3 Areas Where Nigerian Intellectuals Remain Disconnected From Reality

Last week, I got invited to attend a startup event. This event was organized by a leading business development body with the aim of discussing solutions and policy that could strengthen the tech ecosystem in Nigeria. The basis was simple; to bring tech startup founders to the same table with Nigerian intellectuals in policy.

Within the panel of five, I could spot a government official from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). And some of the things he said were utterly disgraceful. He showed not only a lack of understanding of the times, but also a lack of willingness to understand the times.

When asked what policies government have for startups

He said the government had done “so much” to help startups and businesses. What exactly this “so much” means is yet to be understood. Could he be referring to Tradermoni or the other free-for-alls that made absolutely no impact?

One may want to ask if he was referring to same government that banned Twitter – a place where thousands of people buy and sell products and services for free. A place where so many startups and businesses have been able to network and increase their brand awareness and profit? One may want to ask if he was referring to the same government that banned Crypto trading and okada in Lagos.

According to him, the youth are not hungry for innovation, research and entrepreneurship. How he came about this conclusion beats me. Despite the fact that Nigeria ranks as one of the least favorable places to do business on earth. The lack of electricity, multiple taxation and inconsistent policy drive investors away. Many young people have still found ways to innovate and create something for themselves.

Finally, after all the panelists had spoken, people in the audience were given permission to ask questions. The first question that was asked was,

“It seems that this panel has completely ignored that you cannot build an ecosystem that supports tech if there is no electricity. What is the government going to do about the light problem?”

One of the invited guests, a politician, promised to talk to the vice president about it. Needless to say that was just hogwash, which I believe is what they say when they need to get people off their backs.

What Happens On Paper Versus What Happens In Reality

According to Victor Asemota, Nigerian intellectuals depend so much on what they believe to be proof of knowledge. They do this while ignoring the obvious facts from people on the frontline. Real business in Nigeria is on the streets. Huge chunks of stuff are undocumented and underrepresented. We’re too far away from the reality down here.

“Ask farmers and traders why Garri is scarce and expensive. They know. You do not have to take the opinion of some far away Washington D.C think tank analyst as the final word the matter.”

Here are 3 key areas that look good on paper but are entirely different in reality in Nigeria;

1. Nigeria’s Rank On Ease Of Doing Business

Some Nigerian intellectuals believe that the difficulties of doing business in Nigeria is easing up. Why do they believe this? Well, because the World Bank said so.

Of the 190 countries surveyed in the latest Doing Business report by World Bank, Nigeria is ranked 131—15 places higher than last year. The country is also named among the top best 10 improving economies globally for implementing regulatory reforms across six of the report’s 10 indicators.

Predictably, the government has played up the jump in rankings as the result of the effort of a government committee created in 2016 to ease regulatory bottlenecks. President Muhammadu Buhari says the country’s goal is to break into the top 70 ranked economies by 2023.

While the government’s efforts to be conscious of easing business regulations are commendable, implementing any reform is another thing altogether. And, just like in previous years, there is ample evidence to suggest that regulatory moves are not translating into real impact for everyday business folks.

As the World Bank’s report mostly focuses on regulatory environment rather than their effects, progress on paper can easily clash with reality. For instance, getting credit, one of the report’s indicators, is measured by existing “movable collateral laws and credit information systems” rather than actual access to credit.

2. Some Nigerian Intellectuals Believe Paper Inflation

I googled inflation in Nigeria recently and according to Focus Economics, Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped further for the second consecutive month to stand at 17.93% in May 2021 from 18.12% recorded in April 2021. This is contained in the Consumer Price Index report, recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to the report, the consumer price index the inflation rate increased by 17.93% (year-on-year) in May 2021. This is 0.19% points lower than the rate recorded in April 2021 (18.12%). But a quick study on the actual streets on Nigeria that these numbers are far from true.

Someone is lying to us

They claimed that the closely watched index for food inflation dropped from 22.72% recorded in April 2021 to 22.28% in May 2021, indicating the second consecutive decline in the food index. The reality is, the prices of things have increased and are still increasing. In some instances, the price of food items have gone up by 100%.

3. Some Nigerian Intellectuals Think We Have A Democracy

According to Wikipedia,

“There is a good sign of democracy in Nigeria due to the fact that elections are becoming less fraudulent and there is more party competition. Another indicator of a strong democracy is the presence of a civil society in which citizens have the right to act and speak freely in concert with a strong use of media for everyday life.”

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like dark humor

The truth is there is no internal democracy and no strong leadership. There is no transparency and accountability in the political system. Voters do not get to choose who wins, because political parties make that decision for you. Those candidates are not their choice and not the right candidates. A typical Nigerian intellectual will take this quote from Wikipedia and use it as a basis for his/her argument.

With banditry and kidnapping on the rise, the government is almost always ready to negotiate.

However peaceful protests around the country gets an overly rash response. The government will send armed forces to stop (shoot) people from performing their civil rights. The federal government, months later, banned the use of Twitter in Nigeria because people used it to express how the really felt about the administration.

Meanwhile, you can look below to find some of our recent articles specially curated for you;


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