Something struck me yesterday as I was leaving my office. Owing to the intense heat and high humidity most residents in my area – men, women, adults, children and babies – were seated outside their respective houses in a bid to receive some fresh air. The residents were completely soaked in their own sweat. Some residents removed their shirts and were using them to fan their bodies. Time was 6.15 pm. Darkness was setting in. As usual, there was no electricity supply in my area. Like most neighbourhoods in Lagos my neighbourhood has been without electricity supply for months. The deafening and jarring noises and the thick black smokes oozing out from the electricity generators continue to pollute our environment.
You may be well aware that in 2017 Nigeria was named the second country in the world with the worst electricity supply. These days you cannot do any meaningful work in your office owing to the intense heat. At home you cannot sleep in the night for the same reason. Out of frustration you take to the street the next day in search of petrol to power your electricity generator. You are held up in intractable vehicular traffic jam for three hours. After the three hours you finally arrive at the filling station completely exhausted. On alighting from your car, you notice a seemingly endless queue of cars waiting to be re-fueled. Since you have no other option, you join the fuel queue. After four hours in the queue precisely when it is your turn to buy fuel, a petrol attendant stands up from nowhere and announces that the filling station has suspended selling fuel due to some circumstances beyond its control. You go home tired and depressed. No food. No drinkable water to quench your thirst. No peace of mind. You spend a whole day trying to refuel your car without success. Obviously you cannot boast of having a good health.
Besides, you are a poor man. Your disposable income is very low. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria is now acknowledged as the poverty capital of the world with about 87 million “extremely poor people” thus overtaking India in extreme poverty ranking. In 2018, the African Development Bank (AfDB) revealed that the World Poverty Clock named Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world. In 2017, Nigeria was ranked as the third most-terrorised country in the world. In the same 2017 Nigeria Police was ranked as the worst Police in the world. In the same 2017 Nigeria was ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a country with the third highest infant mortality rate in the world. In the same 2017 Northern Nigeria was ranked as the worst region in the world with the highest number of illiterates.
On 25 July 2018 the BBC reported that “Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children, totaling 13 million, in the world.” In the 2018 Global Rankings of “Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index” of the OXFAM and Development Finance International (DFI), Nigeria was ranked 157 out of 157 countries. In the same 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest number of under-5 deaths in the world. In the same 2018 Nigeria was ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth to and the 4th country in the world with the worst maternal mortality death rate. In the same 2018 Nigeria was ranked among the worst malaria hit countries in the world. In the same 2018 Nigerian was ranked by the World Bank among the seven worst countries on the World Bank Human Capital Index. In the 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Nigeria was ranked as the 103rd hungriest country in the world out of 119 qualifying countries. In the same 2018, Nigeria was ranked among the worst malaria hit countries in the world. In the same 2018 Nigerian was ranked by the World Bank among the seven worst countries on the World Bank Human Capital Index.
I am sure you know that about 152 million Nigerians live on less than 1 US dollar a day, representing about 70 per cent of the country’s estimated population of 200 million. This might have prompted Oxfam to raise the fresh alarm. According to Mr. Constant Tchona, a representative of OXFAM in Nigeria: “The number of people that live below extreme poverty as at April 2018 was 91,501,377 thus reaffirming that Nigeria the poverty capital of the world. As if that was not bad enough, six months later, the number jumped to 94,470,533 people meaning that 2,969,158 Nigerians have been added into Nigeria’s extreme poverty rate. By comparison, this number is more than the population of Gambia and Cape Verde combined. At the current rate, Nigeria is not only off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but many now believe that up to 25 per cent of the world’s extreme poor will live in Nigeria by 2030”. Perhaps the achievement of the Buhari government in the last seven years is to drag Nigeria into the membership of failed States. Imagine the most populous and most richly endowed African country joining insignificant countries such as Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan and Myanmar as a full-fledged failed State. The Buhari government came to power on the mantra of fighting corruption. Now, seven years on, it is obvious to all and sundry that the Buhari government is corruption personified.
Frankly speaking, the current deteriorating living condition in Nigeria is worrisome. We cannot get tired of re-echoing ad nauseam that the real crisis afflicting Nigeria (which is more pervasive that the crisis of political leadership), is the human development crisis. Therefore, the elimination of avoidable human miseries is a goal which constantly challenges our government. The goal should be to satisfy basic human needs such as ordinary electricity supply, drinking water, shelter, ordinary hygiene, primary health and so forth. Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right and security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”. Thus human development is the ultimate focus of all types of development-economic, social, cultural and political. In other words, the people are the wealth of the nation. The basic objective of development is defeated if the human condition under which the live and work is left to deteriorate.
Agreed, infrastructural developments such as construction of highways, flyovers, skyscrapers and railway lines are crucial to sustainable development. But priority should be given to human capital formation which is the epicentre of all developments. Our greatest challenge is the challenge of being human. We dedicate ourselves to so many unnecessary things forgetting that satisfying the basic human necessities is the most important thing. The basic questions to ask in assessing the performance of any government are: Can the people eat food to keep body and soul together? Can they drink ordinary water? Do they have shelter over their heads? Do they enjoy ordinary electricity supply? Can they buy fuel to power their air-conditioners and electric fans? Can they go to bed and wake up in the morning without any stress caused by lack of sleep? Are their basic human rights guaranteed? Can they escape avoidable diseases? If you take away all that the word “human” and all that the belief in our humanity has given to man, you can finally view man as no more than an extremely clever, adaptable, and extremely mischievous little animal. In the same vein, by failing to provide the basic necessities of life such as electricity supply which is crucial to eking out a simple living the government has reduced man to a clever, adaptable, and extremely mischievous little animal.
Unfortunately Nigerians, as they say in local parlance, are the architects of their own destruction. The Nigerian crisis is a crisis of failed followership. And failed followership begets failed political leadership. For example, at the threshold to the 2015 presidential election campaigns we were warned that candidate Mohammadu Buhari would make a disaster President, yet many of us ignored the warning and voted for candidate Buhari. After the effusion of four years, President Buhari returned as a disaster President, yet some people still paved the way for him to return to power in 2019 despite his waning intellect and his over-bearing old age and ill-health. In his response to the clamour for Buhari by some Nigerians after he (Buhari) had failed, Prof Wole Soyinka said: “It is astonishing to find that the same former slaves, now free of their chains, should clamour to be ruled by one who not only turned their nation into a slave plantation, but forbade them any discussion of their condition.”
I agree with Prof. Soyinka. Nigerians are their own enemies. Even as we prepare for the 2023 presidential election, some are campaigning that the physically-and-intellectually-drained political Godfather should become our next President. What is wrong with these people? Are they mentally okay? We are still suffering from the calamitous misrule of President Buhari and they are conspiring to bring the pant-pissing political Godfather to be our next President. They want us to move from flying pan to fire. God forbid bad thing. Therefore we must vote wisely in 2023. We must vote for a candidate who will improve the current worsening living condition in Nigeria. Twice beaten thrice shy.