Kingsley Ohajunwa : The certainty of growth and the uncertainty of development in Nigeria

The most recent democratic dispensation in Nigeria led by Mohammed Buhari is already thronged with so many expectations. This is owing to the fact that the ruling party came in on the premise of “change” which acts as its slogan also. Whether Nigerians will experience this change is something only time can tell. Sadly however, this expectation of change may just be related to one of the salient words of the topic, “growth”.

It is therefore understandable when the words “growth” and “development” are used interchangeably, perhaps the user in this regard may not have known that there is a difference between the two, how much more understanding the magnitude of their difference. For the purpose of this piece attention will be placed on growth and development; the certainty of the former and the seeming uncertainty of the latter, while “change” as a concept and slogan/tool of political machination, especially as used by the ruling party will be treated in a subsequent piece.

Growth basically means increase in size, number or amount while development deals with the sustenance of growth. So growth may comprise factors such as rapid population growth, income inequality, imbalance in multi-sectoral development, environmental degradation caused by growing rate of industrialization, moral, social and intellectual factors which affect our way of thinking amongst other factors. According to the World Bank in World Development Report 1991, “the challenge of development is to improve the quality of life”. Leading development experts Todaro and Smith in a 2003 publication put forward development as being the sustained elevation of an entire society and social system towards a better or more humane life. These therefore suggest a huge difference between growth and development. Two basic indices of development in any society are equitable distribution of wealth and social justice, and balance in multi-sectoral development. These indices alone when expanded cover virtually all human expectations from a purposeful government. However Nigeria may still keep growing without developing.

The simple fact that oil still thrives as the country’s major source of income calls for very serious concern since development centres around people and the quality of the lives they lead. How can individuals in other sectors be fulfilled? What is wrong in developing the agricultural, tourism and automobile sectors while putting in place the single most constant factor which can enable all of them thrive – constant power supply. Let’s also understand that although these sectors are capital intensive, there are individuals who are eager to trade in either of them with their limited resources, thereby reducing crime. We must understand that the growing rate of industries, rise in the number of private universities, increase in the number of security forces recruited and mobilized to fight crime and insurgency, increase in revenue generated from oil export are not in any way signs of development. Nigerians do not expect “milk and honey” to be made to flow from their taps, all that is required are the proper functioning of basic indices which make life worth living.