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Is anything wrong with Nigeria?

By Iorter Peter

Asking the right ques­tion is critically im­portant. Think of how important it is for a police detective to ask the right question; what about a physician? For a research­er, every finding that follows a path to solving a problem be­gins with a question. For my colleagues, they understand how asking the right question will be a sure way to a scoop story. To avoid going down a lot of blind alleys, one simply need to ask the right question. For us as a country, what are the ques­tions we should be asking now – what is the national question?

Rightly referred to as the ‘Gi­ant of Africa’, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation. Its cit­izens have over time distin­guished themselves in differ­ent fields of human endeavor. The country has produced Af­rica’s richest man – Alhaji Aliko Dangote, founder of Dan­gote Group, who was also ranked as the richest black man in the world by Forbes Maga­zine. Prof Wole Soyinka is con­sidered as Africa’s most distin­guished playwright; he became the first Africa to win the No­bel Prize for literature. Mr Olu­mide Aliu, became president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) making him the first African to head the global body for aviation safety. These and many others have proudly placed Nigeria on the global map.

The country is copiously blessed with crude oil and gas deposits among other natural resources. Nigeria’s average crude oil production is current­ly estimated at 1.82 million bar­rel per day; ranking as one of the largest exporter of crude oil in the world. Despite all these, the country’s statistics on pov­erty levels hardly make for scin­tillating reading. It is paradox­ical that the discovery of oil wealth in Nigeria has become a ‘curse’ instead of a blessing.

Why is our narrative so dis­tinct from that of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)? History has it that, over 5,000 years ago, the inhabitants of what is now the UAE survived on mere­ly fishing, hunting and herd­ing sheep and goats. When oil was discovered in the region, it metamorphosed their harsh and difficult existence.

Today, the sagacious invest­ment of oil wealth has trans­formed that desert region of old to an enviable metropo­lis. The United Arab Emirates now boasts of having one of the highest per capita incomes in the world; with an impres­sive infrastructure – superb­ly equipped modern hospitals, well-maintained multi-lane carriageways, efficient interna­tional seaports, world-class air­ports, leading hotels and beach resorts and air-conditioned shopping malls among other such-like developments.

It is somewhat difficult to un­derstand why our oil wealth has not changed our economic for­tunes. There is a growing defi­cit in infrastructure – pitiable health facilities, unstable elec­tricity, and bad roads. The list is inexhaustible. With our huge oil resources, Nigerians have no business being poor. Yet, mil­lions of Nigerians have contin­ued to live in extreme poverty. Our graduates roam the streets searching for jobs that are not available. Several people die daily from treatable diseases not only as a result of the poor state of our hospitals, but also because of their inability to foot hospital bills. It is no exaggera­tion therefore to say that pov­erty kills in Nigeria. If things had fallen apart long ago in the years of Chinua Achebe, I won­der how we can describe the sit­uation now.

It is worrisome how a hand­ful of individuals will reckless­ly squander our collective oil wealth while many people find it difficult to eat a meal. How soon are we going to rewrite our history? Are we asking the right questions? How unfortu­nate it is that those who are po­sitioned to make this change happen appear to be benefit­ting from the faulty system. I wouldn’t think that Nigerians have not been asking the right questions. We have been able to identify the fundamental issues that have continued to threaten our common existence. But my headache is why have we been unable to fix Nigeria right?

Many times one wonders the sincerity and commitment of our leaders to solving the Nige­rian problem. Why was former President Jonathan unable to implement the report of the Na­tional Conference? Why did he convene a conference he knew he wasn’t ready to implement its report in the first instance? Is it not true to say it was a polit­ical twist? Oh, He thought he was coming back to Aso Rock to consider the report! On an­other note, Why can’t Nigeri­ans be allowed to hold a ref­erendum and decide on what they want for themselves?

There is an urgent need to identify the major elements that can shape the near future of our country. As a country, we must begin now to real­ize our guiding ethos. For me, the on-going debate for the re­structuring of the country de­serves speedy attention. At the moment, make no mistakes; many things are wrong with Nigeria.

–Iorter, an independent journalist, wrote from Abu­ja.

About Dotun Roy

DotunRoy.com is a development driven news website with the overall goal of projecting the positive impacts of non-profit and civil society organisations as they contribute to developmental elements such as education, environmental sustainability and Climate Change, Human Rights, health, finance, housing, good governance as well as security in Nigeria and across the world.