There is perhaps no better way to tell the Nigerian story without making references to the good old days. In times past, there existed a somewhat synergetic relationship between the Nigerian state and her citizenry. It was then that the country’s currency stood tall among the currencies of the world. Things were relatively better. I remember how my father would tell me the stories of how employers trooped down to universities to secure newly graduated students. These, among many others, represented the values of the old Nigeria. Those days, the country was able to secure the confidence of the citizens because the obtainable environment was one which attended to the needs of these citizens to a reasonable extent. However, today, the tables have turned.
From an increasing rate of unemployment to growing levels of poverty, it takes little or nothing to lose hope in the Nigerian system. At newspaper stands and across the internet, the name Nigeria is constantly thrown in the mud. The country is often in the news for the wrong reasons. Consequently, the seeming choice which majority think they have is either to leave the country or to join the bandwagon of those who feed off of crimes. However, as sad as this may sound, it is the reality of the modern day Nigeria. Hence, if solutions must be advanced, then a proper discourse of the causes that led to the loss of confidence is essential.
The distrust in the Nigerian system is not a problem that sprouted from the ground today, it had always been looming ever since the people started to feel neglected. Perhaps the oldest source of distrust in the system in Nigeria is the issue of poor data acquisition. From time immemorial, Nigerian governments have made political and socio-economic decisions on improperly compiled data. Consequently, the national common wealth of the country has been engineered to be shared disproportionately. In such a situation where citizens do not feel justified, they consequentially cannot believe in the system – and this is seen in their unenthusiastic disposition towards the government and her policies.
Another key problem occasioning distrust is poverty. Currently, being the poverty capital of the world (Vanguard, 2018), the standard of living in Nigeria is on a downward spiral. Consequent upon this, the logical conclusion the populace can reach is that the government has failed them. Hence, instead of making deliberate efforts towards the success of the country, citizens rather invest their individual efforts in making ends meet. Simply, poverty has successfully created a wall of disparity between Nigerians and policy implementation.
Furthermore, as though in a race to determine who places first, insecurity in Nigeria is equally on an alarming rise. In a country where households struggle to put food on their tables, their lives are still not at ease while doing so. More alarming is the fact that the government has not taken any significant step in putting this insecurity to bed. The resultant insensitivity which the government pays to such crucial matter saps whatever trust may be left in the citizens.
As if this is not enough, corruption has gradually become a culture in Nigeria especially among government officials. The supposed trustees of the nation’s wealth have become the ones carting away with it. In recent times, they have even had to partner with animals to get the job done (Vanguard, 2018). These occurrences not only evaporate confidence in the system, they further mock the intellect of the Nigerian citizens. To make matters worse, majority of these corruption cases are either delayed in court or made to disappear inconclusively. This poor disposition towards corruption cases dares the very essence of the democracy upon which Nigeria is supposedly built.
Consequently, citizens have effortlessly lost every strand of confidence in the Nigerian system. To an average Nigerian, if the country was a tunnel, then the only thing at its end is their way out to another country. The loss of confidence in the Nigerian system has taken a negative toll on the country’s economy and her citizens’ standards of living. As a result of the disregard for government, ideal economy-changing policies are met with sharp hostility from the populace. There is a prevalence of the lack of willpower to see any policy through. This absence of trust has created a widening gap between the leaders and the led. Little wonder Philanthropist Peggy (Rockefeller) Dulany remarked that trust is the social glue that holds families, organizations, and societies together; without it, reaching any agreement can become a fraught negotiation. (NESG, 2019) As such, to attain economic progress and standard quality of living in Nigeria, ideas as to enhancing the obtainable confidence in the country must be put forward.
First, for the government to have the support of her citizens, then adequate representation needs to be prioritized. But, adequate representation becomes blurry when a country’s population figures are fraught with inconsistencies and controversies. In Nigeria today, the last time a census was conducted was in 2006 (Opendataforafrica, 2006) – a census acclaimed not to be credible. (Okechi, 2016) 12 years after, the facts and figures obtained then are still responsible for revenue allocation, federal appointments, access to amenities, and other related matters. Inadequate population census continues to cause social and ethnic controversies, and geo-political distrust – and these undermine national policies and development. The public perception is that higher population figure is a political tool in a heterogeneous society such as Nigeria. Therefore, to tackle this problem, it becomes expedient that the government takes practical steps to ensure the conduction of credible census. To ensure credibility, asides emphasizing de-politicizing of census process, the government should invest in the acquisition of modern day technologies such as machine readable forms, remote sensing techniques, among others. Recourse should also be had to reviewing the laws guiding the National Population Commission to enable the body conduct credible exercises.
Another significant way of securing the confidence of the citizens is for the government to have actual impacts on the people. For democracy to work, people not only need to feel represented, they must equally feel the impact of such representation – and this can only be felt when their problems are actually getting solved or, at the very least, getting due attention from the government. Government needs to start making data-driven political and socio-economic decisions. In 2014 when Nigeria became the biggest economy in Africa (BBC, 2014), it was simply due to the change in the method of calculating the Gross Domestic Product by using the “rebasing” method (BBC, 2014). Although, because of the lack of sustainability, this success did not last for long, the only reason it became achievable in the first place was simply because the solution heralded from a proper study of the economy’s problem. Hence, to replicate such success in a more sustainable manner, government has to invest more in the proper sourcing for data, and turning them into usable formats for impactful and sustainable policy making towards national development.
While the above solutions relate more to the macro level of governance, there equally exist solutions at the micro level, especially regarding the quality of public services. Trust in a country is significantly determined by the quality of public services delivered by the government, and accessed by the citizens. Human beings are wired in such a way that they acquaint themselves more with something beneficial. As such, the higher the satisfaction citizens derive from public services, the higher the level of confidence they invest in such system. Today in Nigeria, the fact speaks for itself when it comes to the condition of our healthcare, education, security, the judicial system among others. And the fact speaks in poor terms. Therefore, the government has to ensure that the basic services cutting across the aforementioned sectors are efficiently provided for, and equally made accessible.
Indeed, when one desires such thing as public trust, it is essential that one places oneself in the position of integrity. Nigerian leaders today have stained their toga of integrity with different shades of corruption. It is so bad that the country has even been called fantastically corrupt. (Vanguard, 2016) Trying to secure confidence when one isn’t trustworthy is simply like trying to squeeze drops of milk out of a stone – impossible. Hence, integrity mechanisms that promote high standards of behaviour should be institutionalised in governance. Political instruments emphasizing transparency should be made more emphatic, and the judiciary should treat corruption cases with more seriousness and urgency.
In conclusion, just as the strength of a chain is dependent on the strength of its links, the strength of a nation is equally predicated on her people’s standard of life. Where the people lack confidence in the system, economic growth becomes stifled. Therefore, it is expedient that the government repositions itself to get back on track. Indeed, there is perhaps no better way to tell the Nigerian story without referring to the good old days. But, when deliberate efforts are made, good days would no longer need to become old.