Nigeria is supposedly the fourth fastest growing economy in the world. This is an assertion that was made last March. That Ghana is set to become the world’s fastest growing economy according to the World Bank pales Nigeria’s positioning and even from an organization whose job it is to know what countries are growing or not, Ghana’s is more reliable. As expected, the Nigerian government was quick to cash-in on the ranking. Without any active effort on its part, our government believed it had taken Nigeria above the walls of poverty and economic challenges. What was bad about that was the fact that the government did not tell us the other numbers that had more meaning and actually tallied with the realities on ground in Nigeria.
Let us deal in facts. Where several numbers agree on the same point, I’d rather believe such than a congregation of a clergy. Nigeria is the world’s 28th poorest country! UN’s 2010 Human Development Report reflects the countries with the lowest human development. Lesotho, Togo, Benin and Cameroon are some of the countries better off against Nigeria. Zimbabwe, Congo DR and Niger who were ranked poorer than Nigeria have had to deal with one or all of protracted wars, famine and utterly disgraceful governance and savage economic policies. Place Nigeria’s ranking beside the fact that we are Africa’s top oil producer and cumulatively surpassed even Iran as OPEC’s second-largest exporter in 2010. Nigeria shipped 2.464 million barrels a day last year up from 2.16 in 2009, yet finished high on the Poverty League.
Let us take a dash to our usual peril, Corruption. The fight against corruption if it ever was has since lost its bite and it shows even in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Here we have failed woefully and are actually running down to our previous disgraceful positions. The ranking is based on data from country experts and business leaders at 10 independent institutions, including the World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit and World Economic Forum. Nigeria while placing 134 of 178 ranked countries also had poor numbers and when placed beside our index from 2008 and 2009, we are actually losing it all over again. Our CPI for 2008 was 2.7, 2009 was 2.5 and 2010 had us at 2.4 – Somalia the most corrupt country according to the report has a CPI of 1.1. We all know what is happening in Somalia so that is understandable. Against a score of 10.0, we are a very corrupt nation! Dimeji Bankole’s trial has since left the public fore and soon will be forgotten as it is the usual. We have world class thieving moguls dressed as ex this and ex that still walking and sleeping as free men. Forget convictions, no Governor from the immediate class of 2011 is facing prosecution. We are going back to where we were, ominously the foot of that ladder has us unconsciously singing “Coming Home” if this continues.
While the above look like we are doomed, some other ranking says doomed is a play word. We are seen as an economically MOSTLY UNFREE nation. At 111 with a Freedom score of 56.7 dropping points from 2010’s numbers, we are in the same region with the likes of Mali, Benin and Tonga. Hong Kong at 89.7 and Singapore at 87.2 are the Freest nations in the world and are as expected amongst the world’s richest. This ranking basically shows investors where they are most likely to have a free rein in terms of economic decisions. So when next you see your country paying millions of dollars for CNN adverts to woo investors, tell them to instead focus on improving the freedom of the markets. No one will invest in a country where the President fixes the prices of goods and services. This morning you hear of a ban on the importation of textile materials and the next you know, your consignments are stuck at sea already paid for. Let the economy live on the people’s choices.
These numbers are the difference between national disaster and prosperity. They have been summed up in the form of some other figures released just a few hours ago. Analysts from Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited say the nation’s gini co-efficient, a measure of inequality in income and consumption, is higher than the average for Africa and the Middle East as a whole, at 0.44 or 43.7 percent. Bismarck Rewane, economist and chief executive officer of Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited, in his recent economic report said one person in Nigeria is only privileged to consume an average of 9.6 kilogrammes of meat, compared with an average of 24.9 kilogram per person in Africa and Middle East .
Nigeria will not go down if we accept the fact that we are near a precipice. Put a hold on the current fiscal carelessness and politicking and get busy with what really matters. Beyond the precipice is a great fall and we don’t want to keep heading that fatal path. Humpty Dumpty’s great fall will be a jump off compared to ours if we don’t get off the wall of irresponsibility.
Japheth J Omojuwa, is an associate researcher at AfricanLiberty.org and IMANI.