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The Descent Of Citizen Nigeria

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edit1WHAT is the price of being Nigerian? Every U.S. citizen is proud of his country? How many Nigerians can say that they are proud to be Nigerian? The growing feeling that Nigeria cannot provide for its citizens, thereby making millions of them pack out, has become the recognized as the Andrew syndrome.

Nigerians in China, Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, etc., have fled because there are no jobs in Nigeria, and they have no security of life and property, as well as no sense of self worth. Hence, they had travelled overseas. As children, Nigerians learnt about the Greek mythology of bringing home the Golden Fleece by Jason. But the Greeks came back home: Now the traffic in Nigeria is one-way out, if one can judge by the queues at the embassies! There is a palpable growing disrespect for Nigerians all over the world; even in Dubai and Doha – even with our money. Nigeria’s driving licenses are not accepted in Dubai or Doha. There is a temporary ban. Social media is full of all other restrictions, which I would not go into here.

The young now go to Europe and the U.S. to have babies because they want U.S. citizenship for their children. They do not want their children to have the hassle of standing and waiting for visas.

What is the inspiring myth of the U.S. – anyone can be anything – a land of opportunities. Why do our children not think we can do the same here? Many fathers, like me, have been unable to convince their children not to seek dual nationalities. There are over 100,000 doctors; 100,000 lawyers and engineers of Nigerian descent, that is, Nigerians. We have become like Palestine with more qualified people outside the country than within it.

I have argued this with my children and their colleagues. I had insisted that all my children go to University in Nigeria (all did except one).

I also argued against going to U.S. to have babies. My argument was that since they all had no problems getting visas, why do they think that years from now they would have problems. I had taken them around Nigeria and round the world, trying to bond with them during holidays, so as to smash the myth that everything overseas was better. I further argued that the countries they were so enamored to go to were built by men and women who were dedicated to bringing progress to their fatherlands. If they all left, who was going to do the building of Nigeria? You would think I was speaking to myself judging from the scant attention they paid to me!!

Young couples would pay up to US$100, 000.00 to have their wives deliver babies in the U.S. When you ask them, they reply that they want another country to go to when, not if, but “when” things get hoary and desperately bad in Nigeria. In short they are convinced that Nigeria will not survive, or would go through a nasty patch.

Many Nigerians who stayed overseas have no idea what Nigeria has become. Yet, they nearly all want to be employed as political advisers to top Government functionaries: Many erstwhile Vice-Chancellors, and serving professors and corporate administrators (both national and international), have become Ministers. The resulting performances of these “expatriate” Nigerian Ministers have been poor and mainly useless. For nearly 40 years, the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development have been headed by Nigerian “expatriates” who, even more than homegrown graduates and politicians speak to us about economic revolution, agricultural revolution, and Industrial revolution. It is a game of mirrors and more mirrors. Nigeria is not like India, which has home-grown planners, who achieve and export that achievement, whether in steel, computers, car manufacturing, as in the case of keke marwas, etc. If you have foreign passports for your children that say a lot about your faith in your country!!

It is conceded that a lot of inventions have taken place in Nigeria, which has neither been backed up with implementation, or even encouragement. For example, the sickle cell anemia medicine was invented at the then University of Ife (now, Obafemi Awolowo University; whist the Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos (FIIRO) invented the yam pounding machine. The production of these medicine and machine in Nigeria was not supported by either the Government or the Organised Private Sector. Both had to look for developers outside the Country. In the case of the medicine, the patent was bought by an outside company, which suppressed it; whilst in the case of the latter, a Japanese company bought the patent, and developed the machine. Now, it is being produced cheaper in China. Such frustrating disposition by the Nigerian Government and corporate world may have served to stimulate the exodus of the Nigerian indigenous inventors but these cases are rare.

Yes, things are bad in Nigeria. But the returning Nigerian “expatriates” does not have a solution for Nigeria. They cannot, and never will. If top Government officials and leaders keep one eye on their children overseas- how can they truly work for Nigeria?

Thirty to forty years ago, Nigerians walked proud around the globe. If you were overseas, and you heard a rukhus – it was probably because some Nigerians were protesting against discrimination. Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Liberia, even South Africa, have all lost the respect they used to have for Nigeria. There is an old joke about other African nations protesting to God that God was unfair to them because He gave Nigeria everything, – gold, uranium, manganese, tin, coal, gas, oil, tar –sands, a large population, fertile soil, etc.

God’s reply was “wait until you see the leaders and the people that I am putting there!”

Old Civil Service forbade Nigerians married to expatriates to work in certain Ministries. Our Nationality Laws stipulated that you cannot be a Nigerian except your father was a Nigeria. The Service used to refuse to employ people married to foreigners, all has now changed. (You cannot reconcile your first sentence of the paragraph with the third. You can only restrict the ministry of employment only if there is employment in the first place.)

We have “swagger” – yes – but to what purpose?

Today, the primary checks necessary for promotion to the most senior levels in the Civil Service is no longer done. The Constitution has done away with illegitimacy and has approved dual citizenship. Many senior Military and civil servants now go to overseas for their retirement. Many of our Ministers, Senators, and Assemblymen are U.S. citizens or foreign citizens as well as Nigerians. I have nothing against that but we must be cautious.

Three of our finance Ministers have been U.S. citizens. A score of others in really sensitive posts also have dual citizenship. On many international issues, we do not always agree with U.S. and Western policy: A glaring example was our position of debt forgiveness; and the then Minister of France, who had argued in 1999 and 2000 that much of the debts we were being asked to pay were fraudulent and subjected to high unacceptable interest rates, even in cases where the companies to whom these debts were owed were no longer in existence. Many of the Western countries accepted this argument, and suddenly a new Finance Minister arrived. We were now being told that for Nigeria to be credit worthy, we had to pay these same debts.

Nigeria seems now to have no standards about anything. We are unable to grade Universities, Schools, and other tertiary institutions: We are constantly lowering our already low standards. With our population, ingenuity, ambition – Nigeria ought to be a paradise, or at least, being on the way to one.

Many would say that this judgment is too harsh, and point at GSM or Dangote, as evidence that we are progressing.

Perhaps, Nigeria is not a country for statistics. The smallest matter that deals with numbers defeats us. It is true that some direct foreign investments which have come into Nigeria do so via a template. Europe/U.S. investors go to South Africa and recruit a South African citizen they send to Nigeria. The South African comes to work in Nigeria and reports back to South Africa, and from there to Europe or to the U.S. Sometimes, there is a field office in Dubai – for Nigeria!! Even the investors do not want to come directly for fear of contagion – as if we were leprous.

The Nigerian Passport is worthless, and is beginning to worry other ECOWAS Countries who want to issue their own passports without carrying the burden of the shame of Nigeria.

Everything in Nigeria – excess: MTN, DSTV the two institutions to which we have taken to as fish to water: but at what expense? We now have a useless NTA, Silverbird, Channels, and AIT, etc., which shamelessly cannot broadcast their own programmes except through DSTV.

As for telephones – forget it. Fixed lines no longer exist. We have no post offices – we strut about doing internet banking, internet shopping when I cannot write a letter to my people in Abonnema or to a friend in Zungeru.

Nigeria has excess private generator sets: there are more here than anywhere else in the world. The backbone of communication in Europe and the United States is still the landline.

How did it all start? Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi, etc., produced books with the theme of culture clash – between those educated and the traditional societies. This has now been pricked up again by Chinanmanda Ngozi Adichie, and has been folklorised as the main theme of Nollywood. Perhaps, however, in anything and everything, there must be proportion. If I went to live in Kano today, there would be a culture clash: When people from Texas go to Washington DC, there is a culture clash, just as Yorkshire people have when they go to live in London. (But in the case of the U.S. and England, you can only be talking about sub-cultural clashes, rather than cultural clashes.)

But culture clash can be a good thing, since it brings changes in attitude, which itself is fundamental to progress. But we must get out of the quagmire of typicalisation, and get on with making progress: When you bring a train which I used to go to see my father from Port Harcourt to Barkinhadiin 1952 back in 2015 – using coal or diesel engines- that cannot be termed as progress, when trains in Japan and Europe are now running at 300mph on electricity.

• Dr. Patrick Dele Cole (OFR) IS A Consultant to The Guardian Editorial Board.



2 Comments
  • New Nigerian

    ..Summarily we the people must vote for Gen. Buhari – who have the capacity to move us forward – especially since Pres. Jonathan is racing us back to the past in what he has done for us. And he is taking us back to the stone age regarding what he has done against us …genocide, running Jonathan oil-cartel and all….I applaud Dr. Cole’s plain speaking manner, he is a true patriot in the mould of Prof. David West, Chief Amaechi and those like them from the South-South who represents the true conscience of the people of the region.

    How did we get here?
    Interestingly Fani Kayode, in his speech delivered in Ife Town Hall, Ile Ife on September 23, 2013 provides an aspect to the details of how we got to this sorry state of Citizen Nigeria (The other part which is deeper is the nexus between Boko Haram and Jonathan-private-oil-cartel of 400,000+ boepd since 2011):

    “””It is only under this Federal Government that, according to Rotimi Amaechi the Governor of Rivers state, two powerful, sophisticated, well-armed and highly efficient combat helicopters can be ordered and brought into the country to fight and bring an end to the massive oil theft that has gone on in the Niger Delta area for the last three years yet when those helicopters arrived the President simply refused to use and deploy them for reasons best known to himself. I have the utmost respect for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is especially because I am someone who had the privilage of working in that office for three years before I became a Federal Minister when I was spokesman to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Yet even though my respect for that office remains intact I am constrained to say that I have nothing but contempt for the way that it is presently being run and I have no qualms about criticising the performance of our President and his government. As a matter of fact I consider it as part of my civic duty to do so. The truth is that this government is fast living up to it’s reputation of being utterly clueless and manifestly dishonest. Worse still their incompetence, whether it is to do with the handling of security matters or the economy has no bounds and knows no end.

    I say this because more people have been killed by terrorists under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan and in the last three years than at any other time in our history outside the period of the civil war. 7000 Nigerians have met their bloody end at the hands of Boko Haram in the last three years and even as we speak today there are paerts of our country that are under lock down and in a state of emergency where innocent Nigerians are being slaughtered by our own security forces. Under this President Nigeria has become an abbatoir of human flesh and blood yet he still has the sheer effontry to say that he wants to return to power in 2015 and some around him have said that ”if Goodluck is not re-elected in 2015 there will be bloodshed”. Such threats and such words against the Nigerian people yet no-one in government has seen fit to call those that harbour such bloody and violent sentiments to order. What a government we have and what a country and what a people we are. The President has divided his own party and his own nation more than any other President in the history of Nigeria simply due to his lust for power and his blind ambition to succeeed himself at all costs in 2015. Yet regardless of his desperation and their threats this must not be allowed to happen. We must not allow it to happen regardless of the efforts of the fifth columnists amongst us in yorubaland that still support him for the crumbs that they are getting from his table. If he comes back in 2015, by the time he finishes in 2019 the yoruba will have been reduced to nothing but errand boys and slaves to others. That is the hidden agenda. Worse still Nigeria will be irretrievably destroyed and she will never be the same again. The challenge of every self-respecting yoruba man today is therefore simple and clear- we must stop Jonathan from coming back to office in 2015 and we must vote him out of power when the time comes. We must do this for the sake of our people in the south-west and we must do so for the sake of the people of Nigeria.

    It is with this background in mind and in the knowledge of President Goodluck Jonathan’s desperate and unholy intention to return to power at all costs in 2015 that I feel compelled to share the following words of wisdom from our Royal Father, the Alafin of Oyo, HRH Oba Lamidi Adeyemi with you. Just a few days ago he said the following- “My fatherly advice to those in authority at the federal level and especially our amiable President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is to learn from the mistakes of his very illustrious predecessor, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, by resisting any temptation to take the ‘west by all means.’” Kabiyesi has spoken well and a word is enough for the wise.

    A few more words on President Jonathan. Two days ago he reportedly asked the Nigerian people to ”leave him alone” and let him ”do his job” and challenged us to point out, with facts and figures, evidence of his corruption. I will do so here and now by simply asking a few questions which I had originally asked in another speech at another distinguished gathering in Lagos on April 2013 and which they refused to answer. Now that our President has thrown down the gauntlet and asked us to challenge him perhaps these questions will now be answered. The questions are as follows.

    When will our President and his ”today’s men” answer David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’s, question and tell him what they did with the 100 billion USD that they made from oil sales in the last two years? When will they answer the question that many of us have asked over and over again about how they squandered 67 billion USD of our foreign reserves? When will they answer the question that Nasir El Rufai asked sometime back about how they spent over 350 billion naira on security vote in one year alone? When will they answer the many questions that Pat Utomi and many other distinguishedand courageous leaders and ”yesterday’s men” have raised about the trillions of naira that have been supposedly spent on oil subsidy payments in the last two years? When will they implement the findings and recommendations of the Nuhu Ribadu report on the thievery that has gone on in the oil sector? When will they cultivate the guts and find the courage to respond to a call for a public debate to defend their abysmal record? When will these ”today’s men” stop being so reckless with our money? Why would our ”today’s man” FCT Minister budget 5 billion for the ”rehabilitatioin of prostitues in the Abuja”? Why would he budget 7.5 billion naira for a new ”FCT city gate”? Why would he budget 4 billion naira for some kind of building or centre for the First Lady? Why would the Federal Government of ”todays men” budget 1 billion naira for food in the Villa? Are these the priorities of ”today’s men”? And all this when Nigeria is back in foreign debt to the tune of 9 billion USD and is still borrowing, when local debt has hit almost 50 billion USD, when 40 per cent of the Nigerian people are unemployed, when 80 per cent of our graduates are unemploymed, when 40 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to good food and are described by the U.N.D.P as being ”hungry”, when 50 per cent of our oil production is being stolen on a daily basis by pirates and bunkerers and when 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line? Is this the vision of ”today’s men”? If so, may God deliver Nigeria.

    So much destruction and disaster all wrought in the space of three years and by just one man. That is the legacy of President Goodluck Jonathan and his ”todays men”. Yet just as it took one man to take us to these dingy and depressing depths so it will take one man to lift us up again to the heights of glory….””

    THAT ONE MAN WE AGREE IS BUHARI WHO ALL OF US WILL VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY FOR

  • Maigari

    An excellent opinion on our elites fascination with the “foreign”. One could only hope that the in-coming elected president of the republic is opportuned to read this piece. Nigeria is not lacking in any skill or discipline to the extent that we rely on expatriate Nigerians at great costs. Yes the last super finance minister illustrates this point succinctly. She has all the correct foreign appellation but effectively supervised a “controlled flight into terrain” as it were. With her super qualified team and powers, the Nigerian economy has long stopped serving the Nigerian Nation, instead we are tied securely to the Breton Woods expired principles. The entire idea of a Behavioral Economics is alien to her hence the hysterical reliance on the calculus side of economics at great costs to the people.