By Ingye Dooyum

“Alea iacta est”— the die is cast.- Julius Ceaser
I begin this piece by drawing the readers’ attention to my disposition as an avid realist who does not swim in delusions of utopian optimism AKA false hope. This is why in an attempt to picture Nigeria in 2040, I will be true to the facts of historical trajectory as the baseline for my forecast on the possible future of Nigeria in the next two decades. Also, as a political scientist whose inquiry is largely influenced by behavioralism, I would focus on indices such as population, education, health, economy, and insecurity to make my prognosis.

While there are many other commentaries on the state of affairs in Nigeria by the press, laymen and academia alike, this piece adds to the retinue of opinions that already exist on specifically difficult issues that coalesce into the Nigerian situation. A situation that has over the years remained hopeful delusion doused in pride.

Reputed to be the giant of Africa, the most populous black nation since her independence in 1960 has initiated series of lofty developmental policies, agenda, roadmap and ambitious visions aimed at sectorial and national development, but without yielding the set out goals in the end even though each of these was crafted with fanfare and bravado. A ready example to suffice in this regard in the last decade is the vision 2020 which aimed to push Nigeria to the top 20 world economies.

Yet, here, we are, still a poor nation.

Post-independence Nigeria saw her population stand at over 40 million people. By 2015, we had climbed close to 200 million. Currently, it is projected that Nigeria’s population will rise to 400 million by 2040. It is, important to note that there are no accompanying policies short term or long term,  designed to provide for the requirements and challenges of this increasing population. Already, we have begun seeing the consequences of a bloated, grossly-unequal,  uneducated, mis-educated and unemployed population. Now, what does this trajectory population growth coupled with the myriad economic and political drawbacks portend to the future of a country divided along ethnic and religious lines?

First, we have a poor educational system incapable of training the youth who make up a significant proportion of Nigeria’s increasing population. Every year, the increasing number of universities in Nigeria graduate thousands of mostly half-baked and poorly equipped students into the labour market. This is because the standard of the Nigerian education has dropped to its nadir. There are very poor educational facilities to teach students. Till date, computer students of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi ironically confide in me that they do not know how to use a computer because they have never had any practical computer lessons.  Most importantly, the form of education taught in Nigeria is out of touch with the realities of the country’s present material condition. There is no readiness to reform or change to suit the demands of our cultural milieu. By 2040, the world will be completely ICT driven, economies will be totally based on technology. But where would a country like Nigeria be? Nigeria needs no soothsayer to spell the unproductivity which would characterize her labour market by then.

There is adamance and unwillingness to aid the Nigerian medical sector in evolving into a sophisticated institution, capable of rendering medical help not only to the increasing population of Nigerians, but to foreigners as well. Few days ago, the PUNCH newspaper reported that “the shortage of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the international market is caused by a surge in the demand by the European Union and a new policy by India which manufactures the vaccine. India had said last week that it would prioritize domestic vaccination for its over 1.2 billion citizens, thereby causing a shortage in developing nations like Nigeria.” The picture I am trying to paint is: India, previously an undeveloped country, has evolved to a point where she takes critical decisions affecting other countries because of its production capacity. A country like India might occupy a hegemonic position in the world by 2040 above Nigeria, as is today. Our production capacity is low. We are a consumer nation with low purchasing power. As the so-called giant of Africa, we do not possess the machinery or expertise to produce the services we require.

Another issue to consider is Nigeria’s unemployment rate. The development and survival of a country is highly dependent on her level of human resources’ empowerment. In Nigeria, unemployment has been an ever-recurring problem. In 2016, almost 21 million Nigerians – that is over 10% Nigerians – were classified as unemployed. By 2019, this percentage rose to 23.1%. It was at this point that Nigeria acquired the title of poverty capital of the world. Unemployment has become a major socio-economic challenge, resulting in an increase in criminal activities such as banditry, herdsmen terrorism, religious terrorism, cybercrime, and increased militancy, general violence in relationships, kidnappings, restiveness, and socially delinquent behaviour. A doctor of philosophy from Tanzania once told me that there will be war in Nigeria in the next 50 years, citing the increasing unemployment as a major cause of that impending war. In Nigeria, criminal activities and restiveness is increasing daily. In Sankera axis of Benue State, a group of uneducated and unemployed political thugs have risen to form a structured militia that kills and plunders at will. It is clear by now that they have overwhelmed all the state’s attempts to crush them. In the core north, banditry has become a lucrative business for all youth who wish to shake off poverty. These bandits are known for their notoriety. From Zamfara, they have opened up shops in Katsina, Kaduna, Abuja, Niger, Plateau. In some quarters, it is claimed that they collaborate with religious terrorists who have cells in the above mentioned states. The government at state levels aid these criminals by providing them amnesty packages which they use to purchase more weapons. Every day, these crop of criminals recruit younger, unemployed northerners into their rank.

In the North, it seems these criminals are spurred and united by Islam. Infact, Olusegun Adeniyi states that “according to security sources, there is a nexus between kidnappings for ransom and terrorism as well as between gold prospecting in Zamfara State and the general wave of criminality by herdsmen that has spread to the southern part of the country with dire implications for national peace and security. For instance, a clear pattern has emerged between ISWAP and kidnappings with many of the herders implicated as foot soldiers. “Most of the herdsmen you see all over the place, whether in the north or south, kidnapping, raping and maiming people are employees of a larger terror network. They kidnap but the ransom does not go to them”. What is brewing now in northern Nigeria is, on a large scale, multi-faceted, and interconnected terrorism networks with links to deadly international terrorists’ organization such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, etc. In other words, the real terror is coming in the years to come, to a country with poorly equipped and over-stretched security system. 

Nigeria is making no effort to reclaim the youth who have been lost to the criminal world; there is no concrete attempt to train others who idle at home. Entrepreneurship is equally a huge joke in Nigeria, and the Nigerian state seems to be oblivious of the huge profit made from ICT. 
By and large, we have to ourselves a country divided along ethnic and religious lines. To more accurately foretell her future, one must consider this division as a paramount problem. Today, our ethnic and religious differences threaten the indivisibility of Nigeria, but Nigeria has always been divided. This existing disparity and disagreement has been intensified lately by the ill luck of having an ethnic chauvinist as president. The wave of ethnic nationalism currently permeating across the country, symptomic of a political fracture, would further deepen mistrust and disunity in Nigeria by corroborating Late. Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s enduring thesis that the unity of Nigeria is merely a British intention. With the domestic historical trajectory of Nigeria, the country two decades away would be on this precipice. Not only would the duo, Chief Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, be famous ethnic nationalist; more would emerged.

Hitherto, the Eastern region has been seeking to break away from Nigeria. They had tried it in the past during the 60s, and it resulted to a civil war. The emergence of Buhari, and the violent manner which he responded to IPOB agitations intensified the call for the creation of Biafra Republic. Okenyi Kenechi correctly describes the Biafra situation in East thus ‘the truth that we have refused to tell ourselves is that IPOB will bring the Eastern political establishment down. The battle for the soul of the East is raging. What is, however, not clear is what will happen when they achieve this aim. The mentality that propelled some youths to take bullets for Nnamdi Kanu when soldiers invaded his father’s house, thereby allowing him to escape should get all the politicians in the East asking themselves real questions.’ Already, an Eastern Security Network has been established by Nnamdi Kanu; it is only a matter of time before they pick arms against the Nigeria state.

In Western and  Central Nigeria, the calls for secession is gathering momentum as the people are weary from the structural imbalance which gives the north an advantage over other regions and the mass killings by Fulani herdsmen. Meanwhile, in the North, most northerners – religious fanatics mainly – prefer a caliphate. They consider Nigeria a haram, an aberration. The only good thing they see in Nigeria is the ‘oil money’. Now, the brief description given to these agitations does not commensurate the energy and resources channeled for the balkanization of Nigeria. The desire and passion to see Nigeria broken into different parts is real. Some of us who like to humour ourselves as members of the intellectual class, tired of the recurrent leadership failures, also desire to see Nigeria dissolved; not because of ethnic reasons, but out of the conviction that individually, the separated parts will develop faster devoid of membership of those who wish to kill others on the basis of their non or divergent beliefs. All who desire will have the opportunity to build their societies based on humane and secular values. 

Calls are growing, fiercely, consistently, expanding, and spreading like a bushfire. The only thing holding Nigeria is the money gotten from crude oil which is shared among Nigeria leaders. That, too, stands threatened. Very soon, Nigeria’s oil resources would fetch less money than it is now. This is because, the international market is shifting focus to renewable energy. Crude oil is no longer the ‘bride’.  By 2040, the demand of oil would have been greatly reduced. Nigeria would then have nothing to fall back on because she neglected her agricultural sector and failed to use the abundant solar energy at her disposal to tap heavily from the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the power of Digital Technology and Robotics. In 20 years time, with low or no oil revenue, the terms which keep Nigeria existing might be revisited. A second option would be to adopt a full federalism where every region will manage itself without support from the Federal government. However, between the two, whatever the structural arrangement arrived at, in the next twenty years, the atmosphere in Nigeria will be characterized by conflicts of various nature; terrorists declaring their caliphates, criminals marking their territories, and the poor masses forcefully taking back what  corrupt political leaders had taken from them. To salvage what is left, the military might be forced to step in to hold the table for discussions of secession or complete federalism.

Nonetheless, in 20 years time, we will succinctly fit Thomas Hobbes description of ‘the state of nature’.

(c) Ingye Dooyum 2021