In many profound ways, Nigerians have voiced their displeasure regarding the direction of the country. Rising food prices, the economic crisis, and the endless political shenanigans are some of the reasons many Nigerians wonder if the nation is destined for doom. The heat stoked when the plight of many Nigerians are uncovered one way or another is something that burns us all. People are left with more questions than answers about what the country’s future holds especially as another general election approaches. This quest to find some answers inspired training an exploratory lens on the history of Nigeria, seeking trends in the political, economic and social journey of the country. Comparing these to those of a selected number of countries, that share similar attributes such as population or GDP, also helped to adjust perspectives and expectations.

It is very easy to overlook how far we have come as a country, especially when looking for the negatives. But what is also true is that Nigeria’s journey since the start of the fourth republic has not been entirely terrible.

Democratic elections have not always been a given in Nigeria. Previous democratic governments in Nigeria’s history were short-lived by the relentless interference of the military. More, promises of democratic elections by the military were usually unfulfilled. Consider that Nigeria has not only enjoyed about two decades of uninterrupted democracy, citizens have successfully unseated a sitting president. More than ever, Nigerians believe they have the capacity to choose their leaders. What political stability affords the country over time is the stability in better policies however meagre they are. Although it is evident that more people are choosing not to participate in the electoral process when you realize that about 69 percent of the voting population voted in 2003 compared to the 42.30 percent that voted in 2015, we can take the positives from the fact that government regimes are no longer forced upon us.

Rising to the summit of Africa’s economic ladder, Nigeria’s economy continues to enjoy growth, especially in the aftermath of the 2015 economic recession. Yet, companies are still finding it difficult to thrive. Nigeria has dropped by almost 50 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index since 2008. At 169 out of 190 countries, there is still a lot to be done to make starting and running business in Nigeria less herculean. Apex bank’s reference interest rate is currently pegged at 14 percent while inflation rate stood at 16 percent at the start of the year but continues to fall. Corruption is still prevalent. Transparency International scores Nigeria 28/100 in perceived level of public sector corruption, where zero indicates “highly corrupt” and 100 indicates “very clean”.

One sector that is enjoying substantial growth in the agricultural sector. A victim of the oil boom, agriculture in Nigeria is enjoying a steady rise again with an influx of foreign and local investment as well as fruitful government participation. Similarly, the remarkable development of the non-oil sector has seen it provide up to 50 percent of the country’s annual budgeted revenue. Continuous development in these sectors has the potential of weaning Nigeria of oil revenue which continues to dictate the direction of the economy till today.

Nigeria’s impressive recovery from recession showed some promise in the economic sector. Per capita income has more than tripled since 1999. The current US$2178 per capita income is a progress from the US$299 per capita income (at an average dollar inflation rate of 2.17% per year, US$396 in today’s value) in 1999. On the other hand, the poverty rate has risen and Nigeria ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty rate hovers around 68 percent. Nigeria also recently overtook India as the country with the highest number of extremely poor people despite having over a billion less people. Accompanying the rising poverty rate is the unemployment rate. At over 18 percent unemployment rate in 2018, up from four percent in 2011, more than 10 million people are unemployed while about 21 percent are underemployed.

Quality of life in Nigeria remains uninspiring. The good news is that Nigeria has been experiencing an annual growth of 1.11 percent since 2000 in the human development index (HDI). In the last 10 years, Nigeria experienced a 13.1 % increase in human development. This evidently has not been enough to lift Nigeria out of the Low Human Development countries, currently at 152 out of 188 ranked countries.

Sadly, Nigerians do not only have a low standard of living, they also live in fear of their lives. Police brutality is largely unchecked while communal clashes and terrorist attack remain prevalent in several parts of the nation. Investigation published by The Point newspaper revealed that the police have killed more than 1,000 people recklessly in the last 10 years. Between August 2015 and February 2016, the police killed over 155 Nigerians while 500 others were either maimed or detained without trial. Boko Haram’s violent adventures have displaced over two million people and led to the death of 20,000 people. The terrorist group was acclaimed in 2015 as the deadliest in the world. These killings have continued although less numbers of deaths have been reported in recent months. In addition to this, Nigeria is a constantly boiling pot of ethnic conflicts. According to Human Rights Watch, over 13,500 people have been killed in Nigeria in communal violence since 1999. Perhaps the most widely acknowledged ethnic conflict since 1999 is the Jos crisis.

Prosperous and peaceful countries tend to have good educational institutions. The state of Nigeria’s educational system is gloom. UNICEF declared about half of the world’s 20 million out of school children to be in Nigeria alone. The country’s unimpressive eight percent of GDP spending ensures educational institutions are underfunded. This has contributed to the nation’s low literacy rate of 59.6 percent, a stark comparison with other countries with similar attributes such as Egypt with an adult literacy rate of 75 percent, Iran’s 87.2 percent literacy, and the Philippines’ 96.6 percent literacy.

Nigeria has continuously survived ethnic crisis and remain one state. Despite the rise of different secessionist groups at different points on the country’s history, Nigerians have found one way or the other to continue together. This is not without the usual heavy repression by the federal government on secessionist motives.

As the country edges towards another general election, an impressive milestone in itself, Nigerians must become more educated about the indicators that define our growth and trends that indicate the direction the country is headed. If the country will ever live up to its storied promise, a lot of work must be done to steer it in the right direction. This work starts from mapping out the patterns of the most crucial events in Nigeria.

Quality of life in Nigeria remains uninspiring. The good news is that Nigeria has been experiencing an annual growth of 1.11 percent since 2000 in the human development index (HDI). In the last 10 years, Nigeria experienced a 13.1 % increase in human development. This evidently has not been enough to lift Nigeria out of the Low Human Development countries, currently at 152 out of 188 ranked countries.

Sadly, Nigerians do not only have a low standard of living, they also live in fear of their lives. Police brutality is largely unchecked while communal clashes and terrorist attack remain prevalent in several parts of the nation. Investigation published by The Point newspaper revealed that the police have killed more than 1,000 people recklessly in the last 10 years. Between August 2015 and February 2016, the police killed over 155 Nigerians while 500 others were either maimed or detained without trial. Boko Haram’s violent adventures have displaced over two million people and led to the death of 20,000 people. The terrorist group was acclaimed in 2015 as the deadliest in the world. These killings have continued although less numbers of deaths have been reported in recent months. In addition to this, Nigeria is a constantly boiling pot of ethnic conflicts. According to Human Rights Watch, over 13,500 people have been killed in Nigeria in communal violence since 1999. Perhaps the most widely acknowledged ethnic conflict since 1999 is the Jos crisis.

Prosperous and peaceful countries tend to have good educational institutions. The state of Nigeria’s educational system is gloom. UNICEF declared about half of the world’s 20 million out of school children to be in Nigeria alone. The country’s unimpressive eight percent of GDP spending ensures educational institutions are underfunded. This has contributed to the nation’s low literacy rate of 59.6 percent, a stark comparison with other countries with similar attributes such as Egypt with an adult literacy rate of 75 percent, Iran’s 87.2 percent literacy, and the Philippines’ 96.6 percent literacy.

Nigeria has continuously survived ethnic crisis and remain one state. Despite the rise of different secessionist groups at different points on the country’s history, Nigerians have found one way or the other to continue together. This is not without the usual heavy repression by the federal government on secessionist motives.

As the country edges towards another general election, an impressive milestone in itself, Nigerians must become more educated about the indicators that define our growth and trends that indicate the direction the country is headed. If the country will ever live up to its storied promise, a lot of work must be done to steer it in the right direction. This work starts from mapping out the patterns of the most crucial events in Nigeria.

  • Olumayowa Okediran is the Managing Director of African Liberty and Author of Navigate: A Prospection of Nigeria’s future till 2030. 
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