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How We Broke Nigeria

Nigeria is Broken
Long Story, Short

Nigeria is broken



When Nigerians have to board the train through its windows, something has to change. Let’s check ourselves – what could we do better on our own?

Inadequate Resources

Something is terribly wrong, when a community loses women at birth, and the government is not doing anything about it. Not in a nation that is rich in oil like Nigeria.

Bad Leadership

corruption in nigeria

As one of the most corrupt nations on earth, Nigeria has been crushed by greed from the powerful elite.  They won’t set Nigeria free. Nigerians have to do that by themselves.

Lack & Hardship

human captial index

Nigeria’s HDI value for 2018 is 0.534— which put the country in the low human development category— positioning it at 158 out of 189 countries and territories.

Nigeria’s political system is decandent and it is no longer possible to sustain a political system that is based on a corrupt system expressed thorugh judicial decisions.

The economy remains in a shamble, while the government seem unprepared to break from the cycle of poverty and penury that people have been thrown into.

Public infrastructures, such as our roads, schools, hospitals, electrical supply and the Internet are in disrepair. The ordinary citizen lives in hopelessness and disillusionment.

Nigeria has one of the worst scores on the Human Development Index of the United Nations.

As Nigeria’s population prepares to explode in the next few decades, international organisations have warned that the scarcity of resources will raise insecurity, poverty and political instability.

The problems we see today are just a tip of the iceberg if we just continue to talk and do nothing.

Home to the largest population in Africa, which is almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians, and blessed with enormous human and natural resources, it sits at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI at number 158 in 2019.

The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.  The World Bank states:

The child born in the very high human development country is very likely to be enrolled in higher education, along with 55 percent of 20-year-olds in very high human development countries. She or he is preparing to live in a highly globalized and competitive world and has chances do so as a highly skilled worker. In contrast, the child from the low human development country is much less likely to be alive. Some 17 percent of children born in low human development countries in 2000 will have died before age 20, compared with just 1 percent of children born in very high human development countries. And those who survive have an expected lifespan 13 years shorter than their counterparts in the group of more developed countries. The child born in the low human development country is also unlikely to still be in education: Only 3 percent are in higher education. Both of these young people are just beginning their adult lives, but circumstances almost entirely beyond their control have already set them on different and unequal paths in terms of health, education, employment and income prospects—a divergence that can be irreversible.

The World Bank has consistently ranked Nigeria low on the Human Development Index. The fact Nigeria is one of the worst on this index is not only a cause of concern, it is reflective of Nigerians’ dissatisfaction with the direction in which their country has headed.

According to the Pew Research Center, five factors capture the Nigerian public’s mood about the state of their nation and the differing attitudes of various demographics, religious and ethnic in particular. While the religious indicators may not matter, it shows Nigeria as a divided country where the population is not confident of a good future.

  • Few Nigerians are satisfied with the state of their democracy.
  • Many Nigerians are skeptical about the country’s political and judicial systems.
  • There is a wide gulf between Christians and Muslims in their views of the political system.
  • Views of the two largest political parties vary sharply by religion
  • Over half of Nigerians still describe the economy as bad, but economic sentiment has rebounded since the 2016 oil recession.

These indicators are just a tip of the iceberg. Another report by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), released in 2011, predicted the gradual unravelling of Nigeria. Written during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida, the redacted CIA report, titled “Nigeria: Population Problems and Political Stability,” concluded that “Nigeria’s explosive population growth against a backdrop of dwindling oil revenues” would “create conditions conducive to serious political instability.”

The US intelligence team projected that a rapid population growth would become a constraint to national unity; and a fast-growing unemployed youth population would become a recruitment ground for radical political ideology. It predicted that a number of intricate factors would metamorphose into regionalism, ethnicity, religion and urban population issues.

“Given the ‘pressures building from declining oil revenues and a shrinking economy, religious and ethnic strife could intensify unless the government is seen as evenhanded and meticulously neutral…”

As predicted, Nigeria’s population is on course to double in 10-15 years and much of the explosion has been in the north, where birth control is not part of the culture. This has given rise to migrant northern youths looking for opportunities in the south. Some are herdsmen, miners and farmers, but others are just fatigued from drying opportunities. Their expansion beyond local territories raises ethnic tension. The CIA believed that Nigeria’s social problems will continue unabated for several decades, and government’s inability to stem the consequent erosion of living standards are likely to cause unrest among volatile youths, ethnic and religious factions and radical Muslim fringe groups. The report, having been mostly accurate in its predictions, ought to become the bible of national security.

Amnesty International, in its 2018 report, Harvest of Death, documents the violent clashes in parts of Nigeria over access to resources: water, land and pasture. It also documents the failure of the Nigerian government in fulfilling its constitutional responsibility of protection of lives and property by refusing to investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of attacks. The report shows how government’s inaction fuels impunity, resulting in attacks and reprisal attacks, with at least 3,641 people killed between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 percent of them in 2018 alone.

Today, Nigeria is a country facing a myriad of economic, social, security, infrastructure and other problems. Her development has been arrested by bad leadership, poor citizenship, corruption, tribalism and other negative factors. The roads are bad, there is widespread insecurity, there is hardly any supply of public electricity, water  to many homes is through private boreholes, many public schools are unfitting and hospitals lack equipment. Hardly is anything working.

Millions of people go to bed without food in a land of plenty. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

People are disillusioned. There is little hope for the under-privileged. The future of our children is in a peril. They are not being prepared for the future and would not be able to compete in a modern world.

Resources are wasted. Hopelessness is widespread. The black race lacks a leader.


Nigeria still suffers from years of military dictatorship. Until just over 10 years ago, Nigeria was under the jackboot of powerful, ruthless and corrupt military rulers. In fact, by the time soldiers were handing over the reins of government to elected civilians on May 29, 1999, the military had governed the country for 29 out 39 years of self-rule after independence.

Not all of the problems besetting Nigeria are directly caused by military rule. Civilian administrations are equally corrupt and wasteful. Before 1999, two previous attempts at civil rule were abruptly terminated by soldiers who were enthusiastically welcome by the people. There were joyous celebrations in the streets in several parts of the country when the civilians were ousted in coups-d’etat.  The people had become so disappointed with the gross abuse of public trust by their democratically-elected leaders that they were only too happy when the soldiers stepped out of their barracks to grab power.

Bad as the civilian administrations have been, the level of corruption and misrule witnessed under some of the military leaders, who had promised to bring change to the society, was higher, even as the military rulers tried to transmute into life dictators. It took a concerted ‘struggle’ by activists, journalists and unionists to force a return to civil rule in 1999.

By the time power was being handed over again to civilian leaders, most Nigerians felt that politicians had learned their lessons and would exercise power more responsibly and be more responsive to the needs of the people. Eleven years after, it is sad to see that not much has changed – civilian rule continues to be a misrule. The return to democracy, won on the blood of patriotic and selfless Nigerians, has not yielded the expected gains for the people. The politicians, sadly, have returned to their old, bad ways.

Elected representatives and political appointees are serving themselves, caring little for the public good. They see themselves as ‘masters’ and the people as ‘servants’ who need not be accounted to. With billions of dollars flowing into government treasury in an age of high-rising oil prices, Nigeria has continued to waste rather than invest. Instead of investing in material and human resources, political office holders have been stealing and wasting money, remaining largely unaccountable and legally immune to prosecution for any crime whatsoever while in office. Politics has become the most profitable ‘business’ in Nigeria. Anyone and everyone incapable of making a honest living joins the bandwagon on this quick way to stupendous wealth.

Even out of office, those known to have looted while in the saddle and are under prosecution by government-controlled anti-corruption bodies, are finding ways to evade justice. The best example of this is the recent acquittal of a formal Governor of 170 charges of corruption against him by a court in a judgment that Nigerians and the international community watched with gaping mouth. The accused former Governor is facing similar charges of money laundering in the United Kingdom and is said to nurse an ambition to become president some day. If nothing is done by the civil society, with all the stolen funds at his disposal, the concerned politician’s desire may indeed become a reality in Nigeria, where most office holders are millionaires who have stolen enough of public funds to wield political clout and buy electoral votes.

So, with immunity against prosecution while in office and a good chance of evading justice after their tenure, bold-face looting of public treasury by public office holders has become the norm rather than exception.

Almost all of those who had been governor of one state or the other since 1999 had either been convicted or charged with stealing stupendous sums or under investigation for such. Yet, these felons and suspected thieves are still dominating the political space, often times, even growing in influence. There is a competition in Nigeria today among the political class to see who has stolen the most; such that the political scene is an ugly sight.

Misrule has had a devastating effect on the people. Nigeria now has about the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. Young people who graduate from universities and other higher institutions would be fortunate to be gainfully employed four or five years after. The situation has forced many into crimes, such as robbery, kidnapping, Internet scam, drug trafficking, militancy and ritual killing. Failure to provide employment for young graduates is the root cause of the Internet scams, called ‘419,’ for which the Nigerian youth has been internationally known.

The nation’s education and health sectors have also suffered serious damage. Public schools, which used to be the pride of the system, are now shunned by almost every parent who has the wherewithal. Private schools, which used to be fed by those who couldn’t pass admission tests into public ones, are now the favorites of parents, who could afford their fees. In fact, many, especially the thieving public office holders and politicians, now send the children and wards outside the country to pursue quality education.

If truly no nation can rise above the quality of its education, then the future of Nigeria seems to be in jeopardy. No only is it that no university in the country is listed amongst the best 1,000 in the world, indications from the secondary schools level is deathly alarming. It would appear that Africa’s most populous nation and the sixth crude oil exporter in the whole world is slipping very fast down the ladder of competitiveness in the comity of nations.

In the May/June 2009 West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE), only 356,981 or 25.99 per cent of the 1,265,090 candidates whose results were released, obtained qualifying passes in Mathematics, English and three other subjects, as required. In the 2008 examination, only 23.5 per cent got the same number of credits. The implication is that it is only about one-fourth of those passing out from the secondary schools that are fit, at first attempts, for admission into tertiary institutions, for training to become doctors, engineers, architects, accountants, lawyers, writers, scientists, and such other vital professionals that will support the development of the nation. Where does a poor education system leave Nigeria in terms of competitiveness compared with other emerging economies, particularly, and other nations in general?  The answer is obvious; the future is bleak.

While public hospitals have not suffered the same level of degradation as the schools, and still compete very well with private health care facilities, the level of care has lowered considerably. It has now become ‘normal’ for public office holders, politicians and private individuals with means, to opt for medical treatment or even mere ‘check-up’ outside of the country.

Perhaps because of the magnitude of the ‘spoils’ of being in office, the struggle for power has become a ‘do-or-die’ affair. All manners or means are being devised and employed to disenfranchise Nigerians through election rigging. The last elections in year 2007 were so massively flawed that over 70 per cent of all contested positions ended up in electoral tribunals.

The President, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, who also had his victory contested in cases that lasted over two years, was forced to institute a face-saving Electoral Reform Committee. The panel had since submitted its report, with many noble recommendations. Sadly, however, those recommendations, such as having an independent body select the Chairman of the electoral agency, appear to be heading for the dust bin. The problem is compounded because the same people who must sign the changes proposed into law are sitting upon the recommendations at the National Assembly. How can they be expected to shoot themselves in the foot? Indeed, it would be a miracle if the Electoral Act gets amended before the next general elections in year 2011.

The reality in Nigeria today is that an ordinary citizen with meager resource, such as a teacher, civil servant or even a doctor, except he steals, cannot dream of holding any elective office because politics has been monetized.

The situation is so worrisome that those who fought for return to civil rule – activists, journalists and unionists – are again beginning to wonder whether this brand of democracy being practiced by Nigerian politicians is not worse that the worst of military dictatorships. In fact, calls for Messianic intervention by soldiers are beginning to surface once again. If such calls were to materialize, Nigeria would just have wasted another decade experimenting with self-rule.

The Nigerian situation would leave most watchers of democracy wondering. The situation now foisted on the nation by looting, shameless and conspiring politicians has produced a confounding political economy, in which a country so rich country is filled with poor people.

Statistics from every major international organization, and even the Nigerian Federal Office of Statistics, indicates that Nigeria is in dire straits. With a life expectancy of a mere 46 years at birth, compared with 60 years for small Togo and Benin; with 98 out of every 1,000th child dying before reaching the age of five, and 33.4 million having HIV/AIDS, Nigeria is increasing looking like a small hell to live in.

Can we have democracy if the votes of the people count for little or nothing at all? Do we have a democracy when someone wins an election under a minority party, assumes office and is enticed to join the majority party without surrendering the people’s mandate? Can there be democracy is a one-party state?

If, as it is often defined, “democracy is the government of the people, for the people, and by the people”, can we say democracy is in operation in Nigeria?

Even, governments of well-established democracies, like the United States, are becoming embarrassed by the brand of democracy in Nigeria. So worried was the Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, about the prevailing situation that she classified Nigeria as a country whose leaders are ‘able but unwilling to effect the changes that the people deserve.’

With the situation as it is currently, what gives? Would a ‘messiah’ from within the military seize power again? Or would politicians change their ways and commit to effecting the changes that the people deserve?

Nigerians have mostly resorted to prayer, wishful thinking, one charismatic leader and many unrealistic solutions, but most people do not see themselves as a part of the solution.

Nigerians love to dialogue and dissect the root cause and solutions to the enormous problems they face, but those talks are not backed by any action.

The elite and corrupt leadership knows that as long as all Nigerians are satisfied with talk, they are safe, and can continue to bilk the nation.

The absence of a virile opposition to the political class and the sponsorship of political office holders by the rich and influential continues to deny Nigeria of any chance to have meaningful change.

The time has been ripe for the people to wake up and represent themselves with the people who represent their dreams and aspirations.

It will not just happen by itself.

It will take you and me – all of us, working together in sacrifice.