A few weeks ago, the World Bank released its annual poverty report. Once again, Nigeria was identified as one of the least successful countries in alleviating poverty since the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals fourteen years ago.

    The report stated that, “Almost three-fifths of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: Bangladesh, China, the DRC, India and Nigeria.”

    This comes as Nigeria develops into the largest African economy, and at the same time has more people out of work than at anytime of its history.

    We must ask our leaders and ourselves: How can Nigeria grow and the country continue to decline?

    Nigeria’s unemployment rate has continued to rise, currently estimated at a staggering 27%, with youth unemployment hovering around 55%. There is much that we can do to alleviate the stresses caused by population growth and unemployment.

    Three factors matter. First, the core of the issue begins with our education system, which has struggled to provide a quality education that would prepare our youth for the needs of our economy. Second, there has not been enough emphasis on infrastructural projects that could employ both skilled and unskilled labor, as well as rejuvenate local economies. Third, a coordinated effort by the government and the private sector to develop long-term projects, where laborers could be retrained to the needs of the project, would greatly impact the quality of life for Nigerians and grow the country’s human capital.

    Now more than any other time in its history, Nigeria needs inspiration, hope and a change in consciousness that emphasises hard work, accountability, trust and a long-term vision for the future. It is absolutely vital that this change be instituted at the top, whereby our leadership becomes the example that can be emulated nationwide.

    By focusing on poverty reduction Nigeria can also confront the momentum for terrorism and criminality. Disenfranchised youth and marginalized populations are prime targets for recruitment into terrorist activity.If Nigeria can manage to reincorporate thesepopulations through education, job training and the guarantee of a livable income, we will see fewer people looking to Boko Haram or criminality for a meal and a sense of security. In turn, the overall security of the nation will improve.

    As former Vice President of Nigeria, and a committed citizen ready to fight for Nigeria’s future, I believe that we must first and foremost make the Nigerian people the focus of every endeavor undertaken as a government, a society and an economy. Government projects should be initiated through direct communication with the local communities who are able to articulate how a project can be best implemented to service their needs. For any initiative or project to be sustainable and valuable it must have local buy-in from the onset.

    The World Bank poverty report foretold of an ominous future in which Nigeria will be among only 10 countries contributing to global poverty in 2030. We must not let a past culture of avarice, indiscretion and greed prevent us from making progress in the future. Nigeria needs to set and meet goals for combating poverty and create mechanisms to ensure that we are utilizing our resources wisely. If Nigeria does not change we not only risk embarrassing ourselves on the world stage, but more importantly the government would also squander the livelihoods and talents of the roughly 54% of our people living in extreme poverty.
    I remain fully optimistic that we can change the direction of poverty, unemployment, avarice and indiscretion and prove the poverty forecasters at the World Bank wrong. With diligence and focus Nigeria does not have to be doomed to a fate based on the assumption that we will carry on with business as usual. Nigeria has the opportunity to redefine itself and change the course of fate. To achieve this Nigeria must prioritize its people above all else. The time is now to change course and drive into a future filled with hope and opportunity and away from a past filled with hate and constant corruption.

    Seize the Day.