• Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Beyond Aspen

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Gambitzero

Perhaps one matter on which every Nigerian is an expert is the question of the problem with Nigeria and maybe, the solutions. Even among those you might consider the most uninformed Nigerians, once the topic is introduced, everyone explodes like a micro-waved bag of popcorn. Everyone has either a short-list or long-list of the problems with Nigeria. The solutions often accompany these lists, including those who insist that the bastard algebra written into the very foundations of the country can only be solved by the dissolution of the country. Those who make this advocacy often dismiss those of us who insist, like W.S., that we do not want to acquire visas to go to Kaduna or Enugu. But some on our side also commit the crime of dismissing the bases of the frustrations of those who insist that the only way to save the Nigerian baby is through euthanasia. Ignore, for now, the question of where is the mercy in mercy killing.
In Aspen, as I indicated on this page two weeks ago, we weren’t discussing dissolving Nigeria; we were concerned with how to save the biggest conglomeration of black people in the world which has all the potentials of leading the global emancipation of our embattled race. Let me confess that I was not going to be more elaborate about the details of the discussions given the fact that much of what transpired was not supposed to be a matter of a newspaper article that would include direct attribution.
The editor-in-chief of this newspaper, Professor Onwuchekwa Jemie, is responsible for this piece. He asked me to do a follow-up. In his email, Prof. Jemie stated, I’m curious to know more of the thinking of the Nigerian leaders you met there (and elsewhere) when faced with the extreme contrast between the American man-made environment and the Nigerian one they and their colleagues have been responsible for. Interesting enough, one of the recurrent topics of informal discussions at Aspen was how Nigerian leaders travel all over the world to savour the civilized life that had been created by the commitment of other leaders who harnessed the ingenuity and creativity of their peoples only to return to Nigeria in all good conscience to continue the consolidation of the devastation of their motherland.

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The soft-spoken anti-corruption czar, Nuhu Ribadu, who now shuttles between Oxford, United Kingdom and Washington, D.C. – where he also has another fellowship – insisted during our discussions that the biggest problem in Nigeria is corruption while the greatest solution is good leadership. While it would appear that the problem-solution nexus he proposed was rather too simple to capture or respond to the complexities of the National Question, Ribadu expressed his conviction that every other problem was ancillary to the corruption problem and would largely abate or disappear when corruption is greatly reduced. His friend and collaborator, Nasir El-Rufai did not exactly demolish Ribadu’s position as he did illegal structures all over Abuja when he was the FCT Czar – but he was concerned that Ribadu over-stated the possibilities of central leadership in the process of solving Nigeria’s problems. As one who has interacted more widely with those you might call the leading culprits of the Nigerian crisis  that is the core elite El-Rufai seemed better placed to elaborate the problem.
For him, although he didn’t use this exact phrase, we need to understand the totality of the social composition of interests and the circulation of these interests as they relate to the craven and shallow motives that have dictated political office-seeking in Nigeria, to be able to propose solutions to the crisis. And this goes beyond the leadership, in the way Ribadu proposed it. El-Rufai should know, as he was considered for presidency too before Yar’Adua clinched the prize. For instance, he argued that even if you had a great president which, I must add, Nigeria has NEVER had what could such a president do when the National Assembly is peopled by accomplished criminals many of whom ought never to serve out their jail terms until their death.
It was at this point that his challenge to the former Managing Director of the First Bank, Jacob Moyo Ajekigbe, became even more challenging. When he asked Ajekigbe to run for the Senate, the same point El-Rufai had raised resurfaced. I think it was Ndidi Nwuneli who asked how Ajekigbe could emerge as a viable candidate in Oyo State, for instance. This is a state where the likes of Tokyo, the recently arrested primus thug, and his deceased mentor, Lamidi Adedibu, who have turned politics – that is, the social management of the organization and direction of social interests and social good – into a base and buyable merchandize, determine who gets what. El-Rufai imagined Ajekigbe as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking. I could hear someone ask: In a Senate where a malignant and conceited cretin is the chair of the appropriation committee?
We also discussed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who some believed was saved from Ribadu and El-Rufai by the courts, including his role in the stoppage of the Third Term bid by President Obasanjo. At different times, both Ribadu and El-Rufai dismissed Atiku’s role in the campaign and even insisted that the former VP was secretly negotiating possible accommodation in Obasanjo’s insensate bid. Rather, it was some of Obasanjo’s boys, they insisted, who worked secretly, but assiduously, in the struggle to slow-cap Obasanjo off the stage. El-Rufai is writing what may be an explosive memoir on his time in office and some would insist, in power.
We didn’t end the informal deliberations with what Dele Olojede – who was also in Aspen – had once described as fruitless invocations of divine intervention. God has already completed the task. What is left is for Nigerians who have the brain and the brawn to snatch their collective destiny from the sick cretins who rule them.