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Nigeria in the Year 2023

In preparing for this column, I googled “disintegration of Nigeria’ and I was astounded by the number of articles on the internet predicting that Nigeria…

In preparing for this column, I googled “disintegration of Nigeria’ and I was astounded by the number of articles on the internet predicting that Nigeria is definitely on course to disintegrate. Pessimism about the future of Nigeria is clearly at its peak today. One report by the United States military experts released by the Centre for Strategy and Technology, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama dated February 2011 predicted a final collapse by 2030. The reason, they argue, is Nigeria’s “history of tribal and religious conflicts, endemic corruption at all levels of government, poor national planning, uneven development, social disorder, rampant criminality, violent insurgency, and terminal weak governance provides an environment that could portend imminent collapse and failure.”

The report added that the “fragmentation of the Nigerian body politic could create conditions for a multipartite civil war, mirroring in some ways the events in Lebanon in 1975 and Somalia in 1991.” When a similar report was published during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo by the US National Intelligence Council, where the US intelligence experts predicted Nigeria’s collapse in 2015, there was a huge national outcry that they were prophets of doom. Most of the articles on the disintegration of Nigeria in circulation today are written by Nigerians affirming that Armageddon was indeed en route

I have noted two approaches to Armageddon. One is the “analytical”. It draws attention to rising insurgency in the North, attack on churches by Muslim militants which will lead to religious war, spread of low intensity war between indigenes and settlers and the return of militancy to the Niger Delta. The other approach could be termed “defensive secession” leading over the past few months to a series of meetings and strategy deployment to jump out of the sinking ship as Armageddon strikes. The South-South prob- ably takes the lead as it dreams and plans about keeping all its resources to itself in a new Niger Delta Republic. The Yoruba elite and Governors have been active in pushing an agenda of a great future through building unity and regional investment in a south west that is committed to good governance. Some of the Northern governors are beleaguered by the Boko Haram insurgency within and attacks from both the Middle Belt and the South and are seeking a way forward alone or in combination.

The key words in all these are civil war, disintegration and reconstitution of the polity. One key issue is the very limited understanding of future studies and scenario building in Nigeria. Many commentators and so-called analysts confuse scenario building for prediction or a depiction of a state of affairs that will and must occur. Future study is a growing science which is used as a tool for planning and improving governance.

We have for example a huge population of 170 million people which is still galloping fast at an annual rate of 3.2%. This rate how- ever masks the real story. While the average Yoruba woman has three children in her lifetime, the aver- age Kanuri woman has seven so the growth rate for the North East is over 4% while that of the South West is only slightly over 2%. The school census published last year tells us that primary school enrolment in Borno state is 23% and declining fast today as the school bombing campaign accelerates while enrolment in Lagos state was 95% and is growing. The youth bulge however remains a general feature of all parts of the country and the question of you unemployment remains a serious problem all over the country. Human society has the capacity to read trends, respond to them and correct them. The utility of scenario building is to draw attention to the dangers posed by current trends precisely for the purpose of introducing corrective measures to ensure that we change the direction of movement for the better. Armageddon will come if public officials continue to steal national resources and poverty continues to go from 54% in 1999 to 70% today.

It is possible to have a leader- ship in Nigeria that has a vision and strategy for development that can change our destiny over the next decade. As the recent British Council report – “Nigeria: the next generation” argues, we can reap substantial demographic dividends from our young population in a world that is rapidly aging. To do so, we must invest massively in education, especially tertiary and vocational education and we must improve the health of our people. In her novel – “I Do Not Come to

You by Chance”, Adaobi Tricia paints a detailed portrait of the inventive ness and capacity of our “yahoo boys” who used the introduction of an infrastructural element, the cybercafé, to make millions of dollars from stupid white people who are greedy enough to fall for 419 stories. There was no attempt by our nation to orient these talented youth away from criminal activity into the world of the future based on software development, international call centres and integrating ICT to boost agricultural production through the instrumentality of cell phones as is happening in East Africa today. Currently, the under- sea fibreoptic cable has arrived in Nigeria and will introduce incredible band width to the country; we can plan to channel the skills of our youth to utilize these possibilities over the next decade. It can be our stepping stone to leap frog, to make a quantum leap, from underdevelopment to the cloud economy of the future that will continuously create opportunities for local talent in the global economy .Nigeria is one the world’s largest importer of vegetable oil, including palm oil which we used export. We have spoken about a green revolution for four decades and done nothing to bring it about. Within ten years, we can revolutionize commodity pro- duction in Nigerian agriculture and produce massive employment opportunities for our youth. It is true that we have recorded eco- nomic growth of six to eight per cent over the past decade but that growth has occurred without generating employment. The absence of employment generating growth in Nigeria is not a fatality; it is a policy choice that requires certain forms of public and private investment. The future is open for inclusive people-centred development if we commit ourselves and do the rights things.

Rather than be despondent, we need to take the next decade as the period of develop or disintegrate. We must turn our back on the decades of massive corruption. We need to be audacious as we confront the future and engage our governments and societies in thinking, planning and acting to produce democracy and development. We need to imagine what positive things could be and work towards it. We need to turn our backs at the Nigeria of insurgency, corruption, poverty, disease, hunger and death. Let’s continue to analyse scenarios that point out to the dangers ahead, but let’s use the information to change the course of our history. Let 2023 be the year when we celebrate ten years of rapid growth and accelerated job creation, and why not, the year in which Nigeria wins the football world cup as the icing on the cake