When our blog first got started, our first comment was from a man in Nigeria named Peter. At first, we thought what most Americans probably think—another spambot from any number of developing countries or a relative of some prince trying to get his inheritance who would “make it worth our while.”
However, it turned out that Peter is not only real, but a kind, honest, and generally all-around good person, living in one of the top 11 developing economies in the world, while ours here in the US remains stagnant. Given the deterioration that the US is facing, we thought we could learn a lot from Peter both socially and economically regarding the redevelopment of both our nations—especially since he also happens to be an economist!
Peter was nice enough to conduct an interview with us, in which we ask him about the origins of Nigeria, its emerging economy, and what lessons the US can learn from one of the fastest developing countries today. He also cautions, though, that there are still problems that lie ahead for both nations.
Developing Countries and Economies Interview
1. Nigeria was named one of 11 G3 developing countries in the world. Do you agree with Citibank’s assessment? Why or why not?
Nigeria’s huge human and natural resources translate into great potential. This has lead to a lot of postulations, which have all failed to materialize. Our inability to transform this potential into achievement is mind-boggling.
2. Although Nigeria has had a lot of turmoil and instability, it hasn’t been plagued with headline atrocities like in Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and other African countries. Why is that?
Nigeria has a different make up from those countries. The other countries have a smaller population that is dominated by just one ethnic group. Nigeria has three very large tribes: the Hausas in the northwest, the Yorubas in the southwest, and the Ibos in the southeast; plus over 250 other tibes spread across the country. The rotation and allocation of key positions in government and the military among the regions helps to maintain a balance in power.
3. Nigeria seems to be enjoying a period of relative stability as a one of the rapidly developing countries. Why is this happening now instead of before?
The January 1966 coup, which abruptly ended our six years old democracy, pushed Nigeria into decades of military rule during which institutional development and economic growth was stiffled. The return to civilan rule has opened the door for social progress and economic prosperity.
4. What do you see is the biggest challenge Nigeria and/or Africa are going to face as developing countries in the immediate future?
Africa’s biggest challenge is that of making room for responsible and visionary leadership that will harness our vast human and natural resources, which are being unduly exploited, and channel them into avenues that will lead to acclerated growth for the nations of the continent.
5. From the perspective of a developing nation, what problems or policies do you think are the most harmful to the US and other industrialized Western nations?
My biggest worry for the United States and other industrialized nations is that they are practically living at the mercy of China. The growing economic power and influence of the Chinese is not being checked. The continuous pegging of the Chinese yuan, which makes it relatively cheaper, means the western nations will continue to buy cheaper products from China in the name of free trade. China has now amassesd so much money that they now hold the biggest portion of US Treasury Bills. China is now the lender of last resort for many European nations, and many nations are courting Chinese investments into their economies.
6. What is the attitude of the average person in Nigeria towards economic development? For instance, are job opportunities good, or are qualified and experienced workers having trouble finding employment? Are working conditions generally good, or does lack of available jobs make conditions poor? Do people want the government to take care of them, or do they want to be free from government interference and be independent?
The disposition is that of despondency. For a developing nation, capital expenditures accounted for a mere 22% of Nigeria’s 2012 budget and just 24% for 2013. The huge 76-78% is used is to maintain a corrupt public service of about one million, while the remaining 150 million suffer. The economic sabotage in Nigeria is of epic proportions. Most of the graduates from our defective education system are not even employable. Hundereds of thousands are jobless. Our dismal position in the ease of doing business ranking tells you the impossible conditions businesses here face. The ruling class have successfully continued to keep the populace in poverty, so that they can easily buy their support whenever the politicians need it. Most Nigerians want to get into government because it is the easiest means to obtaining great riches and a way of getting your own share of the ‘national cake’.
7. What do you see as the biggest threat to Nigeria’s status as one of the top developing countries in the world?
A few years ago, it was predicted that Nigeria will break up in 2015. Our litany of problems continue to threaten our continuous existence. The biggest threat to Nigeria’s development is the systematic sabotage of our economic fortunes. Huge oil revenues that should have been used to develop the country have been looted. Our overdependence on oil revenues makes us vulnerable to shocks in the uncertian global energy market.
8. What will be the one thing that “makes or breaks” Nigeria continuing on as one of the top developing countries in the world? Government, social attitude, foreign investment, something else?
The failure of leadership remains our greatest undoing. This is clearly captured by Nigeria’s literary icon, China Achebe, in his book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”.
9. I read that ethnicity and religion play a large role in Nigerian politics. Is this true? If so, do you think this is good or bad? Why?
Nigerians are becoming less Nigerian and now want to be identified by their ethnic group or religion. Ethno-religious sentiment influences practically everything in the country. It is not good and has negatively impacted our nation. The country has a Christain-dominated south and Muslim-dominated north. Religious and ethnic crisis are occurring in our national life. We had so many of such events before our independence. The killings of Ibos, who were living in the north, forced the eastern state to delcare independence from Nigeria in 1967. This led to a three-year civil war that claimed the lives of over a milllion Ibos. I was born in the north and was a victim of one of such crisis in 1991, and my family was forced to relocate to the southeast. Today, the country remains under the threat of Boko Haram, an Islamic sect that has bombed several churches and government properties killing thousands of people. The ethno-religious crisis has caused a lot of prejudice and hate, and is dividing the populace along these lines.
10. If you could tell US citizens one thing, what would it be?
They have to be more patient with President Obama and support him to undo the years of damage on the economy and reputation of the United States. I believe he has the vision and charisma to return your country to its former glory.
Although we have different views regarding the current administration here in the US, Peter’s has provided us with some truly important insights that will be invaluable to our nation in the future.
Check out his work at www.imi-nigeria.com. He has been doing his own research into the nature of Nigeria’s petroleum industry and has had the opportunity to speak with some of the top brass in his country.
He’s good people—show him some love!
What lessons you think the US should learn from other developing countries?