AS at the dawn of the current millennium, if there was any prediction that Nigeria will become the poverty capital of the world in less than 20 years away, such prediction would have been dismissed as arrant nonsense. That is obviously because, according to statistics, Nigeria’s poverty rate was on the decline during the transition from the last millennium to the current. Presenting a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, last year, the head of the NBS bureau, Yemi Kale said: “Despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year, although it declined between 1985 and 1992, and between 1996 and 2004.”
I recently had the privilege of seeing the famous Titanic movie again, and for the first time, from the point the ship left the shore to when every part of it sank into the ocean, I felt it was telling the Nigerian story. From a boastful and arrogant captain, obviously unaware passengers to a very preventable tragedy, the story perfectly captures the Nigerian situation. More profoundly, I discovered that the Titanic was so large that the ocean could not swallow it at once, but in parts and this happened over hours. The tragedy took so long to go full-scale that a more timely and high-powered rescue mission would have made a better salvage and even save more victims.
Like the Titanic, Nigeria left the shore (2015) for a destination, but halfway into the sail, tragedy struck, and the country started sinking. Right now, most parts of Nigeria are already on the seafloor. Every global rating within the last two to three years puts the country at the rock bottom; from economy, poverty, unemployment, security, healthcare, social welfare, to human rights. The failure of our institutions have become a global concern. For instance, a 2016 report by World Internal Security and Police Index International, WISPI, rated the Nigeria Police Force as the “worst” globally in terms of its ability to handle internal security challenges. The report, which was an assessment of 127 countries, on four key areas of capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes, indicated the Nigeria Police performed worst on the index on all the four domains, with a score of 0.255, and ranked 127 below Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Pakistan.
Perhaps, what rightly captures Nigeria as a sinking country is the recent report that Nigeria’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, who was the 24th richest man in the world in 2014, is now the 100th. It is a perfect reflection of the country’s downward spiral within the last three years plus. Since the inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, governance in Nigeria has become a caricature. What the country is experiencing right now is a complete opposite of the “change” that the All Progressives Congress, APC, promised Nigerians in 2015. Many states in the country(even the ones belonging to the ruling party) have been complete failure. Take Benue State as a case in point. The state has gone from being the “food basket of the nation” to the burial ground of the nation.
According to a recent report by Amnesty International, over 3000 people have died from the herdsmen-farmers clashes alone within the last three years. So, in order words, the APC-led Federal Government has not been able to effectively tackle the rising unemployment, extreme poverty and increasing hunger in the country, yet has failed to make the farmlands safe for those who have chosen to embrace agriculture. The country is in a desperate situation which is why the APC is taking all the desperate measures. But clearly, Akwa Ibom is among a handful of states with a surviving chance. It will be very unwise for the state, which is managing to stay afloat to underestimate the desperation of those drowning.
For instance, when the APC brag that they are going to take over Akwa Ibom, it simply means they desperately want to drag the state into the deep just like they have done with the other parts of the country. Their desperation is revealed in their words and action. In one breath, they claim that there is poverty and hunger in Akwa Ibom, and yet condemn Governor Udom Emmanuel’s efforts in job/wealth creation and crashing of prices of foodstuff. Few months ago, the APC-led Federal Government tried and woefully failed with the Nigeria Air project after sinking in billions of nairas. Today, the same people are criticizing Akwa Ibom State’s success with Ibom Air. They talk about unemployment in Akwa Ibom like the state is existing in space and not part of a country whose unemployment rate is currently at all-time high of 23.1%. They talk about poverty and hunger like they are unique problems to Akwa Ibom and not a nationwide endemics.
These facts and realities are staring us in the face every minute. As the country heads to the polls, again, it is important for citizens, especially Akwa Ibom people, to set aside every political or perceived grievances, sentiments and biases ahead of the elections. This is because once the deed is done, no amount of regret and gnashing of teeth will undo it.
And, in one sentence, if I’m to tell Akwa Ibom people why they should vote Governor Udom Emmanuel in the forthcoming governorship election, I’ll tell them to vote him because he is the life jacket keeping Akwa Ibom from sinking with the others. This state must continue to stay afloat till we can swim out of this ocean.
Udobia, a journalist, wrote from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.