Why 113 million Nigerians Are Poor

Do you know that about 1% of Nigerians control more than 80% of the country’s wealth?

In 2015, Nigeria is listed among the world’s fastest growing economy whereas more than 90% of the population considered themselves to be poor already in 2010 and the figures are rising!

Why 113 million Nigerians Are Poor

By Adeola Aderounmu

Which Way Nigeria?

Nigeria still remains one of the most endowed countries in the world. In terms of natural resources, minerals and enormous prospects for agricultural development Nigerians stands out as a reservoir of abundant wealth.

Unfortunately and paradoxically Nigeria is presently home to about 113 million people living in absolute poverty. This figure represents more than 90% of the population.

Most of the blame for this anomaly lies at the doorsteps of Nigerian politicians and their partners in crime in the top military wing. A weak citizenry shares out of this whole mess.

At independence in 1960 the unprepared politicians inherited a structure that was built mainly for the purpose of colonization by the British. It was difficult to manage and the federation though functional crumbled in 1966 when the military interrupted the nascent democratic process.

In 1999 the military provided the basis for the democracy that Nigeria precariously thrives upon today. Again, this was not the foundation that Nigeria needed because of the enormous influence of the military and the enthronement of Olusegun Obasanjo ensured that the country even today is still in bondage.

To live in extreme poverty means that one barely has a roof over one’s head. In extreme situations people living in poverty have nowhere to call a home. Having food to eat is a difficult adventure and having money to buy clothes is a sort of luxury for those living in poverty.

Poverty is a broad term no doubts. It is also reflected in the lives of several millions of Nigerians through high infant mortality, high maternal mortality, inadequate vaccination in some parts of the country and an embarrassing life expectancy value.

Poverty extends to lack of access to essential public services. Nigeria is probably suffering from over population as well. The public schools are very few, inadequate and very dysfunctional as private educational institutions have taken over the initiation of providing quality but very expensive educational services  that are out of the reach of the poor masses.

In the same vein, access to quality health service is also very expensive as public health care remains under developed and sometimes costly. The percentage of Nigerians with access to paid employment is appalling, it’s very low. It is not uncommon for people to state that they are hustling. Hustling covers a wide range of illegal and seasonal ways of making money which unfortunately include armed robbery, fraud and vandalism.

All the parameters for defining or expressing poverty are unevenly distributed. The Niger Delta which is home to the oil wealth of Nigeria is also home to some of the world’s poorest people. From low literacy level to access to health care and vaccination, the northern part of Nigeria is even worst hit.

The recent media hype coming from CNN-Money putting Nigeria among the fastest growing economy in the world does not translate to food on the tables, roof over the heads and cloth on the bodies of the people suffering from poverty.

It must be emphasized that the economic wealth or well-being in Nigeria is concentrated in the hands of a very few people. About 1% of Nigerians control more than 80% of the country’s wealth.

This 1% is a category that includes Nigerian politicians and several elites across Nigeria. They have directly and indirectly kept the remaining citizens under check through bad politics, bad policies and non-implementations of the programs that are structured to eliminate poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Among this 1% are those who control not only the political scene, but also manipulate the oil wealth. Until recently the oil sector was the only major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. It is still the biggest.

To be fair, a few sectors emerged recently and gave the Nigerian economy a boost. The film and music industry, the financial sector and not least the telecommunication sector that were not developed before the 1990s were taken into consideration when Nigeria was declared as the biggest economy in Africa in 2014.

Still, there exist a continuous neglect and misuse of the all the natural resources that are locked up in the different regions across Nigeria and agricultural is yet to take its number one position as it was before 1960.

There are probably 5% Nigerians doing well on their own. By hard work, luck, rare opportunities and the invisible hand of fate, these people are living above the poverty level and they have some measure of comfort. s

Whilst they can count themselves as fortunate, they should never use their own rare successes to classify or generalize the situation in Nigeria. They must never try to eradicate the reality that there are more than 113 million people living in poverty.

The lazy, irritating, selfish central governments over the years under both tropical military gangsters and civilian crooks have shunned the responsibilities of solving Nigeria’s political and economic problems.

There is no political will to return to true federalism which will remove the power at the center and help to systematically abolish the grip of the 1% controlling majority of Nigeria’s wealth.

Therefore Nigerians continue to buy generators to provide electricity for themselves. When the whole world is taken into account Nigeria probably provides the lowest level of electricity per citizen. Less than 4000 MW for a population that nears 200 million people is a disgrace to the intellectual capacity of Nigerians as a people.

In recent history both Goodluck Jonathan, Olusegun Obasanjo and their cronies in the power sector squandered and embezzled the funds earmarked for electricity production.

Obasanjo promised 6 000MW. Yar Adua promised 20 000MW within 2 years. Jonathan wanted to do a magical 5 000MW in 2014. All the monies allocated for all these promises are gone! Nigerian rulers and those working against the progress of the power sectors (still part of the 1%) are pure criminals!

Apart from electricity millions of Nigerians provide their own water system, they find home for themselves or struggle to build one, they tar their own communal roads, they provide their own security systems and they find their own diverse ways of self-preservation.

The manner of unequal distribution of wealth is dehumanizing. The politicians have failed to stimulate the economy based on the distribution and spread of the resources in Nigeria. They relied too long on the oil wealth and they squandered and mismanaged the proceeds from it.

The postulation in 2014 that Nigeria is the 26th biggest economy in the world and the biggest economy in Africa has no tangible effects on the 113 million poor people. For a country suffering from bad planning, bad governance and an apparent overpopulation problem the economic indices are mere abstract figures.

Economic jargons like GDP of 1722 dollars per person in Nigeria do not put food on the table of poor people. How can one convince all the families of the unemployed graduates who died during the immigration examination scam that the economy is truly improved? What fates await the millions of unemployed school leavers and graduates?

In 2015 Nigeria entered an election year. In several articles l have warned about the postponement of the elections under several headlines and contents. This is something that the PDP cooked up a long time ago. It shocked me when the main stream media and the opposition finally understood a script that has existed for more than 6 months. O well, who controls the mainstream media if not the greedy 1%?

Irrespective of the decision that prevails the success of the election will eventually depend on the preparedness of INEC and the security situation across Nigeria. But I will never understand how it is business as usual in a country that entered an election year with so many uncertainties in the air including a war in some parts.

The credibility of the election is highly desirable but it will be like living in a fool’s paradise to expect a miracle afterwards. Nigeria does not have a simple solution anymore, not even as long as the almighty powerful center continues to exist.

The politicians have no political ideology. It has been too easy to move from one political party to another because each politician continues to look to butter his or her own bread every election year.

Remaining in the 1% bracket is crucial to the politicians; it is a matter of life and death. Call it do or die, you are still right.

It is more obvious that the political parties are almost the same as APC now looks like a party of PDP and CPC veterans and dropouts.

Nigerian politicians display clearly the mantra-no permanent enemies in politics, just permanent interests. They are liars and their permanent interest is to sustain the 1% club of national cabal and elites. Since the institutions of governance are weak or destroyed, they always seem to have their ways in the end.

The solutions to Nigeria’s problem may lie with the enlightened populace but they have refused to act appropriately. Many of them look forward to belonging to the club of the 1% that owns the economic wealth of Nigeria in their hands. Alternatively they look forward to belonging to the wider 5% through hope and rare opportunities. They don’t care about the rest!

This sad trend (that people are quiet as evil continues to persist) is one of the reasons for the increase in the number of people living in poverty from 55% in 2004 to 61% in 2010.

Hence regardless of the economic growth widely reported recently, the wealth remains concentrated in the hands of a few.

In 2015, Nigeria is listed among the world’s fastest growing economy whereas more than 90% of the population considered themselves to be poor already in 2010 and the figures are rising!

Nigeria’s wealth is looted daily. More than 140 billion dollars were transferred illegally out of the country between 2002 and 2011 only. Where were they: Obasanjo, Sanusi J, Soludo, Yar Adua, Sanusi L, Jonathan and Mrs. Iweala? They are part of the 1% keeping the money safe for personal use at home and abroad!

Nigeria needs both a political and an economic way forward. It will not come from the 1% that controls 80% of the country’s wealth. It is not forthcoming from the less than 10% that thrives in the midst of this anomaly.

The politicians are part of the 1%, they are unwilling and it appears they will never change the useless political system that keeps them rich and above the law (with the immunity clause of life).

When the poor, more than 90% of the population of Nigeria, have nothing to eat, no clothes to wear and no roof over their heads anymore, they will one day pounce on the rich. For it seems that unless they stage a revolution they will never be free.

aderounmu@gmail.com

Reference: Nigeria’s goes to election in the shadow of Boko Haram, by Henrik Angerbrandt 2014

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