By Olowogboyega Oyebade
Have you heard that former Head of State and leader of the Nigeria Prays Movement, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) commended the Governor of the State, Mr AdegboyegaOyetola for being proactive in maintaining peace in the State during a courtesy call on the Governor in the Government House at the weekend? Do you know that the Governor in collaboration with the security agencies and traditional rulers have put into traction some effective security measures to ward off dangers from the State? Do you know that we must be counted on the side of peace than war? Are you aware that there are some mischief makers that are hell-bent to discredit government for selfish agenda, giving life to the dead to achieve a mischief? Do you know that Late Ambassador Princeton Lyman who died in 2018 was brought back to life last week on the social media, in a manner suggestive of Ma’nene Festival, to comment on Nigeria in 2019? What is Ma’nene Festival? Come along, please.
Do you know that culture varies from place to place? Have you read about the Ma’nene Festival of the Torajan people from Sulawesi Island of Indonesia, a festival that involves digging up buried bodies of dead relatives and dressing them up in new clothes and displaying them proudly? Do you know that every three years, the body is dug up, groomed and dressed for the ancient festival, and at such occasions, coffins of the dead may be repaired or replaced? Why? The Torajanpeople believe that death is just one step in an ongoing spiritual life and that the funeral is an important part of this transition. Do you know that some critics of governmentjust copied that festival by exhuming the figure of Late Ambassador Princeton Lyman for cheap reason just to revel themselves and their fans on the Facebook in OkujepisaOmukazendu treatment, a fantasy clinic of sort? What is Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment? Come along.
Have you read about the Himba tribe in Namibia? Do you know that Himba girls are married off to male partners selected by their fathers once they attain puberty? Do you know that in their culture, when a visitor comes knocking, a man shows his pleasure of seeing his guest by giving him the Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment —by giving his wife to his guest to spend the night while the husband sleeps in another room and in a case where there is no available room, the husband will sleep outside? Do you know that is the drama that some members of the opposition want this administration to do with power and the resources of this country? Are you aware that is the reason the ‘gentiles’ are raging? Do you know that we need to put on the cap of strategic thinking? What is strategic thinking? Come along, please.
Do you know that group strategic thinking creates dialogue and a platform where stake-holders gain other people’s perspectives on critical and complex issues of national importance? Do you know Henry Mintzberg, a Professor of Management Studies in Canada? Do you know that in one of his books entitled “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning” published in 1994, he comes out with organizational configurations to aid strategic thinking and is of the opinion that strategic thinking is “connecting the dots”?Do you know that Nigeria needs to connect the dots? You care to know why? Come along.
Do you know that apart from energy which Nigeria is yet to fix, the next ingredient of development is steel? Are you aware that a vibrant steel sector generates economic activities in downstream industries, creates jobs and acquisition of technical skills, and helps in the transfer of technology and provision of machine parts? Are you aware that after iron ore deposits were discovered in old Kwara State (now Kwara and Kogi States) in the 1950s, as part of strategic thinking, the Nigerian First Republic government began active mapping of strategies for local production of iron rods and steel during which many of the initial proposals presented by foreign companies were less innovative on steel production due to concerns about technical expertise ? Do you know that iron and steel industry in Nigeria started through the construction of various steel rolling mills? Do you know that in 1967, a technical group from the Soviet Russia proposed the use of direct blast furnace process as a viable method of production in Nigeria? Do you know that further exploration of iron ore deposits by Soviet firm named Techno-promexport yielded commercial quantities around the Itakpe region of present Kogi State? Are you aware that in 1971, a Nigeria steel development authority was created to design plans for iron and steel projects and train students in iron and steel making as part of our strategic thinking? Do you know that in 1979, the Nigerian government signed an agreement with Soviet Russian group, Techno-promexport, for the construction of a steel plant in Ajaokuta? Do you know that steel making infrastructure reached an advanced stage in 1982 with the commissioning of Aladja Steel Complex? Are you aware that the mill was planned to produce finished billets more than it could process into wire or iron rods?
Do you know that the remainder of the billets were distributed to three rolling mills in Jos, Osogbo, and Katsina to produce rods between 6mm and 40mm? Are you aware that the production capacity of the Rolling mill were divided into phases, the first phase with an estimated hourly production of 80 tonnes of finished products or 210,000 tonnes per year, a second phase projected a production rate of 420,000 tonnes per year and a final phase production of 720,000 tonnes per year? Do you know that the Katsina Rolling Mill was constructed by Kobe Steel of Japan with an agreement to train Nigerians for 36 months? Do you know that the mill produced plain and ribbed rods between 6mm to 40mm in diameter and the finished products were primarily associated with wire industries? Are you aware that the Rolling Mill in Jos was constructed by a consortium of German firms; Mannesmann Demag, AEG Telefunken, Ofenbau Union and Bilfingerand Berger? Do you know that Osogbo Steel Rolling Mill was commissioned on April 30, 1983? Do you know that the construction phase was handled by a consortium of Eisenbau Essen, Schloemann Siemag, Strabag and MFBFerrostal? Do you know that the government and the builders signed a technical assistance programme to train workers who will later takeover daily operations of the mill? Can you now see that Iron and Steel industry in Nigeria developed as a public funded industry with the projection to reduce demand of foreign currency used towards the importation of steel products? Do you know that as we speak,the multi-billion Dollar –denominated Steel Rolling Mill in Osogbo is now covered by forests and populated by wild animals for lack of use, despite its potentials to generate more than 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly to impact on the Gross Domestic Product? Is this not a dot to fill?
Are you aware that just opposite the Steel Rolling Mill, Osogbo, we have the Nigeria Machine Tools (NMT) founded in 1980? Do you know that it was established to manufacture and distribute high integrity machine tools and other engineering products and spares designed to serve the project, operation and maintenance needs of a range of industries in Nigeria? Do you know that it is Nigeria’s first internationally certified producer of Oil industry standard Stud Bolts, Nuts and Flanges? Do you know that it also produces customized castings for various industries including: construction, cement, oil and gas, manufacturing as well as for the transport industry? Do you know its machining services is ISO 9001 certified? Are you aware that its surface treatment facility comprises PTFE and powder coating as well as Hot Dip Galvanizing plants to ensure products are finished to customer specifications? Do you know that the multi-billion Dollar industry has been sold to those who have no interest in reviving it and put it on track to generate employment? Is this not one of the dots that Henry Mintzberg is talking about? Do you know that these dots and many more that need to be fixed by group strategic thinking might have inspired the emergency journalists on the social media to have made a recourse to Ma’nene Festival by bringing the dead (Late Ambassador Lyman) to life again to address Nigerians as if he were alive? Who is Ambassador Princeton Lyman? Come along.
Do you know that Princeton Lyman was a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria (1986–89) and South Africa (1992–95),born on 20 November 20, 1935 and died on 24thAugust, 2018 at the age of age of 82 years? Do you know that after retirement, Ambassador Lyman was called back to government by President Obama to serve as the presidential special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan from March 2011 to March 2013? Do you know that he died on 24th August, 2018 and while mourning him, , Crocker the chairman of USIP’sBoard of Directors wrote: “No diplomat of his generation was more creative in finding positive strategies for advancing humanitarian goals, even in the face of seemingly insuperable political obstacles.”
Do you know that some Nigerians can be ingenious on the social media by bringing the dead to life? Do you know that Ambassador Lyman died on 24thAugust, 2018 validly and could not have talked about Nigeria in 2019 as claimed in the social media titled: “The Nigerian State and the US Strategic Interests”? Do you know that the discussion brought to life was held in 2009 when this administration was not in power? Do you know that it was a version of a panel discussion which Late Lyman held at the 2009 Achebe Colloquium at the Brown University, United States? Do you know that the title of Lyman’s presentation was “The Nigerian State and the US Strategic Interests”? Do you know that in a manner suggestive of Ma’nene Festival, Lyma’s presentation was recently made to look as if it were held just yesterday by some people and circumstances? What were the contents? Come along.
Do you know that Nigeria has been overtaken in development by some other developing countries that were worse than the country in the 1960s, countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore? Do you know that Nigeria now lags behind many sub-Saharan African countries, including Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Ghana, Togo and Benin in GNP per capita as common social contract has been violated? Can you see how we are still battling with insecurity conundrum, double-digit inflation, estimated at 13% ,deterioratinginfrastructure, skewed human development index, weak institutions, inclement macro-economic environment, weak basic health and education? Do you know that it costs more to send goods from Lagos to Maiduguri than to send them to Europe? Do you know that with the Nigerian population quite young (47% under-18 and 20% under-5), the population size and structure are more of a burden than an asset? With worrisome number of young Nigerians infected with AIDS, do you know that the country is heavy-laden? Do you know that these might have been the dots that Late PrincetonLyman was trying to connect in his 2009 discussion in honour of Chinua Achebe in the United States when he declared: “Nigeria Is Becoming Strategic Failure and Irrelevant To The World”.Do you want to have the excerpts of his speech? Come along. The words of Princeton N. Lyman, resonate:
“Thank you very much, Prof. Keller and thanks to the organizers of this conference. It is such a privilege to be here in a meeting in honor of Prof. Achebe, an inspiration and teacher to all of us.I have a long connection to Nigeria. Not only was I Ambassador there, I have traveled to and from Nigeria for several years and have a deep and abiding vital emotional attachment to the Nigerian people, their magnificence, their courage, artistic brilliance, their irony, sense of humor in the face of challenges, etc. And I hope that we keep that in mind when I say some things that I think are counter to what we usually say about Nigeria. And I say that with all due respect to Eric Silla who is doing magnificent work at State Department and to our good friend from the legislature because I have a feeling that we both Nigerians and Americans may be doing Nigeria and Nigerians no favor by stressing Nigeria’s strategic importance.
I know all the arguments: it is a significant oil producer, it is the most populous country in Africa, it has made significant contributions to Africa in peacekeeping, and of course negatively if Nigeria were to fall apart the ripple effects would be tremendous, etc.. But I wonder if all this emphasis on Nigeria’s importance creates a tendency of inflating Nigeria’s opinion of its invulnerability. Among much of the elite today, I have the feeling that there is a belief that Nigeria is too big to fail, also essential to be ignored, and that Nigerians can go on ignoring some of the most fundamental challenges they have many of which we have talked about: disgraceful lack of infrastructure, the growing problems of unemployment, the failure to deal with the underlying issues in the Niger-Delta, the inability to consolidate democracy and somehow feel will remain critical to everybody because of all those reasons that are strategically important. And I am not sure that is helpful.
Let me deconstruct those elements of Nigeria’s importance, and ask whether they are as relevant as they have been. We often hear that one in five Africans is a Nigerian. What does it mean? Do we ever say one in five Asians is Chinese? Chinese power comes not just for the fact that it has a lot of people, but it has harnessed the entrepreneurial talent and economic capacity and all the other skills of China to make her a significant economic force and political force. What does it mean that one in five Africans is Nigeria? It does not mean anything to a Namibian or a South African. It is a kind of conceit. What makes it remarkable is what is happening to the people of the Nigerian. Are their talents being tapped? Are they becoming an economic force? Is all that potential being used? And the answer is, “Not really.”
And oil, yes, Nigeria is a significant oil producer, but Brazil is now launching a 10-year program that is going to make it one of the major oil producers in the world. And every other country in Africa is now beginning to produce oil. And Angola is rivaling Nigeria in oil production, and the United States has just discovered a vast gas reserve which is going to replace some of our dependence on imported energy. So if you look ahead ten years, is Nigeria going to be that relevant as a significant oil producer, or just another of the many oil producers while the world moves on to alternative sources of energy and other sources of supply.
And what about its influence, its contributions to the continent? As our representative from the parliament talked about, there is an excellent history of those contributions. But that is history. Is Nigeria playing a significant role today in the crisis in Niger on its border, or Guinea, or Darfur, or after many promises making any contributions to Somalia? The answer is no, Nigeria is today NOT making a significant impact, on its region, or the African Union or on the big problems of Africa that it was causing before.
What about its economic influence? Well, as we have talked about earlier, there is a de-industrialization going on in Nigeria a lack of infrastructure, a lack of power means that with imported goods under globalization, Nigerian factories are closing, more and more people are becoming unemployed and Nigeria is becoming a kind of a society that imports and exports and lives of the oil, which does not make it a significant economic entity. Now, of course, on the negative side, the collapse of Nigeria would be enormous, but is that a point to make Nigeria strategically important? Years ago, I worked for an Assistant Secretary of State who had the longest tenure in that job in the 1980s, and I remember in one meeting a minister from a country not very friendly to the United States came in and was berating the Assistant Secretary on all the evils of the United States and all its dire plots and in things in Africa and was going on and on and finally, the Assistant Secretary cut him off and said: “You know, the biggest danger for your relationship with the United States is not our opposition but that we will find you irrelevant.”
The point is that Nigeria can become much less relevant to the United States. We have already seen evidence of it. When President Obama went to Ghana and not to Nigeria, he was sending a message, that Ghana symbolized more of the significant trends, issues, and importance that one wants to put on Africa than Nigeria. And when I was asked by journalists why President Obama did not go to Nigeria, I said, “what would he gain from going? Would Nigeria be a good model for democracy, would it be a model for good governance, would he obtain new commitments on Darfur or Somalia or strengthen the African Union or in Niger or elsewhere?”No, he would not, so he did not go. And when Secretary Clinton did go, indeed but she also went to Angola and who would have thought years ago that Angola would be the most stable country in the Gulf of Guinea and establish a binational commission in Angola.
So the handwriting may already be on the wall, and that is a sad commentary. Because what it means is that Nigeria’s most crucial strategic importance, in the end, could be that it has failed. And that is a sad, sad conclusion. It does not have to happen, but I think that we ought to stop talking about what a great country it is, and how important it is to us and talk about what it would take for Nigeria to be that important and significant. And that takes an enormous amount of commitment. And you don’t need saints, you don’t need leaders like Nelson Mandela in every state, because you are not going to get them. I served in South Korea in the middle of the 1960s, and it was time when South Korea was impoverished and considered hopeless, but it was becoming to turn around, later to grow to every person’s amazement then the eleventh largest economy in the world. And I remember the economist in my mission saying, you know it did not bother him that the leading elites in the government of South Korea were taking 15 – 20 percent off the top of every project, as long as every project was a good one, and that was the difference. The leadership at the time was determined to solve the fundamental economic issues of the South Korea economy and turn its economy around. It has not happened in Nigeria today. You don’t need saints. It needs leaders who say, “You know we could be becoming irrelevant, and we got to do something about it.”
Have you heard the news of soldiers killing policemen in Taraba State or soldiers raping undergraduates of Adekunle Ajasin University in Ondo State? Are these sad commentaries not enough to make Ambassador Lyman chuckle in his grave, echoing: ‘I said it’? Do you know Fund for Peace and how it describes a fragile State? According to the agency, fragile States have several indicators that include a State whose central government is ineffective by having little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline? Do you know that the report for 2019 uses 12 factors to determine the rating for each nation, including security threats, economic implosion, human rights violations and refugee flows? Do you know that the social parameters include mounting demographic pressures, ethnic and religious conflicts, internal and external displacement of refugees, severe humanitarian emergencies, and widespread human flight? Are you aware that the economic parameters include widespread corruption, high economic inequality, uneven economic development along group lines and severe economic decline? Do you know that the political parameters include de-legitimization of the state, deterioration of public services, arbitrary application of law; widespread human rights abuses, security forces operating as a “State within a State” often with impunity, rise of factionalized elites and intervention of external political agents and foreign States? Do you know that some of these indicators are rearing their ugly heads in Nigeria, ten years after Princeton Lyman identified the dots? Do you know that a certified report had it that while many countries are making progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, a group of 35 to 50 countries are falling behind? Do you know that it is estimated that out of the world’s seven billion people, 26% live in fragile States, and this is where one-third of all people surviving on less than US$1.25 per day live, half of the world’s children who die before the age of five, and one-third of maternal deaths occur? Do you know that these countries have different context of risk? Do you know that some of these countries include Haiti, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Burundi the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Somalia and Nigeria?
Are you aware that Nigeria has been making frantic efforts to reverse these trends through Human Capital development indices and investment climate, as well as the widespread impact of the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP)? Do you know that the N-Power Volunteer Corps, which is a part of the N-SIP, and has so far provided employment for 500,000 young Nigerian graduates, Do you know that the N-SIP includes schemes such as the Conditional Cash Transfer, which has helped lift thousands of the poorest Nigerians out of poverty, through the provision of N5,000 monthly stipends; the TraderMoni, which provides collateral and interest-free loans of N10,000 to petty traders nationwide, among other initiatives of the Buhari administration? Do you know that there is also the Homegrown School Feeding Programme which provides one free meal a day to over 9 million primary school pupils, thereby boosting school enrolment and also addressing stunting concerns of children? Do you know that two key barometers to gauge the development of human capital are education and health? Do you know that our country needs to improve in these two key areas? Do you know that under-funding and industrial strikes are thwarting the wheel of progress in these critical sectors? Do you know that our situation has become a bother not just to Late Princeton Lymay but to our apologists like Bill Gates? Do you know that while advising Nigeria on what needed to be done to develop its human capital, co-founder and Technology Adviser at Microsoft, Bill Gates, did not fail to deliver. His statement cuts in: “To anchor the economy over long term investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. People without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish. Also, roads, ports, and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”
The time to re-think and connect the dots is now. There is the need to canvass for proper institutional framework to look into the manpower needs of the various sectors that will lead to the overall growth of the knowledge-economy in the manufacture of ICT devices, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and other ICT based services? Do you know that it is when all these are implicit that we can pride in our large population as the giant of Africa. Do you know that substantial amount of government budgetary allocation should be directed towards the educational sector and calling for establishments of special agencies with the responsibility of improving the skills and capabilities of human capital in the country? Do you know that this the secret of Singapore? The Director, Emerald Energy Institute, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. WumiIlerare, once regretted:
“We don’t have adequate skills that will enable us to close the skill gap in the energy industry, and by extension, Nigeria’s economy. We do not have many engineers who can go into deep part of the ocean to weld and do various engineering works and designs.
While addressing government, Bill Gates, said:
“The most important choice you can make is to maximise your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities — the “human capital” we are talking about today — then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow. ..This is the scenario we all want: Nigeria thrives because every Nigerian is able to thrive.’
Is this not a footnote to Princeton Lyman’s assertion? Do you know that we may be out of the woods soon if we exhume, like in the Ma’nene Festival, the secrets of Singapore? What are these secrets? Come along, please.
Do you know that Singapore is an island city State in South East Asia? Are you aware that it became independent on 9thAugust,1965? Do you know that at independence, it suffered severe unemployment and housing crises before it embarked on modernization? Do you know that it focused on establishing manufacturing industries, developing large housing estates and investing heavily on public education? Do you know that the secret of Singapore’s success under the strategic thinking of its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, was education which went beyond formal schooling? Do you know that his strategy was “to develop Singapore’s only available natural resource, its people? Do you know that it boasts of two universities among the top 75 in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the same number as China, Japan, and Germany? Do you know that Singapore inherited British Model of Education like Nigeria? Do you know that it runs a national system of generous scholarships that enable the best students to avail themselves of an education at some of the world’s premier universities, even as Singapore develops its own world-class institutions? Do you know that teachers earn starting salaries above the national median, thus teaching profession attracts, develops, and retains some of the best graduates?
Do you know that Singapore’s education system focuses on identifying and developing the very best talents and, equally important, directing these talents towards public service? Do you know that Government scholarship recipients are obliged to serve in the public sector for a minimum of two years for every one year of study? Do you know that top-performing teachers are given leadership responsibilities without excessive regard to tenure, and there is a revolving door between the education ministry, classrooms, and school administration? Do you know that educators are frequently seconded to carry out policy work and many of them subsequently choose to return to the classroom? Do you know that Singapore’s education system is tempered by the fact that quality education is available for all levels of academic aptitude, including Balloon Decoration, Event Management to mention but a few? Do you know that institutes for technical education, and Polytechnics providehigh-quality education for all and there is more emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)? Can you see that Lee Kuan Yew distinguished himself from other post-colonial leaders of his generation by his strategic thinking? A speech by Lee Kuan Yew in 1977 resonates: “My definition of an educated man is a man who never stops learning and wants to learn.”
Do you know that the revival of Vocational Education in our State by the Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is a reflection of Lee Kuan Yew’s initiative? Do you know that it will sign-post rapid industrial and economic development of the State? Do you know that we need the strategic thinking of Lee KuanYew in Education, Industry and Housing and Technology in Nigeria? Are you aware that the new Federal Executive Council will be constituted on 21 August, 2019? As we join millions of admirers to congratulate Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesolaand other patriots for making the list, we hereby use this platform to make a subtle reminder of the dots in Education, Health, Social Protection and infrastructure that are begging to be connected. We trust your tendencies. God bless Nigeria. The statement of Late Princeton Lyman cuts in:
I served in South Korea in the middle of the 1960s, and it was time when South Korea was impoverished and considered hopeless, but it was becoming to turn around, later to grow to every person’s amazement then the eleventh largest economy in the world. And I remember the economist in my mission saying, you know it did not bother him that the leading elites in the government of South Korea were taking 15 – 20 percent off the top of every project, as long as every project was a good one, and that was the difference. The leadership at the time was determined to solve the fundamental economic issues of the South Korea economy and turn its economy around. It has not happened in Nigeria today. You don’t need saints. It needs leaders who say, “You know we could be becoming irrelevant, and we got to do something about it.”