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Nigeria, This Is Your Life! By Yinka Odumakin


THERE were a few memories of my secondary school days that I recall when I want to have a hearty laugh in my solitary hours. One was about a guy called Lucky Friday who was supposed to receive some strokes of cane from the Principal on the assembly ground but was not seen the day assigned for the punishment. About three months later, he came out to receive his mail as it was the tradition then to call out letters while we were on the assembly ground. As he collected his letter and was going back on this particular Friday, Mr. Odetoye grabbed him by the collar “you are unlucky this Friday”.

There was also this naughty classmate of mine sometimes in 1980 when Ghanaians were all over Nigeria doing all manners of job when their country became unfriendly to human existence. Mr. Danquah (I have forgotten his first name now) had to do some corporal punishment for some erring students and it was this boy’s turn. He asked him to rest his chest on the desk and as Mr. Danquah was to land the cane on his buttock the guy moved away and said in Yoruba “mi o jegba Ghana”(a Ghanaian won’t flog me).

That was how petrol – dollar arrogant Nigerians used to treat Ghanaians with contempt until the Rawlings Revolution that showed that change starts with leadership, mobilised them to start afresh. The “Ghana-Must-Go” bag is today a shameful reminder of the year we flushed out those economic refugees from this country. When I changed N10,000 in Ghana in 1996 I became a millionaire . Today N100 will give you 1 cede. These thoughts raced through my mind as I recently enrolled for a terminal MA degree in Economic Policy Management (EPM) at the University of Ghana, Legon.

The project is, African Capacity Building Foundation and the Joint Japan World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program. University of Ghana by the way is the seventh best university in Africa with the first six slots under the control of South Africa minus the fourth place taken by Uganda.

The highest ranked University in Nigeria-University of Ibadan occupies the 14th position. The weekend programme runs five hours every Thursday and Friday and 13 hours on Saturday.The 12-month programme runs as scheduled with a particular professor still shopping for some hours outside this schedule to be able to finish all that she has to teach.

I complained to a friend who just relocated his family to the U.S few days ago that I find the programme too intensive but he cut me short before I could finish the sentence that I should perish the thought. He said our inefficiency in Nigeria would give a sense of abnormality when we find ourselves in any normal environment where things work the way they should. He told me how his wife was going to apply for a driving license in America and he was telling her to arrange all her papers properly and supply every information as required. She tried her best but where they asked for two contact addresses she gave one. They did not process her papers just for that on the D-Day.

If you missed 10 columns in Nigeria, some official would tell you “we will process it for you like that but you will see us o” The greatest burden I have had to cope with in the programme is the fact that I am the only Nigerian in the class.

My desk is therefore the regular stop-over for the Professors of Strategy and Policy Analysis when Nigeria comes up as case study on how lack of strategy and good policy planning contribute to nations’ failure. The strategy man would always lament how Nigeria has failed to rise,shine and lift the rest of Africa given its potential.

He says now and then that Nigeria is the epitome of West Africa as there is no resource you will see in any of the other countries that are not in Nigeria . He lamented watching the last Olympics and saw all the stars Nigeria paraded whose successes would have given many Africans a sense of pride but floundered because of lack of strategy. He pointed at Cuba as a country that knows about strategy which is why they do well in boxing. And their secret is that they recruit boxers who are left-handed as that fist is known to pack heavier punches than the right hand.

Whenever he teaches about the “Dutch disease”, Nigeria is the first example in Africa,although Ghana has to watch it too now that it has found oil in commercial quantity. The concept is a causal relationship between the increase in the economic development of a specific sector (for example natural resources) and a decline in other sectors (like the manufacturing sector or agriculture).

The putative mechanism is that as revenues increase in the growing sector (or inflows of foreign aid), the given nation’s currency becomes stronger (appreciates) compared to currencies of other nations (manifest in an exchange rate).

This results in the nation’s other exports becoming more expensive for other countries to buy, and imports becoming cheaper, making those sectors less competitive.

While it most often refers to natural resource discovery, it can also refer to “any development that results in a large inflow of foreign currency, including a sharp surge in natural resource prices, foreign assistance, and foreign direct investment.” The term was coined in 1977 by The Economist to describe the decline of the manufacturing sector in the Netherlands after the discovery of the large Groningen natural gas field in 1959. Now the game is over but we have become a diseased country.We have lost capacity and we are no longer competitive as everybody is just looking for cash.Call any artisan to work for you and they will disappear if you mistakenly pay them more than 50% of what they charge. If they ever delivered it is shoddy jobs they would give to you.

I see furniture made by roadside people in Ghana and the quality they churn out can only be found in high end-shops in Nigeria. I see Ghanians being very assertive and speak up against their government. Months back when their electricity agency had to ration electricity, they were protesting on radio every now and then until normalcy wes fully restored . Our voices are only heard in Nigeria shouting “UP NEPA” when they bring electricity for 30 minutes after a forthnight of blackout .We easily get used to just anything .

James Dye and Hermon Zeigler in their book “The Irony of Democracy” say one of the characteristics of the elite is that they have values and preferences but the Nigerian elite is losing all that and the line between them and the masses is becoming so blurred .You read analysis from many of them or hear them speak and you will almost puke.

In our undergraduate days, we used to have this argument about suffering and hardship. Some held it would provoke revolt but there were those of us who said it would promote reactionary consciousness . We have been proved right today. We can conveniently write the present Nigeria project off.

We either restructure or let everybody head home and rebuild their lives. I think I heard Ango Abdullahi well ? …Now the turn of Onanuga THERE is this tragedy about critics in Nigeria that when they are recruited into government they tend to do more than a day’s job for a day’s pay.They make it a duty to cry more than the bereaved,may be to assure their employers that old things have fully passed away and they are now new creatures .

The latest in that self-immolation is former Editor-in -Chief of The News magazine ,Bayo Onanuga who was recently made the Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria(NAN). At a time when the owners of the game are acknowledging the hardship Nigerians are going through and pleading for patience,Onanuga who is on the outskirts of power went on Facebook to make light of the sufferings of the people.

He wrote about how he bought fruits that would last a fasting season for N1000 and his daughter flying Virgin Atlantic told him that the flight was full.He said the whole noise about hardship was more of “propaganda” Many Nigerians did not take it lightly and told him so.

Rather than keeping quiet,Onanuga fired again at his critics calling them ”Lynch-mob, cyber-hyenas, cyber-vandals, character assassins: this is the motley crowd that has seized Nigeria’s social media space, either on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram,” He continued: “It is a mob and functions like any other mob, pouncing on targets, remorselessly, twisting your words to achieve a preconceived end. “The rampaging crowd in cyberspace is the opposite of what Mark Zuckerberg and co have in mind in creating communication networks to link friends or people with common interests. “Judging by my experience in the last 72 hours, I am no longer surprised why many decent people either closed their accounts on the various platforms or have become inactive.” He said “no sane, decent person can truly condone the vicious band of assassins always on the prowl, looking for preys to desecrate and mutilate, all because the victims’ viewpoint does not tally with their jaundiced position”. “I am sure that Zuckerberg will be mortified about how Nigerians have fouled his platform and Twitter.

They are now nests of uncouth, ill-mannered, hate-filled Nigerians.” That is the way Uche Chukwumerije,Wada Nas and Walter Ofonagoro who came under the hammer of The News outfit when on the kind of assignment Onanuga is relishing today would have reacted. I guess Nigerians are not asking him the right questions though.

Since the last assignment of Onanuga before his latest job is The News,he should be asked to state how regular that magazine publishes these days and it’s print run.He should also let us know when last the staffers were paid and if any of them can afford to put his/her daughter on Virgin Atlantic flight.

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