The Descent Of Citizen Nigeria
WHAT 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.