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Tobi Amusan, Ozuah And Buhari’s N1.14bn Vehicles For Niger by Festus Adebayo

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To understand the profligacy, indiscretion and misplaced priority in the purchase of N1.14bn ($2.7m)-worth 10 luxury vehicles by the MuhammaduBuhari government for neighbouring Niger Republic, ostensibly to shore up that country’s security, at a time when there is excruciating hunger in the land and terrorists are probably a mile away from the Aso Villa seat of government, you have to go way back to the year 1972 or so, to the reply of the late President of Niger Republic, AhmaduDiori, when asked why Niger supported Nigeria as against the secessionist Biafrain the Nigerian Civil War. According to Diori, as quoted by Temitope Ola in ‘Nigeria’s assistance to African states: What are the benefits?’ in International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Niger depended on Nigeria for her economic survival. In his direct words, made in French, Diori had said “when Nigeria sneezes, Niger not only catches cold, it is already on admission in the hospital.”

While government justifies the vehicle purchase as continuation of Nigeria’s national foreign policy, with its central focus on Africa, this has afforded Nigerians the opportunity to dig into the details of the so-called foreign policy. In the process, we found out that, as irresponsibly profligate as that Buhari government’s vehicle purchase is, at this time of national economic pains at home, profligacy and irresponsible spending have, since independence, hallmarked successive Nigerian governments’ national and foreign policies. This recklessness confirms the flipside of that popular aphorism that though Rome was not built in a day, Rome was also not destroyed in a day as well. Not only didn’t the prostrate and lamentable state that Nigeria currently finds herself begin today, Buhari, a known defender of his Fulani ethnicity, at the expense of Nigeria, was led into taking such a reprehensible action based on a Nigerian governmental pedigree of wastage.

According to a January 30, 1970 edition of The New York Times, even after a ruinous, brutal and destructive civil war, Nigeria’s economic structure and promise remained almost unscathed. Put at about $1billion spent on prosecuting the needless civil war, Nigeria must have been one of the few countries in the world which fought an intra-national war for three years without any known record of indebtedness. With an economy managed by Chief ObafemiAwolowo, an astute manager of men and resources, Times reported that Nigeria adopted the “cash and carry” method for her arms and ammunition procurement. More astoundingly, she didn’t have to draw down on her foreign currency reserves which, pre-war, stood at $400 million.

Armed with a hugely humongous oil wealth, a vast population and the mantra that a Nigerian was in five blacks gathered anywhere in the world, as the street lingo says, these soon “entered Nigeria’s head,” and the thought that the country could be an African superpower became a near-national ideological obsession. Between 1967 and 1977, federal government revenue was said to have soared by 2,200 per cent. Nigeria’s economy was so strong that, on January 1, 1973, the country abandoned its pound sterling currency, a colonial relic, and created a Naira currency. Nigeria was managed by an exuberant crop of unaccountable military leaders who had scant leadership and economic training. The height of it was Gowon’s infamous statement abroad in 1973 that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it.  The huge oil wealth was soon quashed on the altar of naivety, arrogance and knavery.

Going on foreign junkets became a pastime of the nouveau riche military elite and a consumerist pattern driven by obsession for foreign goods. This grossly contradicted a budding ideology of a people who professed African superpower. General Gowon, like MuhammaduBuhari, publicly known for his terse thirst for personal corruption, became a breeding pond for blood-of-the-country-sucking sharks dressed in military epaulettes. The governors began a mania of infrastructure driven more by opportunistic crave to collect kickback from contractors than need for development. It became so bad that in 1975, the Gowon government had placed accumulated order for 20 million tonnes of cement, paid for by Nigeria’s buoyant petro-dollars. The cost of the mind-boggling cement orders was put at about $2 billion, an amount which was a quarter of Nigeria’s oil revenue in 1975. This order was at the time more than the cement capacity of Europe and USSR combined. Apapa was thoroughly overwhelmed and shipping lines all over the world scurried to Nigeria to take a bite of the raw, mindless orgy of profligacy. Most of the shipments entered demurrage in what was infamously dubbed the Cement Armada.

The petro-dollar El-Dorado was so hugely provoked that every rural dweller in Nigerian villages wanted to migrate to the city. Prostitution statistics rose tremendously, so did crimes. Girls became willing liaisons to soldiers in whose hands hid the famous dollars from oil exploration and their civil servant accomplices. Between 1970 and 1976, statistics revealed an upsurge in criminal activities due to the craze to take a bite of petro-dollars. An approximate 900-percent increase in incidences of armed robbery was recorded, with 12,153 reported cases in 1970. This figure soared to 105,859 in 1976. Executions of robbers, codified in federal and state laws, went on the upswing. The capital punishment for armed robbery could however not deter the spate of robberies because the petro-dollar gains accruable from the crime outweighed the risk of being caught.

It was easy for the exuberant military leaders, many of them in their 20s and 30s, some of whom were bachelors, like General Jack, the Head of State himself, to extend the spatial control mentality of military psychology into governance. They easily keyed into the African superpower near-national ideological obsession and began to spend like Father Christmas, in the service of a foreign policy they devised, which was woven round Africa as centre-piece. This cost Nigeria heavily.

Thus, in 1972, as reported by Ola, Nigeria signed a pact with Niger Republic to supply her 30,000 kilowatts of electricity, from the Kanji Dam hydroelectricity, even when local electricity needs were not met. Again in 1974, Nigeria donated millions of Naira-worth relief materials to same Niger when it was ravaged by drought. After the widespread Soweto massacre riots of 1976, Nigeria brought into the country hundreds of “Soweto kids” and several other South African Black youths and offered them scholarship to study in Nigerian universities. This continued to the end of apartheid. Nigeria also established a South Africa Relief Fund (SARF) in 1978 where Nigerians poured about $20 million of their hard-earned money into. In June 1976, according to Ola, Gen Obasanjo presented a cheque of $250,000 to the liberation forces of Rhodesia through Mozambiquan Foreign Minister, Joaquim Chissano in Mauritius during the OAU summit. Quoting General Joe Garba, Ola also reported that, on April 25, 1976, Obasanjo handed over to President Samora Machel of the newly independent state of Mozambique the sum of $1.6 million as development assistance.

Nigeria also did this Father Christmas in her negotiation with and sale of a concessionary 90-day crude oil to South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Niger and other Africa countries. Ghana and Togo owed the country over $30million from the exercise. The Big Father Xmas also constructed an expressway from Lagos to the outskirts of Cotonou with several millions of dollars, while spearheading the integration project of a regional gas pipeline for the sub-regional economic development. Nigeria equally established the Technical Aid Programme and created a Trust Fund at AfDB for Africans with a soft loan of $100 million it left in the bank to be lent to Least Developing African Countries.

In 1989, upon the paralysis of Beninoise government by a bludgeoning workers’ strike occasioned by its inability to pay salaries, Nigeria, under Babangida, offset the salaries while also donating 12,000 tonnes of petroleum products to the government. The year before, Babangida’s Nigeria funded the Ibrahim Babangida School of International Studies in Liberia and donated seven Nigerian academics to its institution while Nigeria constructed the Trans-African Highway and bought over Liberia’s debt valued at $30 million.

There have been several arguments from international relations scholars who aver that, not being an island unto herself, Nigeria cannot but assist other nations, especially the ones that surround her. This argument is further bolstered by the fact that Nigeria herself receives huge assistances from developed countries of the world. However, Nigeria’s foreign policy has been left so much to the whims of the executive arm of government which then drives it according to the personal mindset of the head of the arm. It is why a cronyist like Buhari will capitalize on this unwholesome pedigree of Nigerian leadership to fritter money abroad in building a road into his Niger ancestral home, spend billions of Nigerian money on the tiny African country and legitimize it by citing Nigeria’s national foreign policy. President Obasanjo and General Babangida, for instance, squandered Nigeria’s national wealth so unconscionably during their stay in office on what will appear a mythical brotherhood relations policy, without corresponding benefits accruable to the country. Many of those countries on whom Nigeria squandered her national resources that could have been saved to build a today for her children demonize Nigeria and Nigerians today on account of the social and economic calamities that result, partly from such mindless donations and investments in their countries that were made decades ago. Nigerians today face xenophobic attacks from South Africans, for whose today we cleaned our treasury yesterday.

Almost as if it was perforating the thesis I have been sermonizing about since the beginning of this piece, on the scene emerged an alumnus of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, MBBS Class of 1985, Dr Philip Ozuah who donated the sum of $1,000,000 to a hostel building fund project of the college last week. The news nearly blocked the social media airwave. In an earlier discussion of Nigeria’s Father Christmas role in Africa that I had with some persons, I was asked that, put beside Ozuah’s gesture, what difference exists between Nigeria and Dr. Ozuah, both having helped their needy ecosystem?

In some way, you could also throw into this mix Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, the 25-year old athlete who made history last week by winningthe 100 metres hurdles gold at the World Athletics Championship.

Rather than counterpoise or equalize Nigeria, I think what both Ozuah and Amusan did for Nigeria is what Leo Tolstoy called Loss as the elder brother of Gain. At a time, we thought our Loss was the national morale that had sagged badly in Nigeria, both in individual Nigerians’ willingness to intervene in the affairs of the other person or intervention in matters that affect the collective. Also, at a time that we thought that the name of Nigeria could never inspire anything good in the world, Amusan and Ozuah dismantled this mindset by coming as our Gain. In the words of Bob Marley, in his Trenchtowntrack, Ozuah and Amusan both made Nigeria/Nigerians to find “our (national) bread in desolate places,” among a world that asked, “can anything good come out Of (Nigeria) Trench Town?”

However, Ozuah and Amusan haven’t totally erased the fact that Nigeria is still a desolate place. If you listened to the maiden Channels TV interview granted by Festus Keyamo, National Publicity Secretary of the APC and his haughty pee on the graves of Nigerians who died and are still dying as a result of Buhari’s effeminate fight of terrorists, or his cavalier dismissal as inconsequential and the over-simplification of the almost half a year stay at home by our university children, you cannot but conclude that though brains similar to Keyamo’s, since 1960, have profligately driven Nigeria back, the Amusan and Ozuahs demonstrate that even inside the tunnel, we can have the light shine.

Tobi Amusan, Ozuah and Buhari’sN1.14bn vehicles for Niger

Strictly Personal

Akeredolu And Katsina’s AK-47 Trainees by Lasisi Olagunju

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In Lawuyi Ogunniran’s Yoruba play, Ààrẹ-àgò Aríkúyẹrí, we see how a happy polygamous family is ruined by the indiscretion of the family head. Ògúnrìndé Ajé, the Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun of Ibadan, a man with three wives, throws a party to worship his ‘ori’; he lines up his wives in a singing and dancing bout; the second wife outshines the others; the husband celebrates her, publicly proclaims her as his favourite and shoves aside the other wives. The party is over, three children of the third wife die in quick succession – poisoned; hell is let loose. The first wife secretly tells the mother of the dead children that her Babalawo has revealed the favoured wife as the ‘witch’ who ate her children. The bereaved tells her husband the discovery, and, the man, in anger, shoots dead the ‘accused’ wife; the town steps in. Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun is accused of murder and brought before Baṣọ̀run Ògúnmọ́lá and the council of chiefs. The truth is revealed: the first wife is the culprit; she tells the chiefs that the wives loved one another before their husband picked his favourite in public. She confesses to killing the kids to punish the family head “who knows the slender wife that fits her husband on the day of the feast, and (knows) the fat wife fit only as a labourer on the farm.”

Nigeria is ineluctably rolling towards its destiny; it is approaching its final destination. That was the summary of my thought after watching the Katsina vigilante training video, the trainees’ open display of dexterity in handling AK-47 rifles, and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s charge at the double standards of the Federal Government. The governor alleged that South-West states applied for and got a no for its Amotekun from the Federal Government while Katsina State got a yes for its security outfit to bear military-grade weapons. The firm became firmer after I read the police’s explanation that what the Katsina vigilante boys got were not AK-47 assault rifles but mere training in the use of AK-47 guns. We live in a ghostly society ruled by funny, deadly ideas.

You saw the devastating effects of bias and favouritism in the Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun story above: Three children die of poison; one wife is shot dead by the husband; a jealous wife is sentenced to death; the family head is sentenced to death – but escapes to the miserable life of a fugitive. Even, members of the jury – the chiefs who sit on the case – become victims; they are busted as bribe takers and lost their privileges, and the bribe deliverers are sold to slavery. The lone survivor is the last wife who escaped with the morbid scar of the loss of three children. This story is Nigeria and its future in their very raw form. Clinical psychologists have a description of a household of bias and iniquity. They say a family of parental favouritism is one of shame, fear, and fight. Wherever you have the blight of bias, you see cohesion in flight; you feel disengagement and conflict in full swing. A home where the favoured child sees the parents as enviable and helpful, and the disfavoured child perceives them as wicked, selfish, and authoritarian is no one’s dream home. It cannot ever achieve its full potential. It is a house of commotion and destruction.

Human existence, Sigmund Freud theorized, is all about two basic urges – he called them drives: One is Eros (the desire to live); the other is Thanatos (the wish to die). Both cohere and contend throughout the journey of life. If Freud saw war as “the prevailing of death over love,” then Nigeria is the ground of that battle. Every step that is taken here, solitary and collective, is a shortcut to death and decay. Nothing is an accident; the virus ravaging our giant came with its bad birth and breath and feeds on the deformity. Imagine what the Nigerian government has made of a decision as basic as what weapons to deploy in fighting a collective enemy. The regime has costumed it in sectional arrogance, governmental infidelity, and unfaithfulness. The result is the outcry from Akeredolu and the shameful silence from Abuja.

Except the state armourer is the forest bandit, he should have no problem arming law enforcement agents and agencies against banditry. If terrorists in the forests of Katsina and Borno use AK-47, and terrorists in the forests of Ondo and Oyo use AK-47, shouldn’t the respective responses be similar in ways and means? We insist that our country’s full name is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, yet, we hate what real federations do. The United States is a federation with more than 17,000 state and local police forces. They are many and, yet, they get the job done in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. Why is it difficult for us to do what others do so that we get what others get? We cannot insist that Nigeria’s unity and oneness are inviolable and non-negotiable while having one standard for the north and a different standard for the south.

Our founding fathers fought for and got Nigeria as a federation of disparate units. They voted for federalism because they knew it would stop the madness of one part from becoming a national epidemic. It is about balancing of power – and even of terror. America’s founding fathers opted for federalism because they sought “to balance order with liberty…avoid tyranny, allow more participation in politics and use the states as ‘laboratories’ for new ideas and programmes.” The fourth president of the United States and father of the country’s constitution and its Bill of Rights, James Madison, argued (in The Federalist, No. 51) that power must be set against power, and ambition must be made to counteract ambition if his emerging nation of many parts would progress in peace and plenty. Earlier in The Federalist, No. 10, he had explained how the adoption of federalism would engender peace and development: “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy, but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.” Drawing from Madison’s argument, an analyst says “federalism prevents a person that takes control of a state from easily taking control of the federal government as well.” What do those sentences tell you about Nigeria and its owners and why the nation’s ailments are incurable? The US experience apparently influenced what legal icon and elder statesman, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, argued for in April 2022. He called for a total constitutional overhaul of Nigeria instead of limping towards the next elections. We asked him to shut up.

Five months ago, Chief Afe Babalola looked at Nigeria he was living in and cried out that he could not recognize what he was seeing. Then he issued a statement and said he “decided to talk because this country is now different from the one I used to know.” He said he saw a gradually collapsing country, a half-dead nation with a currency that was N199 to $1 in 2015 but which had gone down to N570 to a dollar as of the time he issued the statement. “The external debt, which was $10.7 billion in 2015 is now over $38 billion. The government is borrowing more, and spending more, but earning fewer revenues. The worse thing is that the debt servicing level is also rising. In 2020, Nigeria was ranked as the poorest country in the world with over 50 percent of Nigerians living in extreme poverty while over 70 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life-saving assistance.” Chief Babalola said he was “of the firm conviction that moneybags now control the lever of powers.” He said if we allowed the present constitution beyond 2023, what we would be getting is recycled leadership, who would continue the old ways. “We need a constitution that will throw up young, brilliant, dedicated people to save this country. We can’t get all these under the present constitution. We need a new set of leaders in our nation; leaders who will not see themselves as Mr. Know-All and who will not see themselves as above anyone,” he said.

That was five months ago. How many bags of naira must you carry before you can purchase a dollar in Nigeria today? A thousand dollars may soon trump a million naira. If you are an optimist, you have something to chew on here. It is said that a witch who would stop being a witch would not build an all-female nest. Nigeria is that witch. It breaks the backbone of whatever is good and strong; it does not build or rebuild; it listens not to the voice of knowledge and understanding. How did we take Afe Babalola’s counsel that we rearrange our lives productively instead of going for the poisonous feast of the 2023 elections? We dismissed him and his words. The old man has since been minding his business, eating his pounded yam, mounting his horse during the day and ‘the other one at night. But for Nigeria, denial cures nothing; the country remains “a contagion of disgrace.”

Bloomberg, last week, in a damning report said bankers were bailing out of Nigeria’s stagnating economy. It mentioned ‘japa’ the new fad for brain drain. The drain is with the traumatized – made up of everyone: young, old, read, and unread. It is the result you get from a cracked system that won’t submit itself for reconstruction. Nigeria cannot work unless it has the right leaders. It cannot have the right leaders unless the structure is right. The tormentors of Nigeria run to the United States. But they won’t accept that that country works because it preserves the choices its founding fathers made at the beginning of their journey. Nigeria robs the world of hope and puts the optimist to shame. “The fountains are dusty in the Graveyard of Dreams; The hinges are rusty and swing with tiny screams” (H. Beam Piper in ‘Graveyard of Dreams’). We tempt fate and tamper with destinies; the result is the shrill death of hope. Fuji music’s grand old megastar, Kollington Ayinla, sang in the 1980s that Nigeria is the world and it would never die (Nigeria, ayé ni kò lè kú…). My starry-eyed generation (and the ones before us) sang and danced with Baba Alatika along the rich creeks of that optimism. But, life has taught us lessons on how not to be optimistic. If musicians are true poets, today, I would borrow from Odia Ofeimun and chant ‘The Poet Lied.’ I am not sure the lyricist in Kollington believes any longer in the spirit of his song of an eternal Nigeria. Nothing that is born to sink will swim – even when it is offered lifelines.

 

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Strictly Personal

Let us all grow bananas, make more pads, distil more Waragi by Jenerali Uliwengu

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We are now getting used to Kenyans chalking up achievements in areas where all of us should have been eager to prove our worth in. And it looks like there is neither atomic science nor black magic in what they beat us in. All they have needed is a little thinking space in which to exercise their minds, and, surely, that should be available.

This time round, I learn that a couple of Kenyan students, Paul Ntikoisa and Ivy Etemesi in the Rift Valley, have been putting their heads together around a problem that has been dogging young female learners in all our countries; some female students sometimes drop out of the school system because of the biological imperative of having to go through the menstrual cycles in an unfriendly environment.

Though we all know that this is a natural imposition of womanhood that no girl — unless seriously disabled — can avoid, we seem to think of it as a girl’s problem that she and her mother – not father — should deal with.

Modern education

It has been with us for a long time, and we have knowledge of the impediment it places on the path to women’s emancipation which should come through attaining modern education, and yet we do little to alleviate the inconvenience experienced by school girls. It has often been stated that many girls cannot stand the discomfort and humiliation they have to go through when the inevitable happens, every month because they are shunned and mocked by their uncomprehending male colleagues who treat them as if they were unclean, though it is obviously through no fault of theirs.

It is estimated by Unesco that to more than 2.6 million girls are faced with this problem in Kenya alone, and it is easy to imagine how many more will be affected across the continent.

Now, some Kenyan youth have come up with a brilliant idea that will radically change the way we look at the banana plant. Taking a cue from the traditional use of the banana stem by Ugandan women, these young Kenyan students went one better, by obtaining banana trunk fibre and processing it into wearable fibre that can be deployed as a sanitary pad.

Immediately, I heard of this big news I rushed to google it, and spent some time buried in the literature. Till I understood the processes. I am not a techy buff myself but I could kind of understand what they had done with the banana stem: take out the soft inner flesh of the stem, and wash it thoroughly to remove impurities…

Well, I must stop there lest I give misleading information to DIY enthusiasts, but my point is made.

What these young people have done is a practical demonstration of the can-do spirit with which many youngsters are imbued, and they are to be found not only in Kenya but in all our countries.

It is only that the Kenyans tend to get there before the others and get all the bragging rights. If I sound envious, it is because I am.

But better late than never, and all our youngsters in the other countries can take up the challenge.

Other tissue

First, we have the advantage of knowing what the Kenyan lads have done with the banana plant. That is not the only way to go, because someone could try to utilise some other tissue. I wonder how baobab bark would fare in this context, since ‘orubugu’ is hallowed textile in the Lake Victoria area and could do the trick if it is properly pounded and softened. What about papaya stem?

On a general note, we need to encourage our youth to be more adventurous, to experiment with what has never been used but is plentiful.

A long time ago I got some wisdom from a visiting young French man who told me, unforgettably: to make progress, you either identify something useful and acquire plenty of it, or you identify something that you have plenty of and find a use for it because you already have it. It is the case of banana plants all around us.

This might create a banana revolution in which people will uproot other plants to replace them with bananas, and find that the bananas have numerous advantages:

They can be eaten as fruit when they ripen; they can be cooked before they ripen to provide matooke and katoogo; the banana juice is sweeter than Coca Cola; fermented, it gives the alcoholic beverages, rubisi and mbege, from which a moonshine is extracted for serious Waragi and Konyagi gins consumers.

In addition, banana plants in large numbers help to decorate the land, cool the earth, and freshen the air.

Rainfall pattern

I see no reason why people all over East Africa do not plant as many bananas as they can in all the areas with a moderate rainfall pattern. DR Congo, which enjoys such plentiful rains, should take the lead in creating this luxuriant and extremely valuable agricultural belt.

We could all soon celebrate the banana plant as a liberator on so many fronts, and since some people have been trying very hard to make banana republics of our countries, we might as well complete the picture meaningfully.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: jenerali@gmail.com

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