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Giving and misgivings

On last New Year’s Day, our former Rotarian announced to his family and friends that his New Year resolution is to return to active participation as a fully-fledged Rotarian – regardless of age and a certain amount of rustiness.  His wife who is a medical doctor is not so sure that it is a great idea.  She has her misgivings!!  Her diagnosis is that her husband is suffering from PTRSD (Post Traumatic Rotarian Stress Disorder) which she describes as the consequences of the chaos and anarchy into which our nation has been plunged – in spite of the spirited interventions of the Rotary Club of Nigeria and Rotary International.

Our nation’s medical record has been exposed by the American author Karl Maier in his book:  “THIS HOUSE HAS FALLEN” (published in 2000).

According to Nicolas Okpe:

“The book is typical post-colonial prejudice by western journalists. The book x-rays Nigeria’s past and present problems.  The major issues missing in the book are kidnapping and Boko Haram, if not one would think the book was written just last week.

No doubt, one may not agree with what the western world is saying about Nigeria and noting that most problems that have affected Nigeria today were created by the colonialists themselves.  It helps if we are to listen to what others are saying about us either right or wrong.

Maier was the Africa correspondent for “The Independent” newspaper from 1986 to 1996, and has contributed to the Washington Post and The Economist.  In the Preface, Maier declared, “Designed by alien occupiers and abused by army rule for three-quarters of its lifespan, the Nigeria state is like a battered and bruised elephant staggering toward an abyss with the ground crumbling under its feet.  Should it fall, the impact will shake the rest of West Africa”.

He then added, “Very little trickles down.  In the official arenas of international discourse —–the United Nations, the World Bank, the media —-Nigeria is known as a “developing nation”, a phrase that conjures up images of economic progress of the sort experienced by the West or among the Asian “Tigers”.  Nigeria, like so many countries in Africa, is patently not a developing nation.  It is under developing.  Its people are far worse off now than they were 30 years ago.  The government spends up to half of its annual budget on salaries of an estimated two million federal, state and local government workers, in 1914 to serve the British Empire, and the independent state serves as a tool of plunder by the country’s modern rulers.  Nigerians spend a good part of their lives trying to get the better of the government for their own benefit or that of their family, their village, or their region.  Rare is the head of state who acts on behalf of the nation.  The people are not so much governed as ruled.  It is as if they are armed and barricaded themselves inside the company safe.  Nigeria’s leaders, like the colonialists before them, have sucked out billions of dollars and starched them (away) in western banks.

So far, the West has done little to help and has often made matters worse.  It is hypocritical of the West to blame Nigeria for corruption, fraud, and drug running and to demand that Nigerians own up to their foreign debt while at the same time allowing the funds garnered from such nefarious dealings to be deposited in Western banks.  “A man who receives stolen goods is called a fence, but what do you call a country that is in the business of collecting stolen goods?” asked Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, a U.S. educated dentist and businessmen, while in his Lagos office one day.  “They lend Nigeria money, somebody here steals the same amount and gave it back to them, and then they leave these poor Nigerians repaying what they never owed.  The role of the Western powers has been totally disgraceful.”

Maier went further to state that “Nigeria could, however, follow another.  Its potential is huge.  Its tremendous wealth, if properly channelled, holds out the hope that a stable government could unleash the unquestioned energy and talent that pulsates through the rich ethnic mosaic.  The human capital is there.  Thousands of Nigerian professionals are well-educated and skilled to drive the country forward.  Anyone who has visited Nigeria’s markets and witnessed its people endure the constraints of bad government and the sinking economy can testify to the country’s resilience.”

As confirmation that Rotary is not alone in agonising over Nigeria and the formidable challenges of: “Satisfying Your Social Conscience Through Impactful Giving”

“Daily Trust” newspaper of January 19, 2020 devoted its front-page headline to: “Nigeria wasted N60 trillion in seventeen years – MacArthur Foundation”

“The John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has said Nigerian politicians wasted over N60 trillion budgeted for the country’s development from 1999 till 2018, making corruption to remain the single biggest deficit in the country.

The Foundation’s Country Director, Dr. Kole Shettima said this on Thursday in Abuja while delivering his goodwill message at the public presentation of the 258-page book, “Nigeria, Corruption and Opacity in Governance” written by Mr. Jide Ojo, a public affairs analyst.

Shettima, represented by the Deputy Country Director, Dr. Olaide Oladayo, said, “Between 1999 and 2018, Nigeria budgeted more than N60trn, the managers are politicians and not development partners.  And we have asked what has happened to the N60trn budgeted for the Nigerian public and this is just the federal level.”

Shettima lamented that it is risky fighting corruption in Nigeria because those targeted will mobilise resources to obstruct it.

According to him, as things stand right now many people find it difficult to condemn them or even come out in the fight against corruption.

“A significant percentage of Nigerians has shown interest in the fight against corruption, and what that seems to suggest is that a lot of Nigerians when it is their turn to benefit, they don’t talk,” he said.

The author of the book, Jide Ojo, said the rationale behind the country’s inability to match the rest of the world can be found in lack of accountability.

According to him, the panacea to the country’s underdevelopment can be found in its ability to tackle corruption.  “No matter the blame game we do it’s not going to solve the problem.  Even if our budget increased ten folds and we don’t solve the problem of corruption.  It will be like pouring water in a basket.”

The Director General Technical Aid Corps, Pius Osunyikanmi blamed the country’s corruption challenges on neo-colonialism.

“President Buhari has taken anti-corruption to a level that he is trying to make it one of the economic policies to be able to see that indeed we are able to recover as much as we could recover to be able to emancipate the people,” he said.

(Second in the series of an Address delivered at the Rotary Foundation Dinner/Dance at the MUSON Centre, Marina, Lagos On 8th February 2020)

Jk Randle


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