ACCORDING to a report that was recently published in the Washington Post newspaper, Nigeria is the worst country in the entire world to be born in.
The report, based on a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), examined 80 countries and used a scoring system comprising 11 variables to determine "which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead."
The study incorporates hard data on aspects such as economic opportunity, health standards and political freedoms, plus subjective "quality of life" surveys and economic forecasts for 2030, the year in which an infant born today will eventually enter adulthood. Even gender equality, job security (as measured by unemployment statistics), violent crime rates and climate are taken into account.
I used to be a Copy Editor at the EIU's London office when I was younger and I developed a deep affection for the organisation - which was widely respected - then. But everyone makes mistakes from time to time and the authors of this study have definitely gotten it wrong on the Nigerian front.
I am rapidly losing faith in Nigeria and spend most of my time in the UK nowadays. But even I think that it is strange and ridiculous for anyone to describe Nigeria as the worst country to be born in!
OK so Nigeria is nowhere near Paradise, thanks to the Boko Haram menace and many other dysfunctions, including the fact that it is riddled with various forms of oppression. Furthermore, nothing works well enough in Nigeria. Then there's the constant, never-punished sexual harassment of women by men who have the power to make or break them; and the paralysing cronyism, rigged elections, chronic corruption, awful schools, deadly hospitals; and so on.
But - trust me! - Nigeria is like heaven on earth compared to some of the alternative locations I have found myself in over the years. Nigeria is, for example, considerably less grim than Poland, considerably less frustrating than The Gambia and considerably less boring than Belgium!
And I don't suppose that being born in war-torn Syria is much fun right now. Or that being born in the freezing cold wasteland known as Siberia is ever going to be a barrel of laughs. Or that being born in Afghanistan is the best thing that can happen to a girl at a time when Islamic extremists are targeting Afghan females who dare to seek education. Or that all of the parents of the 20 American children who were murdered by a gun-toting madman last month will breathe a sigh of relief and say "We are so glad that our kids were born in a country where any trigger-happy lout can buy a rifle."
John, an English journalist friend - who has criss-crossed the globe in the line of duty for four decades and visited Nigeria and every key country on every single continent - totally agrees with me.
"I am completely shocked by the EIU's verdict because there are so many places that are so much worse than Nigeria - either overall or in at least one or two important ways!" he exclaimed when, thinking that my reaction might be clouded by patriotism, I asked him to offer an objective opinion.
Ah well. Never mind. It'll be interesting to hear from Vanguard readers whether they would have chosen to be born Nigerian. I don't think I would have, to be honest. What about you?