It is evidently true that those who ignore history, like the Bourbons of European history, do so at their own peril. The challenges bedeviling us as a nation did not start today or in the recent past. The urgency of understanding this phenomenon that has made peace elusive to us has become a sine qua non. This week, we explore our thematic analysis
Nigeria has since borrowed her future
The D-G of the Debt Management Office (DMO) recently alarmed Nigerians when she casually confirmed that Nigeria’s total debt as at March 2022 stands at N41.60 trillion. Nigeria has been running serious budget deficits. According to the World Bank Survey Report of 197 countries, Nigeria came 195 beating only Yemen and Afghanistan.
Nigeria that used N10 trillion for 2022, oil subsidy regime is expected to use N9 trillion in 2023. The size of the borrowing is 62% of the budget. Nigeria now borrows to service debt interest, not the debt itself. We have literally become a vassal of and dependant on China that has its shylock fingers on different aspects of the economy, ranging from metro-light rails, hydropower dams, free trade zones to transportation and telecommunications. The trade deficit between Nigeria and China is 80% – 200% of bilateral trade volumes. Nigeria imports 10 times more than it exports to China.
Nigeria pays for darkness
Nigeria ought to be producing at least 12,522MW of electricity today with abundant sources of power through coal, hydro, oil (petroleum) and natural gas, Nigeria has every options the TCN (Transmission Companies of Nigeria) and the Discos that distribute electricity generated by Gencos. The Discos call the shot, forcing Nigeria to pay for darkness. Small Kenya of ….. people generates 1.043 gigawatts; Ghana installed capacity of 3,655.5 MW. Compare Nigeria, a country of 217.4 million people generating electricity less than South Africa with 60.9 million people which generates 5,095MW. What a shame!
The desertion and relocation of industries
Most major industries that were very famous in Nigeria in the 70s, 80s and 90s have either withered and died away or relocated to neighboring countries due to incumbent and uncondusive prevailing conditions. Between 2009 and 2014, 322 private firms closed down in Nigeria due to strangulating business regulations, corruption and unstable political environment, according to a World Bank Enterprise Survey.
Factories and companies that have folded up in Nigeria include Berec Batteries, Exide Batteries, Okin Biscuits, Aladja, Jos and Osogbo steel rolling mills; Nigeria Sugar Company, Tale and Lyle sugar company; Nigeria Paper Mill Ltd, Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company at Oku-Iboku; and the Nigeria National Paper Manufacturing Company in Ogun State.
Six automobile assembly plants, including Peugeot, Volkswagen, Anambra Motor Manufacturing Ltd, Steyr, National Truck Manufacturers, Fiat and Leyland, have all kissed the canvas and gone into extinction. 38 textile companies, including Afprint, Aswani, Arewa Textiles, Unitex, Supertex, Asaba, Odua, Edo and Aba Textile Mills; Nigerian Synthethic Fabrics, First Spinners, Kaduna and United Nigeria Textile Mills, have gone into historical oblivion. What about the Ughelli Glass Industry; Okpella Cement Factory? GlaxoSmithKline, Agbara industrial hub? Gone or about to.
Have we always been doomed? No!
Notable achievments by Nigerians
British Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin once noted that the University of Lagos was one of the world’s centres of expertise in her specialist field of chemical crystallography. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, had the first world-class computer centre in Africa. The University of Ife had a notable pool of expertise in nuclear physics. Our premier University of Ibadan had an international reputation as a leading centre of excellence in tropical medicine, development economics and historical sciences. The Saudi Royal family used to frequent UCH for medical treatment in the 1960s. The engineering scientist Ayodele Awojobi, a graduate of ABU, Zaria, was a rather troubled genius. He tragically died of frustration because our environment could not contain, let alone utilize, his talents. Ishaya Shuaibu Audu, pioneer Nigerian vice-chancellor of ABU, collected all the prizes at St. Mary’s University Medical School, London. His successor in Zaria, Iya Abubakar, was a highly talented Cambridge mathematician who became a professor at 28 and was a notable consultant to NASA. Alexander Animalu was a gifted MIT physicist who did work of original importance in superconductivity. His book, Intermediate Quantum Theory of Crystalline Solids, has been translated into several languages, including Russian.
Renowned mathematician Chike Obi solved Fermat’s 200-year-old conjecture with pencil and paper while the Cambridge mathematician John Wiles achieved same with the help of a computer working over a decade. After the harsh environment of the 1980s IMF/WB structural adjustment programmes, the Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship undertook massive budgetary cutbacks in higher education.
Our brightest and best fled abroad. Today, Nigerian doctors, scientists and engineers are making massive contributions in Europe and North America. Prof. Philip Emeagwali won the 1989 Gordon Bell Award for his work in super-computing. Jelani Aliyu designed the first electric car for American automobile giant General Motors. Olufunmilayo Olopede, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, won a MacArthur Genius Award for her work on cancer. Winston Soboyejo, who earned a Cambridge doctorate at 23, is a Princeton engineering professor laurelled for his contributions to materials research. He is chairman of the scientific advisory board to the Secretary-General of the UN. Washington University biomedical engineering professor Samuel Achilefu received the St. Louis Award for his invention of cancer-seeing glasses that is a major advance in radiology.
Kunle Olukotun of Stanford did work of original importance on multi-processors. National Merit laureate Omowunmi Sadik of State University of Binghamton owns patents for biosensors technology. Young Nigerians are also recording stellar performances at home and abroad. A Nigerian family, the Imafidons, were voted “the smartest family in Britain” in 2015. Anne Marie Imafidon earned her Oxford master’s in mathematics and computer science when she was only 19. Today, she sits on several corporate boards and was awarded an MBE in 2017 for services to science. Recently, Benue State University mathematician Atovigba Michael Vershima is believed to have solved the two centuries-old Riemann Conjecture that has defied giants such as Gauss, Minkowski and Polya.
Another young man, Hallowed Olaoluwa, was one of a dozen “future Einstein” awarded postdoctoral fellowship by Harvard University. He completed a remarkable doctorate in mathematical physics at the University of Lagos at age 21. While at Harvard, he aims to focus on solving problems relating to “quantum ergodicity and quantum chaos,” with applications to medical imaging and robotics. Another UNILAG alumnus, Ayodele Dada, graduated with a perfect 5.0 GPA, an unprecedented feat in a Nigerian university. Victor Olalusi recently graduated with such stellar performance at the Russian Medical Research University, Moscow, and was feted the best graduate throughout the Russian Federation. Habiba Daggash, daughter of my friend Senator Sanusi Daggash, recently graduated with a starred rust in engineering at Oxford University.
Emmanuel Ohuabunwa earned a CPA of 3.98 out of a possible 4.0 as the best overall graduate of the Ivy League Johns Hopkins University. Stewart Hendry, Johns Hopkins professor of neuroscience, described the young man as having “an intellect so rare that it touches on the unique…a personality that is once-in-a-life-time.”
There is also young Yemi Adesokan, postdoctoral fellow of Harvard Medical School, who patented procedures for tracking spread of viral epidemics in developing countries. Ufot Ekong recently solved a 50-year mathematical riddle at Tokai University in Japan and was voted the most outstanding graduate of the institution. He currently works as an engineer for Nissan, having pocketed two patents in his discipline. This is only the tip of the iceberg. If our system were not so inclement to talent, we would be celebrating a bountiful harvest of geniuses in all the fields of human endeavour. This is why the correlates between our gene-pool and national development are so diametrically opposed. Unfortunately, the success stories are the exception rather than the rule. This is because we are becoming a failed state.
Nigeria as a failed state
Has Nigeria really become a failed state? What is a failed state, anyway? A failed state is one whose political or economic fabric has become so weak that the government loses control. In such a state, basic responsibilities of government that make the state sovereign are absent, as they no longer function properly. Such a state is so fragile that it can collapse anytime, because it becomes incapable of exercising authority over its peoples and territory, nor protect its national boundaries. Such a state merely provides minimal public services, since it lacks organizational and administrative capacity to control its people, territory and resources. Suffering from crumbling infrastructures, poor utility, educational and health facilities, a failed state loses legitimacy both in the eyes of its citizens and the comity of nations. State institutions collapse; control over internal security deteriorates. Indeed, such a state is divested of a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence; while it loses capacity to protect its citizens, fundamental rights, and defend civil, political and economic rights of its populace. It manifests in lack of observance of rule of law.
Most failed states are in Africa, a handful in the Middle East and Asia. An example of a failed state at some point in time was Somalia (now one of the fastest developing nations in Africa), when rival warlords ravaged the land. Another is Afghanistan, which harboured the deadly terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, under the Taliban. Thus, a failed state can be determined by all or some of the following indices: her weak economy, porous defence capability, lack of transparency and poverty-stricken workforce; high infant/maternal morbidity and mortality rate; high level of illiteracy; malnourishment, orphanage, child labour, congestion; where organized crime and black market control reign supreme; where a country is largely dependent on imported food; where it cannot respond to natural disasters; and where there is no clear order of business and commerce, with a weak currency dominating.
In the case of Nigeria, we punch miserably below our weight in the hierarchy of world economics and politics. None of our institutions come. Near the top 500 in the World Universities League Table. An estimated 50% of our people live in extreme poverty, with Nigeria besting India. Youth unemployment hovers around 45 percent (70% for the far North). The poverty is heartbreaking; our per capita GDP is less than $3,000 as compared to Singapore’s $55,252. We have the worst road carnage record in the world, with more than 20,000 lost to road accidents annually. We wasted over $18 billion on the power sector and our people still live in darkness. The state governments are virtually bankrupt.
(To be continued)
Thought for the week
“We have to be bold in our national ambitions. First, we must win the fight against poverty within the next decade. Second, we must improve moral standards in government and society to provide a strong foundation for good governance. Third, we must change the character of our politics to promote fertile ground for reforms.”
(Gloria Macapagal Arroyo)