By Mike Akpati
I was just ruminating over the state of affairs in my country Nigeria these very trying times and considering the options available to us as citizens of a nation. The only easy thought that ran through my mind has remained that man MUST heal himself. The nation must heal itself as no other nation, no other leader will manifest from any other country to heal us from these multiple self inflicted diseases on ourselves.
I write as a very concerned citizen because l have a stake in this country and nobody has a higher stake, be you the president, an elected member of any of the National or State Assemblies, local government or Governors. It must be understood that it was first the benevolence of the people that got them to office and that their action ought to reflect that simple posturing.
Today, we are in deep sh**t, and I have lost words to describe our circumstance. Why and how did we allow things to get to this seemingly irredeemable situation?
Before 1999, for those of us who know, (because our suffering has been for so long that certain age bracket now cannot ever believe that this corrupt system was not in us from the beginning. They did not taste the good side of Nigeria!
The other day I listened to one of the street gist as a reporter asked people of age 30-45 who were Azikiwe, Awolowo, Gowon and Obasanjo. None of them got all four correctly. Things have gotten this bad because there is no sense of history any more. After all, history has vanished from the school syllabus anymore we want to bury the truth about our past and the key operators.
Dumb founding examples of corruption and wastages in high places abound, but more recent examples need be mentioned. We spend more than our Education budget to feed school children. We do not have good records of recovered fund from looters nor have we put them into good use! Our priorities are at best loathsome. Take the Kaduna Abuja Rail construction completed by the Jonathan’s government but commissioned by the Buhari’s administration. Nigeria sourced for fund from the same organization as the Kenyan government. But what did we get? Antiquated obsolete locomotives of the either 1970 or so model, compared to that of Kenya which is as current automatic speed Train and coaches of the model any nation can be proud of.
The pictures were all over the internet showing the shame we got for ourselves. Currently, the Lagos Metro line is another case in point. The Rail line which was started by former Governor Babatunde Fashola in 2009 at the estimate of $1.5Billion for a twenty seven kilometer guage rail track from Okokomaiko to CMS Lagos. Ten years on the project is nowhere near fifty percent completion! But in faraway Ethiopia, a contract for seven hundred and fifty-nine kilometer is not only $4.5million Dollars, but has been completed within five years and is in use despite being started two years after the takeoff of the Lagos project by the same Chinese company executing the Nigerian project! How come that a twenty seven Kilometer light rail is more expensive than a SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY NINE KILOMETER FULL GUAGE RAIL by more than ten times in cost? Yet upon proper verification, the actual price was only ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE MILLION DOLLARS! To who and where did the difference go to? This is the unanswered question that Chief Babatunde Gbadamosi of Lagos state asked on WAZOBIA MAXTV! Who has been held for the fraud? Were there no due process office? Who approved what and why is the contract yet to be completed ELEVEN YEARS on?
We had what seemed like corruption in Nigeria in the 70’s and early 80’s but the genesis of our today’s circumstance stared around 1985/6, when Advanced fee fraud (419) and sales of illicit but hard drugs such as Cocaine and Heroin were on the rise. To check the meanness, the government of the day under Retired General Muhamadu Buhari now the President of Nigeria promulgated a law executing drug dealers upon conviction. Late Bartholomew Owoh and one other were summarily executed in its wake. It was thought to be a deterrent. That government was toppled by another military regime led by General Ibrahim Babangida whose and leadership was a more liberal one. It listened and heard the yearning of the people not only on the brutal execution of the drug peddlers but for the enactment of the decree and its backdating.
The twin brother advanced fee fraud popularly known as 419 and drug dealing suddenly took the centre stage and this brought gullible Americans, Asians, Europeans, and Africans etc who fell for the game and made Nigeria the transit joint. Many of carriers died in the process of delivering the illicit products and having being unable to receive their expected financial windfall. On the Nigerian side, young men who took part in the fraud and were successful started increasing their net worth in properties and started a new brand wealth accumulation without what while work. The people who were involved in this interplay then were those whose ages were mainly 25-35 in 1985. These same people are now of the age of 60 and above. And they are mostly in leadersip of Nigeria today.
Successful in their ‘escapade’ businesses led to early marriage for most and the products of those marriages never learnt anything domestic because their parents were coming from the background of “poverty” and resolved that ‘my pikin nor go suffer like me.’ Most of the kids did not go to public schools. Their parents could afford not only to pay high and unnecessary fees, but also had the kid’s chuffer driven to and from school from the tender age in nursery, to primary and secondary schools. By the time they became undergraduates, they became full grown incompetent, lazy and mostly lousy adults unable to cook, read or write and proud of “my daddy gives me N300,000.00 as monthly stipend! What is such a child looking for in NYSC and employment?
The child born in 1985 is a 35 years old full grown university graduate (if he went to school) with a 419 father who passed through school by examination fraud and are now in position of trust in the polity! These in their number form the group of unfortunate Nigerians who never knew that this country was once a decent nation – the envy of all countries of the world hence we were called “Giant of Africa”! A country whose currency was spent overseas in exchange with the Dollar and Pound Sterling! A country whose citizens travelled almost visa free to almost all countries of the world; a country whose currency exchanged at $1 to N0:80k until September 29, 1986 but now N460.00 to the Dollar!!
The easy life style from the days of 419 and drug money went unchecked to produce many undisciplined parents who thought that everything can be denominated with money. A child in the Nursery school had to have food pack and in it, was all manner of beverages, snacks and what have you including bribe money of N5 to buy the child anything by the minders. That too, became an easy source of theft because children minders preferred the children of the rich whose parents gave money so they could steal such at the end of the day. Once the kids were the primary and secondary schools, their cash gift and every benefit were upgraded not minding that they were not doing well in school academically. The parents got too busy to take stuck and progress of their wards in school and left the job for the lesson teacher at extra cost. When they failed the common entrance to colleges and universities, money was there to act as catalyst and cause automatic promotion to the next class or admission to higher school. As under graduate, they qualify for their own cars and private rooms in private hostels in universities and polytechnic and all these with exquisite room decorations make most of their lecturers beg for fuel money!
Now out of school at about twenty one years of age, the child graduates but can hardly write an application letter for any job! The rest you already know!
Used to easy money, the children can no longer accept N50,000.00 as monthly salary because they have been on the payroll of their parents on a higher stolen income!
Golgotha is the place Jesus Christ was finally crucified. Arriving there took a process and it was torturous indeed. But all through the process, Christ kept reminding His followers of the expected result from the beginning. It was at the place Christ was nailed, but alas that was the turning point! The same way, no leader in Nigeria past or present will accept that they were not warned about their choice and where it would lead us to. They only chose to be blind, deaf and dumb to realities. Golgotha is here! Most of the children who had no school results are the ones determining our future at the National and state Assemblies. Some of them are the Governors, ministers, major contractors, opinion leaders and what have you. The garbage bin is full and overflowing with stench! What are we making of the bad situation?
Golgotha was thought to be the end. But NO! It was the beginning of a new dawn and how I wish they acknowledge this even now! There is hope for a tree if it is cut down but not uprooted. At the scent of water it will sprout again with new and fresh leaves! Will this be case of our leadership of today’s sour and bitter truth and reality? Will it be the turning point to our greatness?
Yes, things with Nigeria and Nigerians are at the lowest ebb among the committee of nations, but we are not out! Nigerians within and in Diaspora are still making waves all over the world. We remain the most educated immigrants in the United States of America; A Nigerian is still the only Cardiologist and Nephrologist (heart and Kidney Specialist) on earth. A Nigerian Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye is the Surgeon in Chief at a US hospital. Dr. Adesina is still ruling the world of agriculture; Emegwali’s record is yet to be broken in the ICT world. We have excelled at the World Bank through Prof. Okonji Iweala; my friend Prof. Rotimi Jayiesimi is a proud Nigerian and a product of University of Ibadan making waves in the United Kingdom and UAE in medicine! These are but a few outstanding Nigerians each of which in financial terms, dwarfs the entire fund stolen by the fraud cartels! The other day, Apple bought the right of a Nigerians App for One Billion Dollar an amount bigger that all the fraudulent seventy seven (77) Nigerians caught recently in the USA.
We have arrived Golgotha a place of no return. We have gone full circle in corruption index. If there is ever any award in fraud, dishonest gain and all manner of illegality, we as a people or nation would have prided ourselves with most of the plaques!
Now, Corona virus has arrived and has confirmed to any right thinking Nigerian that we ate up our tomorrow many years back and are still borrowing for our great grand children to pay! What a shame!
The worse is that even in our current circumstance, we still have our rulers stealing the country blind!
Enter COVID 19 the real leveler. Every country has brought the best from their arsenals to deal with it, but nothing in terms of medical drug has proved effective. On our part, we have resolved to doing nothing as a government, instead, we are going a-begging for means of sustenance to continue our wasteful spending! We borrow almost yearly to fund budgets while Billions of our common wealth is starched away in private accounts! The best that has come from our Health Minister is at best big lies! Take the Chinese Doctors for instance. The mixtur of his lies is a complete shame of a country. We have individuals in government who are richer than some states! What is their source of riches as civil servants? What a people! What a leadership!! What a nation!!! What a government!!! Well COVID 19 is a topic for another day.
The struggle continues.
Mike Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt, email@example.com, 08036757067 (sms only)