Friday 27 May 2016

#MustRead: Nigerians Made Nigeria Broke

by: Fola Ojo

Divinity has designed homo-sapiens with minds imbued to voluntarily make a choice. Created beings gear up daily in search of chances to do great things in and with our lives. That’s why we start new business ventures. That’s why we enter into new relationships and sign new pacts. That’s why we move from one place to the other just to get things moving. These are all accomplished by the choices we make.

To do great things, you must make good choices. Testaments of bad things are also brought about by choices. Change cannot have a breath of life if choice is hindered from flourishing like a tree by the rivers of waters. Progressive changes in any country do not bolt out of the blues into existence; they are conceived in the uterus of leadership choices.

The undercurrent dire economic and financial chaos playing out in Nigeria today is as a result of choices we made in the past. If there will be a scrubbing-off of the massive mess, it will be as a result of the choices we make now.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told Nigerians last week that “Nigeria is broke”. As a result, the minister urged that our belt must be tightened. We have to settle for only what we need; and play down on what we want. Seasons of wanton luxuries are over; times of sacrifice have come. Nigerians got the message. But thank God, none of President Muhammadu Buhari’s men has yet suggested that Nigeria is POOR. Nigeria may be broke; but she is not poor.

Nigeria generated a whopping N41.6tn as revenue from crude oil proceeds and taxes, as well as duties between fiscal years 2011 and 2014. Federal and state governments’ independent revenues generated if added may bring it to over N60tn. Nigeria has one of the fastest growing economies in the world; the sixth largest producer of petroleum in the world; the eighth largest exporter; and the 10th largest proven reserves. There is enough wealth buried under the earth and in banks all around the world to go round the entire citizenry. Wealth is locked up in bitumen, gold, coal, diamond, and other mineral resources that ignorance has made us disregard. The best and most expensive cars are not driven only on Japanese roads or American freeways. They are in Nigeria. The finest and most magnificent edifices are not in Singapore or China; they are in Nigeria. 

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates may not be the richest men in the world after all. The richest man on this planet may be a Nigerian we may never know by name. This is not a hyperbole or a deliberate chichi of words. One Nigeria oil mogul recently donated $14m (N4.2bn) to have a Business Centre named after him at the Lynn University in Florida. How many jobs would have the whopping sum created if the man had chosen to invest the money in Nigeria? There are many faceless Nigerians doing the same in far corners all around the world? Nigeria may be broke, she is not poor!

Who made Nigeria broke? The apple does not fall far from the tree. Nigerians made Nigeria broke. We squander wealth and expect to remain in affluence. We go into splurging orgies and expect the splurged funds to still remain in the till. When you waste money on frivolities, you will be broke someday. Money squandered anywhere goes into the gutters of garbage and flushed into the sewage of scrap.

In 2010, Nigeria’s Domestic Debt was N3.4tn. By last year, it had ballooned to N8.51tn. Before then, Nigeria borrowed N5.04tn from the domestic debt market. Domestic debt of the Federal Government grew by 157.48 per cent between 2010 and 2015 and the external debt rose from about $4bn to about $9bn. We have always been neck deep in debt with no visible investment in the lives of the average Nigerian. What was bad for which we took out loans later became worse even after each round of debt. Nigeria is broke, but Nigerians made Nigeria broke.

A wastrel of a nation like ours spends N290m annually to succour up each member of our National Assembly. This is the same country that 75 per cent of her population attempts to survive on about one dollar per day. One-day working wage of a Nigerian senator is more than the earning of a medical doctor who sacrificed in school for seven years or more. The senators’ daily remuneration will offset the salaries of 45 Army generals; and 48 university professors. And, what exactly do these members of the National Assembly do daily? Seventy per cent of them do nothing. Eighty per cent of them don’t even know why they are members of the legislature but to only scream, “I support”, without the intellectual knowledge of the piece of legislation before them. Illegal backdoor business is a priority to him; the nation’s development is secondary. Maintaining and sustaining these people are therefore one reason Nigeria is broke today.

When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president, about N195bn annually was paid on oil subsidy. As of the time his successor, Umaru Yar’Adua, died, Nigeria’s subsidy burden was about N230bn. Under Goodluck Jonathan, subsidy hopped to over N1.2tn by year-end 2012. It was later discovered that more than 60 per cent of the funds paid as subsidy in the preceding three years were paid wrongly and fraudulently. Out of the over 300 companies that were collecting subsidy, only about 23 were really importing fuel. Close to N700bn were stolen in the scheme. But nobody was pencilled down for the calaboose.

In Nigeria, political expediency and cruel cronyism trump commonsense economics. Any Nigerian leader who does not share Nigeria’s resources with others is deemed a bad person by those who have routinely drunk from the cistern of corruption. Thieves in government are celebrated; hard-workers are given a hard time and a bad name. Nigeria is broke and Nigerians did it to Nigeria.

Who else made Nigeria broke aside from politicians, their cronies and contractors? Professional critics and analysts. I refer to those regular faces on TV with “timber and caliber” grammatical jabbering. I refer to those quick-fingered fellas on Twitter handles and fighters on Facebook who offer lofty salvaging ideas and cutting-edge revolutionising opinions. They are journalists, pastors, lawyers, and professional men and women with high IQ who are on the sideline of politics. All of them have refused to rescue Nigeria from criminals who have taken over the terrain. Nincompoops who made Nigeria broke would have one by one walked away from politics; and bandits would have bailed out of government business only if fecund minds chose to mind government business. We would have had sanity in servanthood. But No! They only rant on social media and rake in “beer-parlours”. Many are men with flawed characters in the Nigerian political class today; and that’s why Nigeria is broke. But I endeavour to cease blaming fools in government; I cast my blame on the wise who refuse to jump into politics and tame and teach occupying power-grabbers who are only after squandering our patrimony.

This week, I part with these words from German poet Bertolt Brecht: “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”

I rest my case!

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