Nigeria has very intimidating credentials- A country with about 180 million people, one out of every four African, one out of every five black person in the world, a country with the largest economy in Africa, a nation that is number 7 in the production of crude oil, that is number 10 in the production of natural gas, number two in the production of bitumen, foremost in the global production of cassava, a country that has a frightening collection of resourceful highly skilled people, including about thousands Nigerian medical doctors who are practising in the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and others.
Sadly however, all of the above and even more have not really translated to true growth and development. No one would have believed some decades back that Nigeria in the year 2015, fifty-five years after independence would still remain within the comity of underdeveloped nations- with millions of poverty ridden populace, rickety cities, dilapidated structures, and huge infrastructural deficit.
It is completely inconceivable and out rightly unacceptable to have a country with proven oil reserves of 23 billion barrels, gas reserves of 160 trillion cubic meters, over 40 million tonnes deposits of talc, one billion tonnes of gypsum deposits, over 3 billion metric tonnes of iron ore in deposits and an estimated 10 million tonnes of lead/zinc veins spread over eight states of Nigeria to remain at bottom rung of development ladder.
People of the world wonder why a nation- with over 7.5 million tonnes of baryte (identified in Taraba and Bauchi States), large bentonite reserves of 700 million tonnes available in many states of the federation, proven reserves of both alluvial and primary gold in the schist belt of Nigeria (located in the south-western part of the country) and about 42 billion tonnes bitumen deposits; (about twice the amount of existing reserves of crude petroleum)- will have any of its citizen living below poverty line.
To many international observers, development analysts and financial donors, explanations can only be rooted in sheer lunacy and generational curse for a people with Coal (Nigerian coal is one of the most bituminous in the world owing to its low sulphur and ash content and therefore the most environment-friendly) of nearly 3 billion tonnes of indicated reserves in 17 identified coal fields and over 600 million tonnes of proven reserves.
It also has a total reserve of 1.5 million tonnes of salt- with salt springs at Awe and rock salt in Benue State; Gemstones in various parts of Plateau, Kaduna and an estimated reserve of 3 billion tonnes of good Kaolinitic clay identified in many localities in Nigeria with any support to remain where it is today after almost six decades of self rule.
Cash crops such as palm produce, cocoa and groundnuts which were also seen as vital export earnings and whose proceedings could be used to offset the massive cost of industrialisation and serve as essential ingredients to balance of trade made no significant impact. Window of opportunities provided by variety of cash crops and other raw materials that could have provided a sound export base on which economic development projects could be financed was also frittered away like a prodigal son.
We can only hope and pray that the CHANGE we voted for some months back will translate into meaningful growth and development of the economy where the gap between the haves and have-nots will be reduced and the common wealth will touch the lifes of the common men on the streets.