Like in previous years, the Human Development Index, HDI, of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, on Nigeria is highly depressing and disappointing. It is a study in confirmation of a country at a standstill,l at best and at worst going downhill in its human development.
The study placed the country in a dismal position in the areas surveyed such as education, income and life expectancy. Indeed, with a life expectancy at 51.9 as against Libya’s 70years, Mauritius at 73 and Gabon’s 62. We have one of the lowest life expectancy in Africa in spite of our vast natural resources and endowments, including land and minerals.
In the area of education, the country is not doing any better. According to the study, the average years of schooling for adults, from the age of 25 and above, is 5.0 and 8.9 years for children. And for a country as big and potentially rich as we are, this is a woeful state to be in, more so that even poorer countries have overtaken us, must be a serious cause for concern for anyone interested in the progress of the country, in view of the fact that no real development can be achieved without quality education.
On the other hand, our Per Capita income tells the same sad story. And among oil producing countries we are lagging behind too, as even the more populous Indonesia has a Gross Domestic Income of $3, 1716, Algeria with $7,658 and Angola with a GDI of $4,874.
Apparently, our oil is not fueling our domestic income generation, or not enough to spur growth and thus raise income among all the segments of the population.
On the whole, this UNDP study as it affects Nigeria should worry us deeply, while also raising serious question on the issue of governance. How is it that after 55years of independence, we are still unable to even meet the basic necessities of life, such as basic education and good income that guarantee decent and longer lives for our citizens?
How is it that even with all our rich resources and large population we continue to box below our weight division when it comes to critical area of human development and overall quality of life in the country? What has happened to these vast human and natural resources God has blessed us with? Why is it that, unlike even other less endowed countries, these resources have not had the expected positive impact on our development? Why, for example, should less endowed Botswana and Mauritius be doing far better than oil-rich Nigeria? Maybe it has really to do with governance; poor governance is stifling and chokes creativity. It also mismanages and misapplies resources, consequently resulting in stunted growth and development. This is our bane. We are poor today because we have been unable or unwilling to use the resources we have for common good of all. It is no good having abundant resources if at the end of the day they end up benefiting only a few at the expense of the majority and thus widening the inequalities in the society with all the abundant social implications these entail.
So in order to address our current depressing human development index, a situation in which for the majority of the population life is simply getting unbearable and short, the first step must be to put in place good governance. We need an efficient and effective government at all levels that fully recognise the dire straits the country is in, and are prepared to go all out and harness and deploy the resources at their disposal in an efficient manner to bring succour for our people.
Though, we will not be able to solve all our problems, but with good governance we should be able to provide a far better quality of life for our people than the present despair and traumatic existence they face daily. Therefore, since human beings are the greatest assets of any society, caring for their needs ought to be the most pressing goal of any government.