Bill Gates’ Challenge

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American billionaire and founder of Microsoft Corporation, Mr Bill Gates recently caused the Federal Government of Nigeria some discomfort and ignited a national discourse when he gave his verdict on the economic recovery template of the present administration.
Addressing stakeholders at the special session of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Thursday, March 22, 2018, Mr Gates faulted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, pointing out that the plan needs to be reworked if the country hopes to make progress and achieve sustainable economic growth and development.
According to the Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Nigerian government’s economic recovery blueprint is heavy on infrastructural development without a corresponding emphasis on human capital development, and therefore, could not be the solution to Nigeria’s economic woes.
In his words, “To anchor the economy over the long term, investment in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investment in the people.
“People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy”.
Mr Gates urged the Federal Government to have a rethink on the nation’s investment strategy and lamented a situation where Nigeria ranks among the worst places to give birth in the world even though it has capacity to be among Upper Middle Income status countries like Brazil, China, Mexico, etc.
The Tide salutes the courage and audacity of the American businessman for not only speaking the truth but telling it in no unambiguous terms right to the faces of the top actors and managers of the Nigerian economy.
We note that several other notable Nigerians within and outside the country had made similar observations. Personalities like the World Bank Director and former Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, former Governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, among others have, at various times, drawn attention to the nation’s economic drift while the government has remained lethargic, clueless and listening to itself alone.
Even though the economy is said to be exiting recession, the manufacturing sector has gone comatose, inflation rate remains double digit, cost of living remains very high, life expectancy keeps going down, businesses are folding up, the unemployment market is swelling unabated, while millions of jobs are lost every year. Worse, our young people continue to leave the country in droves in search of opportunities even as many of them die in the Mediterranean while others are sold into slavery.
It is sad that malaria is still a major killer in Nigeria while nearly all the countries of the world wait on us to sound a global death knell on polio. But for Sierra Leone, Chad and Central African Republic, Nigeria has the worst infant and maternal mortality record in the world while we have the most number of out-of school children in the globe. Yet, stagnancy, decay and disintegration characterise our educational sector due to systemic failure.
It is, indeed, curious and worrisome that the Buhari administration has no visible economic team to fashion a workable solution to the mountain of economic challenges facing the country; rather the cabinet is made up of square pegs in round holes.
It is against this backdrop that we urge the Federal Government to wake up from its siesta and respond appropriately to Mr Gates’ challenge by reordering its priorities and setting up the right framework for Nigeria’s economic recovery, growth and development. Action in this regard must be swift, pragmatic and diligent in order to stop the agonising and excruciating experience Nigerians are going through at the moment.
Perhaps, it is worth reminding the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government that there is greater honour and pride in uplifting the living conditions of the people than there can ever be in glory of electoral victory.