A limping giant – The Nation

  • Governments must be more serious in dealing with the poverty question

Last June, the World Bank shocked the world when it announced that Nigeria had overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world. The Brookings Institution had earlier published a report giving the statistics of all countries’ poverty index ratings. Nigeria had overtaken India with a population of 1.324b with the number of extremely poor people, with her population of 200m or less.

According to the report, Nigeria had about 87m people in extreme poverty as at May 2018. This is a very ominous developmental sign for a country that ought to provide economic leadership for the rest of Africa. Africa provides two-thirds of the world’s extremely poor people and with her population, Nigeria therefore contributes a lion’s share of almost 40% of Africa’s extremely poor and it is not abating.

The Emir of Kano, a former governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank has been consistent in lamenting the effects of poor policy direction and execution in the country. In 2016 at the Second Kaduna Economic Summit, and last week in Ibadan, while receiving an honorary membership of the Sigma Club of the University of Ibadan,  he again lamented the impact of poverty on the nation. He decried the fact that education, health and nutrition have not been given the necessary and urgently needed attention they deserve and the poverty index in the country points to the failure of governments to focus on these areas to accelerate development.

Again, a former US ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell, while speaking at a book presentation he co-authored in Lagos, “Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know” described Nigeria as a ‘troubled giant”. He identified corruption and lack of patriotism on the part of the country’s leadership as the two problems afflicting the economy and making its citizens poorer than other nations because Nigerians across the world excel in all areas.

These two damning realities must be taken very seriously if the country would have any redeeming features in the next few years. Nothing will change if the Nigerian people do not wake up from the lethargic slumber they are in presently.

The last time Mr. Bill Gates came visiting, he lamented the lack of investments in education and health sectors. The two most important sectors for the growth of the human capital that fuel development must be treated with the sense of urgency required for the maximum productivity that can lift the people out of poverty.

The Asian Tigers, Singapore, Taiwan and other countries that have left the lower rungs of world poverty statistics succeeded because they invested in their human capital through education and health sectors. More of saying a healthy nation is a productively healthy nation.

The fact that most Nigerians all over the world are success stories in all sectors shows that the problem of Nigeria is not in the human beings but the lack of the will by successive governments to invest in infrastructure and human capital development.

Investment in core areas of education, health, other key infrastructure and good economic policies religiously executed are the only panacea to a country so blessed with abundant human and natural resources.

No country develops mainly on the basis of possessing natural resources and or human capital. Countries are developed by educated and healthy citizens whose governments are patriotic enough to invest in the citizens and infrastructure to enable the people maximise their productive potential.

Nigeria must seriously work towards addressing all the factors responsible for pushing the once upon a time Africa’s economic giant into becoming the poverty capital of the world with the attendant  socio-economic problems of overpopulation, crime, poverty, low life expectancy, child and maternal mortality and very high illiteracy rate in a world ruled by ideas and IT.

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