By Amilia Jiji Ugboma
Nigeria is currently hobbled by
macro-economic instability, inadequate infrastructure and vast poverty.
This is despite the fact that the country is blessed with a whole lot of
natural and human resources- Nigeria makes about $80 billion annually
on the sale of oil alone. How do we explain this paradox and why does it
exist? Most, if not all of the blame goes to corruption. I am however
not here to examine the how or the why, but to throw more light to the
insidious consequences of this paradox.
As at 2012, the Nigerian
bureau of statistics (NBS) provided data that showed that about 61% of
the Nigerian population which is approximately 100million people, are
living on less than $1:00 (N160) a day. In other words, most Nigerians
live below the poverty line. It has been ranked among the poorest
nations in the world. This daunting situation exists despite the fact
that the country's Gross Domestic product (GDP) has grown over the past
years. It begs to question: how come the GDP is growing and poverty
still prevails? This can be attributed to uneven distribution of wealth.
This is the driving force of the mangled economic and social systems of
the nation. This inequality is in itself an effect.
Nigerian myself, I have observed that the vast inequality in income in
the country can be attributed mainly to a dysfunctional macro-economic
structure. One of the pecks of globalization which is a free market
economy doesn't seem to give the desired effect of wealth distribution
in our economy. We have failed to realize that simply adopting a model
without adopting the tenants and practices that make it work, renders it
useless. The lack of attention to detail, nepotism and the practice of
crony capitalism have driven us further down our abyss of stagnancy.
Income inequality increases as GDP grows. The rich is getting richer and
the poor getting poorer - a cliché that continues to hunt our nation.
Nigerian democratic system is also a complete mockery and tends to
possess more characteristics of an oligarchy. The leaders parade that
they listen to the voice of the people, but really they are apathetic to
their basic needs. Rulers and officials distinguished by their
excessive greed and thirst for power are constantly recycled into power
and continue to squander the nation's resources on personal pleasures.
people are beginning to reach the zenith of their tolerance. The
debauchery of the Nigerian economy has begun to resonate in other
delicate sectors such as security. The people have begun to pay for the
mistakes of the leaders literally with their blood. When individuals in a
society are unemployed; security is threatened - It's a simple cause
and effect logic. The state of poverty has begun to grow to
uncontrollable heights and has awoken deep borne resentments that
threaten the nation's unity.
People of the Niger-Delta region of
Nigeria, for a long time have been victims of constant neglect, being
major producers of oil, (which provides up to 95% of Nigeria's income)
they've had a front row seat in experiencing uneven distribution of
wealth and total neglect by the government. The feeling of anger and
helplessness metamorphosed into violence; lives were lost and the image
of the country was further tarnished in the international scene. The
signs had been there, but being proactive is reserved for a government
that actually cares about the people.
Statistical data has shown
that some of the areas with the highest concentration of poverty are
located in the Northern part of Nigeria. We cannot turn our eyes from
the glaring correlation between this poverty and the current insurgency
in the North. I do not deny the fact that political agenda, ethnic and
religious differences are a major life source to these recent acts of
terrorism and killings; however, we must understand that poverty and
economic stratification has contributed immensely to the uprising of
violence. Neglect, unfairness and austerity have bred anger, envy and
hatred among the impoverished. The inherent lack has led the people to
express their anger in extreme ethnocentric behavior, xenophobia and
constant insurrection against the government.
Each region can
confidently state how they have been cheated in the distribution of the
nation's wealth, every tribe has a story, and every religious group has a
complaint. Who then is the culprit? Nigerians have become too
self-absorbed and over zealous to see that in actuality, it's the
impoverished crying out and channeling their anger in any and every way
they can. The crisis Nigeria is currently experiencing shows so many
traits of a class war that has been masked by ethnic and religious
differences and misunderstandings.
I in no way condone violence
and I do not deny its utter absurdity, but in as much as we try to
quench the fires, we must not lay oblivious to a glaring source of this
said fire; Poverty. So long as the youth remain unemployed, idle and
hungry, the more violence will not want in perpetrators. A quest for
survival has ripped majority of their values. With the leaders not
setting good examples themselves, Corruption has trickled down to every
class and become an acceptable way of life and the bane of our society.
officials, well placed individuals and everyone who has the means,
create a niche of luxury and live in relative peace, but a puddle of
water in hell soon dries up. Constant promises that turn out empty have
driven the people further into frustration. We've seen it in Egypt and
Libya. The time is coming, and if Nigeria government doesn't stir a
different course and take a practical approach to tackling these issues,
the damage will become irrevocable.
Amilia Jiji Ugboma is a
graduate of economics and a freelance writer, her articles have been
featured on other media platforms. She can be followed on twitter at @jiji129