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Moving the Nigerian State Forward

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Essay on Nigerian sectors that need the most improvement/ development for the future’s sake by Daniel Ogba.

 

Nigeria is not a failed state. Quite the contrary to what the massively discouraging reality around us might suggest, this country is one with so much potential to succeed and leave its dog years behind. However patronizing or optimistic this might sound given the deplorable state of things in this country, it is the crystal clear truth. One might ask: what then is hindering Nigeria from activating this potential? How do we move this nation forward for the sake of our future?

The primary issue that, I believe, has largely beleaguered our ability to thrive and move forward as a nation, is our collective mentality that is so averse to change. There’s a popular quote, which I will paraphrase to suit my idea. It is: “To change a nation, you must first change its people’s minds.” Legendary Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter, Robert Nesta Marley sang in one of his popular tracks, “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/ none but ourselves can free our minds..” This is what I believe is the very first, paramount sector of our Nigerian state that needs to be renewed: our minds. There are so many things — ideologies, cultures, beliefs, systems of practice — that we generally need to unlearn, relearn or do away with. It is important to understand that any nation with the ability to move forward is one that is able to adopt and adapt to new and constantly changing perspectives. With the entire global landscape frequently experiencing change both between the last decade and this new one, Nigeria has more or less remained either stagnant, in some areas, or retrogressive, in others. This averseness or gross complacency is an ailment that has greatly suffered our growth and future as a nation. First, start from changing the mind — desensitization of the senses on issues regarding ethnicity, religion, social class — and watch impactful developments ripple through several other sectors.

Another sector where there is a huge need for improvement in Nigeria is the education sector. This is albeit of the utmost importance, as education — not just of any kind, but quality education — is the driving force of national development. This sector of the Nigerian economy has been, for far too long, allowed to wallow in neglect and paucity in relation to the amount of funding and support it has received in the past years, especially with the current administration. Across all states, the standard of education has nosedived far below the margin prescribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recommendation. Nigeria’s government sometime in the year 2019 acknowledged that the country had the highest number of children out of school in the world. It said, that there were estimated to be 10.5 million children not being educated — this is such a scary figure. While several education officials have blamed cultural factors, nomadic communities and the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in some parts of the northern states, critics point to a severe lack of funding. While the former reasons highlighted as the cause of a massive decline in accessibility to quality education are valid, it does not in any way remove from the simple fact that the latter holds supreme. Our schools are ill-equipped, classrooms are overcrowded, fees are exorbitant and low-income households are unable to afford, teachers are underpaid and equally overworked, and institutional structures are in the most deplorable conditions. The challenges of conducive and quality learning are too enormous to quantify. However, despite these challenges, it is a no-brainer that the current administration first proposed in the 2021 budget to give the sector its lowest allocation in the last ten years, a meager 5.6 per cent, when measured as a percentage of the total spending plan.

Owing to the dilapidation of structures and instability (the incessant strikes and security crises) in our education system, it would take blindness and an intentional obtuseness to deny the huge impact these challenges currently pose on our economic development. Each year, the number of young Nigerians fleeing the country for better education prospects in the West and several other African countries keep increasing. The cost in these countries are not relatively low or affordable, but there’s at least an assurance of utmost quality and a timely trajectory. With roughly sixteen thousand (16,000) Nigerians studying in the United States of America based on a February 2021 report(1) , and an average cost of forty thousand U.S dollars ($40,000 US) spent yearly, excluding living expenditures, one can only imagine how this amount coughed into the US coffers would boost our gross domestic product. This trend in “education tourism” is expected to increase in coming years. We cannot afford to do nothing.

Moving forward, an intentional investment in our education system, geared toward expansion, renovations, equipping of institutions with necessary facilities, and appropriate remuneration of teachers at all levels of education, would be of great benefit to our society. Also, promotion of an education that encourages innovation, not one that stifles progressive thinking in a bid to further strengthen a status quo quickly fading into obscurity, especially in institutions of higher learning, will aid in fostering a fast-tracked growth into our future.

Conversely, the health sector is another area in need of maximum improvement. Several challenges have posed serious threats to Nigerians ability to access optimal healthcare. The problem of lack of incentivization of health workers which has led to numerous union strike actions, frustration, and emigration of health workers; the problem of not-enough doctors or overworked ones; the lack of basic necessary facilities. These are just a few of the problems that have rocked our healthcare system. For a nation to be able to improve, the health and wellness of its working population must be guaranteed. However, in Nigeria, this is rarely the case. The life expectancy of an average Nigerian person as at 2021 is 55.12 years(2). Compared to other countries, this is appalling. This translates into two things. First, that the standard of living in this country is low and subpar. Second, that our healthcare system is in, for lack of better description, shambles. This calls for serious concern. A substantial number of Nigeria’s working population fall directly under that age bracket. And it could prove catastrophic for our economic future if we have this much decline in our number of workforce.

Our national hospitals are ill-equipped. Daily, countless lives are lost to flimsy excuses like; “no doctor on duty” “there’s no electricity” “we lack X or Y resources to perform the surgery” “we’ve run out of bed spaces, we can’t admit” etc. These are conversations no nation should be having in the 21st century, but we find ourselves having them. It would not be farfetched to assert that the reason our healthcare system has been allowed to crumble this much is because the so-called elites and ruling class don’t make use of these services. So why should they care? This is another discussion we should equally be having. We should be able to ask why our politicians are allowed to spend taxpayer money on healthcare abroad while they abandon the substandard systems to the relatively poor masses. A nation that cares this less for the wellbeing of its populace is nowhere near the verge of development in the foreseeable future.

For the sake of a future that is both secure and sustainable, the Nigerian government should seek to achieve affordable and optimal healthcare systems for its entire populace.

Furthermore, availability and access to clean, modern energy services is a huge challenge that has faced the African continent because energy is fundamental for socioeconomic development, security, and poverty eradication. Several African countries, like Rwanda, are taking measures to tackle this elephant-sized problem. Nigeria has remained less proactive. The Nigerian energy sector needs an urgent revival if we are to hope towards achieving so much in the future. Future economic development crucially depends on the long-term availability of energy from sources that are affordable, accessible, and environmentally friendly.

Energy supports the provision of basic needs such as cooked food, a comfortable living temperature, lighting, the use of appliances, piped water or sewerage, essential health care (refrigerated vaccines, emergency, and intensive care), educational aids, communication (radio, television, electronic mail, the World Wide Web), and transport. Energy also fuels productive activities including agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, industry, and mining(3). Most of our daily processes and economic activities rely on the availability of energy, and also the ability to access it. A lack of access to energy contributes majorly to poverty and deprivation. This equally contributes to the economic decline. Availability of renewable energy and poverty reduction are not only closely related with each other, but also with socioeconomic development, which includes productivity, income growth, education, and health.

Nigeria has been battling an energy crisis for over two decades now, despite privatization of the sector. Some argue this is a result of the federal government refusing to decentralize the sector and allowing state governments to generate their electricity, to cut the huge sum in billions lost daily. This has contributed in so many ways to high poverty rate and decreased living standards by crippling industrial and commercial activities. The epileptic supply of power to both households, health and industrial complexes has affected the efficient running and productivity of these structures. There has undoubtedly been significant strides made to curb power outages, upscale the sector and reduce the income loss cum health hazard caused due to the exposure to carbon emissions caused by constant use of ‘backyard generators’ in different households and businesses. However, so much needs to be done. There needs to be an aggressive diversification of resources in this sector. It has been proved that fossil fuel(petroleum) alone cannot meet the energy needs of this country. Therefore, moving forward, there is no longer need for over-reliance on one resource when our lands are abundant with other renewable energy sources such as solar, hydroelectric, biomass, wind, tidal, all of which remain untapped. The government seriously needs to consider these clean, promising complementaries.

Lastly, the nascent technology sector of Nigeria is one such area where there needs to be maximum improvement and attention. The global economy now runs on IT. Almost all local and international businesses are abandoning the traditional operations system and shifting towards a landscape that gives them leverage of operating across frontiers and national boundaries. Startups and SMEs around the country are investing so much in this sector to solve basic financial, security, agricultural, medical, clothing and housing needs. An example is the savings platform, Piggyvest, that offers vast savings and investment options to its thousands of users in a highly secure and efficient wall-less environment. Also, several agritech startups are seeking to solve the logistics of food waste in the country and learn how to get produce from the farm to the end consumer in the most efficient and effective manner. In the medical field, technology has been leveraged to solve a myriad of health issues. Case in point is Temie Giwa-Tubosun’s innovative digital blood-bank, LifeBank Nigeria, which not only links hospitals to blood banks, but has efficiently transported thousand units of blood for frontline health facilities across the country.

The impact technology has shown on our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) is undeniable. Increasing by 3.76% in the second quarter of the previous year, the technology sector contributed 17.8% to the GDP, the NBS reports(4). This is a significant value, which is expected to keep rising as the sector keeps expanding. Focused investment in this sector is projected to reduce extremely the widening unemployment curve, and hence, solve crimes, tackle insecurity and poverty in Nigeria.

In conclusion, there are other areas that also require diligent improvement to ensure a hopeful future for Nigeria and Nigerians. The ones highlighted in this essay are not in any way touted as more important than the ones not included, rather these are sectors which, I think, hold the most promise for our lives and economy. What Nigeria needs is an all-round, encompassing improvement, both at individual, state and national levels. Our leaders need to first of all recognize how pivotal their positions are in this quest for an improved future. The cloak of partisanship that has shrouded deeply the political sphere needs to be put away, and a new sense of community and belongingness upheld.

 

 

 

 

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