Tom Iseghohi is founder and executive chairman of the G57 and an executive vice president at the Hudson Consulting Group’s global consulting practice based in New York.
One in every six Africans is a Nigerian and 10 percent of all black people on earth are Nigerians. By 2050, Nigeria will become the third largest nation on earth and 67 percent of the population will be below thirty years of age. Nigeria has been at the precipice many times, but always seems to find its way back. Today, Nigeria is back at the brink again, but will this time be different? We think so, and in July 2017, we created the G57 to emphasize the opportunities and minimize the risks in a nonpartisan manner.
The G57 is a nonpartisan group of fifty-seven successful Nigerian professionals from every corner of Nigeria and around the globe. The combination of democracy and a productive economy is what Nigeria needs to stabilize and to lead African stability and growth into the future. To operationalize this thinking, the G57 has mobilized a national grassroots citizen engagement organ which presently has one thousand members and two hundred fifty thousand followers. This organ, branded “PUP Culture,” is based on the fundamental building blocks of prosperity, unity, and peace, which have been the enduring cultural values in every Nigerian tribe.
As the nation prepares for the general elections in 2019, the G57 seeks a new set of ideas and capabilities to solve Nigeria’s fundamental problems. We are facilitating voter education, grassroots mobilization, a shift from tribal to issues-based debates, and systemic adjustments. The right systemic adjustments, political stability, technical partnerships, and strong foreign investment have the potential to grow Nigeria’s GDP from $400 billion in 2016 to $4 trillion in eight years. There are numerous examples of such exponential growth in Nigeria. For example, a company invested $280 million in 2003 and by 2010, the company was valued at over $45 billion. The United States is a natural partner for entrenching democracy, fighting corruption, and expanding trade, security, and investment. Nigeria in turn is a critical partner with respect to Nigerian immigration, its democratic values, and its shared security goals.
Nigeria cannot seem to get past its reputation for insecurity, corruption, fraud, and human rights issues. Both Christians and Muslims are slaughtered daily. The culprits have been labeled Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram, but there is more to the story. Some experts believe the violence results from economic issues that are purposefully amplified by political actors, but are also exacerbated by an exploding population and the shrinking of grazing lands due to climate change. Add to this the arrival of foreign fighters and small arms and the regional fallout of the crises of Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
Nigeria’s issues are multi-faceted and systemic. They revolve around weak private and public institutions as well as the government’s lack of capacity to solve problems. Nigerians, who are generally patriotic and passionate about the country, are frustrated, poor, and losing confidence in successive governments. But they remain committed to the Nigerian project. Average Nigerians are agreeable to a liberal democracy: according to a recent poll, 81 percent of Nigerians do not care about the religion or tribe of their leaders.
For more on Nigeria, Matthew Page and John Campbell provide an overview of its politics, history, and culture, including the threat of Boko Haram and religious conflicts in their new book, Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know, which was published by Oxford University Press in July.