There is a group of people out there who are optimistic about the future of Nigeria. They believe Nigeria will develop in spite of her present challenges. They even believe she will rise to be a world power. I am a shameless card carrying member of this association. We are termed the dreamers.
There is also another group that believes Nigeria is going nowhere. This second group is made up of those whose feet are firmly planted on the soil of reality. They know Nigeria is gravely burdened by her contradictions and until this is unbundled and addressed, we can pray till we are blue in the face; set up endless committees, the country is still going nowhere. Well, an embarrassing but true confession: I am, also, a card carrying member of this group.
I am in the fold of the latter group. One of the things that have triggered despair in me about the future of Nigeria is a recent report of a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that shows the correlation between educational performance of students in a country and total earnings the same country derives from natural resources.
The results, as indicated in a table in which 65 countries were surveyed, evidence a connect that the more money a country makes from natural resources, the less intelligent its students appear to be. The study was based on Mathematics scores of say, in Nigerian parlance, secondary school pupils.
It is an interesting study even though I have a few questions about it; the countries with nil or minimal resources ranked high in intelligence while those who have natural resources like Saudi Arabia led from behind. A few African countries made the list. Egypt was below average even though it doesn’t have much resources; Ghana was one country without much natural and intellectual resources. Thankfully, Nigeria was not sampled.
Unsurprisingly, China/Asia led the pack. Anybody who has studied the racial chart performance in the US will find that Asians are the ones who dominate in the sciences. Even Americans stand by and watch the back of their heads. The saying of the 1980s was “finish your food, Africans are starving”. The 90s heralded a new saying: “finish your assignments, the Chinese are coming”.
The study gives an insight into an extant issue: countries that are blessed with natural resources are jinxed with what has been termed, “The natural resource curse” or “Dutch Disease”. Countries caught in the lamentable vortex of burgeoning natural resources, almost, never go into manufacturing or innovative technology; the resource-laden countries in Africa live in poverty and, exist to serve as a paradox and an international spit bowl. The latest Forbes list shows that the entire Africa has only five billionaires and none of them is into innovative technology.
Nigeria is a classic case study of this natural resource jinx. Oil is Nigeria’s nanny, gifted by nature and since we discovered it, we stopped progressing. From an enviable height in the years preceding independence, our education has been in a blue funk for the longest time. Nothing works and Nigeria is left behind. Given the dismal results from secondary school pupils who take part in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations in recent years, it is unlikely Nigeria would soon be contributing to the innovative skills the rest of the world is embracing right now.
In the past few weeks, there has been a robust debate in the media on Nigeria’s federal allocations. Ever since some northern governors made the noise about the insufficiency of their monthly allocations, they have been given some hard and well-deserved knocks.
It is embarrassing to hear them ask for more money; disgusting as the sight of full-grown adults whining to be breastfed. I am of the opinion that any Nigerian state that cannot survive would do well to merge with other states that can guarantee its existence. It’s really that simple.
The shame of their begging is that their human resources investment appears very low. The world is moving from a resource-based economy to intellectual-property economy and education is what works now. The past failures of Nigeria to invest in education and the present neglect of it, make for a rich recipe of doom.
There is no way that we will continue this way that Nigeria will move up from her ground minus-zero. It is no news that world corporations are funding research for alternatives to oil. Very soon Nigeria’s oil nanny will no longer be in demand. When that day comes, Nigeria will learn to see itself without the aid of a mirror.
Nigeria happily neglects her future; she ignores her educational sector because she gets oil patronage from countries such as China, Japan, the US and the UK which rank high on top of OECD chart. In the future we are about to enter, the currency the world would be spending will not be oil.
It is hard to read any interview in the papers these days without someone saying, “It is our oil”, as if they did a single thing to drop it in the ground; as if they were even aware of its existence before the white man came to drill it. We are the kind of people who hurry to drink the water in the coconut without asking how it got there in the first place. Resource or no resource, Nigeria is a poor country; it should be rightly said so.
When the never-ending debate about resource control for the Niger Delta starts all over again, I will root for each state to control its resources. I will be a registered-dues-paying member of this Resource Control Association too. I am sick of a situation where we will have to tolerate inept leaders because of ‘our son, our oil’ argument some people are peddling all over the place. It is blackmail and it holds down everybody from true progress.
The richest corporations in the world can buy Nigeria out a dozen times and they are not merely drilling the earth and polluting everywhere. Companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are products of the intersection of education and imagination. They make more money than Nigeria is currently dreaming to ever make and so who still thinks oil is not last century’s treasure?