By Suleiman Yakubu

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Less than a decade ago, Nigeria, or rather, Nigerians were adjudged happiest people in the world. In 2011 a global survey confirmed it. In a Gallup poll involving 53 countries, Nigerians were rated at 70 points for optimism while by contrast, Britain scored a highly pessimistic -44 at that time. But all that was unfortunately in the past. Today, the story is not only different but also unpalatable.

The reality on ground now is that Nigerians are very miserable. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently reports that the country’s misery index has reached 50 percent. This means that more than half of Nigeria’s population of over 180 million, about 90 million Nigerians or more are unhappy with their lives.

This report is not surprising considering the disturbingly high level of unemployment and poverty in our land in addition to rising prices of almost everything occasioned by a hammering recession. One can say without fear of contradiction that things have hardly been as difficult for Nigerians as it is today. The saddest part of it is the loss of hope. We can say that Nigerians are less hopeful because it was not as if things were rosy when in the recent past they were said to be the happiest; the difference is that then we were more optimistic.

The development is very disturbing because the loss of hope is the loss of everything. A person who thinks that he has nothing to live for, can do anything even for nothing. And one who believes that there is nothing good in stock for him will simply stop trying to improve himself. Needless to say, but it is such level of lethargy and hopelessness that is the result of the present unrest here and there. The truth is that it is difficult to hope for peace and security in such an atmosphere of general dissatisfaction and acrimony. 

Our army of unemployed youths is simply disillusioned. Why won’t they be? After struggling to make it through tertiary institution some of them are willing to manage anything to keep body and soul together only to discover that there is literarily nothing for them. Their tomorrow has been squandered by some greedy leaders. Nothing reduces a man more than the fact that he is unable to carter for his family. 

Now that it is clear that white collar jobs are just not available, we must begin to train our youths to be self-reliant. We must give them the type of education that will make them less dependent on government work. 

Recently, many businesses have closed shop and moved out of Nigeria. According to a recent Guardian editorial, “Available statistics reveal that in recent years, about 150 multinational industries have divested from the Nigerian economy. Many more are considering pulling out of Nigeria. With government’s tariff, some companies are finding it difficult to produce locally as it is more lucrative to import and market many Products. 

“Again, many of the cottage industries are practically dead and a lot of medium and small scale enterprises often described as the real engine for job creation have been folding up. The textile industry with over 200 firms has largely closed shop. Also, the hike in the price of cement and other building materials and abandoned construction projects which are the traditional employment creation avenues particularly during depression, are not helping matters”.

Nothing discourages an investor like high cost of doing business because it reduces his profit which is the main attraction in business. Instead of going round the world trying to woo investors down here, perhaps we should concentrate on ensuring a favourable business environment. First, we must ensure a stable electricity/power supply. This is the chief reason why many businesses are finding it difficult to breakeven in Nigeria. And this has affected artisans, small, medium and even large scale businesses.

Even if I am government, my conscience would not allow me to go outside the shores of Nigeria to persuade any investor about coming to invest here when our infrastructure is in such an embarrassing state. It is not just poor but highly inadequate for our growing population. The most unacceptable aspect of our infrastructure is poor road networks. Some rightly describe them as deathtraps due to the dangerous potholes that often lead to accidents.    

Needless to say, but it is very obvious by our present collective dissatisfaction as a nation that we cannot continue on this path, for it is leading to misery and hopelessness. Surely, we cannot continue on the path of financial recklessness and lack of accountability; we must collectively fight against all forms of corruption. And from our unpleasant experiences whenever the prices of crude oil crashes, it is imperative that we stop paying lip-service to diversification of the economy. We need to seriously develop agriculture and solid minerals among others just as this administration is doing.

Meanwhile, it is heartrending that a once happy and boisterous people have become such a very sad bunch. This is an urgent call to the Buhari Administration to engage more in people-oriented projects and policies; for the bottom-line of economic development is improving the welfare of the citizenry.

TAURARUWA