I struggled with myself not to comment on this subject as reported by the Vanguard newspaper of Thursday, 23 December 2010. But concern for fatherland overpowered me to pick up my pen, but I promised myself not to write much.
According to the report, President Obama called Jonathan to congratulate him on “Nigeria’s resolute leadership in standing squarely behind the people of Cote d’Ivoire and insisting that the internationally recognised results of November 28 election be respected”. Thank you President Obama for your congratulatory message provided it does not have any undertone for enhanced peace-keeping operation by Nigeria. A man whose house is on fire should not be more concerned with chasing of a mouse. The Nigerian house is indeed on fire and we cannot afford any colossal commitment of resources for the Abidjan crisis. We would be happy to provide leadership on advisory capacity that does not involve large financial obligation.
Just last week, President Jonathan managed to secure an approval for foreign loan from the National Assembly. That loan is intended for infrastructural deficit reduction in Nigeria. Going for that loan clearly shows the self-styled giant of Africa really needs help more than the Americans think. Our railway system, educational sector, health care system, power sector, etc are all in a moribund state. I am not sure the American’s are in that state too. In America, there is what is called social security for unemployed or incapacitated Americans. In the UK, it is called the Dole-though commonly referred to as benefit. Every Friday, Nigerians in the UK jealously watch Britons queue up at various post office outlets to collect raw cash as state benefits. The Nigerian experience is that our post office system cannot even handle mail services efficiently talk-less of being outlets for state benefit payouts. In Scotland, citizens that are 60 years and above do not pay for fares in state-owned buses. Do we know the number of our citizens that are in that age brackets? Could President Jonathan please remind his American counterpart that Nigeria does not even have a functional citizens’ database that is usually used for such state benefits. Every year, we turn out millions of graduates that could be mopped up and used for effective database development. They could be deployed to universities, colleges, churches, public and private hospitals (to capture data for new born babies), villages, markets, etc to enumerate and capture citizens’ bio and contact details on simple excel spreadsheets which could then be used to strengthen the scandalous national identity card project; we could also synchronize it with the database INEC will generate from the upcoming voters’ registration exercise. Then gradually you find we have developed a citizens’ database with an error margin of say plus or minus 0.5% which will continually be updated by every batch of NYSC members. The billions of dollars we lavish in peace- keeping operations across Africa can offset this assignment, and also set up a national benefit system for our ever-growing army of unemployed graduates. Paying out even 1000 naira per month to our unemployed graduates would go along way in inspiring patriotism and sense of national pride. Has ‘Madam rebranding’ ever thought of this in her then campaign. Rebranding is not about empty rhetoric; it is all about restoring national pride and dignity in your citizenry. Americans and the Britons are not proud of their countries for nothing. That was why I was excited when Dr. Mimiko of Ondo state announced the proposed residency identity card. With that alone, I needed nobody to confirm to me he is very much of the progressive camp.
After the completion of that project, he can even start paying every unemployed Ondo citizen on that database a 500 naira per month state benefit. If he does that, he must have succeeded in writing his name on the golden wall of history and posterity. Two days ago, a Scottish work colleague told me he missed being a “Jesus” by 10 minutes. I asked him how he meant. He said he was born on a 24th December at 23.50 GMT. I asked him how he knew that. He said British birth certificates contain the exact time the child is delivered. Immediately he said that, I remembered my country Nigeria and I smiled quietly within me. It does not take rocket science to do, somebody simply looked at his/her wrist watch, typed in same information on the computer and clicked ‘save’. But in Nigeria, we have refused to use the brain God gave to us.
On the vanguard article under review, one reader- Festus Obanor- commented thus: “Frankly, I don't give a rat ass what happens in Ivory Coast. If you've met other Africans of late, they do nothing but spew hate on Nigerians. But when their houses are on fire, they come running to Nigeria. Go to Liberia, the citizens barely mention the countless number of Nigerian lives that were sacrificed to save the country. Instead, they speak loudly of the few-isolated cases of Nigerians selling drugs. Go to Wikipedia website, they give credit to Britain, not Nigeria, for ending the war. Why is Obama calling Nigeria now? He went to Ghana and rubbished Nigeria. Now he's calling to pull our strings. Let him call Attah Mills. We have our problems; our government needs to spend our money developing our country. Just go to neighboring Benin Republic and see how the security operatives harass Nigerians. My Ghanaian co-worker recently told me that all the crimes in Ghana is by Nigerians. Even the Garden of Eden had an incident of crime. I've always said it; there are two types of Africans: Nigerians and other Africans.”
I am in complete and absolute agreement with Festus. While every nation is seriously looking for ways to cut down deficit, Nigeria remains the cow that everybody milks and nobody is ready to feed it. There was a recent media report of how foreign airlines made a profit of 200 billion naira from our airports, wired this money out of Nigeria and yet could not pay the two billion naira due to our airport authorities. There was also a report that our maritime industry has been taken over by foreigners while our youths roam the street. The whole world had been watching the tuition fees protest in London. Why the protest? The English government needed to increase fees as one of the ways to tackle economic crisis. The German government has announced an increase in tourist tax in the New Year; a situation that has made Ryanair consider reduction in the number of its aircrafts that land German airports. In the New Year, there will be an increase in VAT in the UK. So, what are we doing in Nigeria to extract more money from foreign businesses and workers in Nigeria? Is there no way we could increase tax for the foreign airlines? Can we introduce expatriate airport tax? That means for every expatriate flown into Nigeria by any airline, they must pay tax. Afterall, there is what is called landing fee in Canada. Can we increase PAYE tax for all expatriates working in Nigeria? That is the type of things Nigerian government should be thinking of and not lavishing billions of dollars on peace-keeping operations across Africa.
By the way, I wrote an article (published in Sahara Reporters about two weeks ago) about the 84 workers sacked by ExxonMobil in Nigeria. What has become of those workers? Nothing is heard again. We need to know. Have they been reinstated? That issue cannot be swept under the carpet as usual. The petroleum trade unions have got to issue a public statement telling Nigerians what finally happened. Has the management of the unions been bribed? After that article, many of my readers inundated my email box with complains of how Chinese nationals with visitors’ visas end up constituting 70% of workforce in Chinese companies in Nigeria. They also informed me how Nigerian immigration officers arrest those illegals; only to let them go after bribing them. Since the Nigerian Journalists and immigration officers cannot do their job, I have asked my readers to secretly get me the names of those companies involved and the names of those foreigners working in Nigeria with visitors’ visas. Once I get that information, it will be published in all internet blog I know of. They cannot be spoiling our country and be deporting Nigerians everyday from there countries.
Kudos to our indomitable CBN Chief, Sanusi Lamido for successfully arm-twisting the legislators into a 30% overhead cut. A further 30% cut would not be a bad idea at all; after-all there are loads of things to do with that money in Nigeria. The CBN Chief should also look into the issue of multinationals who refuse to pay their expatriates’ salaries into Nigerian banks. He needs to liaise with his “very good friends” at the National Assembly to achieve this. These companies directly wire out of Nigeria into the home banks of their expatriate staff. Such large scale capital flight is not healthy for our banks and the economy. If their salaries are paid into our banks, even if they withdraw it or wire it through our banks, at least some Commision on Turnover, COT and other sundry charges will accrue to our hard-pressed banks. Use what you have to get what you want, isn’t it?
Oh, before I digress so much from the topic under review, could President Obama please place a call to the Tripoli strongman about our nationals who are awaiting execution in that land. He should not be calling us for only big brother role in the sub region. After-all Ghana has joined the league of crude producing nations. They should be ready to relieve Nigeria of some regional roles. Jonathan should have a troop withdrawal time table for our UN campaigns across Africa. The US and their NATO allies have put such time table in place for their Afghan military campaign. The billions of dollars saved from such withdrawals can bring back our trapped citizens in Libya and be resettled back home.
Time and space will not allow me to continue, but as they say, a word is enough for the wise-the “wise men” being President Jonathan, the National Assembly and all other political stakeholders in Nigeria. God bless Nigeria.
-Chukwuemeka Nudum is an Engineering Consultant and has written in from the UK. He could be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org