Disinfecting and disinfesting Nigeria at 57
By Sonny Atumah
Nigeria turned 57 last Sunday. Nigeria’s journey is worth congratulating irrespective of the sociopolitical and economic vicissitudes. The appointment of Transport Minister and Deputy leader of the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, as Prime Minister on September 2, 1957 by the second and last British Governor General that ruled Nigeria from June 15, 1955 to November 16, 1960, Sir James Wilson Robertson set the stage for independence in 1960.
It was historic in Lagos when on Saturday October 1, 1960, Tafawa Balewa in his golden voice delivered the first Independence speech. Balewa’s genteel speech portrayed a towering Nigeria that stood well-built upon firm foundations having taken time to realize the independence dream. Our eloquent nationalists had in a non-violent manner did their utmost to wrest political power from the British. Nigeria missed the crop of nationalists; some of whom including Balewa became the first martyrs in 1966.
History would continue to interrogate the political structure which collapsed six years after independence. The weak foundations depicted by these directional signs; Ethnic Drive, Religious Way and Nepotism Close would have had superstructures of Corruption Road and the Bribes Avenue mounted on them.
The Bypass of mutual suspicion of the federating regions fanned the embers of disunity that led to the avoidable civil war of 1967 to 1970. Which lessons have been learnt? More vehicles of malfeasance are acquired by the day to convey lack of transparency and accountability, mismanagement, embezzlement and inefficiency. When culprits are caught off guard the same weak structures of ethnicity and religion are deployed for safe landing.
Call it lack of care for neighbour or mental laziness; our petrodollars are emptied in personal pockets for transnational shipments to London, New York, Singapore, Dubai and other global financial centres. Rains of foreign currencies have fallen from private vaults in a system that encourages some depraved thieves who had privileges of serving Nigeria. Estimated figure in these centres from Nigeria’s economic insurgents that have put the country in a cliffhanger is US$150 billion.
Again for technology or lack of it, the commanding height of Nigeria continued to be with foreigners. Nigeria’s contribution to petroleum production which revenue we share monthly is about six percent since its discovery 61 years ago. The oil super majors explore and produce our celebrated cash cow with many of them engaging in questionable transactions with government’s officials.
In the celebrated “Halliburton Bribery Scandal,” a consortium of companies paid over US$182 million in bribe to top Nigerian officials between 1993 and 2004 in exchange for US$6 billion in engineering and construction work for the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny Island. Between 2009 and 2011, the consortium members paid penalties totaling more than $1.5 billion for their role in the bribery scheme with some individuals jailed in the United States. How it went in Nigeria was better imagined.
Without the do it yourself approach we will continue to blame others for our woes. Like the proverbial bad workman we blame others for our calamities. Since 1994 our refineries were sent to untimely deaths as we resorted to massive products importation with fraudulent subsidy claims. With subsidies taken out we blame the crude price volatility in the international market for the economy that slid into recession in 2016. We know there are about 6,000 by products and derivatives when we refine. Local refining will help if there is political will to revamp our refineries.
Again many blamed the General Yakubu Gowon administration’s Petroleum Act of 27 November 1969 that altered the 50 percent royalties and rents received from mining enterprises to the component states in which mining was done. He must have laid the foundation for present day agitations when he abolished the existing derivation formula for one based on population and size of states. May be a war time exigency necessitated it.
If it is resource control, President Muhammadu Buhari should provide a vent for it now. It may be the elixir of Nigeria’s life miraculous substance to temper the spectre of agitations for equity and justice to reduce quasi militiaman and non-state actors. But care must be taken to ward off economic insurgents that would take over resources in states; otherwise it would be orgy of self-pity for the down trodden and double jeopardy for the nation.
President Buhari in his 2017 Independence broadcast last Sunday alluded to the fact that corruption is Nigeria’s number one enemy for his administration to tackle. But an integrated approach and inclusiveness would allay the fears of people that feel marginalized and reduce the drumbeats.
These issues evoke memories in a way that arouse nostalgia. We should disinfect Nigeria with more ingenious ways. We should do this speedily to ward off an emergent bipolarity of tribes between the haves and have-nots. This lowly group has a communality of occupation, social background or political viewpoint, harboring ill feeling and not wanting forgiveness which is actually divine.
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