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Is Nigeria a “Shithole” Country? – By Tochukwu Ezukanma

By Tochukwu Ezukanma | Lagos, Nigeria | January 28, 2018- A Mozambiquean professor at Howard University once summed it up in his own words, “Nigerians have very low morals”. Despite our low morals and its attendant sleaze and moral squalor, we long to be portrayed in the most favorable light. To remain wedded to unethical and amoral methods and expect a splendid image is to reap where you have not sown. Our tendency to reap where we have not sown is a legacy of that toxic mix of military rule and oil boom. It taught us that you do not have to plough in other to harvest.

So, although we are shamelessly, remorselessly corrupt, we are readily enraged by any insinuation of our corruption. In 2002, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dubem Onyia, summoned the British Deputy High Commissioner, Charles Bird, to protest a report by Britain’s Department of Foreign and International Development on corruption in high quarters of the Nigerian government. Onyia called the report “embarrassing and absurd” and demanded “evidence of corruption in high quarters in Nigeria”. In 2014 the Nigerian government angered by President Robert Mugabe’s (of Zimbabwe) description of Nigerians as “very corrupt people”, called in the Zimbabwean Head of Chancery to tell him that Mugabe’s comment “denigrated Nigerians” and “does not reflect the reality in Nigeria”.

It was therefore de je vu as the Nigerian foreign minister, Godfrey Onyeama, summoned the American ambassador to Nigeria to complain about a comment attributed to the American president, Donald Trump. Trump was quoted as asking why these “Haitians and Africans (including Nigerians) leave their shithole countries” and come over here. While our government protest and we criticize Trump’s comment, it behooves us to endeavor to objectively answer the question: is Nigeria a shithole country?

At the time of Nigerian independence, her social indexes and economic indicators were comparable to Malaysia’s. But, presently Malaysia has GDP per capita of $17,500, life expectancy of 74.52, and unemployment rate of 3.1%. When these are compared to Nigerian per capita GDP of $2,800, life expectancy of 56.62, and unemployment rate of 23.90, it becomes evident that the misgovernment of series of Nigerian governments made enormous drought on this potentially great country, and reduced her to poverty and anarchy.

A onetime American Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, once referred to Nigeria as “the poorest oil rich nation in the world”. Despite the billions of dollars that has accrued to her from oil, a disturbing proportion of Nigerians remain trapped in poverty. The extreme poverty in this oil rich country is manifestly obvious. Scavengers rummage through trash dumps for edibles and reusable items, and street hawkers (including children and nursing mothers with babies strapped to their backs) throng the streets of Nigerian cities struggling to eke out a living by selling water, soft drinks, biscuits, etc to motorists and pedestrians.

Many, especially, in urban areas, are homeless: living in open air and under the bridges. Millions live in crowded decrepit houses, just hovels and pigsties. Their neighborhoods are dusty, filthy and trash-strewn, with gutters clogged with filth and debris. These gutters provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes and all forms of vermin. Not surprisingly, dirt borne diseases, like malaria and typhoid fever, are very widespread in Nigeria.

Public hospitals in Nigeria are mostly substandard and inefficiency. They are overcrowded, teeming with patients suffering and dying from variegated diseases, including readily preventable and treatable ones. The doctors and nurses that run them can be mean-spirited, bad-mannered and hardhearted. Nigeria has one of the highest pregnancy-related deaths in the world. With 2% of the world’s population, it accounts for 11% of the world’s maternal mortality and 12% of the world’s under-five mortality.

Taking a cue from our rulers, our most important and visible role models, the Nigerian society is honeycombed with thieves, cultists, kidnappers, murderers and con artists. Appropriately, the Washington Post once called Lagos, Nigeria “the scam capital of the world”. The scam, corruption and other facets of our moral squalor took their tolls on the country; every Nigerian institution is dysfunctional. Government workers are not regularly paid because the money for their salaries is sometimes stolen by governors and commissioners.

Nigerian universities, once citadels of erudition and intellectual distinction deteriorated to appalling centers of mediocrity, cult violence, intellectual lassitude and sexual harassment. Public infrastructures, roads, refineries, rail lines and ports, are in desperate need of repairs and upgrade. Nigerian refineries barely work. They can only refine 20% of the country’s oil need. Shamelessly, this major oil exporter imports petrol for her domestic needs. Similarly, electric generation and distribution remain hampered by an intricate cocktail of avarice, corruption and mismanagement. Therefore, Nigeria is infamous for power outrages; most Nigerians grope their way through the darkness of their homes or augment their electric supply with private generators. And businesses continue to close down because privately generated power renders their ventures unprofitable.

Due to the social dislocation engendered by years of irresponsible and anti-people governance, the crime rate and incidence of tribal and sectarian violence in Nigeria are spiraling out of control. The incurably corrupt and notoriously brutal Nigerian Police Force has failed to combat the escalating crime wave and rising ethnic and religious strife. Therefore, criminals operate with impunity, sometimes, with the police not in sight or on the run, and cultists, kidnappers and religious extremists continually wreck havoc on the innocent. Unable to transcend President Buhari’s ingrained tribalism and Islamic zealotry, the Buhari administration refuses to rein in ferocious Fulani fanatics to whom human lives count for nothing. Unchecked and unpunished, these Fulani herdsmen, in their murderous fanaticism, continue to ravage farming communities: raping women and murdering in hundreds guiltless men, women and children.

An extensive catalog of the woes of Nigeria is beyond the scope of this article. However, the above narrative describes a country trapped in eddies of retrogression, moral chaos, lawlessness, violence and failed governance. With these appalling attributes, Nigeria has correctly been characterized as a vast scene of confusion, failed state and disaster. Without much exaggeration, Nigeria can also accurately be called a shithole.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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Posted by on Jan 28 2018. Filed under American Politics, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists, Tochukwu Ezukanma. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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