Let’s concession Nigeria
By Prof. Gbenga Olumekun
When I decided to put pen to paper I really was at a loss on what to write. It wasn’t because there was a dearth of issues to deliberate upon neither was it because I couldn’t summon the courage to deal with certain issues, for obvious reasons; it was because in modern day Nigeria there are too many issues and problems to deal with that any patriot can easily hold up his hands in despair and adopt the Bola Ige philosophy of “siddon look”.
However in order to be a part of the solution rather than the problem I felt the compulsion to throw light on an issue that will provoke proactive action rather than dwell on a post-mortem analysis. Simply put, I wasn’t interested in crying over spilt milk; rather I felt it was time to come up with ideas and strategies to ensure our national development.
With this in mind I couldn’t resist the urge to comment of the national disgrace that we have witnessed on the issue of the subsidy payments which have caused us, the poor folks, nothing but deep angst and a feeling of total disillusionment with the Nigerian project. As a patriotic Nigerian I used to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel but we now see that our political engineers, rather than prepare the ground for the development of a sense of belonging for all of us, have decided, on their own volition, to shift the tunnel so that we will never have a hope of seeing the light we have been preparing for. I am therefore deeply disappointed with the political class who have conspired to pauperise all of us but they alone couldn’t have done this marvellous re-engineering of “hope into hopelessness” without the active connivance and full participation of the public (civil?) servants. No wonder someone recently opined that 60% of the properties in Abuja are owned not by politicians but by civil servants who have become the architects, structural engineers, builders and designers of the decadence in which we have become mired as a nation.
I have however decided to allow the subsidy fruit to ripen very well and reserved for a time when it is well worth picking. There is too much noise and too much feigned passion that will as usual ebb away like everything Nigerian. Recently, I decided to pen a piece titled: “A nation in the terminal state of decay”. This was advised by the visions that have assaulted my sight as I travel the length and breadth of our dear nation. I have become so disenchanted with the Nigerian project, not for lack of hope, patriotism or optimism, but for the simple fact that while the rest of us are pulling in one direction, just a few privileged people will summon more energy and political might to drag us in the opposite direction for the simple fact that they have personal interests to pursue. It is like a tug of war but this time the minority always wins. These lot end up dictating the pace for all of us and in no time we end up in the alley of despair where we find no voice to talk, and when we do summon the courage to talk we become silenced when the very paraphernalia that have been designed by the constitution to protect the rest of us are marshalled against us.
These very occurrences wouldn’t have been too painful if we haven’t got comparisons to make in the midst of the assemblage of nations. Sometimes ago, Brazil was announced as the 6th largest economy in the world after overtaking the declining British economy, and that is the very beginning. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Ghana has overtaken us and Chad Republic is soon knocking on our door. At least there are evidences all around us: bring men from the little nations around us and you’ll hear them complain loudly about our dilapidated infrastructure. Recently, I was in one of our universities and some students on exchange visits from sister African nations which we normally refer to as poor were asked about their impressions about Nigeria. Their joint retort wasn’t too flattering! It was roundly a condemnation of the electricity situation, deadly road infrastructure, lack of potable water supply and the dearth of a long list of provisions normally taken for granted in civilised societies. How bad have we descended into poverty when a man from Mali can be complaining so vehemently about everything Nigerian?
My despair has been worsened by the fact that Brazil, South Korea and Nigeria started their national development programmes at about the same time in 1962 or thereabouts. The other two have developed to such an extent that they are producing their own aeroplanes, automobiles, medical facilities among others and have even sent rockets into space. What have we got? We spend several billions of Dollars importing second hand clothes, second hand furniture, second hand braziers, second hand panties and second hand socks among an assemblage of goods and services discarded by the civilised world. What we are awaiting is the importation of used Pampers nappies since we can’t even trust nor do we have any basis to trust our locally produced goods. Is this how we will meet the vision of becoming a member of the elite club of the twenty best economies in the world by the year 2020, vision 20:2020 as it is termed?
I bet our leaders must have engaged in some chest beating last year when Nigeria’s economy was adjudged as the third fastest growing economy in the whole world. I did try to pinch myself in case I was dreaming because accepting such an accolade would be nothing but a grandiose exercise in self delusion. What nature of growth when we import everything, even toothpicks? We even import other people’s waste all in the name of Tokunbo. Worse still, we import the very commodity that the world has come to associate with Nigeria. If we as a nation in the year 2015 can still be importing petroleum products from non oil producers such as Senegal and Sierra Leone for the use of our people, then we are nothing better than a wasted generation.
I wouldn’t want anyone to get me wrong. I am not against importation but what is the sense in importing that very commodity that is the mainstay of a nation’s economy. It is okay if we do some trade by barter by sourcing goods which have not been endowed us by nature but it becomes highly reprehensible when a nation becomes so reckless with the future of its citizenry by wasting hard earned foreign exchange in the way we are doing. This pathological drive for imported used items has driven us to another dimension of national shame when we now import national coaches for our sports teams and foreign artisans who come here to loot our foreign exchange while pretending to be engineers.
Of course, we are always rushing after imported ideas which have been discarded in other climes; the only group left is our political class for which we shall soon find foreign substitutes. After all, if our footballers do not perform we bay for the blood of our local coaches and scamper to Europe for some nonentities who come down to earn salaries we would not have collectively offered to ten of our local coaches combined. Since we are good at looking for foreign coaches why not extend this initiative to our national and state assemblies, Governor’s Lodges and of course Aso Rock? We can call this initiative by a beautiful name; we can call it CONCESSIONING. After-all we have seen loads of it before; this is no longer a new word. Pentascope came to write the death certificate of NITEL; we did it for our National airport, national airline, national railways, seaports, steel production plants, among others. Of course, Manitoba has done a better job of mortification with PHCN. Our moneybags now even go further by seeking oil mining licenses just to concession to foreigners.
The only trouble is how long shall we continue to sustain this national failing? This certainly is not the right path to the vision we are espousing; the vision of growing to become one of the twenty best economies in the world. The only thing I am definite about is that if we sustain our current initiatives we shall soon become the most corrupt, inept, wasteful and undeveloped nation on this planet, if we already have not attained that depth. Maybe this will be worth a celebration. At least we shall have a favourable statistics worth celebrating, albeit negative. We had it for the corruption index and now we are the 169th worst place to be born in the whole universe. Haven’t we done well? We shall see!