Nigeria’s Gini score in 2010 was 0.4296, showing a remarkably unequal society with large sum of the GDP going to the pockets of the super rich and oil marketer, leaving the rest for 60% of Nigerians to share at the rate of $1 a day.
Two years ago, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) released a documentary called Welcome To Lagos. It told the story of about a thousand Nigerians living on a rubbish dump in Lagos, scavenging, and picking out their livelihood by selling the discarded lives of the luckier inhabitants of Lagos.
The documentary showcased people like Eric Obuh, Esther Ogunleke, and Joseph Orji’s among others who just happen to make a living trading the garbage of others. These individuals are the representatives of the 60% of Nigerians who must live on less than $1 a day. The fact that so many people must make do with so little when the country boasts a GDP of $418.7 billion shows how skewed the distribution of economic resources is. Also, their home sits just minutes from a major highway in the financial capital of the country and this makes their situation a glaring depiction of the incredibly unjust society we have built.
While the stories told in the BBC documentary were compelling, what interested me the most was the official response of the country’s political leadership and that of many prominent Nigerians. The Lagos State Government and Federal Government, decided to feel insulted and to whine about their image without a thought for those people they have failed so completely. The dismissal of the difficult lives these people lead shows how little our government cares about the inefficient system they nurture. Income inequality is just not a moral inefficiency but an economic one as well. It creates pockets of destitute young people who often get violent and who must then be placated with scarce resources not to mention their wasted potential.
A concept that better explains my point is the Gini Coefficient. The concept measures a country’s level of inequality against an ideal of perfect equality, which is represented by 0, and perfect inequality, measured at 1. Nigeria’s Gini score in 2010 was 0.4296, showing a remarkably unequal society with large sum of the GDP going to the pockets of the super rich and oil marketer, leaving the rest for 60% of Nigerians to share at the rate of $1 a day.
Extensive income inequality has many adverse symptoms. It increases the burden of disease in a society and thus puts undue pressure on health systems. Inequality breeds corruption and above all hurts the economy of the country. In Nigeria, one can make a strong case on how income inequality has directly led to systemic violence both in the North and Southern parts of the country. The North, where most of the current unrest comes from, consistently does glaringly worse in every measure of economic wellbeing. The huge population of destitute youth whose future are permanently deferred are ready recruits for dirty politicians and insane religious extremists who seek cheap and disposable lives.
If something does not change as soon as possible, the rising case of violence in the North will spread to the entire country, violent crimes in southwestern cities will continue to increase exponentially, and the rate of kidnappings in the south east will get so alarming that we will be compelled to invest increasingly scarce resources to temporarily placate terrorists, kidnappers and violent robbers.
So what works?
All the things that can help lower the income gap has already been talked about on this platform by this writer and many other FrontPage columnists. Investment in education is the main game changer in building a more just country. When 80% of secondary school graduates are not able to pass a fairly simple Math and English test, then there is no way any equality will be possible. Investing in creating equal access to educational resources is indispensable to creating a more equitable and thus efficient society. This is the first step, and everything else follows.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.