A Speech Without Theme

What ace has President Goodluck Jonathan left up his sleeves? He sounded very naïve in his appeal to Nigerians on Christmas Day. There was no such exhortation loaded with ideals that could lift people’s spirits. It was pedestrian and short of such thoughts that rouse a sleepy nation to reality. It was a speech without theme.

And the reality is that the big ball that lasted 15 years is over. The entertainers are demanding their fees from the compères now, who themselves have not got paid by the hosts. Squander maniacs, how prodigal are thou, consuming with glee but thoughtless of the source for payments! Some of us have been warning for years that the party would soon end and that the rainy days were nigh. Our suggestions fell on deaf ears.

A former leading producer of intermediate goods has become a glutton for inferior types from Asia and parts of Africa that once depended on it for supplies of better products. They say Nigerian governments, states and federal, are owing to workers December salaries. Some states have been indebted to workers for wages longer than a year. And the ridiculous talk shop to divert attention from pressing challenges of national importance that sat at Abuja recommended Nigeria’s division to 55 states with houses of assembly, governors and executive councils of corresponding numbers. I warned then of the misfortune to befall petrodollar.

Federal government pensioners have not been paid for five months. Jonathan’s propagandists compared his performance with that of Olusegun Obasanjo and the absurd picture cut was that the PDP government of the last 15 years has wasted Nigeria in everything imaginable. There was nothing new in what the two rulers did, except that they sold Nigeria’s patrimony to their friends. So Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie’s intervention again should be an eye-opener to those sleepy tribal jingoists stuck to the suspicion of northern domination. The two non-performing Presidents, who were fighting themselves over failures in power, are southerners. And Nigeria got enormous wealth that was squandered by the two pugilists who in 15 years earned between $60 and $145 a barrel from oil and did nothing for the people. The organised private sector collapsed under them.

Let us take just one point from many raised by Okogie and that is electricity. Professor Chinedu Nebo, power minister, before he was knocked to line, revealed that those who bought NEPA’s distribution assets had no money to run their outfits. The federal government was then to raise loans, backed by the new colonisers, the Breton Woods clan, for them to operate efficiently. The same buyers have now contributed N5 billion to Jonathan’s campaign fund. It sounds dishonest and corrupt to Okogie and I agree with him. So the foreign loan, really, is to aid the President’s campaign activities? These people have increased electricity tariffs thrice for Nigerians to pay for Jonathan’s campaign. To begin with, Jonathan displayed inefficiency and partiality to have sold the people’s property to men of straw. Second, he broke the law to sell NEPA’s property to his friends without any enabling act because NEPA exists on our statute books. You do not sell what you do not have.

He is guilty of political jobbery and skullduggery. I start to wonder if I live in the same Nigeria in which I worked in the mid-1950s to 1980s. I saw, as a secondary school pupil, how Nigerian nationalists in government changed, considerably, the faces of many parts of Nigeria from rural to urban.

Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, at break-neck speed, changed the fortunes of this nation in less than 10 years. Bello had a bigger task and though he met a violent death, his people have not forgotten how he pulled them by the bootstraps to modernity. He educated his people, taught them how to fish figuratively and spread industries all over the region to utilise the proceeds from the farms and mines.

Awolowo and Azikiwe did the same in their areas of governance. We fought a civil war without borrowing a kobo from any foreign do-gooder. Even during hostilities, investors were flooding the country because they had confidence in the leaders. That momentum of growth was sustained until democracy visited in 1979 to 1983 to ground those achievements. Nigeria, the bubbling industrial medium power in the world, is now the theatre of failed factories and organised businesses, courtesy of the third coming of men in agbada.

Nigeria flawlessly and painlessly changed from right to left-hand drive. She decimalised her currency and introduced new ones to the envy of her former master, Britain, who sent officials to understudy how it was done before it embarked on its own.

Nigerians, generally, are brilliant and hard-working under an informed leadership, which has been absent since May 29, 1999. Nigeria fell into the hands of self-seeking men and women reckless with power who burrowed big holes in her till.

And since I know from experience the ingenuity of Nigerians, which has stopped them from unleashing anarchy, I am sure there is still hope. Under a committed and informed patriot, Nigeria has the men and resources to recover without seeking foreign aid. All she needs now is the organisation of the necessary structures for stability and production. The first is the civil service, which Obasanjo returned to scatter. The centre does not hold in the civil service now. It used to be professional. The second is to reorganise the private sector, not the commission agents and importers that now rule the roost. Why must we import petrol, kerosene, diesel and so forth when we have the capacity to produce them here? Sani Abacha wanted to generate 20,000 units of electricity in 2010. He left behind 8,000 and Ibrahim Babangida operated with 6,000. We have now less than 3,000 units.

Babangida built a refinery, a fertiliser factory, an aluminium plant and also new roads, including completing the Third Mainland Bridge in eight years with an average earning of $16 a barrel. Workers were not owed salaries. Now that Nigeria earned an average of $100 dollars a barrel for 15 years, there is nothing physically to show but broken-down oil refineries, roads, industries and unemployed young men and women.

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