Beginning from last Sunday, Nigerian political elite and economic managers have been dancing themselves lame. And they have every reason to put on their dancing shoes. Nigeria, the Giant of Africa and the most populous black nation under the sun, has just been declared as the largest economy on the continent. Its Gross Domestic Product or GDP has been rebased, rising from $258.55bn to $509.9bn. Not only that. Nigeria also moved 11 steps up the ladder, becoming the 29th hugest economy globally… nine steps away from hitting the Vision 20:2020 target set for the country by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Did I hear them scream “Shame on South Africa!” The former racist enclave, always eager to rub shoulders with Nigeria, has been pushed to the second place in the socio-economic classification of the continent with its GDP hovering around $353bn. Countries like stockfish-infested Norway ($499.66bn), Poland ($489.79bn), Belgium, a synonym for used cars and auto parts, ($483.26bn) and frozen foods specialist Argentina ($475.5bn) are no longer our mates. Nigeria is also the envy oil-rich countries like Austria ($394.7bn), Venezuela ($381-26bn) as well as Colombia ($369.6bn), rice-rich Thailand ($365.96bn) and Denmark ($314.88bn).
Move over, you over-celebrated nations of Malaysia ($274.7bn) and Singapore ($269.86bn)… Nigeria has arrived!
Indeed, the latest rebasing exercise, coming after 24 years and conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), legitimized by institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, calls for clinking of glasses by those who are claiming credit for the feat except that they have woefully failed to translate the economic miracle into an El-dorado that Nigeria should have become many years ago.
Of what use is the latest ranking to the common man when he cannot afford three square meals a day? To the average Nigerian, the emergence of his fatherland as the largest economy on the continent, overtaking the above-mentioned countries, is not only paradoxical but also ridiculous.
It is a mystery that the largest economy in Africa is bedeviled by unemployment, the ticking time-bomb. Why is it that Nigeria cannot generate enough electricity to grow its manufacturing sector thereby creating massive employment? Whereas, South Africa which has been forced out of the number one position can boast of 40,000 megawatts with a population of 50,586, 57, Nigeria with its huge population of 170m cannot boast of 3,000 megawatts, the volume that the Heathrow International Airport alone consumes.
Whereas, South Africa’s unemployment rate is 25.5%, that of Nigeria is hovering around 60% up from 20% in 2009. Ghana has (3.6%), Cameroon (4.4%), Tunisia (13.3%), Egypt (8.1%), Morocco (10%) and Zambia (14%).
Let us take a look at the unemployment rates in some of the countries outside the continent that Nigeria has pursued and overtaken: Malaysia (3%), Singapore (1.9%), Thailand (0.56%) and Venezuela (5.6%).
Let us also cast a cursory look at the per capita income (PCI) of some of the nations Nigeria has run over in its race up the ladder: South Africa ($11,281), Malaysia ($16, 794), Thailand ($9, 503), Colombia ($10,671) and Argentina ($17,917). Nigeria’s PCI currently stands at $1,500 down from $2,697 in 2012 and it now fellowships with impoverished nations like Chad, Lesotho, Senegal, Mali, Togo, Republic of Benin, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Guinea Bisau, Uganda, The Gambia, Malawi and Burkina Faso whose PCIs are far below $2,000. Yet, it is ranked as the largest economy in Africa… the rating came on the heels of the World Bank’s damning verdict on the country as a “refuge” for extremely poor folks. The NBS also corroborated this ruling, pegging the figure of Nigerians that wallow in abject penury at 115 million.
The aggregate indices used to leg up Nigeria include the booming telecom industry (pre-dominated by South Africa-owned MTN); the mediocre movie industry called Nollywood ranked third in the world after the United States’ Hollywood and India’s Bollywood; the flourishing banking sector buoyed by monumental frauds until the sanitization of the sector by the embattled Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now “suspended”, among other services. Nigeria is a major oil producer but ironically, it imports refined petroleum products as well as everything importable including toothpicks.
That Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth with potentials to rub shoulders with the super powers of this world is not debatable. Also not arguable is the fact it is blessed with resourceful people, vast arable land and water. Besides the black gold, there are virtually no mineral resources under the sun that God has not bequeathed to this country. Nigeria is a stupendously rich nation, well endowed to provide meaningful life for its citizens. But a tiny clique of greedy, selfish and heartless elements at the helm of affairs has cornered our collective wealth to themselves using the instrumentality of corruption, the invidious crime that impoverishes the masses.
Corruption is at the root of Nigeria’s underdevelopment even though President Goodluck Jonathan insists its existence is an exaggeration by those seeking to run down his administration. Virtually all the critical sectors of the economy have been held down by the monster. The power sector, which has been used to steal billions of dollars since the Obasanjo era, is one of them and is central to the nation’s socio-economic transformation. Not even the privatization of the sector has been able to rescue the nation from the eternal darkness that is now its lot.
Revive the sector and watch how the small scale businesses and the moribund industrial/manufacturing sector will sneeze back to life and snatch millions of jobless Nigerians from the deadly jaws of insurgency and allied heists. But we all watch helplessly as corrupt rulers prey on our collective wealth, expecting God to rush to our rescue anytime we cry to Him. God has provided this country with all its needs to become great and prosperous. And He has moved on. A society is said to get the kind of leaders it deserves? Is this the kind of rulers we deserve?
Pray, to what extent will this government insult our sensibilities? Or has this got anything to do with 2015? I don’t know about you. But as for me, I dey laugh ooooh.