Bill Gates has been spitting some hard truth to the Nigerian government. We hope they listen.
It’s exactly what the doctor recommended for Africa’s sleeping giant.
Speaking at the expanded National Economic Council (NEC) meeting which held in Aso Rock on Thursday, March 22, 2018, Gates told his audience led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, that by focusing on physical infrastructure at the expense of its people, Nigeria is doing it wrong.
“The most important choice you make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people,” Gates began with a characteristic wry smile.
“Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest the health, education and opportunities – the ‘human capital’ we are talking about – then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognize that there will be sharp limit on how much the country can grow.
“I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investments in your people. The Nigeria government’s Economic and Recovery Growth Plan identifies ‘investing in our people’ as one of the three ‘strategic objectives’ but the ‘execution priorities’ don’t fully reflect people’s needs.
“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,” Bill Gates added without flinching.
Truer words have never been spoken.
In a chat with CNN, Gates doubled down on his criticisms of Nigeria.
“As a partner in Nigeria, I am saying the current plan is inadequate. Nigeria has all these young people and the current quality and quantity of investment in these young generations; in health and education just isn’t good enough. So, I was very direct,” he said.
“If they can get health and education right, they will be an engine of growth not just for themselves but for all of Africa.”
What Gates is saying is simple: Nigeria will only achieve its potential when its people achieve their individual potentials because a nation is only as prosperous as its people.
And Gates loves Nigeria. You can feel it. He has been doing humanitarian work in Nigeria for as long as anyone can remember. He has traversed rural Nigeria to see things for himself. He has interacted with locals and villagers, he has dined with Nigeria’s wealthy and powerful. As an outsider looking in, Gates knows that if Nigeria works, Africa works. This, for Gates, is tough love.
There is nothing Gates has said in the last couple of days that ordinary Nigerians like you and I haven’t been saying since we were born. But sometimes you need an 'Oyinbo' (white man) to make it sink. Nigeria badly needs a reset.
The nation’s human resource has been taking a beating since independence. Some teachers can’t even pass a Primary 4 test to save their lives and our universities are among the worst in the world. Our healthcare is so non-existent, Buhari and his family now fly abroad at the slightest hint of an ailment.
Nigeria has been on a steady decline since soldiers and politicians took knives to the table to share the national cake amongst themselves.
For far too long, we have allowed our human capital to deteriorate and rot. The effect is that across Nigeria, we now have political leaders bereft of values because they weren’t taught any better in schools. There is no civics, no discernible action plan from government. Just nothing. Nigeria has failed the world. And the world has every right to feel disappointed.
And like everyone else with a brain, Gates can see the untapped potential when he looks at Nigeria.
Bill Gates could have chosen to sing our praises like most foreign dignitaries and investors do when they come visiting. He could have belted those hackneyed lines of Africa and Nigeria being the next frontier for business and development. He could have told us that our natural resource is guarantee that we will never be poor.
He could have told Buhari that the man is on point with his economic recovery and growth plan. He could have worn our traditional attire, danced for show, touted our Jollof rice as the best on the continent and smiled for the cameras until he departs our shores—with only praises on his lips.
Instead, Gates has been speaking truth to power from Abuja to Lagos. He has been saying the things others won’t dare say when they dine with Nigeria’s rich and powerful. He has been speaking truth to power right inside the corridors of power. And he’s been saying it without giving a damn. It’s refreshing candor from abroad.
Move over, Igwe Tupac, Bill Gates is the one who deserves our accolades at this time. Worldwide.