Nigeria and Rwanda: A tale of two countries

Theophilus E Daniel-Kagbare

Theophilus E Daniel-Kagbare is a blogger and has travelled widely

Useful though it is comparison can be a tricky business. Take for instance the fact that the per capita income of Singapore is over USD 90,000 compared to that of the United Sates of America which is USD 60,000. Does that make Singapore better than the United States? Not at all.

Malaysia is an Asian Tiger, having recorded giant strides under the outstanding leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad. But Malaysia could in no way be compared to India.

Countries like Nigeria, India, even Brazil, with their diverse and multicultural nature are in a class all their own. They are different from monocultural homogeneous countries like China. In their political, constitutional and institutional development, they are on a different trajectory. This has bearing on their entire lifestyle.

There is no question about the outstanding leadership of Paul Kagame and the massive transformation Rwanda  has made under his rule over the last few decades. Kagame’s impact reaches far beyond Africa. With him in charge, Rwanda is punching well above its weight. For this he and his country deserve credit.

We must however take into account the very wide gap that separate  Rwanda and Nigeria, as countries and as societies.

Rwanda is a country of under 13 million people with a GDP of USD 10 billion. Nigeria is a country of 180 million people with a GDP of USD 398 billion, the highest in Africa. Lagos State alone, one of Nigeria’s 36 states, commands an economy that ranks 7th in Africa, way above that of Rwanda.

Rwanda is a country of three tribes. Nigeria is a country of 371 tribes.

Between 2001 and 2014, Rwanda scored an average growth rate 8% in its GDP, making it the fastest growing economy in the world at that time. Even so, the country is still aid-dependent.

Nigeria's GDP (2018) is USD 398 billion, is the 30th largest economy in the world. Several Nigerian owned firms and brands traverses the continent and beyond, with footprints in major world capitals.

Although Rwanda has left behind the terrible genocide of 1994, Rwanda does not even begin to compare to Nigeria. Nigeria has survived a civil war, and has multiple times come off the brink from crisis after crisis, rolling with the punches. As a country Nigeria is well on its way towards creating its own unique identity and culture. In Nollywood it boasts a worldwide entertainment industry comparable to Hollywood and Bollywood.

Corruption festers in Nigeria, a specter that Paul Kagame's leadership has in Rwanda erased from public life. But where Rwanda is dependent on the will of a strongman and the fear he instills in his countrymen, Nigeria is building institutions, processes, and frameworks. For the first time under civilian democratic government, certain senior politicians have been convicted and cooling their heels behind bars. Certain senior judicial officers have been exposed.

While Rwanda can boast of Kagame's strong leadership, Nigeria can point to ever evolving constitutional and institutional fabric. In the long run the strength of a country is dependent on the strength of its institutions and civil society.

Nigeria can boast of an emergent civil society and constitutional mode of governance, as opposed to the dominance and the imposition of the will of one strongman, able to keep everyone in line, which is the experience of Rwanda under Paul Kagame.

For what it's worth, in its 60 years of independence, no one individual has risen to so dominate society as dose Paul Kagame in Rwanda. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. In the long-run, that may well be a mighty blessing!