Left to me, every able bodied Nigerian man or woman should be lunging forward, throwing themselves into rescuing our collapsed country. Someone will say that this state of collapse has been our perpetual and now natural mode; always dancing on the brink and managing to save ourselves just when everyone thought we would tip over and careen into the canyon, never to be pieced together again. Yet we keep breathing. Those who work for government will swear we are prospering, and marching sure-footedly into a glorious future. For them, all that matters is that the government is keeping its side of the bargain… to them.
The truth however is that slice or dice it, Nigeria is in deep trouble; it is in reverse and has absolutely no time to dance around in circles, toy about the edges, and continue kicking the can down the road. For too long, we have eaten our cakes and had them. We are the ones the holy books had in mind when it asked: “shall we continue in sin and expect favour to abound?” Nigeria is that land immersed in official sin, reveling in all that is bad. Nigeria is the land of mediocrity, wastage, and ostentation in the middle of want. It has become so bad that most African countries are leaving Nigeria behind. Yet we claim to be the giant of Africa; the failed big brother.
When I see and read our very educated, internet-savvy and uber-intelligent professionals take a fine comb and begin to dissect those who have offered themselves to lead Nigeria out of this morass; whether their ambitions are driven by an over-bloated feeling of self-worth or genuine love for country; whether they are such as will add to the problem they propose to solve or they are truly inspired by content, vision, drive, ability and a complete-finisher capability, I just marvel. I want to state here that no youth or not-so-young person who has really thought about this country from a selfless angle should be knocking the effort of others from their glorious perch. I say they should be adequately worried to the extent of calling for more people to crowd the leadership space if they cannot themselves. I say that those who are experts at criticising the efforts of others are worse culprits of the shortcomings they criticise. Some have only thumbed their noses and sniffed at Nigeria for so long. They reel out degrees and experiences with Fortune 500 companies. But in terms of practicality; when it comes to putting the ball on the ground and scoring goals, they are nowhere to be found.
These are some of the barbs this group of people have been throwing at those who want to at least try:
1. They are too inexperienced – meaning that you haven’t been hearing their names since 1960;
2. They should go and start small; perhaps from their wards as councillors, rather than aspire to lead a whole Nigeria;
3. They don’t have a ‘grassroots’ pedigree;
4. They don’t have money to spend on buying votes;
5. They don’t understand the rigging process, or how politics work in Nigeria.
And much more. The above concerns largely also mean that these inexperienced people are likely not part of those who brought Nigeria to its knees today. This should be an advantage, not a disadvantage. Of what use has experience been, given where Nigeria has found itself today? If a politician should saunter out and pound his chest about how he has been in the centre of Nigeria’s affairs for decades, I believe such a person should be, at best, ignored, if not pelted with stones. Yes, I know, Nigerians have become inured and unshockable. The absurd and nonsensical, the backward and negative, have been successfully sold to us as the new normal. One would have expected the savvy, and the grammatically-enabled to see through this, but perhaps we will now have to rely on the pragmatism of the poor but street-wise Nigerian. Nigeria needs new blood, new thinking, a totally new culture.
Let’s look at the other points raised: That someone who believes he can provide the leadership for the whole of Nigeria should and must go and start from the councilorship level. Well I understand, if we believe that such a person cannot inspire or lead anyone. But what does it take to inspire and lead? I have heard the proponents of this idea mention Barack Obama’s work as an organiser, and also tell us how Macron and Trudeau went through some special education. This sounds like only one road leading to the market; it is against our traditional wisdom. Indeed Obama, Trudeau and Macron, or lets even add Sebastian Kurz of Austria, actually followed very diverse trajectories to the position of leadership. What mattered most was how they applied themselves to whatever circumstance they found themselves in. And then there is the luck factor. No one knew Obama until he was given the floor at the 2004 Democratic National Convention for example. Trudeau had the luck of being born to a former PM. Luck always counts, one way or another. So in the end, no one who hasn’t at least tried, can win. Why would people who are not trying at all, spend so much energy shooting down those who are?
When we talk about grassroots credibility and ability to understand the rigging, thuggery and violence process of elections in Nigeria, do we know that those are exactly what we need new blood to change? Do we really want a better Nigeria? Or is it all just a joke; some sort of voyeurism or sadomasochism? Let us check ourselves. Do we truly imagine a day in the near future when our rhetoric and analysis of Nigeria will move away from this gutter-level issues of mass poverty and unemployment, out of school children and terrorism, kidnapping and armed robbery, and a majority of people whose minds have been almost irretrievably damaged by decades of want, to higher-level issues of how high we want to grow, and how we want to harness the mental potentials of the majority of our people? Yes. Do we ever imagine that all what we have been complaining about can actually be possible? If we do, then we should try and embrace at least one, if not some or all of those guys who are explaining how this can come to pass.
What is the option? The only option is to analyse and argue, criticise and take apart, and be stuck with the same mediocrity for decades hence. What will it profit us just to say ‘I was right, you cannot win and you didn’t win?’ Must we be right all the time? Why not put that your wizardry into making a profound change no matter how difficult it may look? If it’s about grassroots, all those we hail today for being in touch, started one day. Anyone who had built anything great will tell you that what mattered most is too start from somewhere and proceed, brick by brick.
The 20 Percent GDP Growth Challenge
And so I threw a challenge somewhere. I said if Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) wins the coming elections, Nigeria’s economy can grow by 20 percent year on year for five years. That would be over 100 percent growth – or a doubling of the GDP – in five years. Many people have been criticising the projections, many of them pointing at economies that have already plateaued. The fact that no country is doing that rate of growth does not mean that no one can. As a matter of fact, setting GDP growth targets is akin to budgeting. It’s always good to aim high. My thinking in throwing that challenge is that Nigeria is currently in reverse; and losing ground daily – even to other African countries. If someone is meant to be going at 10 kilometres per hour (kmph), and is current reversing at 10kmph, then he should explore how he can stop reversing and start moving at the required speed. That may amount to 20kmph.
I threw the challenge of that double-digit growth rate because of a further research I have conducted. Late last year, I informed readers on this page of the kind of budgets that some of our fellow African countries were proposing for their people. Today, I have updated that research to include the plans of 12 other African countries for their people in 2018. Nigeria is not only performing woefully, it is dreaming woefully. our leaders are not only crazily greedy and corrupt to the point of madness, they are also lacking in imagination and plans for the vast majority of Nigerians, to the point where I can only put this at the doorstep of wickedness.
Why would South Africa plan a budget of $155 billion for its 58 million people this year, and Egypt budgets $68 billion for its 95 million people, while Algeria plans $59 billion for its 40 million people, only for Nigeria to plan a paltry, sickly, corruption-infested, discouraging, unimaginative, and wickedness-induced $23 billion for 180 million poverty-stricken, undereducated, strife-beaten, terrorised, crime-battered, globally-despised and hungry people? Just how do we justify this? And so, those who are arguing with the future, while giving a get-out-of-jail free pass to the past and present, should know that they are calling for a continuation of everything that is bad about Nigeria.
Table 1: 2018 Budgets for some African countries. Note; sources include Reuters, country’s Ministry of Finance websites, sundry Internet sources. I have used a uniform source for USD exchange rates (market rates), since ‘official rates’ are not obtainable in some instances. Hence, Nigeria’s N8.6 trillion was converted at N360=$1. Also, I have emphasised the revenue aspect of the budget (most countries plan budget deficits), so as to show that many ‘smaller’ countries have the capacity and capability to raise more national revenue than Nigeria – the ‘largest’ economy in Africa.
If we were serious and sincerely wanted a better Nigeria, and if we believe that all these years of agonising and criticising and bellyaching, writing long epistles and using the best vocabulary in the world to describe our failures as a nation, is directed at something positive, now is the time to make a push, not sit by the sidelines and snigger.
I believe there is no time to beat about the bush, and wonder whether now is the time to get rid of disconnected, expired, tired, irresponsible, unresponsive, catatonic, retrogressive, archaic, mentally-lazy and complicit leadership which has driven Nigeria to this sorry crossroads. Anyone who prevaricates is simply an enemy of progress.
Perhaps a reminder about our woes will ginger us to do the needful. Nigeria’s so many infamous firsts:
1. This week, the managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told us of how Nigeria is the ONLY Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member that imports fuel (PMS);
2. He also said Nigeria is the largest importer of PMS in the world. They said we import a million tonnes monthly. I wonder what we produce that we use all of that fuel. Another mega fraud is going on;
3. Nigeria overtook India on January 17, 2018 as the country with the highest number of extremely poor people. When I checked on March 3, 2018, Nigeria had 83.2 million people that are extremely poor, while India’s numbers were down to 80 million. Nigeria is one of the few countries around the world – most of them in Africa – where poverty is still increasing. See worldpoverty.io;
4. Nigeria is the country with the worst police force in the world. The World Security and Policing Index (WISPI) rated Nigeria worst, especially with its low ratio of police to civilians. What the WISPI did not know is that most of the police it counted are working as bodyguards to politicians, civil servants, 419ers, money-miss-roads and their children and concubines. The serving AIG Zone 5 Benin, Mr Rasheed Akintunde says all of 80 percent of our policemen are on ‘body guard’ duties just a couple of weeks back;
5. Nigeria has the highest number of out of-school children in the world at around 15 million. This is higher than in the world’s most populated countries of India and China, where the population is almost ten times ours (each);
6. Nigeria has the highest proportion and numbers of unemployed and underemployed people in the world;
7. Nigeria has one of the worst health systems in the world. Bar none;
8. Nigeria is indeed the most corrupt country in the world. This one borders on insanity;
9. Nigeria is the most polluted country in the world, where we cannot take care of our
10. Nigeria has one of the world crime rates in the world – kidnapping, murder, fraud,
terrorism, religious and tribal strife, corruption and embezzlement, and so on.
Given these issues, I believe there is no time to beat about the bush, and wonder whether now is the time to get rid of disconnected, expired, tired, irresponsible, unresponsive, catatonic, retrogressive, archaic, mentally-lazy and complicit leadership which has driven Nigeria to this sorry crossroads. Anyone who prevaricates is simply an enemy of progress.
Nigeria as a country is like a building that has been running on generator since. None of the ideas that got us this far was ours originally. We produce nothing. We innovate nothing. We maintain nothing. Just like running a generator for a building… after a while it starts to cough. The proverbial generator running Nigeria has since been misused and is now coughing, bellowing black soot and is sure to ‘knock engine’. The crude oil that we depend on has become a liability to us; whether the price goes up or stays down, we are in trouble. One would then wonder what the benefit is.
And the surest evidence we need to know that Nigeria has no time at all, and no excuse in the world for being where it is, is that at least five companies, some created by mere teenagers, are valued more than Nigeria presently. Amazon, Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple, are each all worth more than the whole of Nigeria. More on that on another day. But given these evidences, who in their right minds will delay the salvation of this great country?
Let me close by quoting Shiekh Mohammed Bin Rasheed Al Maktoum in his famous book My Vision:
“With each new day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion or perish. At the same time, a lion stirs and stretches, knowing he must outrun the fastest gazelle or starve. It is no different for the human race. Whether you consider yourself a gazelle or a lion, you simply have to run faster than others to survive.”
I wonder why he chose to speak about Africa. But it is prophetic for Nigeria today. We shouldn’t look too far to Europe… even countries in Africa may soon eat Nigeria up, while we argue about those who have no ‘experience’ and get stuck with dinosaurs for leaders.