Nigeria and greatness: The missing link

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Prof. MK Othman

By Prof. MK Othman

This month of October 2021, Nigeria is 61 years old as an independent nation, free from colonialism, and 107 years as a nation called Nigeria.

The amalgamation of British colonies; northern and southern protectorates as a single country, Nigeria in 1914 was made by fiat without any kind of consultation with the people. Under colonisation, the land, its contents, and the people were considered as booties of the colonial masters. Some people felt, and still feel, that the amalgamation was an “accident of history”, which shouldn’t have been; how can over “200 nations” be fiercely jam-packed as “one nation”? Nevertheless, the country survived the political, religious, and tribal turmoil, plundering, and kleptomania over many decades, and still wearing the toga of potentially “great nation of the 21st century”. Can Nigeria achieve greatness in this century?

Nigeria is stupendously blessed with both human and natural resources, making other countries grin with envy. The country is richly endowed with natural resources such as precious metals and various industrial stones. Each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, has several untapped mineral resources. Kaduna state alone has over 10 mineral resources such as amethyst, aqua marine, asbestos, clay, flosper, gemstone, gold, graphite, kaolin, hyanite, mica, rock crystal, ruby, sapphire, sihnite, superntinite, tentalime, topaz and tourmaline.

Other states like Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, Sokoto, Edo, Imo, Zamfara, and Katsina have varieties of mineral resources similar to those in Kaduna state. Most of these mineral resources are in appreciable quantity but unexploited, save for illegal mining. For instance, there are about 3 billion tons of iron ore deposits in Kogi, Niger states, and FCT, 10 million tons of zinc/lead in Abuja, Kano, and Cross River states. There are over 2 million tons of rock salts and over 3 billion tons of coal deposits in Plateau, Enugu, and Anambra states. A large quantity of gold is found in Zamfara, Sokoto, Oyo, Niger, Kwara, and Kebbi states, among others. These mineral resources provide tremendous investment opportunities for economic growth and nation-building. If tapped, the country could be Eldorado.

Presently, Nigeria is depending on two major mineral resources; petroleum oil, and gas. They constitute 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings with all other economic contributors making 10 percent. Oil also contributes about 70 percent of annual income to the three tiers of government; federal, state, and local governments.

Nigeria is the largest oil-producing country in Africa. Experts have estimated that Nigerian oil and gas reserves are 23 billion barrels of crude oil and 160 trillion cubic meters of gas (www.nigeria.gov.ng). The quality of Nigerian oil is of high grade with low-sulfur and high paraffin content, which makes it attractive in the International market. Despite oil’s massive contribution to the foreign exchange earning, it, nevertheless, contributes a mere nine percent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
Water and land resources are similar in large quantities.

On water resources, Nigeria is divided into seven climate zones, with average annual rainfall from 700 mm in the Sahel savannah of the north to 4,000 mm in riverine areas of the south. Rainfall provides trillions of litres of water annually in addition to other trillions of litres from River Niger.

The river passes through the country and drains an average of 5,589 cubic metres of water every second into the Atlantic Ocean. River Niger with a length of 4,180 km and a drainage basin area of 2.1 million km2 is the third largest river in Africa. There are unlimited water resources available for development in Nigeria.
On Land resources, Nigeria has 91 million hectares of arable land with merely 50 percent utilisation despite the quantum of water resources, soil fertility, favourable topography, and climates.

With all these huge natural resources, 47.3 percent of Nigerians lives in multidimensional poverty, according to recent statistics. Why? This is because, with the exception of oil, other natural resources are mere potential and not yet transformed into the reality that can propel the development of the nation’s economy. Potential is like fertile land with adequate water for both crops and livestock productions left unattended and become vulnerable to infestation by dangerous reptiles. In any community or society, human resources are the driver of the transformation of potential into tangible reality. How capable are human resources in Nigeria to transform its potential?

In 1960, the Nigerian population was estimated to be 45 million people. Today, (24/10/2021), the population is estimated to be 213,169,019, making the country to be the seventh most populous country in the world. From 1960 to 2019, the Nigerian population was increased by 471 percent.

The rate of population growth in Nigeria is “one birth in every four seconds and one death in every 14 seconds”. In the next 30 years, Nigeria will have an estimated population of 450 million people and will occupy the third position of the topmost populous country in the world after India and China. Interestingly, more than 80 percent of the Nigerian population is under the age of 55 years. This demographic analysis clearly shows that Nigeria is tremendously endowed with human resources. How qualitative are the human resources?
The major qualitative indicator of human resources in any society is the level of its human capital. Human capital refers to the stockpile of competencies, skills, knowledge, and personality attribute embodied in individuals.

These attributes are responsible for the creation of a qualitative labour force with appreciable economic, social, and personal values. Labour is the most important factor of production. Human capital is, therefore, a primary factor, which converts all resources for the use and benefits of mankind and national development. How is human capital developed? What is the missing link between greatness and Nigeria? How can the missing link be established? To be concluded next week.

Othman writes from Zaria

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily