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Emmanuel Onwubiko: Nigeria is 60 but still a toddler

The Delta State born United States’ Dollars denominated Billionaire- Mr. Jim Ovia is amongst the les than 0.01% of Nigerians that have garnered financial resources that will last for over five life times.

This exclusive bunch of wealthy entrepreneurs are few and far between but they are classed into two subgroups namely those who made their wealth through their involvement in politics and the very few who made their wealth through their sweat by dint of had work and quick thinking.

Mr. Jim Ovia obviously belongs to this fast diminishing subclass of the very wealthy Nigerians whose sources of resources are legitimate and credible.

Others in this extremely exclusive class are Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola who just bought expensive cars for three of his daughters who is a friend of Aliko Dangote who is the richest black man on Earth.

Then there is also Chief Arthur Eze and a few others who truly worked hard for their current wealth.

The irony is that both subclass of rich Nigerians are interconnected in their near-infinite optimism they share about the prospects and future of Nigeria which realistically is seen by a majority of Nigerians as a place whereby the poor are only existing as extremely endangered species and a place whereby money can literally buy you everything from foods, privileges to government offices and justice in the Courts of law.

I will return to the important issue of the chasm between the haves and the haves- not and then further deepen our conversations on why at the post independence age of 60, the Country known as Nigeria, is still a toddler in many spheres such as in the fields of Science and Technology, TRANSPARENCY, accountability and good governance.

Nigeria’s inability to foster good governance practices and build strong institutions, accounts for the breakdown of Law and order and the near -elastic status of insecurity and instability.

To underscore the enormity of the challenges confronting contemporary Nigeria, we need to mention that China which is one of the few very advanced and developed economies on the globe, only got Sovereign independence from the British (Or so it seems) and other Colonial masters only less than a dozen years before Nigeria also got independence from Great Britain on October 1st 1960 meaning that on October 1st 2020, Nigeria would be 60 years of Post Independence from Britain and yet all the teething problems associated with a failed state are the characteristics that are our second nature as a nation.

As stated earlier, the story of Nigeria is seen from two prisms of those who are gravely underprivileged, endangered and impoverished and the second strand is the version told by the few extremely resource rich Nigerians who I had discussed in the beginning stages of this piece.

So, if someone who is not conversant with the workings of Nigeria decides to read the book authored by Mr. Jim Ovia which he aptly titled “Africa Rise and Shine”, you may be made to go with the idea that Nigeria is such a wonderful place whereby poverty, crimes and wars are not so much huge existential threats.

Far from it, NIGERIANS are undergoing a period of the worst existential threat that any member of the human race can face with Nigeria ranking third as the nation that is amongst the worst impacted nations by terrorist attacks just after war torn nations of Syria and Afghanistan.

This Global Index ranking of Terror threats is the latest. Nigeria is now a Country where you can embark on a journey of few kilometres and get kidnapped by armed non state actors who are waging a war of attrition against Nigerians in such a devastating way that the properly constituted armed security forces are overwhelmed and in some instances the current administration is compromised and acts like the officials are the sponsors of some of these TERROR attacks unleashed by so many armed Fulani herdsmen and terrorists including those the Federal Government gave the guy name of ‘armed bandits’.

Half of the geographical territories of Nigeria is at war and the North East of Nigeria that is larger than Belgium and France combined is facing persistent terror attacks that have lasted a decade and still counting in which over 26,000 Nigerians have lost their lives and there are over two million internally and externally displaced Nigerians.

I will return to give a run down of the devastating impact of the violence unleashed by armed Fulani herdsmen and terrorists on Nigerians but first let us summarise the views of Jim Ovia about Nigeria and Africa and then we see that these obviously one sided and unbalanced tales by moonlight lacking in sound logic tallies with the substantially phantom claims of Nigeria as rendered by President Muhammadu Buhari when he inaugurated today, the logo of the 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence.

So that book by Jim Ovia sounded too optimistic that you can mistake it for a government sponsored propaganda booklet because it began by quoting a western media known as The Economist in which we were told thus: “Africa now has a fast growing middle class: according to standard bank. Around 60 million Africans have an income of $3,000 a year and 100 million will in 2015. The rate of foreign investment has soared around tenfold in the past decade”.

This Optimistic Quotation was Published by the United Kingdom’s based The economist on December 2011. It must be stated that The Economist often publishes sponsored commercial information. So their statistics are not cast in stone or iron cast.

Then in the beginning chapter in which chief Jim Ovia narrated the story of his meteoric rise from a humble beginning to becoming the successful owner of an enterprise that is worth in the neighbourhood of $16 Billion as at 2018 when the book left the press, this successful entrepreneur also gave an optimistic view of what Africa is to him which in reality is a stark contradiction from reality.

Appearance is different from reality.

His words: “When most people outside Africa visualise the continent, the associations they often make are with famine and poverty, conflicts and war. From the moment I began writing this book, I have been determined to redefine this narrative and illustrate the real Africa behind the headlines”.

The empirical data and facts on the ground tell a different story line from what this rich entrepreneur wants others to believe about Africa and Nigeria specifically. It must be stated that as an upwardly mobile investor whose substantial stakes are in the banking sector in Africa, he ought not to be the one that will spread fatalistic story about Africa.

But if the truth be told, Africa and Nigeria specifically is in a state of organised confusion and this quagmire which is self made has completely rendered Africa as a continent of wars, mass poverty, political instability and terrorism.

The Sahel region of Africa is destabilised by terrorists from the global Islamists jihadist groups and Nigeria has faced constant stream of bombing campaign by the Boko haram terrorists and a number of other armed freelance hoodlums.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be living in the World of fantasy and denial to the extent that he made some claims that are far removed from the current realities on the ground in the Present day Nigeria where I have worked as a Journalist for over three decades.

In what can easily be dismissed as barefaced lies, President Muhammadu Buhari while Unveiling the theme and logo for the commemorative activities to celebrate 60 years of independence today in Abuja described Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy and the most prosperous black nation in the world.

This exaggerated claim reminds me of a point made by Professor Chinua Achebe in one of his earliest works done in the 1980’s called ‘The Trouble With Nigeria”, this Philosopher rightfully stated that political elites are fond of over estimating the classification of Nigeria in such a dubious manner that a giant with clay feet that Nigeria is in their warped imagination is the best thing to have happened to the World. Like a Prophet that he was, the truth told in that tiny book by Professor Achebe has come true today in the claims and exaggerated rating of Nigeria made by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The place of this celebration of falsehood was at the inaugural event to unveil the Nigeria at 60 theme, TOGETHER, with the logo which reportedly was projected and unveiled virtually on the 12 by 20 feet screen at the Council Chambers, before the commencement of the e-Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Buhari.

The President, Muhammadu Buhari performed the exercise in the presence of some cabinet ministers and other members of the council who joined the meeting online. Muhammadu Buhari was quoted as making these further unsubstantiated claims to make him feel messianic: ”Today, we stand on the threshold of history as we formally begin a series of activities commemorating Nigeria’s Diamond Anniversary.

”The task history has saddled me with today is to proclaim a theme that will keep us united, help us forge ahead and unveil a logo that will form the critical pillars which our 11-month modest commemorative activities would rest on.

”Celebrating sixty years of independence really calls for pomp, but the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced all nations in the world to think and act differently, has also foisted on us the imperative of a low-keyed celebration.

”Operating within the limitations placed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we created an internet challenge for Nigerians to make a choice from a set of four pre-selected logos that would appropriately define the theme.

”Of these four options, Nigerians from all walks of life participated in making a choice and I am happy to let you know that the logo I would be unveiling is a product of choice from the Nigerian people,” President Buhari said.

President Buhari speaking further on the logo said; ”The selected option depicts our togetherness, a country of over 200 million people whose natural talent, grit and passion glitter like the precious DIAMOND we are.

”This, to me, is a special appreciation to our most precious asset – our people. Everywhere you go, Nigerians are sparkling like diamonds in the pack, whether in academia, business, innovation, music, movie, entertainment, fashion and culture.

”Furthermore, the neatly encrusted Diamond on the Nigerian Map symbolizes our age of treasure, the worth of the Nigerian people with our sparkle to the admiration of the world.

‘‘In the same vein, the pear green and dark green colours should respectively remind us of our warmth, welcoming spirit and love as well as the abundant wealth inherent in our human capital and the richness of our land.

‘‘All these properties make us unarguably the most prosperous black nation in the world and Africa’s largest economy.’’

On the theme of TOGETHER, President Buhari recounted that the country’s founding fathers, in spite of the differences in faith, tribe and tongue came together to fight for Nigeria’s independence.

‘‘This shall be a befitting tribute to the struggles of our heroes past,’’ he said.

The President thanked members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Nigeria’s Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration for the work they have done so far, reminding them ‘‘that this is just the beginning.’’

President Buhari pledged that his government would work towards greater inclusiveness and look forward to the participation of all Nigerians in the celebration.

Can we then ask if the President truly believed all these ghost claims about Nigeria when even his North West region is up in flames with persistent terror attacks against soft targets and even cases of kidnapping of security agents have heightened? I’m sure some of his ministers would have laughed at these cheap propaganda that President Muhammadu Buhari tried to forced down our throats.

Can we ask President Muhammadu Buhari why he believes or he wants us to believe that Nigeria that is so unstable and insecure under his five years old gross misrule is the fastest growing nation in Africa when only recently his Agriculture minister told Nigerians that ECOWAS assisted to send us corns, cereals and foods to feed millions of starving Nigerians? How can we be told these tales by moonlight by President Muhammadu Buhari when Nigeria under him became the poverty capital of the World in 2019 with well over 100 million absolutely poor Nigerians even far above India with a population that is ten times bigger than ours?

How can a Country where the President fails to rebuild the economy amidst abundant natural and manpower resources but goes about cap- in -hand borrowing money from all conceivable and inconceivable places just so his administration maintains the large and expensive bureaucratic structures it has maintained since coming to office five years ago be lying to us about some imaginary prosperity? How can a Country in which the government plays on the division amongst the various ethnicities and religions for political goals be said to be prosperous? Can a Country whose government lacks the capacity to protect the citizens be said to be prosperous? Can a President who gives strategic national security appointments to only Moslem Northerners be said to be genuinely interested in building Nigeria to attain prosperity?

These are the facts: there will be no prosperity and peace or economic growth unless Nigeria’s structural imbalances are fixed and amended fundamentally and all component groups are made to feel a sense of belonging. Anything short of STRUCTURAL REFORMS AND JUSTICE in Nigeria is a mere SMOKESCREEN.

Nigeria needs a President who will behave like a good and proficient driver to take the Country to the real next level of a comprehensively restructured federation of equal nationalities whereby no single religious or ethnic nationality will assume the BIRTHRIGHT OF MONOPOLIZING POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC POWERS OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA thereby treating all other groups as if they are conquered people.

Nigeria has to be administered as a CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY WHEREBY THE PRINCIPLES OF THE RULE OF LAW WILL BECOME SACROSANCT AND NO PERSON WILL BE TREATED AS A SACRED COW AND EVERY ONE WHO COMMITS AN OFFENCE IS PROSECUTED IN THE COMPETENT COURTS OF LAW AND A NATION WHEREBY ALL ARMS OF GOVERNMENT ARE ALLOWED TO WORK INSTITUTIONALLY IN COMPLIANCE WITH PRESCRIBED RULES AND LAWS.

Nigeria right now is being mismanaged.

Erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Nobel Laureate in Literature Professor Wole Soyinka were right in making their considered assessments that Nigeria is drifting to the precipice of destruction, no thanks to the misgovernance of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Professor Chinua Achebe of blessed memory was right in all the factual accounts about Nigeria that he published in his MAGNUS OPUS called “There was a Country”.

Now indeed there is a contraption called Nigeria that is badly managed or beyter still grossly mismanaged by the ruling political and privileged class who lack patriotism.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and [email protected], www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.

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