In true development sense, Nigeria remains a developing nation throughout its sixty-year history. Early independent Nigerian economy was agriculture-based, and Nigeria was once among the largest exporters of groundnuts, cocoa and palm oil. With the discovery of oil, Nigeria gradually abandoned its agricultural sector and now has to import food to feed its teeming population. Agriculture still contributes 35% of the GDP and 60% of employment, but administrative neglect, poor mechanization, antiquated techniques and infrastructural lack impede our journey towards agricultural self-sufficiency.
With the oil industry under serious threat due to fracking and race for renewable energy, Nigeria must find a way to diversify its oil dependent economy to cope with future challenges. Nigeria has attempted different versions of reforms since discarding its phased national development plans, with each reform program dying with passing of the administrations that introduced them. Continuity is the bane of Nigeria’s leadership challenge. Recent efforts to reform the economy in to a private-sector led, market-oriented economy led to the privatization of state-owned enterprises. However, any viable reform of the economy must center around sustained democratic practice, enhanced security and modern infrastructure.
Nigeria’s education sector is in a state of serious neglect. Overall literacy rate is 68%; this varies greatly between regions, and between states within regions. About ten million Nigerian children are out of school and are being left to battle with hunger and poverty instead of science and technology. The very generation that would safeguard Nigeria’s industrial transformation has been condemned to the streets. The education sector continues to suffer from chronic underfunding, inefficiency and corruption, with thousands of Nigerians leave the country to study abroad with its attendant effects of foreign exchange.
The Nigerian health sector is also acutely ill-equipped and under-funded; mostly donor-driven and NGO-based, and has failed to withstand the effects of population increase and decaying infrastructure. With one of the highest maternal and infant mortalities due to the lack of basic social amenities and the prevalence of infectious disease, there is the need for primary health care interventions especially in rural areas. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the severe lack of preparedness of our public health system. Government must upgrade our existing health facilities, train and deploy adequate resources in order to adequately meet today’s challenges and prepare against those of the future.
Nigeria’s industrialization is taking a very slow phase over those six decades. With an under-explored mining industry and abundant natural resources, Nigeria’s slow industrialization was once attributed to political instability of the military era, but this argument has since expanded to the failure of the government to provide the necessary infrastructure and conducive atmosphere. Power shortage has been the major cause of government promises and disappointments over the past sixty years, and as population reaches an unmanageable size, Nigerians still have to contend with a token 4000mw while many industries, homes and small businesses rely heavily on electricity generators. Efforts by state governments to collaborate with the private sector in achieving power sufficiency are expected to yield the required result. In order to realize our industrialization dream, massive infrastructural resuscitation is required – commencing with the power sector. In spite of all these seemingly insurmountable odds, Nigeria’s local manufacturing industry provides employment to our teeming population and contributes a staggering 70% to the non-formal economy.
There is thus the need for government to create ways for technical improvement in order for our manufacturers to favorably compete with their foreign counterparts. Over the years, there have been proliferations of small and medium scale enterprises and microfinance and credit loan institutions, but regulation and feasibility remain basic obstacles. Nigeria’s telecommunication industry is one of the fastest growing in the world with an ever-expansive GSM market.
In the international scene, Nigeria has placed Africa’s liberation and the promotion of peace at the center stage of its foreign policy. This was firmly demonstrated by Nigeria’s anti-apartheid and pro-liberation struggle in the South African sub region, politically and militarily. Nigeria also participates in numerous peace missions by the UN, AU and the ECOWAS. And over a decade ago, the Nigeria Armed Forces Command at Jaji was made a UN peacekeeping center in recognition of our long-standing role in international peace and security. Fighting corruption has continued to be marred by setbacks and administrative flip-flop. Even as the EFCC has secured some laudable convictions and earned international commendations, it is continued to be plagued by political interference and internal corruption.
In the area of sport, Nigeria has achieved international fame. Soccer remains by far the most popular sport in Nigeria; with three Nation’s Cup, five World Cup outings, a number of world championships, a competitive domestic football league and an impressive roll call of foreign based players. But recent outings have not been satisfactory due to poor administration. Other sports like basketball and boxing have brought international accolades to Nigeria.
The Nigerian movie and entertainment industry – the Nollywood has achieved some phenomenal success. It is now the second largest and third richest in the world and immensely contributes to national economy despite suffering from technical inferiority, piracy and administrative nonchalance. Analysts have forecasted that, with the necessary support, the Nigerian movie industry will rival the oil sector in terms of employment and income generation. And stakeholders are exuberant about this possibility.
Conclusively, Nigeria’s future remains openly challenged. We live in a time of terrible crisis – and tremendous opportunity. No matter how we try to portray our optimism, we must show appropriate concerns to those things that threatened our union; the rising insecurity, political intolerance and religious extremism. Only by understanding our past mistakes will we be able to take advantage of future opportunities. Our future, two-hundred millions of us, will be decided by the choices we make and the sacrifices offered in order to make Nigeria a better place for coming generations and a model for the rest of the world. At sixty years, it appears that we are on the threshold of history, and what is left of Nigeria tomorrow depends on the decision we take for ourselves today.
God bless Nigeria.