Magazine article The World Today

The Big Country

Magazine article The World Today

The Big Country

Article excerpt

Progress and crisis will march hand in hand in Nigeria, a country too vast to manage, argues Elizabeth Donnelly

In Nigeria's fast-changing social and political land- scape everything happens all at once. As part of a reform of the lamentably inefficient electricity gen- erating sector, 15 successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria were sold off last year for $2.5 billion. With a population of about 170 million, Nigeria had almost 212 million mobile phone subscrib- ers in 2012, according to its Communications Com- mission. Nigeria's overall score in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance is improving.

Leave the story there and Nigeria is heading for growth and development, as well as being Africa's big- gest democracy - a federation of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

But there is another tale that can be told. Nigeria is still languishing at No 41 out of 52 countries in the Ibrahim Index. According to the African Develop- ment Bank, 42 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to safe drinking water. An Afrobarometer survey puts Nigeria alongside Liberia, Uganda, Guinea and Zim- babwe for it paltry electricity provision. In the North East of the country, one of its poorest regions and heartland of the Boko Haram insurgency, entire com- munities are being torn apart.

Worrying statistics and macabre headlines can be found aplenty, and tell of insecurity, suffering and an increasingly fragile state.

Too often there is a split between those who focus on the positives and those who focus on the negatives. But the reality is that both narratives are correct. Just as the 'Africa Rising' narrative is incomplete since it is impossible to capture the diversity of trends and events on such an enormous and changing conti- nent at any single time, so is any similar narrative on Nigeria. It is too big, too diverse. …

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