of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa.



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