This week’s election in Nigeria is the most important African event of the decade. The ‘Africa Rising’ story can only continue if the continent’s biggest economy is stable and its rulers can transform the lives of its 174 million people, as well as the region and the entire continent.
The choice is stark. Africa is the continent with the most potential, the least development and the greatest underused human talent and neglected potential. Nigeria is the big one: The gateway to Africa’s future. The rest of the world – political, commercial and cultural – is ready to engage and invest. All Nigeria needs is stability, good leadership and governance. This election and the policies of those who win it can either help create that stability or destroy it. Such an opportunity may not come again for another decade.
55 years of wasted opportunities have left 60% of Nigerians living in poverty. Unlike previous generations, the 90 million Nigerians under 14 years old are able to see the reality of how things work in Nigeria and how they are done elsewhere. Connected, they will know what they are entitled to. Denied access to education, healthcare and employment, they will suffer and die in the dark. Gaining these universal rights, they could make Nigeria one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.
Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.