Following the resolution of the Berlin conference – Germany 1888 – to eradicate all forms of slave trade across Africa and the subsequent official colonization in January 1900, the European super powers – Britain, Germany, Portugal..- spread their tentacles, sharing African countries amongst one another.
The European, thus came with the ideology of dual mandate; to develop the continent of Africa, and to exploit the myriads of raw materials in Africa for their growing industry in Europe. This was based on the notion that Africa lacks the technical know-how and intellect to effectively utilize their raw materials.
The colonization of Nigeria by Britain had its own demerits, but in all honesty, the merits that encompasses it cannot be neglected.
However, the 60 years of colonization was officially abolished with the Independence of Nigeria on 1st of October 1960. In 1963, Nigeria became a Republic, having full fledge Independence and absolute control over their internal affairs.
In February 2019 – 59 years after Independence – Nigeria was named the poverty capital of the world. The world clock revealed that 91,885,874 people in Nigeria now wallow in abject poverty.
Africa’s most populous country and acclaimed “Giant” been named the poverty capital of the world is a pressing issue that needs to be critically examined by all and sundry.
Walter Rodney in his book “How Europe underdeveloped Africa” opined that: “ The evolution of Africa’s underdevelopment could be traced to the Europeans forceful colonization of Africa.” His argument rest on the premise that the European capitalist focused more on the development of their growing industry, using Africa’s resources, whilst neglecting the development of the people in Africa.
However, when British left, that was the perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the history of our dear nation for better.
Conversely, Nigeria’s case could best be akin to the popular notion; “ From frying pan to fire.” Our political leaders saw the offices as an avenue to enriching their pockets, with their head abroad and anus at home. They became real proponent of poverty. They became an advocate of underdevelopment. Maladministration now portrays our 59 years old nation as an infant.
What is development?
Development in human society embodies a multidimensional approach. At the level of individual, it is best portrayed as an advancement in human rationality, self autonomy, creativity, high self esteem, domestic and social responsibility advancement, and material well-being.
In general parlance, development is an unending process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social, and demographic components.(Pears foundation)
The end result of development is to bring about improvement in the quality of lives of the populace, providing a designated environment where inhabitants of a Nation can peacefully coexist, and provision of employment opportunities without jeopardizing the resources of the State.
What is underdevelopment?
Underdevelopment is the existence of low level of development, characterized by low per capital income, prevalent poverty, low level of literacy, low life expectancy and underutilization of resources. (UNDP)
Having considered what “ Development” and “ Underdevelopment” entails, let’s delve into the evolution of how Nigeria rendered herself underdeveloped.
Nigeria, as a nation, is blessed with enormous natural resources. It is widely believed that any nation in possession of numerous natural, human, and economic resources, have what it takes to develop at their own pace, and compete viably in the International scene.
Conversely, reverse is the case in Nigeria’s scenario. We are blessed with unending natural and human resources, yet we remain underdeveloped.
Awolowo (1984) opined that: “ The greatness of a Nation does not consist in the abundance of its resources, but the quality of its people.”
If development seems like an arduous task for a blessed and 59 years old Nigeria, some subtle, or better still, apparent factor must be the underlying cause.
Aptly put, the genesis of Nigeria’s problem lies in bad governance and corruption.
Leadership is an integral part of any nation. It is pervasive, daily, and universal. Without effective leadership, a nation is as good as dead. The effect of bad leadership and corruption on governance in Nigeria are numerous, and they all constitute big threat to our development amongst other African countries and European nations at large.
First, is the alienation of the people from the government and their country. Bad governance had threatened the harmony that ought to exist between the government and the people. There now exist a clear cut gap between the government and the citizens. This is evident, in that one can seldom see a handy Nigerians, if not any, putting on clothes with imprints portraying “ I love Nigeria” or make it a habit saying “ God bless Nigeria” every morning, as it is done by a relatively large number of United States citizens. Hardly will you see Nigerians showing enthusiasm towards “ Nigerian premier league ”, but millions of Nigerians publicly show their support towards European leagues; England premier league, Seria A, La liga…
The hostility had gone sour, in that, given the opportunity, many Nigerians are ready to leave their country for abroad and never return, let alone remember to contribute to her national development. 185,000 Nigerians travel to Dubai in 2018 to seek succor (Cable lifestyle).
Now, making reference to the saying of Walter Rodney: “ The development of a Nation has its fundamental on the development of people of such Nation.” How can a nation whose citizens are looking for every means possible to elude, as a result of bad governance, develop? This is an apparent paradox.
Second, bad governance has created what is akin to mutual market relationship between the government and the citizens – eligible voters. The people now see election period as an avenue to market their franchise for the candidate that has the highest offer. This is seen as the only way to enjoy their own share of the “National cake” . The politicians in turn are always ready to fulfill this condition, knowing fully well that if they win, they would embezzle in multiples whatever amount they spent. This kind of scenario will only usher in looters into governmental positions. Their tenure of office will only be for enriching themselves and their cohorts. All funds meant for developmental projects will be used elsewhere. The citizens who are meant to criticize them would have been tongue-tied, since their assumption into office is through bilateral trade. Development in this kind of country could best be likened to a drowning person holding unto a straw – it still won’t make any difference.
This action doesn’t speak well of the electorates either, but who would preach such holy sermon to a man whose living condition is unbearable.
Omojuwa(2014) said: “ Those who expect hungry, uneducated men to have an understanding of, or came about the power of his vote expects too much.” As long as man has a hunger problem, his life choices will always be dictated by the immediate satisfaction of that urge.
Ultimately, bad governance have propelled increment in social crime; prostitution, unemployment, kidnapping, drug and human trafficking, to mention a few. All money that could have been used to solve the problem of unemployment and other vices in existence are used for personal motive. This is why we have sects like “Boko-haram”, and “Niger-delta militants” terrorizing the country.
It will be difficult, if not possible, preaching to an hungry man, not to kill, steal, kidnap, venture into drug trafficking, internet fraud, and arrays of other social crime.
According to Fayemi, (2014): “ poverty relates to violence. If you do not tackle poverty, a poor man will have nothing to do. Their is poverty study that tells that poor people are liable to risks; they do not want anything to happen to the little they have. But that only happens when there is still a tinge of hope that something will happen.”
The ultimate effect of bad governance in Nigeria has been widespread of poverty, the horrible tag of poverty capital of the world, and underdevelopment at its peak, considering the amount of resources we are endowed with. What a situational irony.