Lights, Camera, Action!

Nigeria ranked sixth in the Hanke’s Annual Misery 2018 index of the world’s saddest and happiest countries. The ranking according to Steve Hanke is based on 95 nations that report relevant data on a timely basis.

Hanke, an economist with the John Hopkins University and a Forbes contributor stated that human conditions inhabit a vast continuum between “miserable” and “happy.” In the sphere of economics, misery tends to flow from high inflation, steep borrowing costs and unemployment.

This ranking comes just few weeks after Africa’s most populous country made it past the crossroads of a tightly contested general election and shows how crucial it is for Nigeria to hit the ground running.  The lights are on, cameras are running; it is time for a much-needed action!

Despite the fact that there were many dynamic and vibrant presidential aspirants who over the years have displayed visionary excellence, creativity and good leadership in different fields, the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and former vice president Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), visibly overpowered the race.

Though marred by open vote buying, military interference and unwarranted use of excessive force on civilians, the just concluded general elections still recorded low occurrences of post election violence with the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari declared winner.  This win gives President Buhari a second chance to address the same challenges he promised to address in 2015 when he was elected into office.

Besides changing his dress sense in his 2015 campaigns, the president who was then running for the fourth time also toned down the intense ethnic, regional and religious rhetoric that characterized his previous campaigns.  President Buhari also made a truckload of promises that included addressing the challenges of terrorism, corruption, and the need to improve the livelihood of Nigerians by growing the economy. These campaign promises were answered prayers that gave hope to a lot of Nigerians who just wanted “change.”

While these challenges have no quick fix, there also hasn’t been a considerable consistency or progress in fulfilling the 2015 campaign promises.

Terrorism

Nigeria has experienced an increase in the number of terrorist groups and activities. Based on the 2018 Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria presently ranks third after Iraq and Afghanistan in global terrorism.  Two of the world’s top deadliest groups – Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen militia still brazenly operate with fierce brutality and intensity within Nigeria. The Buhari-led administration in a statement said the military “technically” defeated Boko Haram, but there are indicators that the group is more stealthy, sophisticated and strategic in their operations.

A recent Amnesty International Nigeria report titled “Harvest of Death” mentioned that there has been “a dramatic increase in violence involving Fulani extremists even as deaths by Boko Haram are falling.” The brutal killing of women and children in the North Central region of Nigeria by the Fulani Herdsmen militia increased in the past three years with scores of people killed, villages decimated and as a result leaving many people internally displaced. Some 1.8 million people remain internally displaced across the three northeast states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, of whom 85 percent are in Borno alone according to a 2017 United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report. The International Crisis Group highlighted the fact that violence escalated in Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue states with an estimated 300,000 fleeing their homes in what they described as “large scale displacement and insecurity.” Amnesty International Nigeria says 22 out of the 36 states in Nigeria continue to face these attacks.

Nigerian Army

The Nigerian army has been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and has lost many gallant soldiers in this fierce battle. The brave soldiers that continue to fight and defend our freedom must be commended for their hard work, bravery and sacrifice. Unfortunately, there are challenges that complicate this tough mission and has made it harder for the Nigerian military to achieve its mission of totally defeating the terrorists.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell in a 2015 Time magazine article mentioned the fact that fraud is a bigger issue faced by the Nigerian military. “Nigeria’s annual military budget is somewhere between five and six billion dollars,” says Campbell. “Yet we have credible reports of soldiers being sent into combat with no bullets. The army is plagued by corruption, incompetence and bad morale.”

Last year, there were allegations against the Nigerian military of gross misconduct and abuse of civilians (mainly survivors of terrorist attacks). In April 2018, Nigeria’s military declared three UNICEF employees “persona non grata” in connection with allegations of soldiers sexually abusing children in the northeast.

Amnesty International Nigeria in the same “Harvest of Death” 2018 report alleged that the Nigerian Military ignored warnings of imminent attacks in the north-central states.  The report stated that the military was “slow to act” even when they were at proximity to most of the communities being attacked, with some attacks going on for days. It is important to note that this is not the first time that such allegations are leveled on the Nigerian military. In 2010, the then governor of Plateau state Senator David Jonah Jang commenting on the Dogo na Hawa massacres alleged that military commanders ignored warnings of imminent attacks on three communities in which hundreds of mostly women and children were brutally murdered by suspected Fulani Herdsmen militants.

There have also been a couple of citizens’ protests and rallies in the north-central states of Plateau, Benue and Kaduna based on suspicions of possible collusion between the Nigerian military and the Fulani Herdsmen militants. Former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) also alleged that the Nigerian military is colluding with terrorist in the killings that continue to claim scores of lives in the North-Central and North -Eastern parts of Nigeria.

Last year, the Nigerian military opened fire on unarmed religious protesters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) Shia Muslim group. Videos show the military shooting into protesters at close range, even when the protesters were fleeing.

The Human Rights Watch in a statement said, “the repression against the IMN Shia Muslim group by government security forces risks creating grievances that could worsen Nigeria’s already precarious security situation.” 

Nigerian Economy

The African Development Bank Group in the African Economic Outlook 2019 report mentioned the fact that the slide in oil prices from late 2018 coupled with an output cut imposed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC poses a downside risk to the Nigerian economic outlook. 

Unfortunately, and in all fairness to the present administration in Nigeria, the fact that Nigeria’s economy is heavily dependent on oil revenues does not put the country or anyone leading the country in a good place. Nigeria is not responsible for the global oil prices and will have to deal with international market forces. The implication is that a decline in international oil prices influences a decline in the Nigerian economy.

Regardless of the economic effects of international oil prices, it is the responsibility of a progressive and active government to take some serious alternative measures to create a cushion effect in order to reduce the intensity of economic hardship on the people. Unfortunately, this has not been the case over the past three years. The World Data Lab estimates that 87 million (44% of the general population) people in Nigeria now live below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 a day. This data implies that approximately six Nigerians fall below the extreme poverty line every minute. Bill Gates mentioned that poverty is becoming much more concentrated and 40 percent of people in extreme poverty will live in just Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo by the middle of this century. 

Nigeria’s population reached 182 million in 2016 with more than half its people under 30, according to Bloomberg. This fast-growing youth demographic also means an increase in youth unemployment and other vices as a result. The Director General of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure stated that no fewer than 300,000 graduates are mobilized annually for the NYSC program, this implies that approximately 300,000 young people that are mostly under 30 of age are annually released into a job market that has no jobs.

These data about the Nigerian economy and the growing youth bulge can be a huge positive or negative factor depending on how the Nigerian government chooses to approach it and what economic infrastructure are put in place to take advantage of the Nigerian youth bulge as an opportunity for economic growth and development.

Corruption

The president’s reputation as a corruption warlord continues to be questionable as close associates, political party members and affiliates seem to be immune to this war. President Buhari’s zero tolerance towards corruption was one of his major campaign promises that inspired many to support and vote him in 2015. 

Transparency International, the Global anti-corruption watchdog, in its 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Nigeria low. Out of 180, Nigeria was ranked 144 with a score of 27 out of 100.  The rank of a country according to Transparency International indicates its position relative to the other countries in the index. The score on the other hand indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 as highly corrupt to 100 as very clean.

According to Transparency International, an analysis of the index results indicates that countries with the lowest protections for press and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to freely operate and influence public policy also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.

The President’s health

The health of the current president continues to be a disturbing factor to the people. The president spent huge amounts of time abroad in his first tenure on medical visits sometimes without any official statement to Nigerians about his state of health. Health challenges are human challenges, especially as a person gets older. However, the refusal of the president and this administration to be transparent and accountable about the president’s state of health continues to diminish the trust of the people and questions the president’s integrity and competence.

Going Forward

Because of its abundant natural resources, youth bulge and growing population, Nigeria is arguably considered to be the largest economy in Africa with the potential to be a key player in the global economy on different levels.

Nigeria needs to move from being just a consumer market to being more productive. Diversified productivity is crucial for economic growth and development, this is because it has the capacity to move the economy by creating multiple streams of income and as a result encourage positive economic growth and development. Based on The Atlas of Economic Complexity, Nigeria in 1968 had an oil export that was only 17 percent, with all other exports agriculturally based. By 2008, oil and oil products export increased to 94 percent with a massive decline in the production and exportation of agricultural products.  

Nigeria urgently needs economic infrastructures that will create an enabling environment and encourage productive economic growth and development. Top on the list of such economic infrastructure is safety and security of lives and property. Terrorism continues to interrupt agricultural productivity and the desire for investments in the agricultural sector or any other sector. Unfortunately, the Nigerian military are saddled with the responsibility of the safety and security of the people, but the people don’t trust the military based on suspicions of the military colluding with terrorists. Nigerian security agents continue to use unwarranted excessive force on civilians with some deaths recorded in that regard.

Reports from both local and international organizations, citizens complain about the Nigerian military and other security agencies need to be taken seriously. The security agencies should be investigated and there should be a total reform of the Nigerian security infrastructure. The safety of lives and properties should be the priority of every government. Every Nigerian regardless of their tribe, religion or status possesses inherent dignity and worth that cannot be measured, respect for the sanctity of every human life must be the topmost priority of this administration.

Nigeria has the potential to attain the lofty heights it is supposed to attain but needs a selfless and visionary leadership to make it happen. A leadership that is deeply and truly rooted in an intentional effort to humbly serve the people in truth and honesty against all odds. Regardless of the difference in tribe, religion and political platforms, this administration needs to respect and appreciate the uniqueness of every Nigerian and so mobilize all to take part in building a Nigeria where peace and justice shall reign for all. This is action time!