How Great Is Nigeria! By Kenneth Okpomo
Nigeria is a great country. This is a fact that cannot be disputed. In five main categories I shall discuss the distinctive attributes of this country with a view to capturing the real depths and dimensions of her greatness.
With a land area of 923, 768 sq. Km (and an arable land area of about 34,000, 000 hectares), Nigeria is certainly a big and fecund country. The country’s savanna, mangrove and rainforest vegetation is distinctively suitable for various kinds of commercial and livestock agriculture. Crops such as millet, sorghum, cowpea, soybean, groundnut, tomato, sesame, melon, bean, cashew, tomato, onions, etc, grow well in the northern belt where livestock such as cattle, ram and goat are commonly reared. In the southern belt, palm kernel, cassava, plantain, yam, cocoyam, potato, cocoa bean, rubber, plantain, okra, grow well while poultry bird, goat, rabbit, snail, pig, etc, are commonly breed. Assorted sea animals are plentiful in the country’s expansive rivers and water bodies.
In terms of food sufficiency and the export market, Nigeria occupies a top spot on the African continent. The country is the leading cultivator of staple crops such as cassava (with annual production of up to 45 million tons) and yam (with annual production of over 30 million metric tons) as well as cash crops such as cocoa (with annual production towering above 140,000 tons) and natural rubber (with annual exports exceeding 60,000 tons). The country’s tropical monsoon, wet and dry, sahel and alpine climate is steady and reasonably predictable. Never in her annals have there been cases of extreme weather (such as heat waves, wildfire, cyclones or tornadoes) or deadly natural disasters (such as earthquakes, mudslides, volcanoes, avalanches or tsunamis).
With a population of over 190 million people (based on recent United Nations estimates), Nigeria remains the most populous country in Africa and, by extension, the most populous black country in the world. This population is a big commercial asset in terms of consumption levels and appetite which easily translates to high demand for essential goods and services.
- Natural Resources
Nigeria is blessed with abundant mineral resources which includes oil, gas, coal, limestone, tin, bitumen, granite, iron ore, zinc, lead, salt, tantalite, gemstone, bentonite, laterite clay, potash, bauxite, spring water, glass sand, to mention a few, most of which are yet to be fully exploited. In terms of quality, Nigeria’s Bonny light and Qua Iboe crude are among the finest in the world. In the oil-rich Niger-Delta region International Oil Companies such as Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Agip, among others, have extensive exploration platforms. In 2011 there were 37.2 billion barrels (5.91×109 m3) of proven oil reserves in the country (which ranked her as the biggest oil producer in Africa and the 11th biggest in the world). Potential gas production stands at 2.5 million barrels per day (362×103 m3/d) on average. However, due to the incessant and frequent restiveness in the oil-producing areas, production has dropped to an average of 1.5 million bpd in the current dispensation. The country has about 188 trillion standard cubic feet of gas reserves (which makes her the 7th most endowed gas nation in the world). At present the country produces about 1.35 Tcf of dry natural gas (which puts her among the world’s top 30 largest producers).
- Human capital
Nowhere else is the greatness of Nigeria more pronounced and accentuated than in human capital. Without doubts Nigerians are cerebrally knowledgeable and brilliant while being exceptionally entrepreneurial in disposition. Examples of this abound. Her past nationalist heroes (such as Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi AziKiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Anthony Enahoro, among others) had worked hard (through intellectual engagement and non-violent orchestration) to get political independence for the country from Great Britain, the colonial master.
In terms of medicine, Nigeria has first-class professionals. There are over 15,000 Nigerian doctors practicing abroad in fields such obstetrics, orthopedics, pathology, radiology, dentistry, among others. Recently a U.S.-based Nigerian doctor, Oluyinka Olutoye, made global headline when he performed a delicate surgery operation on a 23-week- old fetus – which he removed from the mother’s womb, operated upon, and then successfully returned with complication.
Philip Emagweali’s groundbreaking work on the Connection Machine had earned him the Gordon Bell Prize in 1989. In sports, Nigeria can boast of exceptional talents that have performed excellent feats. Soccer stars such as Kanu Nwakwo had played for big English clubs such as Portsmouth, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion. He won the UEFA Champion’s League medal, FA Community Shield, Olympic gold medal, among others. Jay Jay Okocha had played for Bolton Wanderers, Hull City, Paris St. Germain and Fernerbache, among others. He was named the BBC African Footballer of the Year and had taken the Golden Boot at the African Cup of Nations. Oguchialu Chijioke Onyewu currently plays for Charlton Athletic in the United States, Kelechi Iheanacho for Manchester Unity, Alex Iwobi for Arsenal, to mention a few.
In the financial sector, Nigeria has many sterling professionals. Lamido Sanusi, who as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria reformed the country’s ailing banking sector, was named the FORBES Person of the Year in 2011, World Central Bank Governor of the Year in 2011, sub-Saharan Central Bank Governor of the Year in 2011, and the African Central Bank Governor of the Year in 2010. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a two-term Finance Minister, who began the publishing in national newspapers the monthly allocation each state of the country received from the federal government to increase transparency in governance, had been the Managing Director of the World Bank.
In music, older generation musicians such as Jim Rex Lawson, Victor Olaiya, Victor Uwaifo, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, etc, had taken indigenous Nigerian music to international heights, thereby setting the stage for the latter generation. Today’s younger generation artistes such as Tuface, D’bang, Davido, Wizkid, Banky W, to mention a few, have conquered the musical world and struck fame and wealth with their eclectic style of music. Tuface has four MTV Africa Music Awards, Ice Prince won the BET Award for Best International Act from Africa in 2013, D’bang was named the bestselling African musician at the World Music Awards in 2014. In literature, Wole Soyinka won the highly coveted Nobel Prize in the 1980s, Chinua Achebe the Man Booker Prize in 2007, Ben Okri the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Best book, Africa region) in 1987 and the Booker Prize in 1991, to mention a few. I could write a full-length book on the many achievements of Nigerians both at home and abroad and still not be able to completely exhaust the topic.
- Tourism potentials
Tourist attractions abound. For example, the Ikogosi Warm Springs, Olumo Rock, Erin-Ijesha Waterfalls, Zuma Rock, Ogbunike Cave, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Tinapa Resort, Yankari Games Reserve, Gurara waterfalls, Okomu Forest Reserve, Kamji Dam, Gashaka Gumti National Park, and so on. There are also highly calibrated cultural festivals such as the Osun Osogbo, the Argungun fishing competition, and the New Yam, among others, which are spectacular and enthralling to witness. Nigeria’s tourism potential can earn her enormous foreign exchange if well harnessed.
- Cultural heritage
Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups and more than 500 spoken indigenous languages. The predominant ethnic groups are the Hausa-Fulanis (who constitutes 29% of the population), Yoruba (21%), Igbo (18%), Ijaw (10%), Kanuri (4%) , Ibibio (3.5%), Tiv (2.5%), according to the fact sheet on Nigeria by the Economic Section of United States Embassy in Nigeria that was published in 2012. Despite the increased upsurge of ethnic and regional agitations and the security threats in the North east, Nigerians remain inextricably united. Inter-ethnic marriages continue to take place to underscore the resolve of Nigerians to live peacefully together and the old bonds of brotherliness and solidarity.
Traditional rulers such as the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, Shehu of Borno, the Tor Tiv, Ooni of Ife, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba of Lagos, Oba of Benin, Obi of Onitsha, the Obong of Calabar, Amanyanabos of Ijaw land, Olu of Warri, among others, are strong testaments of the historic strength and prowess of traditional Nigerian kingdoms of the past. Traditional cuisines such as edikangikong, egusi soup, suya, moin moin, goat-head pepper soup (or isi-ewu), banga, etc, are nourishing and delicious. Some of them have made their mark in the intercontinental food market. Suya, for instance, has become a regular feature of the Notting Hill Carnival in London.
In 1977 Nigeria hosted the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (dubbed FESTAC’77) during which over 16,000 participants (from 56 countries in Africa and the Diaspora) came to Lagos for a month to showcase black values and civilization through enchanting cultural dances and displays as well as drama performances and poetry recitation.
In conclusion, from the foregoing, it is not farfetched to see that Nigeria is truly a great country. What remains is for her leaders to properly harness the above potential for sustainable development.
I am a graduate of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) with a degree in Sociology & Anthropology. I am currently enrolled for the M.Sc program in Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at the National Open University of Nigeria.
My research interests are in the areas of democracy and good governance, rural and urban development, poverty alleviation and economic empowerment, race and ethnic relations, among others. I have an immutable faith in the Nigeria and in her potentials and as a patriot, I will continue to project Nigerian values and cultures in positive light both at home and abroad.