I think that we would all love to live in a world where each human being, irrespective of their age, tribe, or financial capability is able to live freely and be provided the necessary resources to achieve their goals and reach their full potential. At least I would love to live in that world. 

When I come back home it is very disheartening to realise that my country Nigeria, is still so far away from that. Everything from as huge as finding a job to provide for your basic needs to as little as signing up (freely) for a national identity card requires some string-pulling and having those strings to pull. In other words, you need to have connections.

These connections will then help you, irrespective of your qualifications, to achieve your desired goal; be it getting a job, or parking your car in a crowded car park or even skipping the line at a fueling station or fast food restaurant. So you see if you lack the needed connections then you rely on the idea of social mobility and an uncorrupted system. You hope that your hard work, dedication, and passion will be enough to open opportunities for you or to help you climb up the social ladder. Sadly, most times, this just doesn’t cut it.

Nigeria is a huge country with a whopping 194 million people, and it is continuing to grow rapidly. About 50% of these people live in extreme poverty, and this is estimated to increase in the next 30 years. Driving around the streets of Lagos, I notice that the rich are getting increasingly richer with the latest models of Mercedes Benz littering the streets and an increasing amount of elite restaurants and businesses opening all around. Along with this, the poor are getting poorer, and this is very evident with the increasing amount of beggars and homeless people on the streets. I believe this is because of the lack of opportunities that are made available to the people of the lower class. The public schools are abysmal with over 50 students in a classroom, which is very unsuitable for a learning environment, yet the private schools, which the majority of the population cannot afford, only have 20 students in a classroom. Along with that, electricity across the country is unstable, so if you are not amongst the top 50 percentile which is able to afford a generator or an inverter, you could go 2 weeks without electricity, which is not a conducive living environment. 

There are multiple reasons why people live under these terrible conditions, firstly there is a lack of hope that has developed in them after living multiple generations under the same conditions. For example – a child that is born into a poor family will probably believe that this life is the only form they are destined for and will then make no effort to create a better life for themselves. Another scenario is when there is a dependency and entitlement culture ingrained in some people who are just, for a matter of fact, lazy and do not want to search for jobs to earn a living and provide for themselves and their loved ones and lift themselves out of the poverty cycle. These people are the ones who depend solely on government funds, such as unemployment benefits, which are slim to none in Nigeria, and due to this, they live in poverty. There are also cases of the mentally ill, or physically incapable who are not very well catered for in the country and due to this have little to no opportunities to make a reasonable living for themselves. Lastly, there are those who make a conscious effort, they make the most of the terrible living and learning conditions and are able to finish their education and graduate with amazing results all self-earned through hard work, passion and prayers, although lack the much needed social connections to go any further. 

Many Nigerians are not aware that reserving the opportunities and resources needed to reach full potential for the same groups of people, the children/families of the rich, who are all mostly exposed to similar experiences, causes the growth of the country to be very slow-paced and unidirectional. I say this because for as long as I have lived the politics in Nigeria has been a recycled event, with a similar group of people leading the country, comprised of old Nigerian men who have once had a taste of power either democratically or during the military regime. Due to this, the country has not reached its full potential in my view, as these men have similar ideologies so tend to make the same mistakes, thereby stunting our economic growth and development.

Another instance of this is, due to the large income inequality the industries that are being developed such as the food industry, the entertainment industry and I think it is safe to say lifestyle, in general, has been made to appeal strongly to the wealthy demographic. So seeing as a large portion of the population is not wealthy, this is why the growth in these sectors are not reflecting strongly in the overall economy of the country. 

Since the people who are given the opportunity to make changes, all belong in a similar circle the change that has been made is minimal and not very effective in the overall forward movement of the nation. When we have a huge variety of minds to pick from, why are we intent on just utilising a minority sample which is not in any way a good representation of the population of our great nation? The majority of the population lives in a very different Nigeria and has different experiences from the wealthy few. Something that needs to be made clear is that if our nation intends to develop, the majority of the population needs to be included and developed alongside those currently in power for any reasonable change to be made

I always used to believe strongly in the power of social mobility, since my dad is an example of someone who made a name for himself and beat the odds regardless of his lack of connections. My thought was that people were just unaware of the opportunities that were available, this was why it was not very present in society. Although after much thinking and observing, I am starting to think otherwise. I believe that nowadays with the world becoming increasingly interconnected with the existence of the internet and social media, most people are strongly aware of the opportunities available to them. Although due to the wide gap in income distribution and the huge impact of corruption these opportunities are now limited to the elite few. 

So, you may ask what is my take on social mobility? I believe that it is a phenomenon that if allowed to flourish could bring a country such as mine into a greater position than we ever imagined we could be in.

Aisha Yusuf

Author Aisha Yusuf

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