Nigeria- a tale of squandered opportunities and extinguished hopes (1)
West African Research Association (WARA), Boston University, United States
A long time ago, there was a friend of mine whose name was Lawan. He lived in a nearby village neighborhood called ‘Burmanawa, which is just few kilometers away from my hometown. Lawan, ‘Dan ‘Burmanawa as we then popularly call him, was a very optimistic human being who’s always enthusiastic about the local happenings in Nigeria. He liked talking much good things that he expects to happen to his country by making all sort of noise without leaving us (his classmates) to say a word until he reaches conclusion over what he wanted us to hear. This was not only ‘Dan ‘Burmanawa’s problem. His biggest problem was showing dislike and absolute hatred to reading his Books during our end of term examination. He once told me that “Nura, what I like best in my leisure time is to climb tree and be watching my dad cows grazing while I am singing and whistling my song- In yarare yare yarare! Inyarare yare!! Inyarare yare yarare inyare yare!!!”
Lawan loved so much singing and whistling, cheerfully in the bush!
One day, we were sitting on a mat under a tree close to our chemistry lab, discussing about what we want and like to become when we graduate from school, and the development and progress we intend to provide for Nigeria by improving the lots in our leaders. Bello Makama, “Bellollah” as he nicknamed himself, another interesting character from our class that I held dear openly told us his ambition of wanting to become a medical doctor of international repute someday. He said he believed, one day, he would turn Nigeria’s health sector into a new leaf. But fatefully, this ambitious medical doctor-to-be young man, is today lost to University of Reading, United Kingdom as full blown PhD holder in chemistry! The last time I spoke with him was when I was trying to seek his advice on whether I should pack my things and leave Nigeria for good because of what I see that will sooner or later turn and push the country’s sick political leadership and its demoralizing economy to brinkmanship, acrobatics and summersaults.
Therefore, the three (3) of us, that is, Bello, ‘Dan ‘Burmanawa and I were a combination of charm, stubbornness and bizarre hard work at Kafin Hausa Science Secondary School. In fact, I and Bello did most of our school errands and academic exercises, lessons and readings together. There was a day, I and Bello were improvising in happiness before the period of our mathematics teacher, Malam Idrissa Shayya, whom we nicknamed “Pla-ta-ned”, because of his lack of good command of English language that more often made him committed so many pronunciation errors by mixing Fs and Ps, which is one common problem with average English speaking northerners. Incidentally, that very day, Mallam Shayya committed a serious pronunciation blunder while teaching us a lesson on “frustum of a cone” where he proudly and loudly said “Class, I am not going to write to you on black board today! Everybody should get ready for dictation”. Then, we were all keen and listening to what Mallam Shayya is going to say. He therefore hurriedly said, “A paper is Pla-ta-ned…” instead of pronouncing it correctly as “A paper is flattened…” It was after his wrong pronunciation of the word “Flattened” that I immediately looked up and signaled Bello with my eyes and gently lowered my head and whispered before his ears that “Kai, Mallam fa ya kona Ingila da Ingilawa”, meaning: Mallam Shayya, the teacher, has grammatically burnt England and English people. Bello laughed and said “O boy! It is true; this man has really dealt with White House!” As soon as we finished our on-the-spot gossip on Shayya, the man spotted us, because he somehow heard what we said over his grammatical slip-up. He then furiously abused us by saying all of us should “go out of the class!”
Well, the rest is now history. As far as I could recall, since we left school, I never know where our well groomed mathematical, but half-baked English teacher is. It was a couple of days after the Shayya drama that all of us converged under that tree listening to the ‘Dan ‘Burmanawa’s ferry-tales, which Bello disdainfully hates, because he considered them as words of mouth coming out from none other person than that ‘Dan Kauye (villager) whom he jokingly called as ‘Dan fulanin ‘Burmanawa. In the course of our discussion, I tried to draw their attention by painting them a scenario based on the available observed facts that I “superficially” had, which in my view turned majority of Nigerian leaders into criminals in leadership. I told ‘Dan ‘Burmanawa and Bello the reasons why most of our leaders not only in Nigeria, but also generally in Africa have dreadfully become crooks in governance. I then remember telling them about Atgalgano, a greedy criminal guy and gangster of a syndicate that featured prominently in one of the James Hardly Chase crime story Books that Bello was always keen to hear about. Indeed, Atgalgano’s criminal power and intimidation roles, which were given to him by the story maestro of all time (James Hardly Chase), can today be likened to the brainless political “powers” that the likes of IBB, Adamu Chiroma, Dalhatu Tafida, Atiku Abubakar, Aliyu Gusau and co. thought they have, but in the actual sense ended up deceiving themselves and northern Nigeria, because the south has realized that they are nothing other than a bunch of unintelligent political power barbarians that have committed, what I prefer to call political hara-kiri. And very soon they will be consumed and caught by the nemesis of their lack of political tolerance, leadership maneuverability, personal grandiosity and material accumulation that have today taken them nowhere other than making them become nonentities, because they have done nothing to their people besides mortgaging the future of their sons, daughters and grand-grand children. What a shame? All they did then and now are surviving under northern patronage by making northern Nigeria people very poor and poverty stricken. They could not provide the desired education and development to the region, because most of them are not properly educated and hence do not know its value and what it can offer to human and capital development. Well, we forgive them anyway, but I think God will not allow their inactions and karmic retribution that they did to northern Nigeria to go scot free i.e. if they fail to ask His repentance.
I conclusively told ‘Dan ‘Burmanawa that “look Lawan, don’t ever deceive yourself by living on wishful thinking. Nigeria cannot develop, especially when you look at the way we are going”. But he was then full of “hopes” and his mind was split in two-in between some chains of broken dreams. He laughably said “Nura, my country is the giant of Africa!” But I asked him there and then “are you as giant as you think and behave?” Since that time, the confident Lawan was looking at me as that kind of pessimist who has given up hope over my country’s affairs. But I don’t mind and I did not bother for a second. I still maintained my stance over what I said. I even reiterated to him that my reasons for saying so and holding unto my unhopeful position is based on the unwholesome attitude(s) that I see daily coming out from my fellow countrymen, women, youth and even children. I told him that I once heard a non- Nigerian making horrible comment on his experience about Nigeria.
Moeletsi Mbeki, one of the famous South African Journalists, political analyst and deputy chairman of the South African Institute for International Affairs, was making comparative analysis over African countries and the reason why the continent has a long history effect of chronic underinvestment, which he hinged the blames on the African leaders who after independence thought they would build a modern Africa with thriving industries, universities and hospitals. Mbeki was rather shocked that all these did not happen. He was even terribly shocked when he visited Nigeria where he saw aluminium Smelter Company in the Niger Delta that had been built at an estimated cost of U.S 2.5 billion. As at the time of his visit, Mbeki said the plant had employed 800 people but they could not produce a single kilogram of aluminium!
That place according to him, has a 1 kilometre long conveyer belt, its own port and its own power station linked by a 100 kilometre long gas pipeline to an oil rig, but it had been turned into nothing other than another year long “Yankari” holiday resort for its “highly qualified and highly paid employees”. Years later, the company was sold to a Russian oligarch for a tiny fraction of what it cost to build. Indeed, the Niger Delta Aluminium Smelter Company, in my view, is by far not the saddest story than Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill that was mischievously planned to be constructed at Ajaokuta local government area of Kogi State. This Steel Plant that we have heard of it since we were teenagers, up till today could not “cry out” 0.01 kilogram of iron let alone produce a single iron bar after multi billions of Naira had been lavishly spent on it by several Nigerian Presidents and their lieutenants.
Ironically, planning for this Steel Rolling Mill started around 1958. Extra-ordinary ministerial agencies were severally established by military Decree No. 9 of April 14, 1971 to focalize efforts required to actualize this Steel Plant in Nigeria. One of them is the Nigerian Steel Development Authority (NSDA), which signed a “global” contract in 1975 with a Soviet state-owned firm of Tiajpromexport for an “integrated” steel plant of 1.3 million tones of long products to be immediately expanded to 2.6 million tones in flat products while the third phase will raise the annual production to 5.2 million tones. This phase, we were told, its first phase would be completed in 1981. After the Soviet’s hypothesis on this caricature project, European countries also set in with their brand new agendas by advising Nigerian governments to concentrate on agriculture rather than venture into “high-tech” steel business. They therefore began to flood the Federal Government with glossy contracts proposals on alternative technologies for “new-breed” steel plants based on the so-called “Direct Reduction (DR) process”. In 1975 the Federal Government signed a “Turn-Key” contract with a German-Austrian Consortium for a DR plant to be located in Aladja, Warri (Delta Steel Company). It was financed from a guaranteed loan from Deutche Bank. Thereafter, the Federal Government dissolved its NSDA by returning its function to non-technical bureaucrats of a New Ministry of Steel. Then, haphazard activities were embarked upon where lots of inflated shoddy subsidiary projects were helter-skelter chased by government interest groups where the awards given on those subsidiary contracts far exceeded the main contract sum, and the total Ajaokuta Steel contract budget was made even bigger than the national fund could sustain. In the end, this Ajaokuta Steel Rolling wahala was terribly mismanaged by sheer ministerial mishandling than anywhere else in Africa.
Not only this, but I also had to further said to my very good friends –the hopeful Lawan ‘Dan Burmanawa and Bello Makama that “look, the trouble with Nigeria is beyond what you guys think”. I then continued to draw their attention on the high profile corruption that is endemic and deeply embedded in our leaders, which its effect is today transformed to majority of our people. I was about to rest my case on convincing them to believe in my analysis on why Nigeria cannot develop that the hopeful Lawan abruptly grabbed my hands and said “Nura, I have understood. I believe you”. We then left the place reminiscing over what we talked. The following day, when we came to class, we were all laughing over our lengthy discussion, and we all agreed by concluding that the best thing to do is for all of us to try and pass our senior secondary school examination (SSCE) with flying colours so that we go to abroad and study. And up to this moment, I still remember that time I was writing to University College Swansea in England. I also remember vividly the brochure they sent to me to come over and study Pharmacy in their country. But as destiny will have it, I am today trying my hands and earning a living on cost estimates of buildings and construction projects. And since we left school, I never know where my very good friend Lawan, is. As I heard, he much later joined the Nigeria Police Force. But up to this moment I have my regrets and still feel for him for venturing into what was not exactly what we agreed to do and pursue during our secondary school days at Kafin Hausa.
Anyway, the rest is history. But what I am trying to say about Nigeria and the nemesis that has caught up with it, is fundamentally caused by the corrupt tendency in virtually all of us (the writer inclusive). For example, despite the false European sounding names and fake addresses in London, Holland and Spain, most of the criminally inspired junk messages that we receive almost on daily basis via electronic mails (E-mails) are sent by Nigerian criminals. As somebody described them elsewhere, the "you are a lottery winner" is the way they operate. They daily send fake job scam by targeting small Web businesses, placing orders with stolen credit cards. These criminals sometimes ask for payment to bank accounts. That is the way they go about doing 419 to people on internet. My very good friend, Farouq Kperogi who is currently residing in Atlanta, I believe, will one day tell you more about how these crook Nigerians behave, because he did part of his Msc. thesis on internet fraud where he revealed to us that in the United States, most of the internet crimes are believed to be committed by Nigerians who are mostly from the southern enclave. This was recently confirmed by Oprah Winfrey in one of her shows where she had a live interview with United States victims of Nigeria’s internet fraud, which I personally watched live and direct last year. The Americans have since entrenched and named it in their constitution as Nigeria’s advance fee fraud. What a shame?
Below are pictures of Ajayi Seun and Jascent Nakawunde also known as Tania Bird, Tracey Bird. They are one of the Britain's top six fraud fugitives as identified on the UK Crimestoppers website in July 2011.
For those who are interested in knowing more about these criminals they can log on to: http://www.data-wales.co.uk/nigerian.htm
and see more shocking revelations on Nigerians terrible attitude on the net.
I therefore told Bello and ‘Dan Burmanawa that “why I took so much time to explain myself this far is because I am also a Nigerian- ordinary one for that matter. The only difference between I and the criminal Jascent Nakawunde and Seun Ajayi is that I am a proud one who is always ever willing to salvage its situation. And I always pray for Allah to guide me unto the right path so that I can in sha Allah one day make my country great and a better place for our children and those yet unborn, that is, if given the chance to do just that”.
I told them that our country in West Africa, as the saying goes, is the world's 6th largest petroleum exporter, but sadly enough it is also the world capital of child trafficking according to the UN report of 2004. As somebody asserted in the July 2005 report in the Christian Science Monitor that "According to the World Bank, corruption has meant that 80 percent of Nigeria's oil and gas revenues goes to 1 percent of the population, while 85 percent of the country's over 150 million people still live on less than $1 a day. Ironically, Nigerians are the greatest victims of Nigerian fraud crime. An audit report published in 2006 revealed that over a five year period there were huge discrepancies between the oil revenues declared by the Nigerian government and the amounts actually remitted by the international oil companies. Apparently, for at least part of that five year period, a previous president of Nigeria was corruptly the oil minister.
That is why Moletsi Mbeki while analyzing the fate and plight of Africa he concluded by saying that the fault lies not with the mass of its people but with its rulers-the political elites who contrive to keep their fellow citizens poor while personally enriching themselves.
To be continued.
Jibo Nura, is lifetime member, West African Research Association (WARA), Boston University, United States. He can be reached at: email@example.com