Sometimes I feel that sudden urge to run away from my beloved country, Nigeria and some other times, I feel that strong sense of righteous anger at our plight as a nation. At the best of times, I feel like laughing; and yet from time to time, I throw up my hand in dismay at the situation in our country. But why should I quit my fathers’ land when I have an equal stake in its success or failure like those who control the levers of power. That would never do! So I have asked myself repeatedly, “Why don’t I just do ‘siddon look’?” And then just pray for the best. As tempting as that option appears, alas, I just find that I cannot do that.
Just when I thought I was making progress, there comes this sense of overpowering urge to say something to save our collective memory from abuse by merchants of fiction and make-believe, masters of equivocation and specialists in sophistry, whose zest for their trade leaves one in total bewilderment at their ruthless professionalism. Even more incomprehensible is a willing mob followership, led by falsehood, half-truths and outright lies. Perhaps more intriguing, and genuinely puzzling is the willing participation of well-educated people, respected professionals, captains of industry and the clergy in the new narrative that has seen a “collective amnesia” weaved around the people. Some people I had held in near reverence are even deliberately helping to concoct and spread some story and excuse as gospel truth. It’s small wonder we lag behind in all indices of development. I had all along put the blame squarely on the shoulders of our leaders, but that thinking has gradually adjusted itself to the prevailing realities by including the followership considering their vital role – especially in the countdown to the 2015 elections.
The promoters of “change” only preach “change”, but pay lip service to the attitudinal change required to bring about real and enduring change. The followers on their part have embraced well packaged falsehoods as a way of life. They have even crowned well known villains heroes of a new democratic order and yet yearn for change. Sadly, the country’s resources have become the gift of a few people. And Nigeria gets nothing but mismanagement, corruption and devastation in return. The people have been sold on a change that does not exist and they can’t seem to see or better still have become numbed by unfolding events.
Maybe with innocence, they have yet to realise that the change they bought into is a mirage that does not exist after all. I have had to reflect deeply in search of meaning and purpose of our race. My findings and conclusions may be termed sacrilegious by some people who have chosen to be willfully blind to the truth about our managerial deficiencies, but I have reluctantly come to the inescapable and bitter conclusion that something is intrinsically wrong with the black man of Nigerian genre, particularly. I have lived in denial for too long. But the evidence all around us points to this fact. At least Lord Lugard stated this much several decades ago when he wrote his observation: “In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, and excitable person – lacking in self-control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity … His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past… He lacks the power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realise its responsibility…..Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his (in)ability to visualise the future.”
Can anybody genuinely fault this bitter truth as told by Lugard in 1926? Is there anyone out there who can truthfully read these excerpts and not feel the overpowering truth so starkly and forcefully spoken so long ago when the promise of our nation was not yet blighted or turned into dust by no one else but ourselves? Given our experience since independence and considering where we are as a nation today, with our dramatic downward spiral in all the indices of development, I have my doubts. I am sure those who lived in Lugard’s time when he penned his treatise on our race and were sufficiently outraged by the “gratuitous insult” to our intelligence would turn in their graves at how his words have become a guide to the study of our country and our race.
Despite producing some of the best brains in all spheres of human endeavour, the black race, especially, Nigeria is held down by the selfishness and wickedness of a visionless and greedy leadership. Nigeria, the biggest black nation on planet Earth has become the laughing stock of the world community because it wouldn’t do that which is right in order to grow and prosper. Nigeria cannot project power anymore even in West Africa. The country has become pathetically so weak that it cannot even crush a ragtag band of terrorists, who has consistently bested the military in the battlefield. What puzzles me is why a nation that is so blessed with huge resources, human and natural is led by such a visionless and parochial set of people. I had thought that the promoters of change understood the fierce urgency for national rebirth, I had prayed the infectious bewitching and smitten fervour of the “change” would drive real change thereby engendering change from a hobbled down past to a new national order, but it quickly became apparent that the wrong people were promoting a powerful campaign which successfully hoodwinked and sucked millions of people in across the land only for them to manifest the same tendencies and impunities they so vociferously condemned only months earlier. The party in power has not shown any sure sign of the “winds of change”. Today, the contradictions are all too obvious. From the use or misuse of state power, the old ways and attitudes are still very much with us – only that new players rebranded from the old order are now calling the shots.
Unfortunately, the people are too fooled to see that change isn’t coming. To justify their support and hopes, they became carried away with cosmetics such that they started awarding marks and grades to the face of change barely seven minutes into a four-hour test.
And suddenly, everything positive from the mundane to the then marginal improvement in power supply was attributed to the now famous President Muhammadu Buhari’s “body language”. I have friends who swore by their fathers’ graves that it was Buhari who within a week of assuming power, delivered stable power supply to our homes. Typical of the usual mob hysteria, abuse was screamed at anyone with contrary views. The power supply in the country has since dropped dramatically and many homes are back in darkness. When I asked my friends what happened, they responded in faint murmurs, oh, it was the rot former President Goodluck Jonathan left behind that was still causing the power supply problem, and barefacedly walked off with their tails between their legs.
Two weeks after Buhari was declared winner of the presidential election, it was reported in the media that a former Minister of Petroleum and Energy, and a Buhari for-better-or-worse ally, Prof. Tam David-West, told Nigerians to expect a sharp drop in petrol price from the current N87 to about N40 per litre, saying: “The president-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, will reduce the pump price of fuel to N40 per litre. This is possible and he has the credibility to make it work. The major assignment of the president-elect when he is eventually inaugurated is to restore confidence to the industry.” Well, words are cheap. Six months after President Buhari’s inauguration, a litre of petrol not only sells far above N87 in many parts of the country, there are long queues all over the country. It is noteworthy that in April, crude oil prices hovered around $61 per barrel when David-West gave that undertaking. Now in November, oil prices are in the $38 range. And going by his prognosis, shouldn’t petrol be selling for less than N40 per litre in fuel stations by now? But the truth is that it is not available. And Buhari is the Minister of Petroleum.
Recall that barely two weeks after he was installed as president, the propagandists went to work, spreading the tale that the refineries were working at between 70 to 80 per cent installed capacity. When the Buhari mania sweeping the country reached new heights, I remember watching and listening to an impressionable lad saying, “Oh, you see, the refineries are now working ooo. There is now light. Jonathan was just there lying to us that they are not working, oh! Buhari is Nigeria’s saviour ooh! There is now light everywhere.” Then, he knelt down on the ground with arms spread, and in near silent supplication, murmuring platitudes to God for bringing Buhari to save Nigeria. The basis for his gratitude might have been justified, given the level of obfuscation of the truth and the deitification of Buhari, but it was essentially premature, hasty and more than anything else sentimental and without foundation in reason – except for those who are eager to rewrite the truth and handover to posterity half-truths and “true lies”. Well, to them, there is a saying in the land of my fathers: “You cannot beat your chest with another man’s hands.”
The news in town about the refineries is that they are actually not working. They are essentially scraps which have become guzzling labyrinth of turnaround maintenance – euphemism for pouring more money into a bottomless pit. The sadder news coming out of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) group financial report has shown that the corporation incurred a total loss of N120.07 billion between the month of August and September. Specifically, it stated that NNPC’s revenue in August was N146.617 billion, while its expenses were put at N207.287 billion. For September, the corporation’s total expenses were N171.914 billion, while its revenue for the same month was N112.514 billion. An analysis of the report showed that the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC, incurred the highest amount of losses in the two months under review.
Sad to say this did not generate any media buzz. So despite all the talk about sanitising the NNPC and putting it on the path of prudent management, we are still hearing of losses? Where are the propagandists? Where are the tale-bearers? I was taken aback that the president in his “magnanimity” (whatever that means) according to Ibe Kachiku, approved N413 billion subsidy payments to marketers of petroleum products. Are these people kidding us? But in the run-up to the election, the president consistently disputed whether there was subsidy on petrol or not. It is therefore ironic he is now paying for what he did not believe existed. In an interview published in Daily Trust, on May 24, four days to his swearing-in, he made it categorically clear he didn’t believe in the subsidy. Here are excerpts: “… We could tell how much Nigerian crude cost, the cost of transportation from there to the refinery, the cost of refining, the cost of transportation to the pump stations and maybe 5 per cent go for overhead. I can understand if Nigerians pay for those costs. But somebody is saying he is subsidising Nigerians. Who is subsidising who?”
Should I say reality has set in now that he is sitting on the hot seat?
If you think that was all, then wait for this — the National Economic Council last week, approved that $250 million of NLNG proceeds should be invested in the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). It is the same Fund the then Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, now Minister of Transportation, alongside his fellow governors asked the Supreme Court to declare illegal. Amaechi never wanted any money saved in the SWF, insisting all the monies must be shared and quickly so, and that the federal government didn’t have the authority to save on behalf of the states for tomorrow. He argued vigorously that the states would save for themselves. That case is still pending at the Supreme Court. I wonder how he feels – now that Buhari is building up the fund for the rainy day. The states Amaechi so passionately argued would save by/for themselves are today begging for bailouts to pay salaries from the federal government. None has any savings. What about the irrepressible Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole? Remember his claim with gusto that the managers of the SWF could not account for $700 million out of the $1billion contributed to the fund. Well, if it was true, I am sure the president would have fired the management by now. And does it make sense that those who Oshiomhole accused of mismanagement are given another tranche of $250 million to (mis)manage? The “true lies” are tiring out.
Now, where are the “Buhari trekkers”? I am sure they are not affected by the current fuel scarcity causing travel chaos all over the country because they are used to trekking. Or are they? The witchcraft of change appears to have run out of steam. And now, the demystification appears to have begun.
On a final note, having watched some of the actions or inactions of the president and having listened to some of his utterances, I have drawn some painful conclusions that either he cannot make the tough choices, or he would not take the equally tough decisions necessary to push Nigeria from the dire situation it has found itself because he is now a hostage to his own popularity with the masses, which he is afraid of losing. He appears stuck in the past to understand the complexities of a modern economy even if he may mean well. He seems to be lacking the energy and enthusiasm for real change. Those who should tell him that the economy has slipped into the abyss are the ones figure-skating around him and calling him a messiah who has started to make “Nigeria of our dreams” possible.