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The other 2015

WEEKEND with Ibraheem Sulaiman

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Kofi Anan set the tone in 2000 by his report to the United Nations, titled, We the Peoples,  in which he proposed, at the onset of the 21st Century, what he called a common vision, for Mankind. ‘There is much to be grateful for. Most people today can expect to live longer than their parents, let alone their more remote ancestors.They are better nourished, enjoy better health, are better educated, and on the whole face more favorable economic prospects,’

Anan told the world body. ‘There are also many things to deplore, and to correct.The century just ended was disfigured, time and again, by ruthless conflict. Grinding poverty and striking inequality persist within and among countries even amidst unprecedented wealth. Diseases, old and new, threaten to undo painstaking progress. Nature’s life-sustaining services, on which our species depends for its survival, are being seriously disrupted and degraded by our own everyday activities.’ Therefore: ‘No shift in the way we think or act can be more critical than this: we must put people at the centre of everything we do. No calling is more noble, and no responsibility greater, than that of enabling men, women and children, in cities and villages around the world, to make their lives better.’ Kofi Anan gave a graphic picture of the true situation of the Global Village, which is endowed with an unimaginable wealth and yet is at the same time besmirched by an equally unimaginable deprivation. Here is Kofi Anan’s metaphor:

Let us imagine, for a moment, that the world really is a “global village”—taking seriously the metaphor that is often invoked to depict global interdependence. Say this village has 1,000 individuals, with all the characteristics of today’s human race distributed in exactly the same proportions. What would it look like? What would we see as its main challenges?

Some 150 of the inhabitants live in an affluent area of the village, about 780 in poorer districts. Another 70 or so live in a neighborhood that is in transition. The average income per person is $6,000 a year, and there are more middle income families than in the past. But just 200 people dispose of 86 per cent of all the wealth, while nearly half of the villagers are eking out an existence on less than $2 per day. Men outnumber women by a small margin, but women make up a majority of those who live in poverty. Adult literacy has been increasing. Still, some 220 villagers—two thirds of them women—are illiterate. Of the 390 inhabitants under 20 years of age, three fourths live in the poorer districts, and many are looking desperately for jobs that do not exist. Fewer than 60 people own a computer and only 24 have access to the Internet. More than half have never made or received a telephone call.

Life expectancy in the affluent district is nearly 78 years, in the poorer areas 64 years—and in the very poorest neighborhoods a mere 52 years. Each marks an improvement over previous generations, but why do the poorest lag so far behind? Because in their neighborhoods there is a far higher incidence of infectious diseases and malnutrition, combined with an acute lack of access to safe water, sanitation, health care, adequate housing, education and work.

There is no predictable way to keep the peace in this village. Some districts are relatively safe while others are wracked by organized violence.The village has suffered a growing number of weather-related natural disasters in recent years, including unexpected and severe storms, as well as sudden swings from floods to droughts, while the average temperature is perceptibly warmer. More and more evidence suggests that there is a connection between these two trends, and that warming is related to the kind of fuel, and the quantities of it, that the people and businesses are using. Carbon emissions, the major cause of warming, have quadrupled in the last 50 years.The village’s water table is falling precipitously, and the livelihood of one sixth of the inhabitants is threatened by soil degradation in the surrounding countryside.

 Who among us would not wonder how long a village in this state can survive without taking steps to ensure that all its inhabitants can live free from hunger and safe from violence, drinking clean water, breathing clean air, and knowing that their children will have real chances in life?

If you add ‘Nigerian Factor’ to Kofi Anan’s metaphor, you can say with some degree of confidence that out of the 200 inhabitants who dispose 86% of the total wealth of the Village, there still emerges a monstrous syndicate – comprising the ‘principalities and powers in high places,’ in the words of Shell chieftain Mutiu Sunmonu, who are stealing, without let or hindrance, its strategic resources, as much as 20% and aiming at 50% or more in due course, who, says Sunmonu, ‘mastermind this multibillion-dollar business using influence, corruption and violence.’ They steal at will, with ease, with impunity — operating an industry parallel to the state, acquiring wealth of the magnitude almost parallel to the state. ‘Vast amounts of cash may circulate in Nigeria outside the formal banking system: some is run through legitimate local businesses, while other amounts are bagged, wrapped, sprayed for insects and stored physically in guarded stash houses,’ Chatham House Report reveals. ‘Other practices support the heavy use of cash as a money-laundering technique. Otherwise, target accounts can be opened in the names of shell companies and domiciled offshore in known tax havens or other high bank secrecy jurisdictions.’ In addition: ‘As with the stolen oil itself, it is also unclear how much of the money trail passes through foreign markets. In at least some cases, thieves and their front men must use accounts and credit from major financial centers, especially when buying high-value foreign assets. Interviewees named various East and West African countries, South Africa, Dubai, Indonesia, India, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland as destination points for oil theft proceeds.’ Here, perhaps, is 2015 political at work.

Kofi Anan’s report and recommendations received the endorsement of the 189 members of the United Nations. The General Assembly, attended by 152 Heads of State, adopted the the Millennium Declaration in September 2000, which binds all the nations of the world:

• To halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and, by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water.

• To ensure that, by the same date, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling and that girls and boys will have equal access to all levels of education.

• By the same date, to have reduced maternal mortality by three quarters, and under-five child mortality by two thirds, of their current rates.

• To have, by then, halted, and begun to reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS, the scourge of malaria and other major diseases that afflict humanity.

The Millennium Development Goals [MDG] became the global project to actualize the UN mandate. 

2015, therefore, is the year by which Nigeria, as a signatory to the Millennium Declaration and an active participant in the Millennium Development Goals project, must have reduced extreme poverty and hunger by half of what they were in 2000; in addition to achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, as well as assuring full course of primary education for all boys and girls, among other goals. The 2013 UN report, however, indicate that in most critical areas, Nigeria’s performance is either average or weak. In fact, poverty, the core and kernel of the MDGs, has only become aggravated and entrenched. Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has stated that Nigeria, along with Sierra Leone and Somalia, might be a possible hindrance to the realization of the MDGs target in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Here, perhaps, is 2015 developmental at work.

2015 political and 2015 developmental both intertwine in Nigeria!