• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

God, we need You now!

The henchmen’s henchmen

(Address delivered at Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London) On 13th January 2024.

Music intro:

i) Ara Edide Ebami Jo

ii) Ope Mi Koito

When I arrived in London as a student sixty years ago, there was no limit regarding the legitimate aspirations of Nigeria and Nigerians. By common consent, our nation was destined for boundless “GDP” (Greatness, Development and Prosperity).

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Suddenly, a few days ago, Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser delivered a stringent verdict:

“Nigeria is broke. The treasury is empty”

It is just that we are shocked to hear from NSA Ribadu that Buhari left an empty treasury and ran the country aground.

This morning on CNN, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s message was even more damning.

President Bola Tinubu has encouraged Nigerians in the U.S. to rise above failure by having a change of mindset for success in all their endeavours in life.

Tinubu who gave the advice at the Presidential Town Hall Meeting with Nigerians in the diaspora on Wednesday in New York noted that Nigerians had no reason to be poor.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Town Hall Meeting was organised by the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Nigeria has no reason to be poor. We have vast resources and huge potential.” He did not dwell on the legacy he inherited from General Muhammadu Buhari. Hence, we are compelled to pause and reflect on how we got here and how we got back on track. A dispassionate assessment of our situation is a compelling obligation. I have been practising as a chartered accountant for fifty-four years. Hence, for me and my professional colleagues, an annual stock-taking is a routine process and service commitment. However, what we are now confronted with is a backlog that stretches back sixty years—a bumpy ride of waywardness and missed opportunities.

Current situation in Nigeria:

Regardless, we must remain optimistic. Otherwise, what would be the point in celebrating my 80th Birthday on planet Earth? I am thankful to the vicar who reminded us that according to the Holy Book, 70 years is the reward for righteousness while 80 years is the prize for strength. As for 90, it is specially reserved for stubbornness.

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It behoves us to pay tribute to the integrity and professionalism of the Nigerian Marketing Board which was based in London at the time I arrived in 1964. The Managing Director, Mr. Eric Tansley was a man of exceptional character, honesty and discipline. Apart from being the custodian of Nigeria’s foreign currency, he was also in charge of Ghana’s Cocoa Marketing Board, and Sierra Leone’s Selection (Gold and Diamond) Trust as well Gambia’s Marketing (Groundnuts) Marketing Board. This was at a time when Ghana was the largest producer of cocoa in the world.

The London office of the Nigerian Marketing Board (NMB) was at 5 Buckingham Palace Gate, within shouting distance of the residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Besides, the NMB owned nineteen prime properties in the best locations in London as residences for its Nigerian staff. The accounts of the board were audited by Cassleton Elliot, Chartered Accountants (the predecessor firm of KPMG). The Secretary to the Board was Mr. Nathan Marsh (the father of Fela Nathan-Marsh, who was a pilot at Nigeria Airways). Incidentally, Mr. Marsh later became the president of Metropolitan Club Victoria and served from 1993 to 1997.

Under Mr. Eric Tansley, Alhaji Dan Fulani was in charge of the Northern Region (principally groundnuts); Mr. Oliyide was in charge of the Western Region (principally cocoa); and Mr. Mkparu was in charge of the Eastern Region (principally palm oil and rubber from the Midwest).

Those officers were men of impeccable integrity. They took their cue from their leader, who was rewarded with a “KBE” (Knight of the British Empire) and became Sir Eric Tansley. He was known as “Mr. Integrity.” Even way back then, Sir Eric was in charge of forward sales of cocoa, gold, palm oil, rubber, groundnuts, etc. on behalf of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia. He was very transparent, unlike what currently prevails!! Alas, they do not make them like that anymore.

Furthermore, we had the West African Currency Board, which had a common currency for Nigeria, Ghana [Gold Coast], Sierra Leone, and Gambia. It was on par with the British pound and was freely convertible.

Permit me to remind you of what you already know. The Almighty has deliberately demarcated our lives into four quarters. The first twenty-five years are devoted to learning and acquiring skills. The next twenty-five years will be consumed by applying our knowledge and skills. Thereafter, the third quarter should be devoted to the public good—paying back time to society. As for the last quarter, it is based on the sublime grace of our Lord and Saviour.

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Let us all roll back the tape to October 1, 1960, when Nigeria became an independent nation. The Nigerian flag replaced the British “Union Jack.” Beyond the symbolism, power changed hands. We Nigerians were now in charge of our own destiny. The rest of the world waited with a combination of exuberant hope and suppressed anxiety as we reeled out the chapters of our new history book and achievements of milestones. It was indeed a new dawn as Chief Obafemi Awolowo took charge of the Western Region; Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe was the Premier of the Eastern Region; and Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto, bestrode the Northern Region as the Premier.