On March 22nd, Mr. Bill Gates, the co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, visited the country. After his trips to places of interest, including the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, he donated about $1.6 billion towards improving the nationa��s health and education sectors.
However, his verdict of the living conditions in Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), was not too salutary. In particular, he accused the Nigerian government of prioritising investments in physical infrastructure at the expense of human capital development. He said that a�?Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries on earth to give birtha�?.
Speaking at a special meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the theme: a�?Role of human capital investment in supporting pro- poor and economic growth agenda”, Gates said that investments in infrastructure must be in tandem with investments in people in order to drive the economy over the long term. He however lamented that Nigeria’s approach focuses primarily on the physical with visible neglect of the human capital development sector.
Buttressing his points, he emphasized that the nationa��s ERGP lacked a reflection of the people’s needs, but unfortunately focuses on areas that have no direct bearing towards improving the well-being of the ordinary citizen. He gave the punch when he concluded that Nigeria has the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, only ahead of Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad.
It should be noted that Mr. Bill Gates is not a Nigerian, neither is he a contractor, nor has exhibited any interest in joining any political party. He is an international businessman and philanthropist. It is his philanthropy and interests in helping the ordinary people out of their quagmire that always brings him to Nigeria and other Third World countries.
Therefore, when he bared his mind on the aforementioned issues, he did so out of genuine concern devoid of any political or economic undertone. It was therefore not because he was seeking to occupy any political office, or that he was looking for contract from any agency in the country.
Nigerians had expected that since he made the statement, concerted efforts could have been made by the government to address those critical issues he raised, particularly the neglect of human capital, or his ideas on the poor living conditions in the country.
Governmenta��s silence on Bill Gatea��s use of extremely superlative expressions in describing the condition of children born in Nigeria, which he described as the worst on earth, is gravely pregnant. It portrays clearrly how the international community views our country. It buttresses the point that life is gradually and steadily becoming too cheap in Nigeria.
His expressions were not borne merely due to the debilitating state of the nationa��s health sector, but also probably by the ease regarding how human lives are being wasted in the country. In recent times, armed herdsmen and other militia have invaded several communities across the country, slaughtering people left, right and center, with Government describing such incidences as herders/farmers clashes, rather than describing it appropriately as a�?invasiona�? and a�?premeditated murdera�?.
Moreover, the overall living condition in the country, measured through per capita income, is debasing compared with the resources that accrue to the country, especially through the oil and gas sectors. Similarly, not having even a single standard hospital, has led to unprecedented capital flight through medical tourism alone, even though it has been observed that some of the best doctors working in those internationally-acclaimed hospitals abroad are Nigerians, most of who were even trained in the Nigerian universities.
Without putting in place conducive atmosphere for economic catalysis that would spur the setting up and growth of existing industries, the country is far from changing the Bill Gatea��s narrative.
The level of corruption in the country is so endemic that Nigeria is not only described as one of the most difficult countries globally in terms of ease of doing business, but had successively executed public projects at the most expensive rates worldwide! Is that a path to growth?
It is up to our political leaders to wake up from slumber. It is up to our leaders to jettison those things that make them pursue selfish agenda, rather than what would bring the highest good to the highest number of people. Our political leaders should enrighing themselves at the expense of the poor masses.
Every socio-economic indicator in the country must practically be seen to have switched sides for the better and must be pursuing a sure path to growth and development. This is no time for buck passing or denials. It is time for action.
The tendency for people to see politics as path to sudden wealth must be over. We must make concerted efforts to drastically reduce the emolument of political office holders. This is the only way to attract quality people who have genuine nationalistic instincts, rather than have do-or-die politicians all over the places; people that have little or no national instinct.
We urgently need to entrench the spirit of selfless service rather than striving to satisfy our insatiable and extremely greedy lusts, which had been the cause of our social and economic predicament. Time to act is now, we no time to prevaricate over these issues.