As Nigeria celebrates its 58th Independence Anniversary today, we look at the country through the eyes of a realist. Judging by recent events and current state of Nigeria’s economy, she travels to the future and shares what she sees.
It’s October 1, 2050. Nigeria is celebrating its 90th independence anniversary. It came with the usual fanfare and celebration of heroes past. But some Nigerians are also lamenting about the bad state of the economy. “We’ve never had it this bad. Even in the days of Buhari,” a retired civil servant says. Honestly, who cares what he thinks when economic indicators show otherwise?
Economic growth seems fine. GDP is more than $3 trillion and Nigeria has finally become one of the world’s top 15 economies. Oil is selling at $113 per barrel. Nigeria still depends heavily on the black gold and Dangote Refinery and other smaller refineries has ensured Nigeria produces enough premium motor spirit (PMS) for local use. However, what has been saved in forex that could have been expended in importation of PMS is used in servicing decades of debts. Nigeria’s forex reserves stands at $65 billion.
The country is struggling to match infrastructure and population growth. Nigeria’s population is already over 400 million. Lagos is more congested than ever with more than 60 million people in the city. A couple of riots have happened in the Lagos over the last few years, with people demanding more from a government that taxes them so much it generates N500 billion every quarter.
Nigerians are still leaving the country in search of greener pastures but for the few who are lucky, the grass can’t be greener than it currently is in Nigeria. Older doctors are urging the younger ones to stay and build Nigeria’s health sector. But they wouldn’t budge. About 10,000 doctors leave Nigeria every year, some even don’t go as far as Europe or America; Ghana has a growing health sector and Nigerian doctors are thriving there. Software developers are also leaving in droves. They have become the best in Africa but it’s difficult to put their talents to work in Nigeria, so they leave.
The current crop of politicians are not better than their fathers. While they do not run from debates or media chats, they have struggled to end corruption. Their fight against corruption is seen as selective and even the ones that claim not to be corrupt allow corrupt practices to thrive close to them.
A good percentage of the Nigerian middle class has dual nationalities. The faint-hearted among them relocate after trying for a while to make things work in Nigeria, others stay and build companies like Paga and Paystack, two of the biggest tech employers in Nigeria.
Although Nigeria has more than 100 million people living in extreme poverty, more citizens are making their first billion earlier. Forbes had to drop a Nigerian from its latest Youngest Billionaires List to ensure it did not look like an Abuja edition. Inequality has widened but more social intervention programmes are cropping up trying to assuage the sufferings of the poor. But some are shunning handouts; they are demanding good roads, improved power supply and better policies that support small businesses.
“We can take care of ourselves and work our way to the top. We just the need an enabling environment. Stop telling us that our parents had it worse,” a petty trader says in reaction to a politician that claimed Nigeria is better now than it used to be. “Now you are sure of 12 hours of uninterrupted power daily. You even know when you will have power and when you won’t. That helps you plan well,” the minister who was an activist in his days as a young lawyer had told a gathering of artisans and petty traders.
He has something worse to say today as Nigeria celebrates its 90th Independence Anniversary.
“Our colonial masters dealt a fathers a big blow. Some wonder why we still blame colonialism 90 years after independence and I ask such people; would you rather we blame it only on PDP’s 16-year misrule? Those events, no matter how insignificant you might think they are, have led us to where we are today.
“We have made a lot of progress. Power is better. Fuel importation has stopped. Our roads are better, with a 15-year guaranty by Dangote on all roads made with concrete. Our laws are stronger against corruption. Although we have no convictions yet, anyone found guilty of corruption will spend the rest of their lives in jail.
Nigeria Air never made it to the skies. Oil money became too good we forgot diversification. The Nigerian Stock Exchange became used to four-year exits. Fela Durotoye never became president. Tinubu too. People are building cities and Nigeria is still a top investment destination, but life expectancy is 48 years.
“And to celebrate or 90th Independence Anniversary, we are launching the Heroes Project which will celebrate Nigerians who have contributed to the growth of the country or made the country proud in their chosen fields. I present to you the nominees….”
He seemed a combination of Ogbonnanya Onu, Lai Mohammed and Solomon Dalong in one. The three were ministers under Muhammadu Buhari who was Nigeria’s president from 2015 to 2023.
There is a small section of Nigerians, hardly noticed by many, gladly so. They provide essential services and run businesses catering to the needs of their immediate communities. They’ve shut the government out.
“I provide my utilities. The nice road to my community was constructed by my company and the people of this community. The only relationship I have with the government is that I pay tax. While I know that there are policy actions that may affect my business, I still prefer to maintain a low profile. I get loans from friends and family members home or abroad, as well as my community. I tried once to be an active citizen, it didn’t pay off. Nigeria’s idea of capitalism is crazy and it will lead us nowhere,” Takpatore, who runs a farm and a restaurant in Abuja says.
It’s another Independence Day and it seems like 2018 all over again, albeit with some improvements that no one should be proud of. Another election holds next year and the voices calling on some old hands like Feyi Fawehinmi to have a go at the country’s highest office is becoming louder.
“We’ve tried younger people; what did they achieve?” I heard a public commentator say on radio as Evergreen Adekunle Gold’s Work fades in.