Home Column Nigeria’s under development, blame leaders not colonialist

Nigeria’s under development, blame leaders not colonialist

by Business News Report

As Nigeria prepares for the centenary celebration, many are raising issues on the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorate of Nigeria, by Lord Luggard, blaming the country’s woes on that singular act. Many Nigerians are still fatigued with the coming together of Northern and Southern Nigeria to become one Nigeria.

Many of the write ups are reminiscent of the early 1960s and 70s, when many Africa countries gained their independence from the colonial masters. It has been all lamentation of how Europe under developed Africa. One book that stood out then was the one written by Walter Rodney, which takes the view that Africa was deliberately exploited and underdeveloped by European colonial regimes. Rodney in the book ‘How Europe under Developed Africa argued that a combination of power politics and economic exploitation of Africa by Europeans led to the poor state of African political and economic development evident in the late 20th century. In the book’s preface, Rodney praises the state of Tanzania, which had pursued the sort of Marxist political ideology that he advocated. First published in 1972, the book was enormously influential in the study of African history.

At that time, the book was fashionable and compelling to read. Looking at Africa and Nigeria my country in the last fifty-two years, I have joined the group of academics who have became very critical of the book’s central thesis and I believe now that the book oversimplified the complex historical forces surrounding the colonial era. It will be irresponsible for Nigerians to continue to blame the problems facing the country on colonial past. Nigeria just like many other African countries had the opportunity to become a super power with the human and material resources at the Nation’s disposal, but years of misrule, lack of commitment on the part of leadership has continued to rub the nation of its potential. Are we also going to blame this on the colonial masters?

Nigeria has had several oil booms, multi billion dollars in revenue, and the money has always been misappropriated, embezzled, or stolen. Are these being done by the colonial masters? How long ago were they our leaders? They left us to our faith fifty three years ago. Is it not long enough to bring about a change in our social statistics? Are the colonial masters the mastermind of oil theft in the creeks? Are they the ones fanning the embers of corruption in the nation body politics? Are they the ones deceiving us with data?

Nigerians have taken the place of the colonial masters. It is Nigerians that are under developing the nation, they are the ones failing to take responsibility but pushing the agenda of blame games. If Nigerian leaders have been responsible, Nigeria would have been as good as either the UK or the United Sates of America. But for over fifty years, our leaders have been draining the economy for their own good leaving the masses poorer.
Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil were at the same level of economic development at Independence. While these other countries have developed their economy, Nigeria is still an economic toddler fifty three years on.

In comparing 12 countries growth rate, it was discovered that during the two decades from 1965 to 1987 and now the World Bank found that Korea, with a population of 42 million in 1987, joined the rank of middle income countries by increasing its per capita income from US$650 to US$2,400. During this same period, Malaysia and Brazil accomplished the same goal, while Nigeria=s per capita income managed to record $510 in 2004 from the $440 in 1965 with a high population of 127 million in 2004. What this means is that Nigeria=s per capita rose by $60 in 40 years. Nigeria leaders were not able to advance the cause of Nigerians economically post independence. In 2001, it rose to $432; $407 in 2002; $452 in 2003 and is estimated to rise further to $510in 2004. This implies that the economic well being of Nigerians was not anywhere near what Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil have attained.

In the same period, the World Bank observed that Korea=s industrial share in GNP increased from 25 to 42 percent; in Indonesia, it grew from 13 to 32 percent, while in Argentina, it is about 42 percent of GNP. By World Bank’s calculation, the most potent factor in economic growth is gross domestic savings. From 1965 to 1986, while Korea=s savings rate increased from eight to 35 percent, that of Indonesia rose from eight percent to 24 percent; India from 16 percent to 21 percent. But for Nigeria, savings decreased from 17 percent to 10 percent and for Japan it was maintained at 32 percent. The situation in Nigeria remained largely the same as savings has not improved beyond what it was in the 1980s if not worse off.

Going by World Bank’s reckoning, while Korea achieved about 94 percent level of secondary school and tertiary enrolment, Nigeria, during the same period (1965-1986) achieved 29 percent and has now declined to 24 percent. The implication is that while these other countries have reached a self sustaining growth, Nigeria is trapped in poverty as a result of the mindlessness of her leaders. The effect is that the living standard of the populace has declined and dragged more Nigerians into the poverty line. In fact, a recent study showed that more than 70 percent of Nigerians live below $1.25 a day though government’s figure contradicted this. The situation has not changed much by the reckoning of the average citizen. The question is, was it not possible to have reversed whatever the colonialist left behind in fifty-two years? Is it not shameful that only about five percent of the Nigeria population takes ninety percent of its resources while 95 percent are in poverty? Leadership is Nigeria’s problem not the colonial masters.

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