Monthly Archives: June 2013


What are the measurements for progress in a nation? Clearly every student told to mark his own essay will cheat somehow. President Jonathan challenged his opponents when he said in his speech recently that those that seek to mark his government’s performance should present their marking scheme. Well, I have decided to respond to his challenge. But rather than devise a new marking scheme that can be questioned; I decided to use a reputable, GEJglobally acknowledged scheme that also provide comparative analysis with other countries in Africa and beyond. Nigeria Finance minister at the same event organized to mark the midway in the administration spouted out several statistics and data; that is far from representing the realities of most Nigerians. The progress of any nation is beyond just GDP growth and national success and prosperity is about more than just fancy figures. The question is, how do ordinary Nigerians feel about their personal wellbeing and economic standing?

To capture my sentiment exactly; let me allow a progressive African leader to speak. Dr Joyce Banda , President Republic of Malawi said recently as follows:

“As for me, growth is not merely about GDP growth. Growth is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all. Growth is about growing and improving access to education for our children, and creating jobs for our youths. Growth is about growing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital.  As women leaders, we should not allow children to suffer from malnutrion. We should refuse to allow our children to learn under trees rather than proper classrooms. We should refuse to allow mothers to die while giving birth because the nearest health centre is far away .Whenever these challenges are prevalent, our economies cannot meaningfully achieve the sustainable economic growth we all aspire for”.

I could not have said it any better. So the marking scheme I will use to score the Jonathan administration is the recognized measure used by the OECD and other global outfits called The Prosperity Index (developed by the Legatum Institute). This is the only global measurement of national success based on both income and wellbeing. Their econometric analysis has identified 89 variables, which are spread across eight sub-indices. By measuring prosperity holistically they are able to identify and analyse the specific factors that contribute to the success of a country beyond just GDP statistics or other banal statistical measure that does not impact on the true economic realities of a nation’s citizenry. These Eight Prosperity indices are: Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Governance, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.

According to the Institute’s survey of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria; the raw GDP statistics masks major weaknesses in indices of national prosperity and economic wellbeing. In its report last year it noted that economically, Nigeria paints a mixed picture. GDP growth is recorded at an impressive 7.9%, however a high inflation rate of over 7%, high levels of unemployment, and poor internal infrastructure stifle long-term, sustained growth it said. Nigeria it stated has significant oil reserves but its reliance on revenue from oil has been described as “damaging”, while the risks of relying on oil reserves as a one-pronged economic strategy is well documented across Africa. They concluded that “Factoring in the current instability of the global economy as a whole, we may reasonably conclude that a diversified, entrepreneur-led economy is crucial to Nigeria’s long term success and stability”.

The Legatum Institute produced last year its annual National Prosperity Index for 142 countries in the world. Nigeria ranked a dreadful 123 out of 142 countries in 2012, that is a relegation from our already bad rank of 104 in 2011 and 106 in 2010. That means by an holistic measure of national prosperity and wellbeing as measured globally; Nigeria has slipped backwards and performed worse between 2010 and 2012. South Africa was ranked 74, Tunisia 78, Namibia 83, Ghana 87, even Mali was did better than us at 104.

Looking behind the overall poor ranking of Nigeria; we performed worst between 2010 and 2012 in the following indices: Economy (drop of 31 point), Safety & Security (27 point drop) and Education (17 point drop). We however improved in Personal Freedom (gain of 10points) and Social Capital (gain of 3points) measures.

So while I praise the Jonathan government for some of its high level macro economic achievements; attention now needs to be paid to the wellbeing of Nigerians in a holistic way. It is a known economic fact that there are more business opportunities in any economy than job opportunities. The engine for growth in Nigeria therefore will not be just more jobs for the unemployed (although that is needed by many) but an entrepreneurial explosion. Government should encourage and promote new businesses and our universities should emphasize entrepreneurship more rather than the current focus on getting a degree and going to apply for jobs that are not always available.

There exists today a multitude of objective data about entrepreneurship in Nigeria. For example, the Index report states that the average time it takes to start a business in Nigeria (31 days), the total tax rates, as a percentage of commercial profits, faced by Nigerian entrepreneurs is 32.2%. The growth of any economy is based on the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises. A concerted and unified strategy is needed to make a success of this vision. So rather than trumpeting pure statistics that means little to average Nigerians, the government should put more effort in productive activities and strategy that impacts on the day to day living of the people.  Of the eight indices measured, Nigeria improved in only two of them under this government. Given that we have slipped backward in six of the Prosperity Index in two years since the President was elected; I will give him a presidential performance score of 25%. So Student number 001, Goodluck Jonathan, if you repeat this core by the end of the school term; you will be expelled for poor performance.  So work harder and improve on your score. That is the conclusion of the Headteacher.

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Nigerians have grown to expect the worst from their leaders and government. Give an average Nigerian a couple of scenarios; one positive and the other negative and ask which they belief relate to their country and its leaders. Most will go for the negative. We have come to expect the worst from our politicians and no doubt, we get what we expect. But are we perpetuating a dysfunctional mindset that keeps us in a self-fulfilling cycle of failure as a nation? Hence, I have lately been reading the various chartrooms and threads about Nigeria on the web as well as other media commentaries.

I fear we are in danger of allowing cynicism to rule and ruin our future as a people. We know most of our career-politician leaders are corrupt. But then we are equally quick to find fault in new generation of leaders coming up. If it is an old politician, we complain that he has been there for too long and assisted in the pillage of the country since independence. If it is a young politician who has been in active politics for a short while; we complain that he has made no difference and a stooge of the godfather.lagos1

If it is a young or old aspiring politician, who is entering the terrain for the first time; we complain that he is simply going there to ‘chop’ (steal) money like others. It seems nobody is ever good enough for some Nigerians. We have become a nation of habitual complainers, moaners and cynics. We have given up on the old guards and the new ones are viewed with suspicion even before they take a single step.  My consolation is that even God has His critics here on earth. Much less mere humans.

But in my view; what is lacking in many Nigerians is ability to think rationally. Rational psychology expects you to prioritize your assessment of people and then decide based on dominant good qualities, while viewing the few bad qualities in context of an otherwise overwhelmingly ’good’ candidate. Many of us make these analysis daily. You indulge that driver constantly coming late to work, because he is otherwise an excellent driver and the best you have ever had. You indulge that househelp’s bad manners because the kids love her and she is the best cleaner you have ever had. You decided not to relocate from your area of Lagos despite the horrendously bad road leading to it because the area is otherwise very safe and little or no crime at all. We all make these judgments and balance analysis all the time. So why do we not apply the same to our old or aspiring politicians. Let us learn to increase in hope and optimism and believe good can still come out this country. Our focus on the negative has got us nowhere; so why not try a new approach Let us be less cynical and more hopeful.

Truth is; the worst offenders are the educated middleclass, many residing in Diaspora. Many complain about everything Nigeria does; yet live in Chicago where several of their governors in the past 20yrs have been jailed for fraud and corruption.   And the Internet allows people to pontificate, become tin gods with little repercussion and minimal sense of responsibility.  We need to change. There are now many “good people” reluctant to join the political arena. Not due to the fear of the corrupt political elite; but for fear of been shot into pieces and have the reputation stained by the mostly Internet-based/Educated/Chattering brigade; who theorizes and analyses everything from the sidewalk. I am sure some will say that at least the governors in Chicago were caught and prosecuted successfully, while none has been brought to book in Nigeria. But that is not the salient point here. My argument is that there are bad and corrupt politicians everywhere. Why must we allow cynicism to destroy the future of our hope?

In the most memorable section of his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, President Roosevelt captured his life philosophy in just a few sentences. “The Man in the Arena” tells us that the man we should praise is the man who’s out there fighting the big battles, even if  imperfect and those battles end in defeat. In our day, when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered hip and cool, he reminds us that glory and honour come to those “who spend themselves in a worthy cause.”  He noted:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

These perpetual Nigerian critics specialize in finding fault in anybody that is brave enough to enter the political ring. We all need to be careful. It seems many are naively looking for a “Perfect Candidate” that is blemish free. Remember that Joseph (in the Bible) had a criminal record when he became the best Prime Minister in Egypt; straight from Prison. I know Joseph was innocent; but nobody knew that except him and God.

My advise to these armchair critics is; why don’t you throw your hats into the ring. If nobody is good enough for your Nigeria, does that include yourself as well? Are you as bad as the people you always criticize?  If not; why don’t you enter the arena and make a difference. Perhaps, you are the change agent the nation has been waiting for.

Let’s stop shooting down everybody that is trying to make change happen in our Nation; even if they are not perfect. It’s hard to see the good in people, when you’re only looking for the bad.  Let’s focus on their ideas/policies/agendas and not simply on personalities or the mistakes they have made in the past. And finally, let us be led by that inner voice; so that we do not simply know everybody after the flesh. I see change happening in Nigeria through unexpected vessels.

Let us believe the best for our nation and support and constructively criticize those in the arena; not because we agree with all they do or they are prefect; but because we owe it to Nigeria since we are not in the arena ourselves. God bless Nigeria.

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