Nigeria is once again a target of what many may consider as negative profiling. Since November 21, 2012 when a report of a study by an Economist Intelligence Unit (a sister company of The Economist magazine) titled “The Lottery of Life: Where to be Born in 2013” was published on The Economist, foreign media has been awash with the story of Nigeria being the “worst place to be born (in the world)” in 2013. Some sections of the local media also rushed to publicize the subjective interpretation of the study without raising critical questions. Nigeria, no doubt, has poor health indices including high infant and child mortality rate. But would it be correct to infer or conclude that Nigeria is the worst place to be born in 2013 with the findings of a study result that compared less than a half of the total number of countries of the world?
I have studied many versions of the online news reports and I couldn’t establish the selection criteria for the 80 countries that were studied. While I don’t dispute the findings of the study, the interpretation and the way Nigeria has been portrayed thereafter raises some questions. If I have access to the full report of the study, I will be interested in knowing the selection criteria; are the other 116 countries not included in the study better or worse than the ones studied? If they are all better, then it will be correct to describe Nigeria as the worst place to be born in the world. On the other hand, if they are not, then Nigeria deserves apologies from the media establishments that have presented the information in a much sensationalized manner.
More so, let me share some of the reports I read online. The UK Daily Mail did an analysis of the report and wrote, “it (Nigeria) is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013.” The Tribune (not Nigerian Tribune) wrote, “…the worst place to be born in the next year (2013) was termed Nigeria” The study didn’t say so. There are at least 196 countries in the world and not the 80 studied. Until all the countries of the world are studied and necessary variables controlled for to ensure apple-to-apple comparison, it will be erroneous for any country to be termed the best or worst place to be born. Every such sentence must include “among 80 countries studied”.
Having made the above point, I don’t feel proud with the state of health in Nigeria and I believe no patriotic Nigerian does. It is paradoxical that a country that produced 11 out of the 40 Forbes Richest Africans does not have the best developmental and health indices in the continent. Less than 30% of the national budget is spent on capital projects and infrastructural development while the rest is largely spent on avoidable expenses incurred by the ruling class. The system promotes corruption and crime even as income inequality widens. Should we continue this way? Absolutely not!
Going forward, how do we ensure that Nigeria ranks better in similar studies in the near future? The answer is well known to policymakers, what is lacking is the desire and courage to make good plans become a reality. The Nigeria I know usually has excellent strategic plans but it’s time to transfer them from shelves to the streets. Some state governors are already doing great jobs but the pace of national development largely depends on the federal government which controls more than a half of the national resources and powers. I expect the federal government to expedite action on the power, roads and other infrastructural projects that promote private investments. The National Assembly should pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, National Health Bill and amend the National Health Insurance Act to provide for universal health insurance.
Indisputably, Nigerians are intelligent, diligent and well endowed to develop the country. We need to create a system that promotes, supports and sustains private investment by Nigerians. With a favorable business environment, foreign investors will be begging to be allowed to come and invest in Nigeria. This is what the government should focus largely on. Nigerians have heard so much rhetoric and nowadays are mainly moved by results. When youths are employed, women are empowered; social safety nets are created, healthcare system is strengthened, excellence is promoted and rewarded, laziness is discouraged and every crime is punished; Nigeria will surely become one of the best places to be born. The question is how soon is this going to happen?