By Ray Morphy,
Come October 1, 2020, Nigeria will mark 60 years as an independent nation. Any dispassionate observer would note that the country has had a lot of opportunity to fulfill its destiny as the most populous black nation on earth that was supposed to beam the light for other black nations to follow.
To objectively assess how far we have done as an independent nation is to compare our development with other nations that are in Nigeria’s ‘age grade.’ Among various peoples of Nigeria, age grade has been found as the means of assessment of development among members of the same age group. Let me explain the age grade system and why it should be applicable in assessing Nigeria’s performance in the past 60 years in comparison to say Malaysia and Singapore who though got their independence respectively on 31 August 1957, are in the same age grade with Nigeria.
Age grades are commonplace in most communities in the nation tribes in Nigeria. It provides the strongest structure of governance in many communities. Age grades are groups of persons who, according to societal norms and values, are regarded as people of the same age. Age grades do vary from one community to the other. In some communities, persons within a specific period of three, four or even five years age bracket form an age grade. Here we are stating that Nigeria and Singapore and Malaysia belong to the same age grade and we are going to look at how Nigeria fared in comparison to these two nations. They were once all classified as Third World countries. However as we mark the 60th anniversary of our country’s independence we want to compare
our development to our country’s most successful age grade nations.
Let us start the comparison between Nigeria and Singapore from the health sector. In Singapore, 0.2% of people are living with AIDS/HIV. In Nigeria, that number is 2.8% of people. In Singapore, the average life expectancy is 85 years (83 years for men, 88 years for women). In Nigeria, that number is 54 years (53 years for men, 55 years for women). In Singapore, 6.1% of adults are obese. In Nigeria, that number is 8.9% of people. Singapore has a GDP per capita of $93,900, while in Nigeria, the GDP per capita is $5,900. In Singapore, 2.2% of adults are unemployed. In Nigeria, that number is 13.4%. In Singapore, there are approximately 8.6 babies per 1,000 people. In Nigeria, there are 36.9 babies per 1,000 people. In Singapore, approximately 10.0 women per 100,000 births die during labour. In Nigeria, 814.0 women do. In Singapore, the literacy rate is 97.0%. In Nigeria, it is 59.6%. In Singapore, approximately 2.4% children die before they reach the age of one. In Nigeria, on the other hand, 69.8% children do. In Singapore, 100% of the population has electricity access. In Nigeria, 45% of the population do. In Singapore, approximately 81.0% of the population has internet access. In Nigeria, about 25.7% do. In Singapore, approximately 100% of people have improved drinking water access. In Nigeria, 68% of people do. Singapore spends 4.9% of its total GDP on healthcare. In Nigeria, that number is 3.7% of GDP.
Similarly a cursory look at comparative development between Nigeria and Malaysia shows that Malaysia has done better. Nigeria and Malaysia share certain features in common. Both are plural societies; both experienced colonialism and both are federal and democratic states. However, unlike Nigeria, Malaysia has been able to tackle not only its cultural and religious differences, but also economic challenges. Within the past six decades, it has deepened its democracy and achieved a significant level of economic development via responsible political leadership as well as consistent economic planning hence, Malaysia is now one of the emerging economies in the
world with a prospect of joining the league of developed nations in the nearest future. This is a great feat for the country that was far behind Nigeria in the 70s in terms of economic development. Malaysian experience is a clear testament that democracy and development can be achieved in plural societies like Nigeria, but only when public
policies are informed by collective interest and driven by an unfailing political will.
Presently, Malaysia has recorded human development increments from 1980 to date and aspire to be a developed country this year. Nigeria on the other hand has recorded poverty increments from 1980 to date and remains among underdeveloped countries in 2020. A comparison of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) systems of Malaysia and Nigeria has also shown that Malaysia has been ahead of Nigeria. A recent study showed that Malaysia TVET curriculum is equipped with employability skills including core skills, generic skills and personal attributes which has contributed to Malaysian human development and full employment of TVET graduates. Malaysia has recorded increments in human and economic developments from 1980 to date while Nigeria TVET curriculum has not been integrated with employability skills which likely contributed to Nigeria’s poverty incidence and high Nigerian unemployment rate across all educational levels
including TVET graduates at both secondary and tertiary levels.
Nigeria has recorded steady increase of poverty incidence from 1980 to date and is presently the poverty capital of the world. Achieving the goal of economic growth for countries is analogous to increasing levels of productive activity and capacity. Intuitively, attaining this goal translates to higher incomes, higher levels of employment, and lots of goods and services available for consumption. However, evidence over time has shown that higher growth rates may not translate to economic development. A critical look at Nigeria’s economic growth, placing
emphasis on the possibility of her economic growth has failed to improve the material well-being and trickling down to the citizenry like it has happened in Malaysia. Malaysia’s GDP is $303.53 billion and ranked 33th in the world and 16% more than Nigeria’s $262.61 billion ranked 37th. Malaysia GDP per capita is $10,380.54 and ranked 59th in the world which is 7 times more than Nigeria $1,555.41 ranked 133th. Malaysia’s population below
poverty line is 3.8% and ranked 36th in the world while Nigeria’s below poverty line is 70% and ranked 1st making it the poverty capital of the world.
However, despite Nigeria’s abysmal developmental credential compared to its age grade nations like Singapore and Malaysia that have raised the bar of development, when we examine the cup as half-full it will be discovered that we have made some successful endeavours. In the past 60 years Nigeria survived three years civil war in which over 2million Nigerians lost their lives and we are still a united nation. Nigeria has survived Boko Haram terrorism and insurgency that has claimed over 3,000 lives and displaced over 2million Nigerians.
This country has also survived nearly 30 years of military rule and has had uninterrupted democracy since 1999. Our democracy is not perfect but we have outgrown the era when military interlopers emerge on the scene any time that civil leaders had disagreements through the staging of coups. Our democracy with all of its imperfections remains far better than the best military administration. Our economy is presently the biggest in, Africa dominating the movie and music entertainment in the continent and a force to reckon with around the
world. We used to be a net importer of cement, today we are net exporters of cement. We have indigenous vehicle manufacturers like Innoson Motors and Nigerian made electrical wires are preferred by builders because it is better than imported ones. We presently manufacture 30 per cent of pharmaceuticals used in the country. We have done well in many areas but we need to do much more if we are to catch up with Malaysia and Singapore, and hopefully overtake them.