I recently asserted that the drop in Nigeria's oil revenue could be a silver lining because it could motivate all levels of government to diversify their source of income and reinvigorate many ailing domestic industries. Some readers correctly pointed to Lagos State which has managed to generate money independent of the oil money it receives from the federal government. In fact, in 2007 Lagos State achieved a GDP of N3.68 trillion ($29.028 billion). Other readers questioned the idea that many state governors would work to not rely on the oil wealth they currently depend upon.
A recent article in the Washington Post reinforced that there are definitely state governments that are comfortable depending on the federal government for money instead of thinking of innovative ways to create money that can then supplement that received from oil. The article, "In Nigeria, Sharia Law Fails to Deliver", looked at how states practicing Sharia law remained poor and corrupt despite the early promises that Sharia law would protect citizens and create better democratic governments.
Specifically, a spokesperson for the governor of Kano, Sule Ya'u Sule, discussed teh discontent felt by the people, particularly when they see their representatives living well. The spokesman explained that the people forget that officials need decent clothing, cars and houses and that does not mean said officials are corrupt. He then went on to lament that,
"The federal government only gives you a little amount every month. And it is that amount that it expects you to use to develop the state,"
"This money is not enough to finish this work and distribute it to the needy."HEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM
Sule's statement reinforces what is wrong with Nigeria - he equates the people with the needy,almost as if they are beggars. In reality, the "needy" should be considered the state government's bosses, for whom the government works, not gives alms to. There is little need to "distibute ... to the needy" if the money received from the federal government is actually used to improve living conditions via education, clean water, electricity, and other necessities that are actually a fundamental right in this day and age.
More importantly, the failure to acknowledge that the state has other means of generating income illustrates that the reliance on Nigeria's oil wealth has generated extreme laziness and lack of vision in many leaders who instead of working with the people to create solutions, use religion, ethnicity and violence to wage campaigns of fear and maintain their extremely profitable positions of power. It is a shame that the people, who have the power of numbers, are yet to put their foot down and take the concrete actions necessary to solve their own problems. Instead, they continue to be manipulated by not just politicians, as was the case in Jos, but the likes of those who created and tacitly supported extremists like Boko Haram. Or, allow those who steal carelessly placed public money in Bauchi State to go unpunished, leaving many without paychecks. But in a country like Nigeria where so many are poor, undereducated and simply struggling to survive, it is understandable that the average individual is primarily focused on survival. Despite this, it is ultimately up to those who feel the pain the hardest to find a remedy. Hopefully that remedy will come sooner, rather than later.
From the Archives:
- Nigeria's Oil Revenue Cut In Half
- Nigeria's Oil Expiration Date Draws Near
- No Longer King of African Crude?
- Boko Haram: Questions Remain
- Militants in Northern Nigeria?
- Nigeria-List of Intolerant Nations
- Religious & Political Violence in Jos