Ten years ago, I decided to make a bold move of staging an International Conference, to address the germane issue of poverty among retirees. Our main aim was to give those who were about to retire, the tools and insights that would enable them to properly plan and program themselves to retire rich. We approached a prominent Chamber of Commerce for partnership, and met with one of their directors. I mentioned to her in passing that many Nigerians have less than one hundred thousand naira (₦100,000) in their bank accounts. To my rude shock, she said, “it’s true ooo. Me self wey go retire in less than a year; cannot boast of ₦100,000 in my account.”
Nigerians have no business being poor; with the abundance of human capital and mineral resources that we have; it’s sickening to see that in spite of all that God has blessed us with as a country, most Nigerians are poor. In my previous article, WHY NIGERIANS ARE POOR, I mentioned that one shouldn’t be fooled by the nice clothes people have on, or the fine cars they are driving; you would be shocked when they opened up to you. Honestly, people are going through a lot of struggles here in Nigeria. This reminds me of an acquaintance who drove a Benz G-Wagon. He later confessed that it was all about trying to package and maintaining a high level status. He was actually in debt running into millions of naira. And that sometimes, it was even a struggle to fuel the car. So, why have Nigerians remained poor?
First is insensitive and inconsiderate government at all levels. I am a student of history, and have studied and researched leadership extensively. One of my major findings about developed countries is that they invested heavily in their human capital. Take Singapore (which became independent as the Republic of Singapore on 9 August 1965); the government ably led by Lee Kuan Yew; prioritised the education, wellbeing and prosperity of their citizenry. The current Nigerian federal government is an anomaly. They would rather borrow for recurrent expenditure than invest in us. And the so-called infrastructure such as the railway lines that they have borrowed heavily for, are yet to be justified. I would rather that they pump that same amount into building the capacity of our young people. Give scholarships, adequately fund the educational sector; in other words, first build the mind infrastructure of Nigerians and then the other needed physical infrastructure. My belief is that when you invest in improving the competence, character and capability of your people, they would in turn build the nation. This misplaced priority in my opinion is a major reason Nigerians have remained poor.
Second, is the gang up of a few elites against our development. Whether or not you agree, some folks have held this country to ransom because of the mind-boggling money they are making from the current decadence. How come we still don’t have access to uninterrupted power supply? Why are we still importing fuel? Why hasn’t our steel industry taken off? The simple answer is, ‘Gang-up of a few unscrupulous elites.’ These folks shamelessly syphon the resources meant for the vast majority of people, into their private purses. When you come across someone who is very rich but you cannot lay hands on exactly what he or she does for a living; be very suspicious.
Third, is faulty systems. I have realised that when there is absence of proper economic and political institutions that can engender the prosperity of a people; it would be near impossible for them to come out of penury. Just look around you; all you’ll see are very corrupt and unworkable systems and institutions. If we would become a developed nation, with prosperous citizens; we need to right the wrongs in all of our institutions.
In conclusion, the aforementioned are not necessarily exhaustive reasons Nigerians remain poor; however, they are some of the germane reasons. We now have an ample opportunity to select a new government that would serve us. Let’s endeavour to vote according to our conscience and not according to our stomach (what to gain right now). I still believe in a New Nigeria where the vast majority of us would be rich and prosperous; and we shall achieve it in a few years.