The world richest man – Bill Gates’ speech to the Nigerian government and its people have gone viral on electronic and social media. This is because of the message and the messenger. The message conveys to the government of Nigeria the need to look beyond investing in infrastructural development to investing in the people. The messenger is a world renown humanitarian and philanthropist who has invested enormous resources in the health sector in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
Bill Gates’ message is expected on the ground that as expected, he has not seen commensurate results considering the resources his organisation has pumped into Nigeria’s health sector. He harped on the importance of investing in the health of the people when he says “if you invest in their health, education, and opportunities—the “human capital” we are talking about today—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 a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.” This corroborates the saying that a healthy nation is prosperous nation. A nation cannot grow and develop and attend prosperity when its population is not healthy especially the young and growing population.
The message painted a very pathetic picture about the life expectancy of Nigeria as a result of this poor investment, as the lowest even among the low income countries standing at 53 years when the average is 62 years. In addition to this, Nigeria is one of the dangerous places to give birth with the worst maternal health in the world, worst than countries we Nigerians called poor in Africa – Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad, adding that one in three child is chronically malnourished.
This is very dangerous for the nation as it is producing mentally retarded citizens. If the saying that “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” is anything to go by, then our future as a nation is bleak. This is because the present leaders are destroying the “grey-matter infrastructure” of the future generation of this country through malnutrition and high illiteracy rate by not investing in the health and education of the people – Nigerians.
The fears of Bill Gates expressed through his message are not out of place because he is development-oriented in nature who looks beyond the present into the far future. Unfortunately, the people he was addressing – the Nigerian politicians are not development-oriented and cannot see beyond their nose, parochial, short-sighted and self-seeking. They cannot see what Gates is seeing in Nigeria. Most of them saw that gathering as one of such events in the political activities of the government which can be used to score cheap political goals. Nigerians have seen and experienced situations where funds from donor bodies and international development partners meant for developmental projects and investments in people have been embezzled, misappropriated and looted by agents of the government. They see this kind of monies as gains they must appropriate to themselves for being in government and as their “cuts” from being able to facilitate and attract such monies into the country as the “contact” or “middle men”. So their interest is not to investing this money into projects that have direct developmental bearing or benefits to the people but on white elephant projects. It is unfortunate that Bill Gates does not see what Nigerian politicians are seeing and the later cannot think and reason like the former. This is where the problem is.
Therefore, it is important for Bill Gates, his foundation and other developmental organisations interested in Nigerian’s development in the real sense of it to stop giving Nigerian politicians money in the form of any aid and start to invest in creating new sets of politicians that can think and reason like the Bill Gates – Development-oriented politicians. Instead of treating the symptoms, there is the need for us to go to the root of these symptoms by treating the real problems. Bill Gates and other development partners should be interested in how Nigerian’s politicians emerge and what they are made up of. They should go as far as to the grassroots and communities to identify impeccable individuals who mean well for the nation and who want to serve through collaborations and partnerships with community based organisations (CBOs), faith based organisations (FBOs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are development-oriented in nature. They should work with organisations to ensure the emergence of this new class of politicians. When this is done, resources will be better channelled into development-oriented projects that have direct benefits to the people since people will be their focus. In the nearest future, Nigerians will not need Bill Gates to tell us the importance of investing in the people through investment in social infrastructures. The time to act is now while we can still remedy or repair the damage the current politicians have done the future “gray matter infrastructure” of this nation.
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