Forever Captive?

When will Nigeria stop groaning under the thumb of her colonial master? Yes, yes, Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960. Or so we thought. One aspect of colonialism was difficult for the masters to give up. Why? Consider the reasons for colonialism. The primary motivation for colonization was economic, although there were also political and social benefits. So when Nigeria was given her independence, her wealth was not something the colonial master could easily turn their back on. All that cocoa and rubber and palm oil, and best of all, the newly discovered crude oil tugged at the heart of the colonial masters. But then their regret turned to joy. Slowly but surely they will get the money after all. For, it became obvious with time, the Nigeria heads of state and politicians were like cats left in charge of mice. It turned out for the British much better than they could have expected. The boundless greed of Nigerian politicians became Britain’s windfall.

This week we welcome the Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. They will be in Nigeria from November 6th to the 8th as part of their tour of Africa. Mr. Arkwright, the British high commissioner to Nigeria, talking to the News Agency of Nigeria in preparation for the visit, laid out an agenda that includes finding workable solutions to the problem of the herdsmen who have been slaughtering Nigerian farmers and others. According to Mr. Arkwright, “Some of the issues like the farmers/herders crises are deep-rooted and are about the economy, land resource, climate change and cultural issues.” He also said that addressing the root of the problems would lead to a peaceful and more prosperous Nigeria.  But what Mr. Arkwright, and likely, the visiting royals hesitate to acknowledge is the prominent part Britain is playing in the corruption that keeps that “economy” backwards and prevents a “more prosperous Nigeria.”

We have watched Nigerian heads of state and then politicians over the years drain the country of its wealth leaving their fellow countrymen in abject poverty. And who is the recipient and guardian of their loot? Look no further than Britain and Switzerland, and lately the U.S. A good part of the multi-million dollar homes in London are owned by Nigerian officials whose sole source of wealth is the loot from their positions as public servants. Britain knows it, the U.S. knows it and the world knows it. Yet, all we hear about is the aid they give us. According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), financial outflows from developing economies through trade misinvoicing and other corrupt practices perpetrated through shell companies, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions far exceed the aid and other assistance from developed countries. The illicit financial outflow from developing countries in 2013 alone was $1.1 trillion (with sub-Saharan Africa suffering the biggest loss—about 6.1% of GDP) while the combined total of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and net Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the developed countries to the developing economies for that year was $957.3 billion: a net loss of $42.7billion by the developing economies.

So when David Cameron said that Nigeria was fantastically corrupt he had firsthand knowledge of the evidence of that corruption. Nigerian money has been flowing boundlessly into the U.K and its overseas territories without restraint. True, they see the dilapidation of Nigeria. They hear the groans of her people. But, they know the benefit to their own economy. And greed, that eternal enemy of all good intentions, has not allowed them to truly free the captive. Corruption, the bane of Nigeria, is a boom to its former colonial master. Hence, they hesitate to do what is in their power to stop it.

Governor Ganduje allegedly caught red handed!

Except if Governor Ganduje of Kano state can prove he was auditioning for a Nollywood part that required him to stuff his agbada with bundles of US$100 notes, he has a lot of explaining to do. This video caught him right in the act of pocketing bundles of millions of US dollars. There is no depth to which our politicians will not sink in search of illicit wealth. In most other countries this would be cause for immediate embarrassment and tendered resignation After said resignation, he would be prosecuted. But not In Nigeria.

Nigerian officials continually accept bribes and look the other way while substandard roads and other infrastructure are built. These officials know that their colleagues will cover up for them with fake investigations and hearings. They neither return the money nor serve time in prison. If their case happens to get to court they pay off the judiciary and go scot free. That is why, year after year Nigeria remains stagnant, bagging notoriety in every category: most dangerous country on earth for a woman to give birth, poverty capital of the world, worst police force in the world and of course the indictment that explains all the preceding—high ranking in world corruption index.

There are corrupt officials in every country in the world. However, no country can make progress when it allows corruption to go unchecked. While Nigeria does not need to go to the extent of Jerry Rawlings of Ghana (he executed three former heads of state amidst others), or China (it has the death penalty for serious cases of corruption), corruption must be addressed if Nigeria is to make progress. The only regime that can bring sanity to the chaos in Nigeria is the one that can recover the stolen wealth from the past presidents and other politicians. These politicians should also be given life sentences in prison. These past and present politicians who have stolen the country’s wealth should not be regarded as big men. A thief is not a big man because a truly big man cannot be a thief. Only life-changing punishments can scare and deter the seasoned thieves that parade the corridors of power. No Nigerian regime can claim to be fighting corruption if they favor their friends, if they close their eyes to the looting in their own ranks.

The regime of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan did not fight corruption; if anything, they competed with or surpassed previous administrations in corruption. The current Buhari regime has not done anything to change the perception or the reality regarding corruption. Corruption is blossoming with impunity in his administration, right before our eyes. Whatever regime comes in next year, if we do not engage in a determined and enduring struggle against corruption, the unfortunate direction of the country will not change. The problem is not just for Nigerians living in Nigeria. For those in the diaspora, it was not the bad weather that made you leave Nigeria; it was the search for greener pastures. But one undeniable truth is that with our vast natural resources and year-long beautiful weather, a well-run Nigeria is the greenest pasture of all.

It is the corrupt officials in government that deprive the masses of their livelihood and drive the sons and daughters of Nigeria out of their homeland. Nigerians are dying in the Sahara, some in the Mediterranean; yet others are brutalized and killed in foreign lands: in South Africa, in China and in India. Whereas we should be able to enjoy our rich heritage right on our own soil, all over the world many Nigerians are suffering because of the wrong-doing of their leaders. Our children need not be strangers to their heritage. There is no level of development Nigeria cannot achieve, no height we cannot attain, if our bountiful God-given resources are used to the benefit of our land. But that will not happen as long as thieves in government continue to gather millions of dollars at our expense. It will not happen as long as Ghana-must-go bags, fireproof cabinets or shipping containers stuffed with millions of dollars keep showing up in the homes of politicians. Truly, enough is enough!

It’s That Time Again!

The 2019 presidential election in Nigeria is around the corner! The array of choices seems endless—the old, the young, the have-been, the new-comer, the corrupt, the “honest”, the males and the females. It would have been quite entertaining if the stakes weren’t so high. Since independence, not one president has left a legacy of good governance. Instead, they go into office as near-paupers and come out mega-rich. The same goes for the other politicians. They have no regard for their fellow Nigerians. In every country, people’s lives ride on the performance of their leaders. Poor governance is costing us lives in Nigeria.

This feels like 2015 all over again. At that time, frustration with corruption drove people to the polls in search of change. Some of us aren’t sure if we jumped from frying pan to fire. Almost four years later we are still in dire need of change. We are plagued not only with worsening corruption but also killings, nepotism, hunger, non-payment of salaries and so on. We find ourselves still roaming about in the wilderness—still far from our Promised Land.

There is no doubt that we were not prepared for the form of government the colonial masters left us. It was one that required a certain level of civic awareness, education, high expectation of government and decent livelihood of the public. These are qualities we didn’t have then and still lag way behind in even to this today. Additionally our legion of tribes are stuck in their own identity, becoming a recipe for disaster.

But this need not be. It is true that our colonial masters forced our many diverse tribes and cultures into  one country, but we can use that to our advantage. It takes a lot of tolerance, generosity and foresight. It takes a spirit of cooperation. We must see ourselves as one people: one nation with one destiny. Our diversity can be strength rather than a weakness. We need to see that we will succeed together or fail together. There is one Nigeria or no Nigeria. It is only when we come together as a people and stop seeing tribe in our fellow Nigerians, that we can fight our common enemy: corruption.

As long as corrupt politicians can enjoy their loot in peace, and gain clout through the possession of it, Nigeria will not be able to make progress. It is obvious that our country is lacking in virtually everything it needs for our people to live well: health care, jobs, security, safe roads, safe water, adequate schools, electricity and regular payment of salaries. Our money should be working for us. Instead, it is exported and works to the benefits of our corrupt politicians and foreign lands.

So, as we prepare to go to the polls, we must remember that it is not enough to vote leaders in; we must demand accountability from them. We must develop a culture of sustained peaceful protest against all forms of corruption in our elected officials until they have no hiding place for their loot. We must no longer be accommodating of corruption. It is only when the wealth of Nigeria is used for the benefit of all Nigerians that the country will move in the direction of definite and sustained progress. Courage, fellow Nigerians, as we pursue a prosperous future for all!

The Chinese Invasion of Africa

Is China the new face of colonialism in Africa?

I have watched the China’s invasion of Africa with great concern. It reminds me of a story I once heard about a certain traveler and his horse. A traveler on horse-back was caught up in the rain. He stopped and set up a tent. As he snuggled in the tent, the horse peeked through the door. “Please could I put one of my paws in the tent, the rain is too much for me.” The traveler thought for a moment. “Okay.” Shortly after the horse said, “it’s too strenuous to have only one paw in. May I bring in the other?” Again the traveler agreed. Yet again the horse requested and finally wanted to bring the second rear paw in. The permission was barely out of the traveler’s mouth before the horse’s large form dragged the tent upon itself and the traveler was left in the rain.

The eagerness of the African leaders to line up and accept billions of US dollar loans from China is disturbing. I am even more disturbed to see the Nigerian president among them. We should be in a position to be lending to our African neighbors.

It is obvious that China is trying to position itself strategically in the world. The greed of the African heads of state has made them an easy prey and before they know it China will become the landlord and no more the tenant. Contrary to the expectation of the African leaders, China is not offering them a bonanza but bait. If we have any doubt, all we need to do is to consider what has happened to Sri Lanka which accepted more than US$8 billion dollar loan from China at high interest rate. When they could no longer afford to repay the loan China took over the seaport they built. China now has 70% stake in the port under a 99-year lease. In Africa, Zambia and Djibouti are now highly indebted to China and are on the verge of losing key infrastructure.

The embezzlement by Nigerian politicians runs into tens of billions of US dollars. That much money would have gone a long way in favorably positioning the country in the world. We could have had security, good roads, hospitals and other infrastructure. We could have attracted tourism and foreign investment. The status of every Nigerian child would have been elevated. Instead our president and our neighbors borrow from China. When China becomes in charge of most of the major infrastructure in Africa will we still be a free people? Who will be running Africa then?

But the leaders of Africa blinded by greed ignore reality and are selling their land one future at a time. Our statesmen that fought for independence must be turning in their graves. Their struggle and their hard-earned freedom are on the verge of being sacrificed. I doubt that China will be an easy master. China is not like the British, the French or the Portuguese. No. We only need to look at the record of human rights in China.

China’s loans to Africa are bait. Their interest policy and their aggressive way of getting back their money is very dangerous.  We Africans need to wake up before we pass the point of no return. This is our time to stand our ground, to pursue our future. It is our time to say no to the sly approach of neocolonialism lest we resemble the insults we have been given.

Change for Nigeria!

Change is a word that presents different images to different people. For change to be desirable it needs to be a change for the better. Only those in a bad situation are eager for change. Whenever I think about the situation in Nigeria, it is obvious that change is overdue. In every aspect of life in Nigeria change is needed if the country is to survive and thrive.

The statistics coming out of Nigeria is cause for concern. Our country scores high marks in the most undesirable categories. Nigeria is a dangerous place to give birth. According to UNICEF, Nigeria is the second largest contributor to under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world. Nigeria alone accounts for almost 20% of maternal death in the world. In some parts of northeastern Nigeria, 1 in about 64 women die giving birth. And the news does not get better. According to The Borgen Project, current life expectancy in Nigeria is about 54 years. Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, yet our life expectancy is the lowest in even just West Africa. The reason for this is that Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Nigeria was 148th out of the 180 most corrupt countries assessed in 2017.

Expecting self-motivated change from Nigerian politicians is an unlikely event. Those who benefit from a situation are the least likely to accept or offer change. For these unfavorable statistics about our country to change there has to be a change in practice. Nigeria is a democracy. The politicians are elected to their positions. Their job is to bring about our will. Grim life expectancy is definitely not our will. It is time for us to demand accountability from our representatives.  When politicians come into office and do not declare their assets before taking office, we must demand it. When politicians leave office and do not declare their assets, we must demand it. Nigeria’s constitution states that elected officials must declare their assets as well as that of their wives and children under the age of eighteen upon taking oath and again on leaving office.

The time has come for sustained and peaceful protests—for Nigerians at home and in the diaspora—until change comes. We shouldn’t be celebrating our leaders when they come for the United Nations assembly, we should be protesting them with placards. When they leave Nigeria to come for medical care, we should carry placards in front of the hospital. Why are there no functional hospitals at home worthy of their use? When they buy multi-million dollar homes abroad with our money, we should protest in front of the city hall where they processed the deed. We should call our senators and congressmen wherever we are to demand an end to Nigerian politician laundering loot abroad.

Effecting change is not easy but it is doable and necessary. If South Africans did not rise up to protest apartheid, the world would never have joined them. Keeping quiet will not allow change to come to Nigeria. The politicians will not hand over change on a silver platter!

Nigerian Independence Day

Another year, another birthday and Nigeria is 58. Hooray for our beloved homeland! But wait. On looking back over the past 58 years how much have we achieved? What do we have to celebrate?

While one must not focus only on keeping up with the Jones, sometimes though, one has to check one’s self. It is not about unhealthy competition, it is about self-evaluation.

Some comparisons may be enlightening. Consider just two other countries similar to Nigeria in preexisting poverty, age since independence, and possession of crude oil.

Singapore gained independence from Great Britain in 1963 and was expelled from Malaysia in 1965. A small country one may say, but still. Singapore had oil but it took time to develop the country in order to attract foreign investors. It is now a highly developed free-market economy, and has taken its people from abject poverty to good living or at least middle class. Is it any wonder when Singapore is the 7th least corrupt countries in the world?

Then there is the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—it gained independence from Great Britain in 1971. Crude oil was discovered in the early 1960s before its independence. As of today, the UAE has judiciously managed its oil wealth and become a top tourist destination. They diversified their revenue source and built infrastructure which is now among the wonders of the world. They have wiped out poverty for their people.

Nigeria’s crude oil was first discovered in 1956 in Oloibiri in Niger delta. Nigeria gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. Today, hunger is more than it has ever been in Nigerian history.

So as we leave our 58 years behind and embark on the journey to our 59th, let us take stock and ask ourselves: are our leaders leading us up into a good place of prosperity or down into a dungeonof poverty, in the path of betterment for all or in the path of depravity and perpetual lack? Our politicians live in wanton wealth and the governed in abject poverty.

Arise O compatriots, make your voices heard!