Did Jonathan Play Any Role In Nigeria’s New GDP Figure? By Sam Nda-Isaiah
Is Nigeria’s new GDP figure of $510 billion real? Yes, it definitely is. And it is very logical. Did Jonathan play any role in pushing Nigeria to become Africa’s largest economy? Absolutely not! If there is any role Jonathan played at all, it is in making true the World Bank’s assertion that the number of poor people – that is, people living on less than $1.25 a day, the international baseline for poverty – in Nigeria increased drastically under his presidency.
I decided to do this piece today because many people have called me to express doubts about the new figure. And because people do not trust the Jonathan government, and rightly so, they think that the president may be doing it to claim credit in preparation for the 2015 presidential election which he is so desperate about. My answer to all of them is that the figure definitely makes sense, and thanks to the resilience of the Nigerian people who have been able to achieve this in spite of the very bad governments they have had to contend with. But whether President Jonathan will attempt to use it or not, we will see. There are so many lies that Jonathan and his people are already bandying about their achievements in transforming our lives that I cannot put anything past them.
But coming back to the economy and our leapfrogging South Africa, I totally agree with the new figures. If you compare the economic activities on mere face value in the major cities of South Africa – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – with the economic activities in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Onitsha and Aba, you’d not need any convincing that Nigeria is a much bigger economy. No one needed to convince MTN, the South African telecommunications company, to relocate its headquarters from South Africa to Nigeria within a few years of operating in Nigeria, in spite of the fact that it is much easier to do business in South Africa, as you do not need to source your own power supply and other infrastructure there. Since the collapse of Apartheid, South Africa’s big businessmen who are mainly whites have been trooping into Nigeria to take advantage of the size of our market. It is we that do not know what we have. Yes, the South African economy is more sophisticated and they clearly outpace us in the vital sectors of manufacturing and tourism but on a cumulative basis, we are much bigger. And if the GDP figures that we have been showing the world is the one that was worked out 24 years ago, then, the current figure certainly makes sense. If 24 years ago we had active telephone lines of a little over 300,000 and today we have 120 million, then, the 1990 figure and the 2014 figure cannot nearly be the same. Twenty-four years ago, the internet was non-existent in Nigeria; today, there are 55.9 million Nigerians on the internet, more than the entire population of South Africa, many of them involved in one form of e-commerce or the other. South Africa has a population of 52 million people with 20 million internet users. Only seven countries – China, USA, India, Japan, Brazil, Russia and Germany – have more internet users than Nigeria. Nigeria has more internet users than the United Kingdom, France and Indonesia.
Twenty-four years ago, there was virtually no Nollywood or Kannywood. Today, Nigeria is the third largest producer of films in the world after Hollywood (USA) and Bollywood (India). Twenty-four years ago, the richest man in Africa was Nicky Oppenheimer, a white South African; today, Aliko Dangote is by far Africa’s richest man. While Aliko Dangote is worth more than $20 billion, the second richest is Johann Robert, a South African worth $7.9 billion. Nicky Oppenheimer is now third with a networth of $6.6 billion. All these are solid indicators.
But if Jonathan wants to claim credit for the new GDP figure, we will be happy to listen to him as he tells us how he contributed to the increase from 300,000 phone lines to 120 million phone lines. We will be glad to know how he contributed to making Nollywood the third largest film industry in the world. We will also be glad to hear how he contributed to the internet penetration in Nigeria and how he contributed to the making of mega banks in Nigeria.
In the last seven years, nearly 50 million people in Nigeria have joined the league of desperately poor people in the world, and most of them coming in the years Jonathan has been in Aso Rock. Nigerians would be glad to know how the Nigerian president has managed to achieve this feat. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the World Bank also named India and China as countries harbouring large numbers of poor people. She forgot to add that while Nigeria under their government was adding 50 million people to the poverty list in the last seven years, India lifted 138 million people out of poverty in the corresponding period. China did even much better.
Nigerians are very resilient and hardworking. The new GDP figure shows what results Nigerians can achieve in spite of the fact that they produce their own electricity, sink their own boreholes and, in the past four years since Jonathan came, provide their own personal security. In another decade, we can double this GDP figure and lift 100 million people out of poverty if we get the right leadership starting from next year.
Our situation is so bad that even President Robert Mugabe, one of the world’s worst leaders who has ruined his country’s economy, has started ridiculing us. Mugabe recently warned his people against becoming as corrupt as Nigerians. Mugabe of all people? Is this the president of the same country that has 94 per cent unemployment rate and one where you need as much as a billion Zimbabwean dollars to buy a tiny loaf of bread? Mugabe destroyed his country’s economy to the extent that they had to stop using their own currency. They now use the US dollar, the South African rand, the Japanese yen, the Botswana pula, the Chinese yuan, the British pound and the Australian dollar. Is this the same man that is talking? It’s not his fault. If we had not had the kind of leaders we have, we would not now have to face the total disgrace of a Mugabe taunting us. But, no matter how bad Nigeria may be, we will never keep a 90-year-old man as president.
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