Smaller countries are also easier to manage. A look at the Human Development Index (HDI) list shows that no country with more than 100 million population is in the top 15. The same thing happens when the list of most liveable cities is published. The top cities are usually from countries with smaller populations, except for Osaka, which is from Japan, with over 100 million people. Even the cities of the United States rarely make the top 10.

One ridiculous point some Nigerians raise any time they want to prove their supremacy over Ghana is that Ghana is the size of one state in Nigeria. And many people who don’t bother to investigate things lap it up and repeat it during discussions and debates.

Many people say it is mere social media banter or “cruise” (in Nigerian lingo), but it goes beyond that. Looking at the map of Africa or West Africa, many are deceived into believing that Ghana is very small, and they spread that misinformation. Comedians use it in their jokes. Speakers use it to buttress their points. Friends use it during chats.

The challenge is that whatever is regularly repeated in public discourse attains the stature of truth. Many people no longer bother to verify it. Their logic is that if it were false, people would not be repeating it, and it would have been punctured with facts. But things don’t usually work that way.

At over 238,000 square kilometres, Ghana is larger than the whole of Southern Nigeria (which is slightly over 200,000sq km). That is, Ghana is larger than South-East, South-South and South-West combined. There are 17 states in the south of Nigeria. Many people find it hard to believe this. But that is a fact.

Ghana is about 20 times larger than Qatar which has 11,627sq km – that is about the landmass of Rivers State, which ranks number 26 among Nigerian 36 states. Meanwhile, Qatar hosted the last World Cup, but Nigeria, despite its large population and landmass, is not mentioned among the countries that can host the World Cup in the next 20 years.

If Qatar is described as small, how can Singapore be described? Little? Tiny? Minute? Well, Singapore has about 700sq km (the size of Lekki peninsula in Lagos), but is one of the best countries of the world when it comes to the HDI. In the 2022 HDI list, Singapore is number 9, while the United States is 20. Landlocked Switzerland is number 1. Ghana places 145th, within the group categorised as “medium human development,” while Nigeria is 161st and placed in the group categorised as “low human development.”

With a population of 34 million people, Ghana has almost the same population as Canada, which many Nigerians want to flee to. Canada holds the 18th position in HDI. Ghana has a larger population than each of Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Qatar, Singapore, Belgium, Greece, etc.

Many Nigerians also make this vacuous point to prove their supremacy when Nigerian states or zones are being discussed. Those who do this usually compare the landmass or population of one zone with another state to prove how that zone is too small. The queer thing is that those who make this point leave out important issues like literacy rate, poverty rate, etc and focus on landmass or population as if these two factors, on their own, confer any special advantage on any state or zone. For example, Lagos State is by far the smallest state in Nigeria in landmass but has the largest GDP and amenities by Nigerian standards.

On the surface, a large population should be a plus. A large population conveys the image of power: large market, strength, etc. That is what China and India have to their advantage. A country with a large population can throw its weight around if it has some other things to display. It also has a ready-made population for its products and services.

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Landmass is also a plus on the surface. It gives a country enough room to do different types of things, especially if the land is even and fertile. These include agriculture, construction, and conservation, expansion of cities and establishment of new cities.

Russia has the largest landmass on earth (17,098,242sq km). In fact, the land mass of Russia is almost that of the combined landmass of Canada and China, which are second and third, respectively. Yet Russia under Vladimir Putin is not satisfied with that large land area. In February 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. In February 2022, it invaded Ukraine and is currently prosecuting a war to annex the whole of Ukraine.

What makes a country tick is neither landmass nor population. Think of how the United Kingdom, France and Spain conquered and colonised virtually all the countries of Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Oceania. By 1850 when the United Kingdom was conquering Nigeria and other African countries, its population was less than 30 million people. Before Africa, it had conquered and ruled many countries in North America. From Nigeria to Ghana, Kenya, India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, Malaysia/Singapore, the UK was conquering and ruling many countries at the same time. After conquering these countries, it ruled them for over 100 years before granting them independence, mostly after a fierce struggle or war.

The UK, France, Spain or Portugal did not conquer these countries because of their superior population and landmass. They achieved that through their superior firepower. Most of them had earlier been conquered by the Roman Empire. They saw that they lost to Rome because Rome was more organised and had a superior military. Therefore, they built an organised country which used technology to create guns, ships and other machines that made it easier to conquer many countries and rule them at the same time.

Interestingly, some countries that were colonised have overtaken their colonisers. The UK overtook Rome. The US overtook the UK. Even though India has not overtaken the UK in HDI, it overtook the UK long ago in GDP.

Regrettably, many of those countries that used technology to conquer other continents are still using technology to rule over many continents. They do this by producing most of the goods and services that other continents consume. This increases their wealth and makes the consuming nations depend on them. The consuming nations also borrow money regularly from the richer nations, thereby perpetually tied to them like puppets.

The implication is that the richer nations have become more stable, while the poorer nations have become less stable. This has led to a desperate emigration of people from the less stable countries to the more stable ones. Interestingly, the more stable countries like Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, etc, even have programmes through which professionals from the less stable countries are brought in as permanent residents or citizens. The more these professionals leave their countries of birth, the more those less stable countries lose experts in different fields and become more unstable, while the stable countries get stronger. Therefore, in all ramifications, the developed countries win while the developing countries lose.

Smaller countries are also easier to manage. A look at the HDI list shows that no country with more than 100 million population is in the top 15. The same thing happens when the list of most liveable cities is published. The top cities are usually from countries with smaller populations, except for Osaka which is from Japan with over 100 million people. Even the cities of the United States rarely make the top 10.

In the final analysis, landmass and population are good, but the power, level of development, and global influence of countries are not judged by landmass or population. Countries with a large population and arable land like Nigeria should take advantage of these positives to change their developmental status. Given Nigeria’s wonderful weather and the hospitality of Nigerians, people from Europe, North America and other continents should be immigrating to Nigeria, not the other way round.

Onwuka is a trainer on effective writing/speaking; professional editor; public relations professional