Nigeria at 60: A Thousand Words in a Graph

Nigeria at 60: A Thousand Words in a Graph

On 1 October 1960, the landmass internationally known as Nigeria was granted independence by its erstwhile “colonial masters”, setting the stage for a journey that has now spanned sixty years. There are already a tonne of viewpoints and articles evaluating the sexagenarian with in-depth analysis, but I have chosen a different route. Instead of making a judgement call, I would present data and let you decide how Nigeria fared over six decades. After all, they say “a [graph] is worth a thousand words”.

First, I digress. I began this blog on 1 October 2014, so it’s been six years of writing continuously, sporadically, and sometimes infrequently. Across about 270 articles, I think I have maintained my course, writing about anything that caught my fancy — “The World As I See It”. Here’s a toast to whatever the future may hold for this blog.

Back to Nigeria at 60. As you proceed, you would see some graphs categorised under economy, health, education, and infrastructure. Within these categories, I have selected some indices to empirically assess Nigeria’s performance from 1960 to 2020. For indices such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that are inherently continuous (on an annual basis), data is shown for four milestone years, while for indices such as literacy level that is discrete because countries do not report on a yearly basis, I have taken the latest available data, which may or may not be for 2020. The data was extracted from the World Bank’s data portal that aggregates indicators from diverse sources.

Nigeria’s performance was compared with four sets of countries comprising:

  • African Peers – Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa
  • Asian Tigers – Singapore, South Korea
  • Similar Population – Brazil
  • Other Boomers – China, Malaysia

One last thing before you proceed. In my former life as a management consultant, my boss would have been highly disappointed that I would throw out data without any “so what?” analysis. I have deliberately chosen to sin today because if I had to discuss each graph, maybe this would become a thesis. May you read the thousand words that I have not written!

Population for context

Economy

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Is it all about GDP?

GDP Per Capita

Is the “per capita” metric a good equaliser?

Health

Life Expectancy

Does the health system affect life expectancy?

Maternal Mortality Rate

Why does childbearing cause deaths?

Infant Mortality Rate

Why are infants dying?

Education

Adult Literacy Rate

Do we even need “western education”?

Educational Attainment

Should we bother with anything beyond secondary school?

Infrastructure

Electric Power Consumption

What is the economic use of electricity?

Electricity Access

Should we bother providing electricity to the rural farmer?

Final Thoughts

They say data does not lie but you can lie with data. You have looked at a snapshot of Nigeria over sixty years. Have we done well? Or, do we deserve knocks just above our cerebrum? While you’re at it, there’s a thoughtful article from Tim Nwaobilo that I think you should read.

Image Credit (Nigeria at 60 logo): Government of Nigeria

Electricity, Gas & Kerosene: Which is Cheaper?

Electricity, Gas & Kerosene: Which is Cheaper?

Have you ever wondered whether to boil water using an electric kettle or to use cooking gas? Or maybe you currently use kerosene and wonder what the hype is about gas. My wife and I routinely debated our home’s energy cost with regards to different energy sources, so I decided to do an empiric comparison. Maybe someone else could use this to settle their own debates.

Continue reading “Electricity, Gas & Kerosene: Which is Cheaper?”
LOOTing to Stay Safe

LOOTing to Stay Safe

Assuming you came expecting some grand pontification on the egregious tradition of looting public funds, let me extend an apology for the unexpected deception. This is an article about staying safe at work. Now that I have been forgiven, I hope you would learn a thing or two from the following paragraphs.

This article stemmed from a safety briefing I delivered to a group of work colleagues. I had chosen a topic: “Risk Myths & Your Safety”, and wanted to structure my PowerPoint presentation to yield maximum effect. Achieving this required a blend of some existing knowledge about occupational health and safety, additional research, and my management consulting experience.

We begin by considering a fundamental question. Who is ultimately responsible for your safety at work?

Your employer may be directly and vicariously responsible for your safety, but ultimately, the buck stops at your table. As Kina Repp would assert: “You are your last line of defence. It boils down to you”.

I came across an interesting survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which showed that 88% of polled HSE professionals stated that workers consider safety important, yet 51% of the same professionals agreed that workers’ attitude is a major barrier to workplace safety. How can workers consider safety important yet contribute to an unsafe workplace? I tried to rationalise the seeming discrepancy by focusing on five myths that I believe are contributing to unsafe practices by employees.

Myth #1: The Doubting Thomas: “There is no risk here!”

This employee takes no action because he cannot understand that there are hazards associated with a given workplace, process or operation.

Myth #2: The Invincible: “I know it is risky, but it cannot affect me!”

In Nigerian parlance, this employee belongs to the “It’s not my portion” congress. She sees the risk but believes her case is different; yet when disaster strikes, she may blame “village people” as being after her.

Myth #3: The Nerdy Believer: “I am safe because engineering controls are ultimately adequate to protect me!”

This employee sees the latest safety devices installed and believes this means he has nothing to worry about, forgetting that 100% reliability is usually an illusion.

Myth #4: The Humanist: “I am safe because my colleagues will always obey safety regulations!”

This employee is confident in her colleagues following the rules, whereas examples abound of safety incidents caused by employees that cut corners or have a lapse in judgement.

Myth #5: The Corporate Believer: “I am safe because our organisation has safety policies and protocols in place!”

This employee sees his company’s safety policies and protocols as proof that all is well despite evidence that the existence of such frameworks is meaningless without diligent adherence and enforcement.

Having looked at the foregoing myths, the question that arises is how to exorcise these myths in the workplace. This is where LOOTing comes in.

L – LEARN about health and safety at work. Adequate knowledge tends to dispel myths, so if we learn, we place ourselves in a position to dispel baseless fables and assumptions of invincibility.

O – OBEY safety regulations and protocols at work. If we have a mindset to align with regulations issued by our employer or a regulatory agency, we would be less likely to entertain myths that promote noncompliance.

O – OBSERVE your workplace to note hazards and warning signs. If we look around, we are likely to identify hazards and see reasons why we should align with HSE best practices as opposed to embracing unfounded myths.

T – TALK about safety issues with colleagues and superiors. This would allow us get clarification on any unclear issues, and also influence our colleagues, knowing that a colleague’s actions or inactions can put us at risk of injury or death.

At the end of the day, safety consciousness boils down to whether we want to end up injured or dead, or want to return to our families and enjoy a long, hopefully, fulfilling career. Asides ourselves, we also need to consider that if we selfishly embrace myths, we may cause harm to others, even if we were to somehow escape unhurt.

Without prejudice to the obligations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to combat financial malfeasance, I ended my presentation by advising the audience to “Forget EFCC; LOOT to stay safe.”

Image Credit: reliableplant.com

Continental Builders Called the African Youth

Continental Builders Called the African Youth

When I was contacted by an advocacy group, The Reformers, to join an online panel session on International Youth Day 2020 (12 August), I wondered why anyone would want to hear me talk about “The Role of African Youths in Building the Africa We Want”. Accepting their request laid the foundation for today’s article, which draws from my research and thoughts about the issues, blended with insights from other panellists and participants.

The stage was set with the first panellist, who in response to a question about the current state of the African Youth, asserted that this demographic is oppressed yet hopeful, unaware of its power, and distracted by not-too-essential amusements (such as the much-maligned Big Brother Nigeria) that have robbed the youths of focus. Another panellist would chip in to argue that the African Youth is actually highly focused, pointing to the multitudes of youths struggling hard to chart a path for themselves despite the socioeconomic headwinds and structural limitations.

For me, I was more inclined to take a somewhat centrist position with my view that the African Youth is largely focused, that is, on their personal “hustles”, as each person tries to lift himself or herself away from the doldrums of economic and political emasculation. However, in the absence of any real efforts at collaboration to leverage on synergistic benefits, these individual fights would achieve nothing significant in terms of structural change to the workings of the African society.

One panellist drew our attention to the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which is an ambitious roadmap to transform the continent’s 50+ countries within 50 years. As he expounded on the lofty agenda, I quickly searched online for the strategy document, realising that although I was aware of Agenda 2063, I had not been wise enough to devote time to gain some granular understanding of the endgame and how the AU thinks this can be achieved given the current state of political, economic, infrastructural, judicial and human rights deprivation across Africa.

Approaching Agenda 2063 from the viewpoint of the African Youth, I think a fundamental requirement is for us to start by asking a question: “What does the Africa ‘we’ want look like?” Without answering this question and arriving at some consensus vision, we would merely punch at the air while chanting idealistic taglines. When we have a picture of the Africa we want, we can then look at other regions or countries that have achieved what we wish for, and learn from their strategies, processes and experiences. At the panel, I suggested a toolkit I termed “the ECE model”, which I believe can help the African Youth partake in transforming their individual countries and Africa as a continent of shared aspirations.

E for Education. We need to see education as an essential requirement for development. We could expand the erstwhile list of human basics (food, shelter, clothing) to include education, because human capital development is even needed to provide the three basics we ordinarily seek. Unfortunately, high unemployment rates and an apparent disregard for educated persons (low income, poor recognition) makes a sizable number of Africans to question the relevance of acquiring education that “cannot put food on the table”, while some others ignorantly reject “Western education” as evil. While it is true that formal education is not the only form of education, it is the only form that can create the kind of development needed to ensure that African countries can raise their heads among the comity of nations, unlike now that Africa with about 17% of the world’s population only contributes about 3% to the global economy. We need good education to produce a critical mass of enlightened thinkers who would create, implement, evaluate, and revise practicable developmental policies across all segments of the African society.

C for Collaboration. Africans need to reject decades of silo working and animosity, and turn to embracing synergy. The old adage that “united we stand; divided we fall”, holds credence in the African situation. As a Nigerian, it is currently easier for me to visit many non-African countries compared with some countries within the African continent. With xenophobia rearing its head in Africa, we need collaboration to greatly reduce the spread of xenophobia among African nations. Even within Nigeria, the divisions are all too apparent, as youths copy animosity from the older generation without questioning the rationale behind such entrenched grudges, and whether such grudges should still hold sway today. Collaboration means the African Youth needs to start considering joining forces with other youths, joining political parties, trade unions, community groups, religious and secular groups, that would enable force multiplication. The objective would be to play active roles within such groups towards changing the narrative in the wider society. While we attempt to grow our individual careers, we should also embrace collaboration as a means to achieving communal growth.

E for Excellence. I strongly believe that acceptance of mediocrity has contributed to the dismal state of African countries. We may criticise African leaders as being mediocre compared with leaders from saner climes, however, when we consider that the leaders came from “among us”, we can look inwards and see that mediocrity has been accepted as part of the African life (sadly). Whether at school or the workplace, we see enough reasons not to strive for excellence, unaware that every little deed of underperformance adds up to constricting societal growth. We need to strive to be the best that we can be, ensuring that we are always trying to get better. For me, failure is acceptable, provided I can convince myself that I did my best, and that I have learned some lessons to enable me do better next time. If everyone seeks excellence in our different spheres, the resultant would be a society that is pushing towards excellence. Furthermore, if one of such persons should get into a leadership position, we can be rest assured that the culture of excellence would continue. We cannot develop in a society where a politician who constructs a subpar road for more than the market value of a good road would be praised because the people feel his or her predecessor did not do any road; or where an employee is advised against taking his job seriously because “it is not your father’s company”.

We may not be responsible for the circumstances of our birth, but our descendants would hold us responsible for the Africa we bequeath to them. Africa cannot develop except we collectively let go of mediocrity, embrace synergy, enhance our human capital, and take full responsibility for ordering our destiny. At this point, the question to every African Youth is: What would YOU do to build the Africa you want?

Image Credit: seetrust.com

“Not for Sale”: The Dysfunctional Normal

“Not for Sale”: The Dysfunctional Normal

We begin this article with two quotes that should set the stage, and may even be adequate as a concise summary for the day.

“Man [Nigeria] is not suffering by external forces as much as his [its] own dysfunctional mind and self inflicted negative stimulus.”

Aditya Ajmera

“When a big vision meets a dysfunctional system, the dysfunctional system wins every time. Fix the system and success will flourish!”

Daren Martin
Continue reading ““Not for Sale”: The Dysfunctional Normal”
On Becoming A Father

On Becoming A Father

As secondary school students, we were taught about “metamorphosis”— the full lifecycle of insects such as butterflies that sees them transform from eggs to larva, pupa, and then adults. Although the term “metamorphosis” was not used in describing the human journey from birth to adulthood, the circle of life is surely a journey of staged transformations. However, unlike the butterfly that largely has no say in its metamorphosis, humans make choices that influence the outcome of each transformation; for example, a man can decide whether to be a mere sperm contributor or a father.

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When A Friend Gets COVID-19

When A Friend Gets COVID-19

The year 2020a had scarcely began when America took out a top Iranian general and Iran unwisely took down a Ukrainian passenger airplane with 176 lives. While the world tried to come to terms with the risk of increased chaos or even World War III, 2020a was quickly cast aside by news that 2020b had begun with a new illness springing out of some hitherto “unknown” place in China. In the numerous months since the year 2020b started, we have seen name changes from “Wuhan Coronavirus” to “Chinese Coronavirus” to “SARS-CoV-2” and the most infamous of them all, “COVID-19”. This seemed to be an event in a distant land, until the first case in Lagos, and then someone close contracted the virus.

As I was getting ready to log off my church’s online service on Sunday, 22 March 2020, my phone suddenly rang. Who could be calling me this early on a Sunday? A glance at my phone screen showed a friend, XY was the caller. I quickly asked XY what must have triggered them to call at this time, and they began admonishing me to take good care of myself. XY told me they had recently returned from the UK, felt unwell within a few days, contacted the Government of Nigeria, whose officials collected samples. XY’s test results came out positive days later and XY was admitted at an isolation facility in Lagos. After XY and I finished speaking, I decided I had to give procrastination the middle finger and write an article I had been considering for some time.

The previous Thursday, while cases of COVID-19 were rising in Lagos, my firm had informed employees that we may have to work from home from the coming week. By the next day, as confirmed cases increased, the firm instructed all of us to stay home until further notice. As I headed back home that evening, I thought about the situation in Nigeria and our preparedness for the pending pandemic. If I did not have any power to change Nigeria’s fate, I could at least try to keep my family and close persons off the victims’ list, especially since we have quite a number of senior citizens in the family.  

Despite the apparent efforts of the National Centre for Disease Control / Federal Ministry of Health, one telephone call with my parents in Port Harcourt was enough to confirm the information silos prevalent in Nigeria. While Lagos gets somewhat prepared for a shitstorm, I was shocked to find out my own State Government was doing little to get Rivers residents aware of and prepared for COVID-19. Apart from the nationally-mandated closure of schools from Monday the 23rd, the Rivers State Government (like most other State Governments) did not seem to think that this was a crisis that needed preparing for. It’s as if each state is waiting to confirm a case before starting any preventative measures and beginning serious public awareness campaigns.

The refusal to move quickly is irresponsible and foolish. For the avoidance of doubt, that a state does not yet have a “confirmed case”, does not absolutely mean that COVID-19 is not present in that state. To get a confirmed case, you have to test a person, but with limited testing facilities, one has to have credible symptoms before being tested. Those who have travelled from high-risk countries are merely asked to self-isolate until symptoms show. In addition, even persons with symptoms but without any risky travel history may seek treatment for a different illness, and worst of all, a carrier of the virus may not have any symptoms but can reliably transmit it to others. Why then are more State Governments not making practicable moves to protect their people?

Still talking about information silos, I had cause to speak with a random Lagos resident and decided to quickly gauge her knowledge of COVID-19. Shockingly, at a time when over 20 cases had been confirmed in Nigeria, this lady boldly told me there were no more cases in Nigeria, that she heard all those with the virus had been healed. It appears the recovery of Nigeria’s index case, the Italian male, had been misunderstood by this lady (and possibly many others) to mean that the disease had been eradicated just as Ebola was banished in 2014. My fear is that if a young, educated Lagosian thinks COVID-19 is not longer a problem, what would the uneducated pepper seller at Ajegunle think? Clearly, information from official sources is not reaching the nooks and crannies of Lagos, and this would affect any proclamation about social distancing.

Back to my friend who used to have COVID-19, I advised them to keep their spirits up and begin logging their experience in a daily journal, until like the Italian they are declared free of the virus, so they can someday tell the story of how they  beat COVID-19. I am confident that XY will beat it, regardless of the poor state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria. It’s instructive how COVID-19 has gone from some distant disease to something personal. You can spew all the data you want about the number infected globally, mortality rates, age-adjusted risk, etc., but when a friend gets COVID-19, you realise the data is now human.

Stay safe. Stay updated. Follow guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.  

Image Credit: Sky News

Of A General, His Colonel, and Justice

Of A General, His Colonel, and Justice

The famed novelist, Salman Rushdie once opined that “Two things form the bedrock of any open society – freedom of expression and rule of law. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a free country.” If these two are essential ingredients, then it may be debatable whether Nigeria, “Africa’s largest democracy”, is a “free country”; “free” in the sense that citizens are assured of the government and society’s commitment to the rule of law. Talking about commitment to the rule of law, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Retd.) was just released after four years of confinement, with serious questions about the place of the rule of law in Nigeria.

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Nigeria’s War Against Holistic Planning

Nigeria’s War Against Holistic Planning

The iconic painter, Pablo Picasso, is acclaimed to have said that “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” If there is any validity to Picasso’s claim that a properly implemented plan is the only route to success, what then do we say to individuals and institutions that act like planning is anathema to success. Maybe such persons know something the rest of the world is ignorant of, or maybe the ignorance, wilful or accidental, is in the other direction.

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