Monday Column By Hameed M. Bello, PhD
It was a little bit of relief when Nigeria was not listed among the 10 unhappiest countries in Africa in the latest ranking. The African giant (at least in theory) is however not among the top 10 happiest countries in Africa either. It is ranked 21st with a score of 4.552, just behind Ghana (4.872) but ahead of Kenya (4.543). At the global front, Nigeria ranked 118th. This calls for some attention because Nigerians are not represented as a very happy people as they ought to be compared to other countries of the world on the strength of findings of the current study.
The 10th edition of the World Happiness Report, a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, has used statistical analysis to determine the world’s happiest countries. The report ranks 146 countries in their overall happiness index and highlights which countries are the happiest or unhappiest in 2022.
“The World Happiness Report is changing the conversation about progress and wellbeing. It provides important snapshots of how people around the world feel about the overall quality of their lives,” Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Professor at McGill University in Quebec and a researcher involved in the report, was reported as saying in a statement.
With a regional score of 4.5, the report said, Africa ranks as the unhappiest region worldwide. Mauritius remains the happiest country in Africa, likely because of its relatively high-income levels. In contrast, Zimbabwe remains the most unhappy country in Africa, as it struggles with poverty levels. In 2021, approximately 6.1 million people were living below the international poverty line.
The top 10 countries in Africa and their score as reported are: Mauritius – 6.071; Libya – 5.330; Ivory Coast – 5.235; South Africa – 5.194; Gambia – 5.164; Algeria – 5.122; Liberia – 5.122; Congo – 5.075; Morocco – 5.060; Mozambique – 5.048. The report also listed the 10 least happiest countries in Africa to include the following: Zimbabwe, with a score of 2.995; Rwanda – 3.268; Botswana – 3.471; Lesotho – 3.512; Sierra Leone – 3.574; Tanzania – 3.502; Malawi – 3.750; Zambia – 3.760; Togo – 4.112 and Mauritania – 4.152.
The World Happiness Report concluded that Finland is the happiest country in the world after the researchers analyzed comprehensive Gallup polling data from 149 countries specifically monitoring performance in six particular categories: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make your own life choices, generosity of the general population, and perceptions of internal and external corruption levels.
In order to properly compare each country’s data, the researchers created a fictional country—christened Dystopia—filled with “the world’s least-happy people.” They then set Dystopia as the rock bottom value in each of the six categories and measured the scores of the real-world countries against this value. All six variables were then blended to create a single combined score for each country. Interestingly enough, the top seven happiest countries in the world for 2021 as listed by the report were all Northern European countries. Finland took top honors—for the fourth year in a row—with an overall score of 7.842, followed (in order) by Denmark (7.620), Switzerland (7.571), Iceland (7.554), the Netherlands (7.464), Norway (7.392), and Sweden (7.363).
The least happy country in the world for 2021 was Afghanistan, whose 149th-place ranking of 2.523 can be attributed in part to a low life expectancy rate and low gross domestic product rates per capita. It’s worthwhile to note that the report was released before the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, which will undoubtedly impact future scores in one way or another. Rounding out the bottom five are Zimbabwe (3.145), Rwanda (3.415), Botswana (3.467), and Lesotho (3.512).
Happiness is not tangible. It is an abstract emotional condition or a state of the mind which predisposes the individual to be in harmony or satisfaction with himself and his environment. It can be measured by using either psychological or sociological criteria.
Happiness in the current context could be understood as `the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his life-as-a-whole positively’, or how well one likes the life one lives. In this way, happiness belongs to a wider class of subjective appraisals of life, which is usually referred to as ‘subjective well-being’ (SWB) or ‘life satisfaction’.
Given the above definition of happiness, the obvious way to measure it is to ask the individual to give his or her opinion on one’s own happiness situation. The measurement of the happiness of a particular person as such is the objective of measurement in exceptional cases only; it occurs in psychological practice. Sociologists, however, are always interested in the happiness of (members of) collectivities, e.g., of the citizens of a nation, but yet they cannot get away.
That said, a few reasons could be cited from the many existing suspects that could have given rise to Nigeria’s low ranking in the world happiness index. The global economic hardship worsened by the disruption by Covid-19 has accounted for the economic dislocation of Nigerians and hence their unhappiness. This is coupled with the slow pace of diversifying the economy to attract income from non-oil sectors due to the volatility of oil price internationally.
Also, the activities of Boko Haram and bandits in Northern Nigeria is a major suspect of unhappiness among Nigerians. Citizens do not go about their daily activities in search of livelihood without the fear of the unknown. Farmers have difficulties accessing their farms, herdsmen have frequently suffered rustling of their cattle, and many states are slow or unwilling to implement the minimum wage to improve the quality of life of workers. Lest we forget, the oil blunderers, pipelines vandals and other economic saboteurs are not helping the system to stabilize.
At the political front, political participation has long been hijacked and narrowed by the elite who have the wherewithal to charge through harsh electoral process including the millions to pay for the unreasonable nomination fees and other campaign spendings. The implication is that political parties produce leaders not necessarily on the basis of their competence but because of their ability to pay the high fees most of which were drawn from the public till. The fear of probe by the anti corruption agencies often drives politicians to hang on to power and enjoy temporary immunity from probe while in office. But this can only be delayed but certainly not denied. Nigeria can learn from the examples of those countries atop the rank to improve the happiness condition of its citizens. This requires all hands to be on deck. The government alone cannot bring about the desired happy condition if the followership is not complementary.