Recently, I stumbled upon the speech by the renowned Nigerian Historian, Professor (Senator) Banji Akintoye, delivered at an event held in Lagos to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Nigerian civil war. It reads in part; ‘It sounds absurd that instead of shared prosperity and national cohesion, oil has brought Nigeria conflict and poverty, inequality and oppression, dependency, recurrent economic recession, and environmental dilapidation. Noting that despite the abundance of oil and gas, hydro and energy resources, guarantees for the most part, Nigerians live in darkness, and businesses atrophy for lack of power supply’.
For sure, while Professor Banji may have hinted on, and confirmed the socioeconomic concern that has been on the minds of Nigerians. More than anything else, he brought to our consciousness that Nigeria may afterwards be suffering from what development professionals refer to as ‘Resource Curse or Dutch Disease’. A developmental challenge which argues that natural resources of nations are fundamental and critical requirements in the creation of wealth but in most cases, the value of such natural endowment fails to significantly improve of nations as a result of leadership failures to employ efficient technical processes to convert some or all of the primary resources into industrial materials or industrial goods in ways that will add value to such primary materials for wealth creations.
Still on ‘Resource Curse’, let’s turn our gaze to a comment by Terra Lawson-Remer, economist, environmental attorney, community organizer, and educator, who served as Senior Advisor in the Obama Administration. She succulently captures it this way; among the many frustrations in development; perhaps none looms larger than the “resource curse.” Perversely, the worst development outcomes–measured in poverty, inequality, and deprivation–are often found in those countries with the greatest natural resource endowments. Rather than contributing to freedom, broadly shared growth, and social peace, rich deposits of oil and minerals have often brought tyranny, misery, and insecurity to these nations.
Mohammad Amin, in that report suggests yet another more troubling explanation of the resource curse. He called it; the Nigerian Disease. That is, an abundance of natural resources leads to poorer governance and conflicts. It gives rise to governments that are less accountable to the people, have little incentive for institution-building, and fail to implement growth enhancing reforms. Higher corruption, more rent-seeking activity, greater civil conflict, and erosion of social capital are some of the outcomes associated with the Nigerian Disease (see, for example,
While it is too early to draw any definitive conclusion on the relevance of the Nigerian Disease, the early results do suggest a possible way out of the resource curse – greater emphasis on institution-building and government accountability, he concluded.
Unambiguously, if there is any evidence that supports the claim that leadership challenge has become a Nigerian disease of the sort, it is a portion of Mr. President’s claim during the Democracy Day Broadcast.
It reads; as your President I remain ever committed to upholding and defending Nigeria’s corporate existence. In adhering to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy notably section 14(2)(b) I shall do all within my power to ensure that the Security and welfare of the people remain the primary purpose of government.
The above claim is not only mind numbing but disturbing particularly as Nigeria, Nigerians and of course the global community are in agreement that Mr. President has failed woefully in securing lives and property in Nigeria which happens to be one of his key and constitutional responsibilities. Under his watch, Nigeria is filled with the paradoxes of want in the midst of plenty.
Also as argued by Professor (Senator) Banji Akintoye in the above referenced speech, there are huge solid mineral deposits across the length and breadth of the country, yet Nigeria depends 95% on oil income for foreign exchange earnings. Every part of the country is blessed with immense agricultural potentials, yet the vast majority of our youths remain unemployed, while we spend billions annually importing food staples and industrial raw materials. We are quick to boast of a huge population. It is true that one-in-every-four-black-
From this spiraling awareness, the question that is more important than the piece itself are; is Nigeria under mere Resource Curse? Or has the nation’s challenge finally graduated to Nigerian Disease? Will Nigeria remain an abandoned project having failed to attain its manifest destiny? Even with its endowed human and material resources? And after it has endured and survived an unjust, yet an avoidable civil war?
How can we use strategic methods to set and re-establish Nigeria where each region or state operates in a symmetrical manner with no part of the amalgam claiming superiority over the other? How can the nation strengthen this arrangement which at independence in 1960, made Nigeria a federation, resting firmly on a tripod of three federating regions-Northern, Eastern and Western Regions, and each of the regions economically and politically viable to steer its own ship? How do we foster collaborative approaches that minimize resource use but improve the masses’ life chances? What can we do as a nation to bridge social and structural divides and build a ‘community’ where everyone is welcome and has a sense of belonging? And most importantly, how can our leaders build a nation of equal citizens where opportunities are equal and personal contribution is recognized and rewarded on merit regardless of language, culture, religion or political affiliations?
As the nation continues to brood over the above questions, the truth must be told to the effect that the current challenge was heightened by the nation’s refusal to learn from history which continues to teach humanity invaluable lessons about life. But instead, we choose to dig a shallow grave for it. And the nation is consequentially being haunted by the presence of its shadowy ghost.
To move forward, the present administration must recognize that any personality who wants to grow in leadership must almost always scale and be open to learning. They must be molded by new experiences to improve their leadership.
From the above demand flows another concern; how can leaders learn when they continuously mouth their determination to preserve the union called Nigeria, but the feudalistic and oligarch nature of their government promotes mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivation thereby doing the country more harm than good and quickening its disintegration?
To truly build the nation of our dreams, we must learn as a nation how to promote stability and cohesion in society; and develop the culture of great reverence for education and knowledge.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;email@example.com/