The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, has warned that Nigeria may become the world's capital of poverty within the next 30 years as a result of retrogressive policies, saying proactive steps must be taken by the government to avert the tragedy.
He gave the warning in his acceptance speech after he was inducted as an honorary member of the Sigma Club of the University of Ibadan on the campus of the institution at the weekend.The monarch said the values, which Sigma stands for and the values all Nigerians should all stand for "are precisely what are missing in national discourse today." The Emir who disclosed that he was in New York, United States of America recently for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), said one of the sessions he missed sadly, was a session anchored by Bill Gates, in which he spoke about global poverty and declining global poverty.
According to him, Gates had to throw attention of the world to the fact that sometimes when, "we look at big numbers and don't break them down to regions, we miss important issues.
"According to projections, if every country continues its present trajectory, by 2050, 80 per cent of all the poor people in the world will live on the African continent. But that is not the frightening thing. One half of this 80 per cent, will be in Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo. Two countries will account for 40 per cent of all the poor people in the world and Nigeria will therefore remain the poverty capital of the world."
Sanusi, a former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said, "This is a country that has produced many great people. This is a country that has boasted of best professors, greatest intellectuals, and the most educated people. Why is it that China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, ... People forgot that in 1960, United States advisory was that investors should come to Nigeria and not Japan because Nigeria had better prospects.
"In 1960, the per capital income in Nigeria was higher than what it was in South Korea, and China. My father was the first ambassador of Nigeria to China in 1972. In 1972, he had to go to Hong Kong every two weeks to buy essential commodities because they were not available in Beijing. He could not find milk, sugar and cornflakes in Beijing, he had to go to Hong Kong in 1972, not 100 years ago.
"In 1974, when Deng Xiaoping started opening up China, there were 700 million Chinese living in extreme poverty. Today, that number is down to only 30 million people in one generation. In 1974, China had only eight million university graduates. Today, China has more than 300 million university graduates, more than the entire population of the United States of America. Yet, China did not have direct foreign investments; in fact China stopped it. "We talk about miracles, ancient miracles. I don't like the word miracles because miracles are associated with angels with wings that you do not see, coming from the sky. The Chinese are human beings like us and they did it. When we say miracle, it sounds like something supernatural that has some certain powers to it. Every time you think about it, the only deficit we have is a policy deficit. "We will have elections in 2019, I read the papers, I look at the television, and listen to the discussions, who is talking about education? Who is talking about nutrition? Who is talking about basic health? As a country, what are our priorities? We don't have enough money for education."We don't have enough money for health. We don't have enough money for nutrition. But we have N1trillion or N2trillion to spend on petroleum subsidies. Where is our sense of what is important, and where is our investment in the future?
"So, for all Nigerians who care about this country, the real task before us is to know that we have 30 years on the outside in which we need to make sure that we do not become the poverty capital of the world, and slum of the world. "We say we are oil rich in this country because we forget simple arithmetic. Saudi Arabia is oil rich because the country produces one barrel of oil for every three citizens every day. They produce 10 million barrels of oil and their population is 30 million. In Nigeria, we produce two million barrels of oil for a population of 200 million."It is one barrel for every 100 Nigerians; one barrel for education, health, security, power, and agriculture. It is $50 for 100 million people really. The earlier we realise that we are not an oil rich country, the better. But we are a country rich in human resources and human capital. The earlier we realise that countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Israel have become what they have become, not because they have found oil or diamond or gold, but because they have realised the values of human beings. The earlier we begin to take the path that will change this very sad trajectory, the better for us.
"All those seeking political office, we hope will begin to join us, and we will continue to urge those outside politics to exert the right pressure on those in government to give us these policies, these thinking because that is the future of this country. "If you take Kano alone, today 58 per cent of all children under the age of five in Kano State suffer from chronic malnutrition. Out of that, 17 per cent has acute malnutrition. Globally, nine per cent is a crisis, but we have 17 per cent. Forty eight per cent of the children of all women of reproductive age suffer from anemia, iron deficiency. We have almost four million children out of school. We have one of the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality rate in the country. "These are the kinds of things that are not even featuring in political discourse. These are issues that confront us and these are the issues we must address to avert that future that has been so very tragically by Bill Gate and other economists. "So, I remain hopeful, and I am an incurable optimist. I still believe that it is not too late and when you look at countries like China that has done it, I believe it can be done in Nigeria. You can just look at what Lagos has done to itself. You can look at Rwanda, which has just come out of war. You can look like Ethiopia. Look at Kenya of recent. You can look at Ghana and Senegal."Within Africa, we are having countries that are becoming excellent examples of what we can do with just a little bit of good thinking, combined with the right values. Our people have the ability, they are resilient, hard working and intelligent. I do hope that these values will lead the way in transforming this country," he said.