When I was approached to write an opinion piece about Nigeria on her 57 years of Independence, concerning her current state and prospects, I started ransacking my brain on what I should write about. Picture shuffling through the aisles of a book store, scanning different books on the shelf in search of that eye-grabbing-attention-locking-mind-stimulating book. You have a vague idea of what you want, so you carefully look for that book that articulates your current desires. In this case, I was searching through my thoughts for that well-presented idea and topic that would really capture my opinion on Nigeria.
The first thought that replayed in my mind was an interview I had recently watched on YouTube. This interview was conducted by a popular Nigerian TV station with a well-known political activist from NADECO (National Democratic Coalition). In this video the speaker mentions that Nigeria is a threat to everyone in it. A state built on fraud, lies, corruption and the failure of the elite in all spheres of life to lead the masses. He also raps familiar lyrics, basically Maslow Hierarchy of needs, “…our hospitals are gone, schools are gone, there is no stable electricity, the roads are not there, water is scarce…” and unemployment is high. He speaks in simple terms packed with strong emotive words that strike a deep cord in me.
Indeed, the current political crises threatens the unity of Nigeria. It is a result of the people suffocating and crying for breathing space. People are tired of the ever-on-going rhetoric that most were born into and have little influence over changing it. The pain and frustration are also compounded by social media which makes the world a much smaller place. We can watch and almost live in an alternate reality through pictures and videos, seeing what life could be like with constant electricity, good water supply, good roads, a good healthcare, functioning legal system etc; or even just what a very fat bank account and having strong political influence could do for you in Nigeria.
Not to take on the mentality of a saviour trying to single-handedly rescue Nigeria from her death, but to also change the tone of this piece, I would like to take a more optimistic perspective with a little tinge of an idealistic view. In my opinion infrastructure development and construction has a huge role to play in resolving a lot of the frustration felt at grass root levels; if only corruption would let it be so.
Increased construction activities could mean increased infrastructure development, which affects other aspects of the economy such as improved transportation systems, good hospitals, roads, good water supply, electricity etc. and not to mention the jobs created in the process.
In most economies, the small-medium sized enterprise in construction constitutes about 89% of the construction industry. This group within the construction industry are much closer to the grass root levels than the larger firms, which are usually foreign firms operating in the country. By focusing on empowering these group of people, we are also indirectly empowering the communities in which they operate in. However, they face certain critical challenges such as poor project planning and access to credit/funding, amongst others. Most of these business owners learnt through informal training and as a result they aren’t always very good with the planning or executing of a project efficiently and effectively. Their poor project performance – due to poor planning – affects their ability to get good paying work from reputable clients and ultimately the survival of their businesses.
Out of the 2 trillion Naira budgeted for capital projects in 2017, about 310 Million Naira has been released by Federal Government as of September 2017. With the planned capital project expenditure, government could stimulate recovery by sowing a good portion of this money budgeted into utilising the services of small-medium sized enterprises within the construction industry. To ensure transparency government could enter into a public private partnership with highly skilled firms operating in Nigeria, although such involvement in said programmes would facilitate good skills transfer, for this to happen, corruption needs to diminish significantly.
For the sake of the unity of Nigeria, government needs to swiftly move into action and suspend these ‘corrupt business as usual’ dealings. The people are fed up and the current political instability is the result of an economically oppressed and suffocating society.
So, what is in it for Nigeria’s political future? The apparent marginalisation of certain tribes, regions or groups in Nigeria is a result of the concentration of power at Federal government level. I believe the push for the devolution of power from Federal level to states and municipals will grow stronger and with a very high likelihood of it happening.