A recent report from the Brookings Institution, a non- profit public policy organisation in the United States, asserts that the narrative of poverty in the world is changing. This is because Nigeria has upstaged India as the world’s poorest country. The Democratic Republic of Congo, also on the African continent, could soon take over the number two spot. These facts and many more are contained in a report titled “The start of a New Poverty Narrative.”
Hitherto, India was the poorest country in the world with a high figure of people living in extreme poverty. But according to the institution, “at the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.” In other words, India has significantly reduced its poverty level while Nigeria has assiduously grown its. It is quite tragic that six individuals slip into the poverty trap every minute. However, deeper analysis will reveal that the comparison between India and Nigeria could even be misleading, as both countries have different population bases. The ratio of 87 million extremely poor people out of the estimated 200 million population in Nigeria is relatively more than that of the 73 million extremely poor people out of the vast population of India which was estimated at 1.324 billion in 2016.
The implications of these figures are even graver in terms of the portended miseries. Even without the alarm from the Brookings Institution, it is easy to see that poverty looms large for any country that depends virtually on a rent-driven economy as opposed to a productive one. Incidentally, both Nigeria and the DRC fall into this same category of rent-driven economies and both indubitably suffer from the same problem of incompetent and visionless governance. While Nigeria sells its crude oil as the mainstay of the economy, the DRC sells its rare and precious minerals.
Poverty trails bad and visionless governance and Nigeria has consistently suffered from both, perhaps to varying degrees, for quite a while since independence. The planning capacity of successive administrations has been dismal, hence their defective policies and implementation. Sadly, opportunities to turn the tide have turned up on several occasions, only to be trashed by a selfish and greedy leadership class. It would seem that the abject poverty afflicting the underdog suits the interests of the rich as they recruit their cannon fodder from them.
Although different administrations have, over the years, claimed to be aware of the miseries of the people and to be doing much to alleviate their pitiable living conditions, very little can be ascertained as their achievements in terms of relief and improvement. Perhaps the collapse of social infrastructure sounded the death knell to possible relief and emancipation as it has taken along with it both entrepreneurship and creativity. With electricity in perpetual doldrums, many professionals have been squeezed and put out of work, not to talk of the many factories that have closed shop. Unemployment easily aggravates poverty and diminishes the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The unemployment rate in Nigeria has reached such a scary level as to be disconcerting for any sensitive and competent administration. Poverty afflicts the youths and has terribly untoward effects on social security in the country.
Besides, the absence of a comprehensive national welfare programme has only worsened the deleterious effects of poverty. Up till now, there is no evidence that even the current administration has any clue as to what programme to pursue in stemming the tide of poverty. Nigeria’s new position as the world’s poorest country is unenviable and totally unacceptable. The authorities should not be comfortable with the sad situation, particularly given the paradox of the country’s unusually high cost of governance. If governance is costliest in the poorest country in the world, this can only mean that the government exists just to impoverish the people.
It is quite absurd for the poorest country in the world to feature the most expensive government globally. It is a shameful and deplorable arrangement. The situation has gone beyond discomfiting; it has become an emergency and it needs extremely urgent attention. We hope that the situation will not deteriorate to the point where it may become necessary to look for another name worse than poverty to describe Nigeria’s affliction.