What Happened To Nigeria?
By Prince Charles Dickson
"Going down memory lane, I began my civil service career on July 26, 1977 after the completion of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Makurdi, Benue State. The day after, I resumed work at the Bauchi State Ministry of Finance where a letter had been waiting for me for six months. Immediately I reported for duty, an official car was attached to me as well as an official residence. Three months after, I had my own personal car. The question we must ask is: what has happened to the country?"
The above quotation is from former SGF, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, he made this 'confession' at a send forth organised for him...I decided to titled this essay, what happened to Nigeria, but the honest truth is that I cannot claim to have answers, but some of the things I know happened is what we will briefly discuss.
Since 1977, it has got progressively worse, now you have to even bribe to get a service station, and then you could even get killed and a governor will justify it as Allah's wish. In the years gone by, the question, what happened to Nigeria, is even more instructive, when we look at where we are today.
We have become a nation that exists just for reasons of foreign direct and indirect investment. We have become a nation that imports toothpick. We have a government which has the FDI program as a key agenda. But the truth is that with our recent rating as the 101st best county to do business in the world. This being a significant drop from the 87th position it occupied last year 2010. One wonders really not only what happened to Nigeria, but what is happening to Nigeria?
During his recent visit to Kigali of all places I shuddered when my president had this to say, on FDI, "Asked if Nigeria was safe for foreign investors, Jonathan replied in the affirmative, referring to the recent visit to the country by Bill Gates, one of the richest persons in the world". What line of thought, what manner of response, what happened to us?
I asked what happened to Nigeria as my president announced that Nigeria and Rwanda were working on sharing experiences in public health, space technology and entering into a Bilateral Air Services Agreement to ease procurement of visas by potential investors.
I am not an economic expert but I know that all is not well with the white man's economy as they prepare for their economic winter. However I am beginning to lose count of the number of Ministers, and government officials junketing Europe and the US for FDI, last week three Ministers, Prof. Barth Nnaji (Power), Dr. Olusegun Aganga (Trade and Investment) and Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina (Agriculture and Rural Development) were in US 'to intensify' Federal Government's foreign investment drive.
The three ministers spoke at the 2011 US-Africa Business Summit which had about 1,500 participants drawn from private and public sectors of virtually every country in Africa and throughout US. They did not tell the participants about the Nigeria of yester-years, rather they formed part of an Africa that today is begging for everything, really what happened to Nigeria?
Nigerian Ambassador to US, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, had been quoted in local media "The fact that President Goodluck Jonathan released three ministers to travel to US at the same time is a clear testimony of the kind of seriousness this administration attaches to foreign investment drive." How did we get to this point, where ministers have become so jobless?
Just back from US, Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was preaching his commitment to attract investment and create job opportunities for Imo people. Speaking from the United States of America (U.S.A) where he participated in a conference on the development of business in Nigeria as organized by Woodrow Wilson Int'l Centre for Scholars Washington DC., Governor Okorocha asked international investors to take advantage of the enormous natural and human resources in Imo State to set up companies that will provide jobs and further boost the economic transformation of the State.
He pledged the commitment of his administration to put in place policies that will encourage economic growth which will include tax-break, provision of land and guarantee on security. How did this endowed nation get to this point, tax-break indeed?
He said, "Imo is the China of AfricaÔÇŽ we have high literacy level and very sound people who can do anything required of them to help any company to grow". Most we be the china of anywhere, why can't we be we, full of pride, like once upon a time. While Rochas described Imo as a potential giant, I concluded that, potential was part of the problem, potential great state in a potentially great nation, yet perennial underperforming states in an underperforming nation.
We remain where we are unable to say how we got here, living on the edge of potentials...
In the last few days, the EFCC has brought another instalment of its dance without beat drama with the arrest of three governors who while looting billions of state funds just months back were described with terms such as innovative and pragmatic in their style of governance, infact Danjuma Goje one of the accused is a serving senator. What did this nation do, to deserve this lot of leaders?
Some three years ago, on one of those self-serving trips to Malaysia, a member of the National Assembly told us of how the palm wine he drank in that country was sweeter that the one in his native Anambra, he shamelessly forgot himself the source of the palm trees that produced the wine. How did we get here?
We may argue, debate, disagree about what happened to us...how the current crop is working through its very docile arms at ensuring the creative potentials and ability of citizenry, but is there any hope that resonates as impact-on gestures other than the too many controversies.
The fact still remains that we do not possess a "how to" instrumentality that measures tangible success or performance in various spheres, too much knowledge, very little practical solutions, so we keep taking few steps forward and plenty backwards.
What happened, all the economic theorizing, only recently it was Soludo, now it is Sanusi, sovereign fund, excess crude account, all mouthables, a nation under a great burden of expectation yet losing steam each time hope rises and fatigue sets in and the circle repetitive as usual.
What happened, how did we get here, a situation where we eat rice that has served out 15 years in Silos in Asia, how do the kids on the power bloc realise that we have resources that are unlimited, untapped, and thus create a semblance of a system that mirrors a model or formula that ensures not only fair generation but distribution and allocation of resources.
While one weeps, one can still see. However accommodating one is, one should never take leave of one's good judgement. I am personally accommodating of the present crop of leaders, but I do not see where they are bringing cure from, they still can't seem to figure out what happened to Nigeria, thus making the same mistake of the past.