Inequality Meditations On The Nigerian Economic Life . By Kennedy Asuru

written by The Intellects Mag November 16, 2017

Background

There is no light, there is no fuel, there is no water. Workers are on strike because states can’t afford to pay them. So, the workers pretend to work and their governors pretend to pay them. The governors are exasperated. The leaders are bewildered. The people are frustrated. How did we get here? How did we, children of a rich father, descendants of wealthy ancestors end up begging by the road side? How did we, who once rode on thoroughbred horses, become shoeless? We took a wrong turn in the road and we have refused to retrace our steps. Our land is still flowing with milk and honey but we are used to the ones we import from Malaysia and Lebanon. We are still strong men and women, but we deploy our energies in the wrong direction. We want to plant onions and harvest cocoa. We are in trouble….more trouble than we had in 2015. We are steadily moving down the slope. And the worse part of it is that nobody is willing to accept that he is wrong. Everybody is blaming everybody and everything But we – you and I – and the people we voted for, are wrong. We missed the right turn in the road together. That is why we are suffering together: Corporate iniquity, corporate punishment (Funke Egbemode, Sunday Sun, March 13, 2016, Once Upon a Prosperous Nation).

The above excerpt reveals the reality of an economic crisis in the Nigerian state, which has left a major fracture in her very structure. A major contributor to the magnitude of this fracture, is the inexpediency of the present political system. As Economists would affirm, Political expediency will always override economic proficiency. This assertion reveals in a subtle manner, the overwhelming importance of politics in the economic life of any country. One mistake we tend to make all the time is to think that an average politician has the good of the society at heart as a top priority. This is mere wishful thinking; and a pitiful one at that. The reality which we should factor into our consciousness is that, AN AVERAGE POLITICIAN THINKS MORE OF WINNING THE NEXT ELECTION, THAN HE DOES OF SALVAGING THE ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE PEOPLE. #Fact. An average politician would only employ good deeds and diligence as a tool for gaining the endorsement of the people in order to win the next election.

Well, that’s another story.

In this work, we shall identify and explore one, among the myriads of problems that challenge the development of Nigeria. Among others that prevail, one problem we identify here is Inequality.

What Inequality Is

The basic understanding of the concept “inequality” is a sort of imbalance or inequilibrium in a system. The Merriam-Websters Dictionary defines inequality as “an unfair situation in which people have more rights and better opportunities than other people”. The Longman Dictionary of Sociology defines it as “an unfair situation in which some groups in society have more money, opportunities, power, etc than others”.

From an economic perspective, inequality is the difference found in various measures of economic well-being among individuals in a group, among groups in a population, or among countries. Economic inequality is sometimes called Income inequality, Wealth inequality, or the Wealth gap.

Social inequality occurs when the resources in a given society are distributed unevenly, typically through norms of  allocation that engender specific patterns along lines of socially defined category of persons.

The Problem Of Global Inequality

Economists and social analysts have observed, with no small level of certitude, that the major cause of social violence and consequently, underdevelopment in the world nay Nigeria, is that hydra-headed monster called, Inequality. To make this point clearer, consider the following statistics which was given by Hyacinth Ementa Ichoku (Professor of Economics, University of Nsuka, Nigeria):

  • 71% of the world population lives on only 3% of global resources
  • 7% of the world population control more than 45% of global resources
  • The richest 620 people in the world own more wealth than the least 4 billion people in the world put together
  • 75% of the world population has more wealth than 77% of the world population put together
  • Since 1995 all the economic growth recorded has never directly touched the poorest 0.5%

And these estimations are climbing annually.

This information provided above reveals the huge chasm between the rich and poor, the successful and the surviving in the world today. How can so much own so few, and yet there exists so few elsewhere, who own so much? How can there be so few controlling so much wealth, and yet so many languish in abject poverty, go to bed hungry daily, and even die of hunger? This is the greatest economic injustice of all, and when left unaddressed, leads to the greatest social violence in the world all over.

The Problem Of International Inequality

Of course because the information provided above does not speak to the average Nigerian personally, there lingers the tendency of discarding it as random speculation and matters not of our concern. But before such step, here’s one for you; one that’s hit you in the guts and urge you to advocate, even more strongly for a revolutionary change. The following information was also given by Professor Hyacinth Ementa Ichoku:

  • An average Australian earns about $60,000 annually
  • An average Nigerian earns about $20,000 annually
  • The life expectancy of average Japanese is 85 years
  • The life expectancy of average Nigerian is 52 years

The Problem Of National / Inter-Regional Inequality

As Adam Smith puts it, wherever there is great property, there is great inequality. This especially explains the Nigerian problem of inequality. Without being unnecessarily verbose, the statistics below would suffice:

  • 15,000 Nigerians, who earn $1 million annually, have a total of ₦30 Trillion as their salary annually. This is more than 5 times the total Budget of Nigeria for the year (2016). Also note that this is the highest budget Nigeria has ever come up with.
  • 40% of the children in Katsina State suffer from malnutrition
  • School enrolment in Imo State is about 90%
  • School enrolment in Yobe State is only about 10%
  • Yobe state features the ratio of 1 doctor to 123,000 patients, and 1 nurse to 75,000 patients
  • Enugu state alone has more medical doctors than the whole of the north west combined!

Now, although these statistics are not exhaustive, they help to reveal that inequality in Nigeria and in the world at large is a reality that has been given very little consideration in the past, but yet is one of the root causes of economic inequilibrium and social disorder in the Nigeria. In fact, as Hyacinth Ichoku puts it, “Such inequality is the recipe for disaster and rebellion, since it somehow creates a culture of envy and rivalry”.

Many Nigerians are quite aware of the fact that something is wrong somewhere with the Nigerian economy. But the problem is most people cannot say what this is exactly, they seem to be oblivious of what magnitude of harm has been done, nor can they say for sure what must be done to address the problem. Well, so far, we have been able to identify the first two.

Reconcillatory Remarks

What then must we do?

Sincerely, I do not have the answer to that. If I did, I would have taken the next flight to Abuja, to share with the President over dinner.

But this is what I have: information. Knowledge. Knowledge, which is power; emancipative power. The ignorance of the magnitude of our problem has made us largely complacent thus far. The truth is; this is no time for complacence; this is a bad time to be calm. Like one who has a cancer without even knowing it, Nigeria seems to be dying slowly, but steadily. There’s a problem with Nigeria, and we need to address it, and quickly. This problem is the stark reality and prevalence of inequality in the system. We’ve identified the cancer, what is left now is to find a cure. Are you willing to throw the first stone in order to get this done?

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