Nigeria is a rich country blessed with both human and natural resources. She is the eighth most populated country in the world with over 150 million citizens and has one of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. Despite these advantages, Nigeria is struggling and a lot of her people are suffering. Why has a country with so much potential failed to maximise it?
This is because Nigeria has a leadership problem not a resource problem. The Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, once said that “Nigeria is what it is because its leaders are not what they should be.” Nigeria has had 13 different Heads of State since gaining independence from Britain in 1960. Eight of them have been military officers. Majority of them are held responsible by the populace for ruining Nigeria with their corrupt mismanagement and lack of educational vision for the nation.
Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organisation, publishes an annual global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which ranks almost 200 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption based on expert assessments and opinion surveys. The 2011 CPI index ranked Nigeria as 143 in a list of 183 countries. Transparency International defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.”
The absence of rule of law in Nigeria for those in power means there is no consequence for abuse of power. The abuse of power with no consequence encourages every citizen to break the law because a dangerous precedent has been set by those in authority who get away with the flagrant abuse of power.
The discovery of oil in Oloibiri, Nigeria in 1956 has been a blessing and a burden for the nation. The revenues from petroleum exports has enriched the nation’s coffers and provided capital for national development. Unfortunately, these national funds have been siphoned by leaders into their personal bank accounts and wasted on white elephant projects instead of being invested in key areas. Education is one key area that has been neglected since independence and as a result Nigeria’s huge human capital has not been maximised.
An educated population is probably the least governable, the most likely to rebel, the most stubborn and the most critical. But it is a population capable of the most extraordinary things, because each person strides purposefully forward, and of their volition, together, they seek a common destiny.” Stephen Downes
Nothing scares poor leaders more than an educated populace who know their rights and demand accountability from their leaders. It is therefore in the poor leaders’ selfish interest to destroy their nation’s educational systems and keep their people uninformed and ignorant.
I reckon that past Nigerian leaders’ mismanagement has set back the nation’s educational progress by at least one generation. The current educational system is on life support and the diagnosis is bleak unless current Nigerian leaders get their act together.
The myopic dependency on a natural resource (oil) has had a negative impact on the long term maximisation of the nation’s human resources. A nation’s greatest resource is not natural which is finite but human which is infinite.
This blog post was inspired by Thomas Friedman’s New York Times’ article, “Pass the books. Hold the oil.”