Nigeria @ 60: How Independent Is Nigeria? Is it worth celebrating?
This question cannot be properly answered without knowing what independence is. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Independence means ‘to be independent.’ And the dictionary went further to say that independent means “not dependent on other people -, not controlled by or other people.” It also means; “not connected with each other; separate.”
Semantically, it means self-reliance, then Nigeria is a self-reliant nation. By implication Nigeria is a sovereign nation. And by inference, Nigeria is a republic, a nation that is no longer under the orbit of any foreign authority or (undue) influence. This means that Nigeria is a free nation, not under the control of any colonial power or foreign authority. It means a nation that is free to take decisions without any external influence. In other words, our politicians are not supposed to be travelling abroad at the expense of public fund for any conference on governance. They are supposed to be educated and enlightened enough to represent Nigeria masses or electorate well. It means that our leaders are not matured enough to lead, and not supposed to be running from pillar to post on the nitty-gritty of public governance. That is, our leaders are supposed to know, first hand, the problems and needs of their constituencies and go ahead; it is on record that they were eloquent in identifying the problems and needs of the electorate, it follows that any public fund meant for constituent or enhancing the standard of living of voters should be judiciously used to bring about real development.
The peculiar problems and needs of Nigerians are diametrically different, so it is completely needless to go abroad to brainstorm on Nigerian needs which are quite not exactly as that of those abroad. For instance the developed nation they prefer travelling to have functional electricity that does not destroy their appliances or raze down buildings, functional taps, good roads, appreciable transport system, controlled noise and environmental pollution, good healthcare delivery system, etc. Nigeria is wealthy enough to ensure that these things are adequately functional, but the reverse is the case here. The products that we consume are two of a kind: some virtually import their clothing, foodstuff, drugs, provision, etc while the locally, almost substandard ones are consumed by the majority of the citizens.
The true reflection of independence is that any independent nation should be virtually responsible for what is consumed by the people. It is true that no nation is an island unto itself, but our interacting with other independent nations should not kill our resourceful ingenuity. This is where Nigeria’s problem lies. Since Nigeria signed an assembly plant with France’s automobile PAN in 1973 for 48 years, has Nigeria been able to produce any vehicle? But Nigeria got a television station before France, that nation is an industrialized nation today why Nigeria is still a toddler with feeding bottle at 60 years. Our import in this country is 90% if am not mistaken, compared to our export which is 10%. Whether the government of the day is trying to pass a message to Nigerians, that we should be creative is a question we have to ponder on. Even to tooth-pick (made from wood) is been imported by Nigerians. Nigeria as a republic, wholly free from or supposed to be really free from any foreign interference in our personal administration. Even though we are a republic, for we are a republic for the past 57 years, in our health sector, there is no guarantee for good services. Our leaders find it difficult to put good health services in place in Nigeria, they always go abroad for medical check-up. By so doing, it means that our leaders are making Nigeria a subservient, non-independent nation to others. Because of the subservient situation our leaders have put us, we virtually import everything into this great country of ours. Our resourceful ingenuity is never encouraged.
Twenty-one years (21 yrs) of Nigerian democracy today, our leaders still do not know the basic economic principle that ruins any nation’s economy that is, corruption and stashing the nation’s wealth away dubiously in foreign lands (Europe and South Africa). If the Nigerian economy is buoyant, no rich man will lose his wealth, status and honour, and no one will be reduced or made mean by the prosperity of our economy. It is fear of the unknown that makes our leaders to tamper with public funds, perhaps they fear poverty which they have already overcome by virtue of their positions.
Our leaders should know now that vision 2020 is unrealistic because we do not know how to take realistic decisions; we are still tied to the apron string of some foreign powers. These foreign powers are in the position to determine how far we can go with the 2020 vision. That year 2020, will our leaders still be travelling for medical attention, seeking how to tackle legislative matters, develop rural or urban areas? Will they still be frequenting abroad indiscriminately, and then carrying our wealth along?
When Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and his officials did not travel out of Ghana in the long period they were in power, were they not able to reposition the Ghanaians economy? Did any of them die for doing so and refusing to travel out?
There are still some great leaders who I must give credit to for what they have done in their little capacity. I like to in a special way, thank the Governor of Edo State, our ‘wake and see’ governor, His Excellency, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki who in his bid to address some of the prevailing issues in Nigeria, has built a modular refinery in Ologbo, Edo State with a capacity to produce 1,000 – 5, 000 of crude oil daily and with about 150 youths been employed. He also boosts Edo economy with 55MW CCETC-Ossiomo power plant which will tackle the crippled power supply.
On completion, the ongoing 55MW CCETC-Ossiomo Power Plant located at Ologbo community in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area (LGA), Edo State, will help to power and light up government buildings and public utilities, such as hospitals, offices, streetlights, Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium which he has also renovated to an Olympic standard, as well as other public facilities. May the good Lord continue to bless and enrich you with wisdom.
In celebrating our 60th Independence Anniversary, we should not forget the plaque that is ravaging the world; COVID-19 in focus, both the public health and economic implications. For a country like Nigeria, hemorrhaging its revenue from oil, the catastrophe of the pandemic also stresses the need to develop a diversified Nigerian economy – and it is a digital economy.
For all its sorrow, the coronavirus has driven interest in, and demand for, digital health solutions that the World Health Organization says are successful in screening populations, tracking infections, allocating resources and designing targeted responses. The fact that more than 30 countries have now developed contact tracing apps to simultaneously track infection and aid the opening of their economies demonstrates that technology can provide solutions to specific socio-economic problems and also offer a bailout for the wider economy.
But at the same time, a second lesson made clear by the COVID-19 crisis is that Nigeria is a DRIP (data rich, information poor) economy. Nigeria lacks efficiency in its data collection points, which are not only locked in silos but are also poorly structured. Examples include information collected by the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the electoral, immigration and traffic authorities as well as mobile network service providers.
The good news is that there are large volumes of data available for modeling and forecasting the pandemic. The bad news is that the Nigerian government was unable to leverage the data to enhance its response to a public health emergency. Data is often described as today’s oil, a saying with particular resonance to Nigerians, but like oil is not useful until it is refined, in this case into information and insights.
Yet as of July 1, Nigeria had tested just 138,462 samples for coronovirus in a population of over 200 million people. This figure indicates a failure in contact tracing but also suggests an inability to harness the power of data for predictive modeling.
The seemingly sudden outbreak reported in Kano, a crowded urban city with vulnerable groups who may be unable to practice physical or social distancing, while care and assistance did not reach the poorest people in most parts of the country, is evidence that the government could not predict infection hotspots or identify the groups most vulnerable to suffering during the pandemic.
Nigeria’s data policy shortcomings
With no solutions, palliatives or a plan for preventing a spike in infection, citizens’ agitation forced the government to prematurely (when cases were rising steeply) ease the lockdown. Comparatively, many countries rapidly aggregated multisource data to spatially track cases and develop predictive modeling for infection. One article describes how Taiwan integrated its national insurance database with its migration and customs database to begin its data analytics approach. This aided Taiwan in its case identification by generating real-time alerts.
Singapore, South Korea, China and Israel all tapped into big data by using a combination of smartphones, GPS, credit card transactions, and satellite technologies to track infection rates and potential hotspots. Even in privacy-conscious Europe, the European Commission requested Europe’s Telecom giants to share aggregated metadata from their customers to help predict the spread of COVID-19 and determine where people’s needs for medical supplies were pressing.
Remarkably, the problem is not only that this data is not presently mainstreamed into Nigeria’s public policy and decision making, but it is also clear that there is no vision on how to move that sector forward. For example, the recently released National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020-2030 did not articulate a policy framework for creating either a (national) data infrastructure to leverage data in providing more efficient and responsive public services, or for regulations on the ethical and responsible use of data by government and its agencies.
A third lesson follows, in that Nigeria’s regulation is still not responsive. Perhaps one reason why Nigeria was unable to harness the power of data, particularly personal data, is because it lacks a comprehensive law on data protection.
People will generally be concerned about their personal data and many suspicions follow the deployment of contact tracing apps. The EU added to its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with recommendations on the use of technology and data, in order to combat and exit the COVID-19 crises. Australia conducted an impact assessment and passed a law on use of personal data collected through the COVIDsafe contact tracing app.
Yet the NITDA in Nigeria, which developed and administers the country’s NDPR, has thus far failed to issue a guideline on the use of personal data during the pandemic. Further, the Nigeria Digital Economy Strategy spans a period of only 10 years. According to the World Bank, the typical 5- to 10-year cycle in making policy is no longer sustainable as governments need to continually reinvent technology-related policies to ensure they are consistent with new innovations and create economic opportunity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the necessity of Nigeria’s economic diversification, with committed action on digital inclusion and a regulatory environment that supports that access in a rapidly changing world.
In this year’s celebration of our national independence at 60, our Leaders should endeavour to reflect on what independence actually mean. Does our independence allow us to misappropriate public funds, take it to South Africa or such other country to invest? How many South Africans or other nationals come to invest in Nigeria with the public funds they misappropriated? Whenever we carry our wealth to invest in other economy, we are simply displaying our greed and foolishness. How many foreign nationals if I may ask has ever come to Nigeria to celebrate their birthdays? It is high time we knew what independence truly means.
I subscribe to the idea of restructuring Nigeria; Nigerians should restructure their minds most importantly because I believe our national wealth is being drained by a selected few instead of building a country for us all which will bring unity, equity and security for this nation.
Thanks for the privilege! Happy Independence Day (Diamond Jubilee) to all Nigerians!!