Is Nigeria still the ‘giant of Africa’?

Members of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club

Many have referred to Nigeria as the giant of Africa because of its population size of about 200 million. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It is also the most populous black country in the world and it also sits at seventh position on the rankings of the most populous countries in the world. A large population is supposed to be a reservoir of labour, military strength/force/advantage as well as an actual and potential large market. Many countries including China and India have made maximum use of their large population and it reflects in their development. Sadly, one cannot count Nigeria to be among such countries. BRICS, an association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, consists of leading developing or newly industrialised countries. Upon seeing this association one thing that comes to mind is they are all largely populated countries. China and India are the most populated countries in Asia, Brazil is the most populated country in South America, while Russia is the most populated country in Europe. One question that then comes to the mind is that why then is Nigeria (the most populated country in Africa) not in this association, instead, South Africa serves as the only African country in this association of fast growing economies and significant influence on regional affairs?

Furthermore, in the “good old days” Nigeria had the best universities as well as the best university graduates. However, with less funding, lack of prioritisation of Education at the Federal level, upsurge in malpractice as well as constant strike actions by education-related bodies, the Nigerian educational system has become a shadow of its former self.

Consequently, the standard of tertiary education in the country has dropped in relation to other top African universities. This is exemplified with the performance of Nigerian universities in recent ratings both in Africa and the world.

Sports is a sector that lots of Nigerians take pride in due to several of achievements the country has recorded in sports over the years especially in football. Nigeria has produced world stars such as, Kanu Nwankwo, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Chioma Ajunwa, Blessing Okagbare, Samuel Peters and many others. However, even the performance of Nigerians in sports in recent times has dwindled with the Super Eagles failing to qualify for two successive African Cup of Nations. The country also had an abysmal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, failing to secure a Gold medal in the competition. This could be attributed to poor management of the sports ministry, the lackadaisical attitude of the sport ministry to proper training and preparations for multinational tournaments and competitions. It is therefore evident that Nigeria needs to really revitalise their sporting ministry if we want to dominate the continent and represent it duly on the world stage. On the other hand other nations in Africa have explored other sports other than football and athletics to showcase their prowess. For instance, South Africa is one of the leading cricket playing nations in the world. They have also hosted major sporting events such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup, 2003 Cricket World Cup as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Over the years, corruption has spread around the country like a wild fire such that Nigeria has become infamous as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This notoriety has consequently damaged the country’s image in the wider world such that there have been references to or portrayal of Nigeria as a country notorious for corruption and fraudulent activities in TV series such as Suits; Sitcoms such as Blackish and Thriller novels like the Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ nest. This image has been much to the peril of the country such that in 2016 in a speech at an Anti-Corruption summit, PTO Lumumba blamed the poverty of the country on fraudulent activities in public service. This notoriety has indeed affected the relations of Nigerians with other nations of the world.

There is a common belief among Nigerians that the country possesses the most formidable militancy. However, this contradicts facts, for according to a recent study of the military of Africa, Nigeria currently ranks fifth behind South Africa, Ethiopia, Algeria and Egypt. Nigeria is a major importer of arms while South Africa on the other hand possesses a domestic arms industry. We should not forget that in 2014, Nigeria was caught in an embarrassing situation when a private jet was caught in Johannesburg with money for the purchase of weapons.

When it comes to Arts and Entertainment, Nigeria is claimed to be unequalled in achievements. Wole Soyinka was the first African Nobel Laureate in Literature winner from Africa. Also, Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart has been described as Africa’s most popular and best selling literary piece. Nigeria can also boast of other literary giants such as JP Clark, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Femi Osofisan. Nigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood is the second largest producer of movies in the world. The achievements of the Nigerian music, fashion and comedy industry cannot be over-stated. The country has produced world renowned artistes such as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Femi Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Asa, Tu Face, P Square, D Banj and more recently WizKid and Davido. Nigeria, however, has to be careful with Ghanaian artistes such as Sarkodie as well as South African artistes such as Casper Nyovest and Black Coffee who are breaking international boundaries.

In the world today, industrialisation has been directly linked to economic growth and development. This is exemplified in the fact that all of the developed countries of the world today are highly industrialised countries while most underdeveloped countries are primarily concerned with the production of primary products to be exported to the developed countries to be processed into finished products. Nigeria cannot be said to be an industrialised country because or major income comes as a result of our export of oil. Over the years, there have been calls for a diversification of the economy as well as an industrialisation of the country but this sadly, has not occurred. The insufficient power supply has crippled the efforts of the private sector towards industrialisation in the country. For instance, several companies such as Dunlop, Michelin have shut down their plants in Nigeria and relocated to a more conducive economic environment in Ghana. On the other hand, South Africa is currently certified by the World Bank as a newly industrialised country. The country also has multinational corporations spread all over the world, the most popular among Nigerians include MTN, MultiChoice, Shoprite.

It is evident that Nigeria has not really lived up to the title of the ‘Giant of Africa’ and over time, South Africa has begun to live up to the title and position. As Nigerians, we need to begin to ask ourselves what we are doing wrong in a nation who at independence was expected to emerge as the most successful black nation. This is not to say that South Africa is better than Nigeria. In fact, the country experiences widespread poverty and inequality remains widespread with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$ 1.25 per day. The crime rate of the country is also astronomical and it also has an alarming rate of HIV victims. If Nigeria is to be regarded as the undisputed “Giant of Africa” it has to improve its standing and spearhead the transition of the continent from an underdeveloped continent to a developed one.

Aderibigbe is a student of the University of Lagos.



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