Nigeria: A Country So Blessed And So Cursed? -By Johnson Ateghie

Filed under: National Issues |

Johnson Ateghie

Reading the chilling account of Nigeria returnees who escaped being sold as slaves in Libya brought to the fore the urgent need to do something about the parlous state of our economy. This development has further exposed the country (Nigeria) to ridicule among comity of Nations as not being able to provide the needed sustenance to her citizens.

A nation so blessed with abundant natural and human resources but yet its citizens is among the poorest in the world. Are we a cursed nation? Where exactly have we gone wrong? When are we going to start developing our home grown economic milestones and reduce dependence on the west to decide how we manage our economy? Imagine a nation so blessed celebrating the opening of a matches manufacturing factory? As a result of ethnicity and federal character, our talents that should be harnessed for great industrial feat are allowed to rot and waste away. We have replaced meritocracy with nepotism, hard work with political patronage, rule of law with rule of the mighty and connected.

A situation where the common man no longer trust in the system of justice or believe what they hear from those they elected to govern them. Plethora of questions begging for no specific answers if we continue on this route…Will Nigeria ever make progress if we continue to share revenue we generate and apply same to consumption? If about 70% of a country revenue is spent on consumption, and there is also the likelihood that another 10-15% of the country earnings will be filtered into government unexplainable expenditure and private pockets.

Are nations developed by sharing resources met for developments? How does sharing the collective wealth of the people lead to innovation? Countries like the United States, Germany, Italy, France among others are known for their technology, engineering, fashion, Wine and what is Nigeria known for? Nothing! Except occasionally, our leaders will go out there to tell the world that our people are criminals and fantastically corrupt. How many nations developed by putting down their citizens before the world?

The conspicuous phenomenon in our nations lexicon today is “Nigeria to”, ‘Nigeria will’, when are we going to change this ubiquitous lexicon that don’t seem to be taking us anywhere to ‘Nigeria has’, Nigeria did this or Nigeria did that’? A lot of folks have spoken eloquently about restructuring the country to make the country competitive for development. Will restructuring take the country out of the wood if we continue on this path of winner takes it all?

The country quest for development will continue to be a mirage if the government continues to shy away from addressing these fundamental issues of federal character, resource control, leadership question. Religion has far past the problem of this country; this has been overtaken by ethnicity and lack of sincerity on the part our government at all levels.

The relationship between the citizens and those they elected to rule after the affair of their country has suddenly become master-slave dialectic where the governed have to accept every pill that the master forced down on their throat. The dilemma we now find ourselves could be liken to the situation that gave rise to the Arab spring of 2011, the pains and havocs are still be harvested today. Libya before 2011 was one of Africa best country to live and work. If the Arab could not teach us any lesson or if there are no take away from the Arab spring, recent development in Zimbabwe readily should give us enough assignments to go home with.

Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 plus years, he got to his equilibrium and did what he considered best for his country but refused to leave when the ovation was loudest rather he chose to turn the presidency into a family heritage. Sacking the vice president and manipulating the political structure to bequeath powers of control to his wife, is that how nations developed economically and politically? His country military have my respect with the maturity and candor with which they handled the transition from Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangagwa to pilot the country to fresh election in 2018 remains to be beaten. The question is how did Zimbabwe come to this situation? Are there lessons to learn from this development?

The most and only sellable product that is mainly grown in Africa and consumed in Africa is sit tight mentality. Individual after coming to power through the instrumentality of the ballot boxes will immediately start the dissipation of the energy that would have been used to develop and deliver dividends of democracy to the people to amending the country constitution to perpetrate their rule and hold on to power. It is no gainsaying that this sit tight syndrome which is only reminiscent in African has seen most African countries in economic ruins while the so called self-styled leaders marshaled how they can sustain themselves in power impoverishing the people they set out to govern.

Thinking of how nations developed and the kind of masquerade dance we are involved in, one will begin to wonder if our country was created to remain a dwarf or stunted or is averse to development. Going through the speech by the statutes in chief state governor, Rochas Okorocha on why he created the ministry of happiness, listen to him…said,

“He observed the people of the state, were bitter, he created the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment, to achieve happiness for them. The real essence of life is to be happy and to fulfill one’s purpose in life. Government officials are elected to address this. This is the very reason people elect their leaders to guarantee their happiness and purpose fulfillment. There is no activity of mankind that is not geared towards providing happiness.”

Yes, the statement aptly captured the essence of a government, but the reality speaks differently. There is nothing wrong with people being happy and the government showing concern about the happiness of his people. But the question is will a man that is hungry know what happiness is when his basic crucial need of food has not been met? Misplaced priority you will say. This has become the biggest deceit gift from among our elected folks. A state with industrious teaming youths yearning to be engaged, a governor will find it more expedient and comfortable to erect statutes all over the state at the expense of the hungry citizens who voted him into power to provide them with purposeful leadership.

Governor Rochas Okorocha’s creation of the ministry of Happiness and naming of his sister, Mrs Ogechi Ololo as the commissioner therefore is seen by many as a way to create an avenue for this relation of his to take her own share of the state resources. On my own personal take, I do not see anything wrong with the creation of such a ministry, its nomenclature and who manned the ministry. Countries and states all over the world have agencies and ministries by different names that take care of the needs of their people. Nigeria, Imo state case draws the attention of the people because of who made the creation and looking at the peculiarity and antecedents of the character behind the creation in the state affairs.

One major distressing and disturbing trend you find among our youths today is the sentiments brazenly display everywhere you turned, being it on social media, print media or even friendly chats, is the sentiment we promote in these channels. This is greatly affecting the psyche of Nigerians. It is not uncommon to see a Youngman who finds it very hard to have a meal a day praising a politician from his her ethnic geopolitical area. Even when it is glaring that politician in question is only fit for the deepest part of hell. When will Nigeria wake up to reality to begin the process of rebuilding and calling a spade a spade. It is my strong believe that this ethnicity inclination support being given to these politicians will never bring about the desire change desperately need in this country.

You may recalled that in the last few months the governors of Kano and Katsina states have come up with variety of empowerment programs for their citizens. While the Kano state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje empowered about 5,200 tea seller popularly called mai shai in Hausa, his counterpart in Katsina state, Alhaji Bello Masari, came up with a Goat empowerment initiative for Girls in secondary schools across the state. While the Tea sellers’ empowerment program which cost the state government about N280 million, was seen by the governor as a way of improving the economic well-being of the teeming unemployed youths in the state.

The governor of Kano state stated further while addressing the beneficiary that the economic empowerment initiative according to him “We are empowering you to improve sanitation in your services; we are empowering you to improve nutritional value of your services; we are empowering you because of the multiplying effects of this kind of programme. You are aware that with the effort of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria is out of recession. This is why we have created this kind of youth empowerment to help sustain our relief from recession,”

On his part the Katsina state governor you may recall had since last year commenced his goat empowerment scheme. Sometime last year, the state government distributed 720 goats, said to be worth N104 million to women under its Women Empowerment Scheme. “About 240 women selected across the 34 local governments were given two female goats and one male goat. The animals were given to the beneficiaries under a loan scheme and the cost was expected to be repaid after a year, the government said”. This soon followed a similar empowerment initiative during which the government distributed goats to female secondary school students in the state. Government said it selected 20 secondary schools in each of the three senatorial zones for the take-off of the programme.

The governor of Benue State Samuel Orton was not left out of this empowerment frenzy as he has also empowered youths of the state with branded wheelbarrows and hoes. The controversy generated by this unique empowerment initiative and the awkwardness generated by this development led the state governor to issue a statement by his press secretary to denied given out such empowerment. In a statement released by his press secretary stated that “The Ortom administration has numerous laudable empowerment schemes for youths of Benue but the donation of wheelbarrows to the youths is not one of such schemes. “Consequently, the Governor has directed Secretary to the State Government to issue a query to the Executive Secretary of SEMA to explain why the said action was taken by his office. Governor Ortom has also directed the agency to immediately remove the inscription from all the affected wheelbarrows.”

These initiatives may be laudable and well received by the various beneficiaries concerned. There are however, questions reasonable minds should be bothered about. These are numerous questions begging for answers that will never get any response. Yes it is possible that some of these beneficiaries are happy about these developments and see themselves as being part of the good thing happening in this government. These are micro schemes that if well managed could spur growth at the peasant levels they are designed to serve. We all must not be Computer gurus or Lawyers, Doctors, Management gurus, Accountants, Engineers and the likes. Some have to be bosses at some other levels as each level has its own role to play in the economic emergence of the country. For me, if these engagements will take these youths away from Libya roads enroute Italy either to be sold as slaves or for prostitutions, I will agree that they are noble initiatives. At least, these girls in Katsina case will not be victims of sub-Saharan trade and prostitution in Italy.

Nigeria you must agree with me is a very funny country. A country of over 180 million people with about half of that under 35 years of age and unemployment dangling between 15-21% with graduate youth unemployment at its highest, one begin to wonder the kind of industrial park we intend to build with wheelbarrows, tea sellers and goats initiatives . According to information posted on the website of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, the 4th quarter of 2016 youth unemployment and underemployment stood at 47.40%. it baffles one and wonder the manner of impact these initiatives will have on the pandemic unemployment situation we have in the country today.

These initiatives good or bad as they may seem, are not designed to take the country out of the wood though, they have their specific role to play at their respective level. But to the discerning mind, are these initiatives sustainable? Has governance descended this low? How will Nigeria developed with these initiatives? Are nations developed these ways? What should the government be doing? When will the government take a deliberate decision that will jump start real development in the country? We are gradually approaching a situation where governments at the various levels will start empowering its citizens both graduates and non-graduates alike with jerry cans to sell petrol at various highway. Whichever empowerment initiative the government chooses to introduce or implement, remember you cannot run faster than your legs in a race.