By Salaudeen Hashim
Dem go turn Red into Blue! Government Magic! Dem go turn Green into White! Government Magic! Dem go turn Electric to Candle! Government Magic! Dem fit turn Electric to Candle! Government Magic!
While pondering on the recent charade called GDP Rebasing which turned Nigeria into Africa’s Largest Economy overnight and the above song by a renowned Nigerian musician, late Fela Anikulapo was the first thing that sprang to my mind. The questions on the ‘abracadabra’ are very many but will only ask a few in orders not to bore the esteem audience.
Afraid of the impending defeat in the forthcoming elections, the ruling party has imported economic magicians from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics to wet the ground for them in preparation for the 2015 Presidential Elections. In the next few months experts in opinion polls from the Nigerian media will follow suit in this game of adding two and two to get 10 not 4. As it were, the ruling party is not thinking of how to win elections but how to remain in power at all cost no matter whose ox is gored.
If strokes of canes could be ‘Wifi-ed’ or ‘bluetoothed’, the Statistician General of Nigeria—Minister of Finance and her Information counterpart, Labaran Maku would have been at the mercy of many angry Nigerians. By now they would be nursing a lacerated back. My interest here lies in the lessons we can draw from the footprint that led to the discovery and not the cruel intention that possibly triggered the idea of such rebasing the GDP in the first place.
Nigeria’s present administrations at the state and federal levels are leaving something vital out. They are missing out on what can make their administration truly people-centred. Of course, my assumptions are within the safe parenthesis of thoughts that they are all there to work for the people and not for their own pocket. Now, we hold the dual honour of being the continent’s most populous and most productive country. According to the new figures, Nigeria’s GDP has leapt from $262 billion to $510 billion, an increase of 94.6%. With this new figure, South Africa, whose GDP is $370.3 billion, has been elbowed to a distant second place.
Just few days after revelation about the new figure, World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, yesterday restated at IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings that Nigeria is one of the top five countries that has the largest number of poor.
The emerged position from Kim clearly indicated that of course, our new status comes with bragging rights and possible opportunities in terms of appeals to investors and manufacturers, but it also comes with additional responsibilities as the fate of the continent has become more intricately twinned with that of our country. For instance, volatility in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy will have more serious implications for the entire continent. However, that should be the least of our concern at the moment.
When combined with data on our macro-economic outlook, our new status provides some cause for cheer. Our economy has grown at an average of about 7% for the past decade; inflation rate is now down to single digit (7.7%); we have a healthy current account surplus; we have a strong external reserves (about $40 billion); and, on the continent, we are the destination of choice for foreign direct investments. All these are well and good, and those who only want to claim credit should be allowed to. But for those interested in real development (as measured by the welfare of the people), it is a good moment to ponder why poverty, unemployment, and inequality sit cheek-by-jowl with stable growth. This is not to say nothing has been achieved over time. But the economic growth-human development gap underlines the stubborn fact that there is still a lot more to be done. That is our un-rebased reality.
It needs to be stated upfront that unemployment, poverty and inequality are global problems, from the developed to the least-developed countries, especially Africa. So these challenges are not peculiar to Nigeria, but that does not mean we should not pay attention to them, given their larger implications for growth, peace, and development.
While managers of the economy, investors and economists may find data from the rebased GDP useful, the inconvenient truth is that it means next to nothing to the average Nigerian. What is the practical use of being a citizen of Africa’s largest economy to someone who is jobless or someone who doesn’t know where the next meal will come from or someone, who though employed, cannot pay most of his/her bills? Zero!
As a minister of this administration memorably said recently, “GDP is good, but you cannot eat it.” So rather than get us blind-sighted or get us side-tracked into the predictable and non-useful habit of chest-thumping, the new GDP figures should focus our minds on critical and urgent areas of work. And the work is well cut out: how to leverage on new growth areas to expand the capacity for more growth and, more importantly, how to translate growth to jobs, less poverty and shared prosperity. Any other thing is work avoidance, pure and simple.
How does Nigeria compare? Just look around you. Nigeria is full of millions of struggling people. The recent recruitment debacle of the Nigerian Immigration Service where over 700,000 people paid N1, 000 for a chance to compete for less than 5,000 employment slots graphically depicts the situation of the average Nigerian.
In 2013, World Bank’s World Development Report revealed that 69% of the people live on less than N6, 000 monthly, worse than almost 70% of Sub-Saharan African countries including Togo (28%), Ethiopia (31%) and Uganda (38%); life expectancy is 52 years and 17th lowest in the world.
Also in 2013, Punch of Wednesday 13 November 2013; Page 32 reported from the words of World Bank Country Director to Nigeria, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly that 1.2 billion people live in destitution out of which 100 million are Nigerians.
In 2012 Nigeria’s GDP–per capita (PPP) is $2800 while South Africa GDP – Per Capital (PPP) stood at $ 11600. In an article written by Aminu Mohammed titled Southern African Invasion in Nigeria listed South African Companies operating in Nigeria as follows: MTN, Power Giant, Eskom Nigeria, South African Airways, Stanbic Merchant Bank of Nigeria, Multichoice, Umgeni Water, Refresh products, PEP Retail Stores, Shoprite, LTA Construction, Protea Hotels, Critical Rescue International, South African-Nigeria Communications, Global Outdoor Semces, Oracle, Airtime just to mention a few of them. About 14 Southern African Companies have been contracted to collect revenues for PHCN. Many Nigerians are hooked to DSTV rather than our own local TV Stations to watch various football programs and other Sports, CNN, Al-jazeera, Sky News, VCC etc. Nigeria has only local branch of Union Bank, First Bank, Philips Construction, News Media and one or two others.
South Africa Wire companies have seized nearly 50% of the Nigerian Wire Market and hospitality business. South Africa exports technology, they build heavy industries, build cars and trucks. You need to see the infrastructure in South Africa from Johannesburg to Pretoria and to Durban. You need to see their International Airports, the road networks and the industries left and right as you move from Oliver Tambo International Airport to Pretoria.
Nigeria is now under 1000 MW of electricity while South Africa has 45,700 MW. South Africa is a superpower, Nigeria is not. Nigeria produces nothing for export except crude oil and imports everything. What it took to reveal the level of unemployment in Nigeria is the recent NIS tragic recruitment exercise where millions turned up for nothing more than 3000 jobs. 20 Nigerians died as a result of stampede.
Insecurity is threatening Nigeria for the past six years without sincere and appreciative effort resolve insecurity challenges. It is taking Nigeria 50 years to start building the second Nigeria Bridge. The Bridge was commissioned in 1965. It is taking Nigeria 40 years to start rebuilding the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Nigeria has more than 100 Universities, but how many of these can boldly compete with world class Universities?
Corruption defines Nigeria, just as immorality defined Sodom and Gomorrah. God looked for a critical mass of 10 people to save Sodom and only found 4. The place was destroyed. The transformation of Nigeria requires a critical mass of people sworn to righteousness, committed to shunning bribery and corruption, regardless the consequences. With this critical mass, we trust God will release His grace and favour upon Nigeria to fulfill its destiny by emerging as a developed nation, proving that the Negro is inferior to no other. Only a transformed people can successfully deliver a Transformation Agenda.
We believe that corruption is a major reason for the difference in the performance of this country. Nigeria’s natural place in the world is to emerge as a developed nation, proving that the Negro is inferior to no other. The great works of Martin Luther King Jnr. and Nelson Mandela in achieving desegregation and legal equality in the last century need to be validated by an economically and technologically successful nation built substantially by Negro genius and talent. This challenge is naturally Nigeria’s, but this Divine destiny is slipping out of our fingers, blighted by several vices, the chief being corruption.
Furthermore economies gain more opportunities to succeed by taking hold of the collective talents of a larger number of citizens connected to a broader, more reachable world than used to be the case. Creative industries are generally small businesses, self-employment and plenty of informality, deriving from networks and contacts. So, in some of the developed, there has been deliberate policy on the part of government to support through the cluster approach and the cluster approach has sometimes been about cities differentiating themselves as the place where the people that belong to that industry would like to live together, cohabitation, locating the resources and the utilities that the creative mind requires in order to be the best they can often differentiated cities from other cities.