BusinessDay

Washington unmasks Nigeria

At the moment, there is a lot of noise in the land. This is to be expected since 2022 is a pre-election year. Amid the entire din, however, is this very sad news as put out by Washington.

The depositions on the website of the United States of America are very unflattering. If the truth must be told, the revelations are not good. They speak to various aspects of our everyday existence. And the overall picture which emerges is ugly. The depositions revolve around variables like infrastructure, health care facilities, and security. As regards health care, Washington among other things spoke to the fact that fake medicines abound in our country. Accordingly, visitors are advised to head for places like Europe, the United States, and South Africa, if they are in need of good health care.

One can easily understand the first two social formations. What is somewhat of a puzzle is the mention of South Africa, as a positive destination for medical tourism. There is clearly an ironic edge to this. This is because part of our history as a nation shows us as an implacable and unrepentant foe of South Africa during the apartheid years. Evidently, South Africa did not put in place a wholesome health system overnight. The implication here is that, while we railed against apartheid, the Boers were busy putting in place a wholesome state system as demonstrated in their health care facilities.

This is not really surprising. For even in the high noon of apartheid, when South Africa was something of a pariah in the world, there were news to the effect that the political elite in much of Southern and Eastern Africa saw the place as a site for medical tourism. And those who know may well appreciate here the legendary South African, Dr. Barnard. He led the way in the area of heart surgery and was something of a reference point around the world.

Even then, what is being said here about health in relation to South Africa is not an isolated phenomenon. Other areas of life in the country are also worthy of commendation.

In any case, much of the immediate foregoing partly explains the current texture of the relations between Nigeria and South Africa in the post-apartheid era. At this point in time, South Africa is something of an economic refuge for Nigerians. Our university lecturers, traders, and medical doctors readily fall into this category.

Whereas, the converse situation does not hold. What obtains is even equally humiliating. This is because, in the post-apartheid era, our country has been invaded by various commercial concerns from South Africa. In other words, our anti-apartheid exertions merely provided another marketing platform for the South African State.

Even then, and back to Washington. The United States also spoke to another aspect of our ungainly existence. That, ours is the place where fake drugs abound.

Some personal experience is necessary here. One fine day, I found myself in conversation with a top Gambian official in his country and I pushed the idea that drugs can be purchased from our pharmaceutical concerns. For him, this was a no-no. He was of the view that medicines coming out of Nigeria are fake. Needless to say, I felt diminished. So when I came across the same news item as put out by the US in the year 2022, I cannot but ask myself: what is happening to us?

This self-searching also becomes more relevant in the light of other disclosures by Washington. She is also of the view that a primary and fundamental commodity like potable water is not available in our country, According to this US website, No areas in Nigeria have access to safe water. It was also cited that, we have continued to defy WHO standards as regards the lifespan of water pipes. Even ice blocks according to the report have been produced from unsafe water sources.

It is useful to remember that this aspect of the report is even something of an understatement. This is because, even in a mega-metropolis like Lagos, the stark fact is that water supplies from the public mains are virtually non-existent. The upshot is that most individuals resort to the sinking of boreholes. It is a harrowing situation in which Lagos may well be hosting the largest number of boreholes in the world. This is clearly a disaster waiting to happen.

Our colleagues in areas like Geophysics and Geology have repeatedly warned that the pervasive presence of boreholes in Lagos and other cities can easily lead to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. I believe that we do not have to wait for this catastrophe. This bleak report card also goes on to reveal that our roads are in terrible shape. And that, the roads are in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions.

On this note, I can initially say here that such is my love for my country that I would have liked to refute what is being said here. But even then, such is the veracity of this contention that it is futile to argue. On this note, it will be recalled that some major roads in the country which would have eased life for Nigerians have been under construction for years on end. Cases in point here are the Lagos-Badagry Expressway and its Lagos–Ibadan counterpart. We are all familiar with these and other sad stories. Evidently, much of the immediate foregoing must have inspired the rather bleak deposition from the United States.

Meanwhile, there is perverse consistency here. This is because even in a critical area like security, we have also dropped the ball. Taken together, a number of observations must be made. The first is that despite the wide dissemination which has been given to this report, not a word can be heard from any government agency. No response, nothing. And as they usually say, mum is the word. The only inference from this is that there is a lot of credibility to what has been reported on us.

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The nuanced dimension of the issues under discussion, however, is that, even in this self-same country, some Nigerians continue to live it up. They are not touched in any way by the harrowing conditions in that damming report. The corollary to much of the immediate foregoing is that, for the vast majority of our countrymen and women, everyday living is nasty, brutish, and harsh.

Unfortunately, such is the stampede in the land that, for all practical purposes, politics or better still, politicking is the only game in town, to the utter detriment of governance. This much is clear, however; the United States through that report has not disrobed us. Rather, we are already stark naked. And the challenge here to the various organs of the state is that self-pride and necessity demand that we cover up our nakedness as fast as possible.

We cannot go on like this. Those damning reports did not speak to high voltage issues. Rather, they focus on low-hanging fruits like water, health care, and roads. So beyond the mindless pursuit of politics, our leaders should get going to provide succor in these vital areas. On this note, it is useful and instructive to remember those enduring words of our national anthem: that the labours of our heroes and heroines should not be in vain.

A new and vibrant state should arise. No more the naked and vacant state as accurately and candidly depicted by the United States of America.

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