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Nigerians Express Optimism About the Future

by Magali Rheault and Bob Tortora

Job creation remains top concern


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After Olusegun Obasanjo became president in 1999, the Nigerian government implemented several reforms to tackle issues of corruption and strengthen democracy in a country that had experienced 16 years of consecutive military rule. President Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003 and his government has pushed through a series of macro-economic and structural reforms to stabilize the economy and improve the country's business environment. Between 2003 and 2006, economic growth averaged 7% per year, fueled largely by the non-oil sector. Sound monetary policy also helped reduce inflation from 22% in 2003 to about 12% in 2006. In addition, Nigeria successfully negotiated a sizable foreign debt relief package with the Paris and London Clubs last year, which should free up money to provide needed services and improve infrastructure.

Optimism About the Future

Against this backdrop of reform, NOI Polls, a Nigerian opinion-polling firm, partnered with Gallup to conduct a major survey in the country. In addition to the core elements of the Gallup World Poll, this survey asked respondents to assess their socio-economic well-being using a scale from 0 to 10, where rungs 0 through 2 represent the bottom of the hypothetical "ladder," steps 3 through 7 represent the middle, and steps 8 through 10 define the top of the ladder. When asked where they stood five years ago, just 6% of Nigerians say they were on the top of the ladder; an identical percentage choose the top of the ladder when asked where they stand today. However, when asked where they are likely to stand five years from now, 63% of Nigerians choose the top of the ladder.

Perceptions of Nigeria's future status are similarly optimistic. Just 5% of Nigerians believe the country stood at the top of the ladder five years ago, and again an identical percentage of respondents say the same regarding Nigeria's current position. But 69% of respondents think the country itself will be at the top of the ladder five years from now. In other words, as the graphs indicate, Nigerians' perceptions of their own personal well-being nearly parallel their perceptions of Nigeria's fortunes, although respondents are a bit more optimistic about the country's future than their own.

It is important to point out that a similar pattern of greater optimism about the future exists in many other African nations, although perceptions are typically less upbeat in African countries other than Nigeria. The Gallup World Poll reveals that 6% of respondents in sub-Saharan Africa overall say they are at the top of the ladder today, while 41% say they are likely to be at the top five years from now. Similarly, 5% of sub-Saharan Africans overall believe their countries stand at the top of the ladder today, while 40% think their countries are likely to be at the top five years from now.

Debt Relief and Anti-Corruption

During the February polling, Gallup and NOI asked Nigerians to express their opinions about the major accomplishments of the then-ruling Obasanjo's administration. Interestingly, debt relief (cited by 28% of Nigerians), anti-corruption measures (20%), and banking-sector reform (15%) take the top three spots. The reforms in these areas were highly publicized and criticized at times, but the general public also realized that the government was committed to implementing change for the benefit of the country. In fact, the Nigeria poll shows that 66% of Nigerians have confidence in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), second only to the public's trust in the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Job Expectations

The Nigeria poll also asked respondents to name the issues they felt the government should focus on in the next year. As the poll was conducted shortly before Nigerians were going to elect a new president, the results give some idea of respondents' expectations for the incoming administration. Nigerians named creating new jobs (24%), improving access to water (17%), improving the electricity supply (14%), fixing the road network (10%), and improving education (10%) as the top five short-term priorities for the country. The emphasis on job creation is similar across gender lines, age groups, and educational levels, although access to water is more important than jobs for 30- to 45-year-old respondents and those with no formal education. Overall, these poll results reflect Nigerians' dissatisfaction with the employment situation in the country, the poor state of public infrastructure, and weak social-service delivery.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted in English, Yoruba, Ibo, and Hausa with 1,000 adults in February 2007, aged 15 and older. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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