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It was a bad news for Nigeria last week when the Mo Ibrahim Index for African Governance rated it lower than its previous position in the ranking scale. The latest rating, for Nigeria, was made worse by the fact that no African leader was qualified for the 2013 prize of the initiative, the fourth time in a row. Out of the 52 African countries rated by the Foundation, Nigeria ranked the 41st position.
With the latest ranking, Nigeria fell eight places since 2000, and scored 43.4 per cent, lower than the African average of 51.6 per cent. What this meant was that governance impact improved marginally by 0.8 per cent since 2000, coming 13th out of 16 in the West African region as rated by the Foundation. Another proof of her dismal performance, according to reports, was evident in the fact that she scored lower than even the regional average of 52.5 per cent for West Africa.
In the breakdown, the Foundation premised Nigeria’s performance across four categories of governance: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development. Nigeria, in the rankling, recorded a notable decline in its score for Participation & Human Rights. Participation & Human Rights measures the protection of human rights, civil and political participation, and gender issues. But the country’s showing improved in the Human Development category by emerging 33rd out of 52.
The Boko Haram insurgency, it is believed, was responsible for her very low score in the category of Safety & Rule of Law, where she was rated 42nd out of 52. But Nigeria got her highest rating in the Public Management sub-category, where she finished in 14th place out of 52 countries, but ranked lowest in the Personal Safety sub-category, emerging in the 49th position out of 52.
Coming almost 10 months after the Transparency International rated Nigeria the 35th most corrupt nation, the basis of which was founded on good governance, the Mo Ibrahim rating seemed a major setback for the President Goodluck Jonathan transformation agenda. Transparency International had in December last year posted Nigeria to the 35th position in its 2012 report, indicating that Nigeria scored 27 out of a maximum 100 marks to occupy the 139th place out of the 176 countries surveyed in the report.
That ranking automatically moved Nigeria up four places from its ranking of 143 out of the 183 nations surveyed by TI in the previous year. The country was ranked 134 out of 178 surveyed nations in 2010; 130 out of 180 nations in 2009; 121 out of 180 in 2008; 147 out of 180 countries in 2007; and 153 out of 180 surveyed nations in 2006.
But the federal government may not be as bothered about the rating when it said the marginal improvement was an indication that the Jonathan administration was fighting corruption head-on. In that 2012 Corruption Perception Index ranking, which changed from a 2011 score range of 0-10 to a range of 0–100 in terms of cleanliness in perception of corruption in the public sector, Nigeria was ranked 14th in West Africa, while Cape Verde was ranked 1st in the region and 39th globally with a score of 60.
Ghana was ranked second in West Africa with a global ranking of 64 and a score of 45, while Guinea came last in the sub-region with a global ranking of 154 and a score of 24 out of 100. The report also showed that countries like Togo, Mali, Niger and Benin fared better than Nigeria, having improved in their fight against graft.
Interestingly, it was not all the bad news for Nigeria in the week that just ended. Nigeria, after months of canvassing for an inclusion in the United Nations Security Council, last week, got elected to occupy one of the non-permanent seats on the council. Nigerian and four other candidates, endorsed by regional groups, faced no opposition, as there were no contested races for the first time in several years.
The five new non-permanent members were elected in the first round of voting by the 193-member General Assembly. Lithuania was the top vote-getter with 187 votes followed by Nigeria and Chile with 186 votes, Chad with 184 votes and Saudi Arabia with 176 votes. An excited President Jonathan had welcomed the development and conveyed Nigeria’s appreciation of the support of all member countries of the UN who voted for the country’s election.
In like manner, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had rated the country’s economy as strong. This disclosure by the IMF was captured in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) which was a part of the pre-meetings events of the 2013 IMF/World Bank annual meetings. The IMF explained that higher oil prices at the international market showed strong economic prospects for Nigeria despite the challenges the country is currently facing. The institution also projected a real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7.4 per cent for Nigeria in 2014, which is higher than its 6.2 per cent projection last year
There was also the rating of the Nigerian economy by a global rating agency, Fitch Ratings, which the presidency had already described as an acknowledgement of the landmark reforms being undertaken by the present administration. This, the presidency added, was an acknowledgment of government’s efforts in overhauling the power and agricultural sectors as well as the growing investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy. The ratings had affirmed Nigeria’s long-term foreign and local currency IDRs and senior unsecured bond ratings at ‘BB-‘ and ‘BB’ respectively, saying the country’s outlook remains stable.
“Nigerians will particularly note that the painstaking and transparent execution of critical components of the power sector road map launched by President Goodluck Jonathan shortly on assumption of office has been commended by economic experts and analysts, who described it as one of the largest singular privatisation exercise in the world,” said the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, while reacting to Fitch’s rating.
The president personally does not regard the ratings as such, hence Jonathan at a recent media chat described corruption perception in the country as exaggerated by the local media, adding that graft in the country was tolerable.
But such a defence, critics have argued, cannot adequately make up for the obvious dismal performance of the government as evident in critical sectors of the economy. Unfortunately, each time the government got a knock for poor showing in any sector of the economy, its spin doctors and related agents are quick to dispel it, while presenting boisterous data of improved economy that have hardly translated into any tangible results as well as improve the living standard of the growing population of the masses.
Placed side-by-side the impressive assessment of the economy by respectable international institutions, the question that comes to mind is why have all of these not reflected in the living standard of the average Nigerian, many of whom still live below a dollar per day? Instead, in parallel weight to the growing and stable economy is an ever increasing poverty rate and unemployment that’s among the worlds’ highest.
This, of course, bears weighty implications for Nigeria and indeed, Africa. Former Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim, and chairman of the Mo Ibrahim prize committee, projected that there would be no winner for the second straight year. The reason is simple: that they would not lower the bar of excellence required to win the lucrative prize.
The award which usually goes to a democratically elected African leaders who demonstrated exceptional leadership, served their mandated term and left office, did not find any leader worthy of the coveted prize, an indication of a steady decline in the quality of leadership in Africa, Nigeria inclusive.
Sadly, the Foundation has only awarded the annual prize three times since it was established in 2007; in addition to two special awards presented to South Africa's Nelson Mandela and South African former archbishop Desmond Tutu. The last laureate was former Cape Verde President Pedro Pires, who won in 2011.
Former Irish President, Mary Robinson, who is on the Foundation Board, defended the decision not to award the prize and questioned how often such a prize would have been awarded in Europe. "We couldn't find a leader of that excellence. We didn't ever expect that we would award it every year," Robinson said, technically concluding that there are not many good leaders on the continent.
Those apart, the index also found that 94 percent of Africa's population lives in countries that have witnessed an overall improvement in governance since 2000 and showed a widening span in performance between the best and worst governed countries. The top five countries stayed the same, with Mauritius topping the index scoring 83 out of 100. Botswana (78) has overtaken Cape Verde (77), ahead of the Seychelles (75) and South Africa (71). Somalia remained at the bottom with a score of just eight, way behind Democratic Republic of Congo (31), Eritrea (32), Central African Republic (33) and Chad (33).
The index's biggest risers since 2000 are Liberia, up 25 points to 50 points, currently ranked 29; Angola up 18 points to 45, ranked 39 and Sierra Leone up 15 points to 48 and ranked 31.The biggest falls since 2000 are Madagascar down 12 points to 46, now at 37th position; Eritrea down six points to 32, now at 50th position and Guinea-Bissau down two points to 37 and now at 46th position.
A disappointed Salim however noted that "Neither Afro-pessimism nor Afro-optimism does justice to modern Africa. This is now the age of Afro-realism- an honest outlook on our continent. It's about a celebration of its achievements but also a pragmatic acknowledgment of the challenges that lie ahead."
Against this backdrop, the Nigerian government and her economy have continued to be subjected to critical analyses in recent times, one of which is the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal 2012 Index of Economic Freedom which ranked the country 116. There is also the 2010 KOF Index of globalisation that ranked Nigerian 93. In the World Bank 2012 Ease of doing Business Index, Nigeria ranked 133.
Looking at Nigeria’s health indicators, the International Food Policy Research Institute 2011 Global Hunger Index ranked Nigeria 40. Assessing politics in Nigeria, Fund for Peace 2012 in its Failed State Index, ranked Nigeria 14. On the Reporters Without Borders 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index, Nigeria ranked 126 while on the Economist Intelligence Unit 2011 Democracy, Index Nigeria ranked 119.
On the Property Rights Alliance 2008 International Property Rights Index, Nigeria ranked 107, while on the Economist Intelligence Unit: Quality-of-life Index, the country ranked 108 but on the Economist Intelligence Unit: 2013 Where-to-be-born Index, Nigeria ranked 80 out of 80.
Such poor index ratings have not stifled Nigeria from brandishing whatever could enhance her image. The Standard and Poors, an international rating agency, which noted that the Nigerian economy remains strong with a stable macro-economic outlook had pointed to an improvement and gave the country an impressive BB minus rating. Indeed, this had increased the adrenalin of the advocates of the present administration.
Speaking recently at the Annual Meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, the United States, during a joint press briefing with the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the rating had also confirmed the Fitch rating of 2012, which put Nigerian economy in the positive light.
“We have the outcome of the 2013 rating which is a very positive one; the rating confirms the ongoing rating stance which is BB minus with a stable outlook. So, they have confirmed that the rating we had last year stands, which means that many positive things are happening in this economy.
“They have also acknowledged the challenges we have of course and they have looked at those, but the summary is that in spite of these challenges, they think that the Nigerian economy is strong and the macro-economic indicators strong. The monetary policy and fiscal stance are strong enough for us to maintain a very good rating we had before,” she said.
On the fiscal side, she noted that the rating agency said Nigeria’s GDP growth would remain strong in 2013 through 2016 buoyed by non-oil sector growth.
"The agency also views the economy positively in the light of the redeemed N1.7 trillion Non-Performing Loans purchased by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), which will be finally written off its books," Iweala said.
Standard and Poors also underscored the non-oil sector development, especially growth in agriculture, retail, telecoms and power as positive.
The CBN Governor, on his part, said the agency’s assessment of the Nigerian economy aligns with the difficult global economic environment, which had seen countries like the United States being downgraded. He said the external factors were almost beyond policy control, but that the current stable rating would be upgraded if the current fiscal and monetary policies were maintained and institutions further strengthened.
But many Nigerians think otherwise. They are of the opinion that the average Nigerian is not feeling the impact of governance. Poverty, they say, is still widespread, while the number of out-of-school population among the youths is high. Infrastructure deficit affects the everyday living of the people while insecurity is an all time high.
This was reflected in the rating by National Human Development Reports for Nigeria 2013, which puts the nation at 153 on its
Human Development Index. In fact, this rating is directly contrary to the MO Ibrahim rating, which showed improvement in Nigeria's human development index. The ranking specifically looked at life expectancy at birth, which was put at 52.3 years; years of schooling of adults put at 5.2 years. The inequality-adjusted HDI value was put at 0.276 while multidimensional poverty index was put at %0.310.
Each year since 1990, the Human Development Report has published the Human Development Index (HDI) which was introduced as an alternative to conventional measures of national development, such as level of income and the rate of economic growth. The HDI represents a push for a broader definition of well-being and provides a composite measure of three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and income.
Nigeria's HDI is 0.471, which gives the country a rank of 153 out of 187 countries with comparable data. The HDI of Sub-Saharan Africa as a region increased from 0.366 in 1980 to 0.475 today, placing Nigeria below the regional average. The HDI trends tell an important story both at the national and regional level and highlight the wide gaps in the well-being and life chances that continue to divide nations in the global village.
The competing figures and rating notwithstanding, many Nigerians still nurse a sense of disappointment. National women leader, Veteran Group for Operation Clean Crusade (VGOCC), Mrs. Funmi Olade Ajayi, said government must look beyond mere statistics in addressing the arrays of problems confronting Nigerians.
"Poverty, caused by widespread corruption is never reflected in the statistics that the federal government presents. For as long as people live below poverty line, especially in a country as Nigeria where there are numerous natural resources, such government has failed the people. The numerous unfavourable indexes with which Nigeria is known are not by any means targeted at debasing us, rather, they are the true reflection of our original plights that need urgent correction," she said.
Former Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Tom Ohikere, shared similar perspective. He believed that bad leadership is more prevalent than good leadership, which he said had culminated into characteristic nature of governance such as: "total system collapse, misplaced priority, corruption and poverty."