Our Beloved Federal Republic of Confusion

OUTSIDE THE BOX BY ALEX OTTI , Email: alex.otti@thisdaylive.com

A few years ago, someone said that he didn’t like spending a lot of time in Europe and America whenever he visited, and he actually used to make a lot of visits. His reason was that those places were too organised for his comfort. He would rather spend time in Nigeria with its confusion. He could get away with anything and did as he liked. Most people in leadership positions in this country are well travelled. While some went to school abroad others have lived there for a reasonable amount of time. It is, however, a shame that just like the citizen I referred to above, we seem to enjoy the confusion that Nigeria has become in different aspects of its existence. We seem to like the fact that most things don’t work here. In some cases, what is required to make things work may just be very little, but instead of fixing them we would rather wait for them to degenerate completely. This is true of our railway system that we left to rot and completely go out of business for several decades before the recent efforts to bring it back to life. Most public utilities are treated as if they belonged to no one, while we protect our privately-owned ones. That is the reason why someone would live in a comfortable house with all the amenities working, while similar amenities in his office are left to breakdown and permanently decay, particularly, if in the public sector!

Recently, I was trying to locate someone in one of the streets in mainland Lagos. It took me some hours of going back and forte before I could find the place. I then wondered, why we could not geographically map the country like it is done elsewhere. Why don’t we have post codes so that everyone can easily be located once that person identifies his post code? I am not sure it is such an expensive project to embark on and even if it is, the advantages far outweigh the cost. Mapping every part of the country will not only help in locating ourselves, it will also help in fighting and reducing crime. With mapping, criminals will not be able to strike and disappear the way they do today. It will be easy to track them down and prosecute them. Even the numbering of houses on streets appears an intractable problem. In some places, you will have No. 9 come before No.3 and it could be that way for several years. In some cases, one street would bear two or more names at the same time. This is the case even in the highbrow Ikoyi Lagos, where some of the most expensive real estate in Nigeria are found. Related to mapping is our confused identity management system. Before the advent of the National Identity Card project, which by the way, does not seem to have so much traction, we did not have any way of identifying who was a Nigerian, except for those who could afford international passports. The introduction of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) by the banks has helped in identifying genuine and ghost bank customers. What to do with fake accounts and the balances therein is another matter altogether. If we have the will to execute a biometric identity management system, many criminal activities will be tough to execute as it will not be difficult to track down those behind them. A reliable identity management system could be integrated with the election management system and thus remove the need for permanent voter’s cards since the identity cards will have all the information that a voter’s card should have.

It is sad that we do not know how many we are in this country. We still rely on estimates! I had written about this recently. Attempts that were made in the past to do a head count all ended without reliable figures. Due to the fact that we do not know how many we are, we can hardly plan for our people which in turn leads to all the challenges we face with infrastructure. We also, hardly record births and deaths even though we know the data is necessary for updating population figures from a census.

We seem to reject technology which has made life a lot easier for humanity across the globe. Applying technology would resolve virtually all the challenges we face over identification and data management.

The way we have managed the oil assets with which we were blessed points to the height of confusion. We managed to build some four refineries several decades ago. We subsequently ran them aground such that we have continued to import petroleum products even when we export crude. Sometimes, I wonder if something is wrong with us. In the league of major oil producing economies, we are one of the two countries that import refined products. According to statistics from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, (OPEC), in 2016, out of Nigeria’s installed refining capacity of 455,000 barrels of crude per day, we only refined an average of 24,000 barrels per day locally. Our daily consumption was put at 408,000 barrels leaving a gap of 384,000 barrels per day which was filled by importation. The only other major producer that imports refined products is a fellow African country, Angola whose installed refining capacity in 2016 was put at 65,000 barrels per day. However, Angola was only able to locally refine 44,000 barrels per day while it imported 98,000 barrels per day to meet its total consumption of 142,000 barrels per day. So, what is the problem here? I believe that it is nothing but our ability and willingness to operate in confusion. It is not that we could not have maintained the refineries, after all, there are many older refineries elsewhere in the world that are operating efficiently. It is also not that we couldn’t afford new ones, given that we spend so much money on things that make little or no sense while we ignore those expenditures that will not only save us money both in local and foreign currency, but will create jobs for our young people who now roam the streets in search of non-existent employment opportunities.

What about power? We seem to be comfortable with living in darkness and burning generators with all the associated hazards and costs. Ironically, even countries that depend on us for electricity boast of better power supply records than us. Our factories are running at exorbitant costs because of lack of power, forcing some of them to close down as their products cannot compete with cheaper imported products. The well- to- do have turned standby generators into main power sources while public power supply has been reduced to backups. How can a country develop without electricity? Yes, we had done something about it by letting the private sector get into generation and distribution, but the problems seem intractable as progress is very slow. Should we have done something about power earlier than now? Could we have used the days of oil boom to fix this major infrastructure? Our action, apparently came too little, too late and results are hardly noticeable. For instance, we celebrate when we reach a power generation level of 5000 megawatts of electricity for over 180m people. Meanwhile, South Africa produces about 252,000MW for 56 million people, Egypt, 187,000MW for 95m people, Algeria, 70,000MW for 40m people and Iran 286,000MW for 80m people. Can we in good conscience claim that we are competing with these nations?

Lack of power has also been attributed to the de-industrialisation of this economy. Those that are old enough would remember the factories that littered most of our cities, particularly, Ibadan, Kano, Aba, Port Harcourt and Lagos in those good old days. In fact, some towns had so many factories that the streets where those factories were located were named Factory Roads or Industry Roads and others Industrial Layouts and Estates. Except for Lagos that has managed to preserve its position, virtually every other industrial town has lost that status. Most of the factories for which Ibadan was renowned, have closed shop. The same is true of Kano and Aba. Major “industrial” activities that can be seen in Port Harcourt revolve around oil and gas. With this kind of situation, it is impossible to be talking of serious job creation.

Still on infrastructure, when you travel to other countries, you see road maintenance taking place almost round the clock. How come we wait for our own roads to collapse completely and then award contracts for their rehabilitation and reconstruction? Could we have done it differently? I remember growing up in this country and seeing road workers from what used to be called PWD- the Public Works Department. They were very effective in fixing potholes, and carrying out general maintenance of roads. It will be helpful to know what happened to that department and please don’t tell me about FERMA? I know FERMA exists but I doubt that it is an effective alternative. I also know that some states set up such outfits that are at best ineffective. I would not talk a lot about the Nigerian Railway Corporation which was one of the largest employers of labour in the yesteryears. In the 1980s, I remember traveling from Port Harcourt to Kaduna and Kano by train, a journey of considerable distance and time. Somehow, we allowed that behemoth to collapse and no one raised an eyebrow. I am sure that if the corporation did not shut down for the length of time it did, the heavy expenditure we are incurring today to fix it would have been avoided. Yes, modernising the system is fine, but we seem to be starting afresh. Needless to highlight that the absence of an effective rail system has had a big toll on activities in the economy, increasing difficulty in evacuating goods and man and making access very difficult and expensive.

The Civil Service used to be one of the most important sectors of the economy. Today, virtually all of the Civil Service stinks. Many Civil servants will deliberately erect road blocks for the public they are supposed to be serving. You can hardly get anything done without avoidable strain or aggravation. Even the physical ambience of many of the offices leaves much to be desired. The intriguing part is that the civil servants themselves seem to accept the reduced standard. The same applies to the Police Force which was recently ranked the worst in the world.

It is justified to state that even government which is supposed to be the custodian and manager of these assets and institutions, has abdicated its responsibilities. In the wake of all these, institutions which should have been strengthened have rather been weakened. Once institutions are weak, corruption pervades the whole system. Once in a while, a strong man shows up to lead, talks tough and seemingly starts a fight as in the current fight against corruption. Because there are hardly strong institutions, once the strong man leaves, we all go back to where we were. The issue, therefore, should not be to look for strong men because they will come and go. If we have strong institutions they will take care of the confusion. While leadership has a lot of hand in creating the confusion, followership equally has its own fair share of the blame. First, followers seem to be comfortable with the persisting rot in the system and sometimes, we even consciously promote it, when we think it will benefit our short term purpose. The second point which is probably the most important one is that it is within the rights of followership to reject and resist the confusion. It is said that power belongs to the people. The people of Nigeria seem to be more preoccupied with primordial issues of ethnicity and religion that they lose sight of more important issues bordering on their welfare and survival. Some people think it is because most of the followers do not have the required level of education to know what to do. While I may agree with that assumption to an extent, I believe the issue goes beyond education. Even those who have some education seem to have been anesthetised to the confusion. Some people are in the habit of praising themselves and the country on what perceived progress has been made. Unfortunately, I believe that we are making progress in the wrong direction. The issues I highlighted here are just a few. I believe readers can identify other areas where we have authored confusion. Because I had extensively discussed education and healthcare in previous interventions, I deliberately left them off. If you think about them, you cannot but agree that those sectors have their own share of the confusion.

I believe we can still do something about our situation. Followership led by the elite should sit back and understand that if this country becomes a failed state, it is going to be the greatest losers. Everybody must not agree the first time, but we should start with the willing and draw up an agenda for genuine change and work on it. By the time we have a critical mass, we should move to insist on the quality of leadership that we want. If it had happened elsewhere, I believe it can happen here. Staying away from politics cannot help this situation. As 2019 approaches, those who know what to do should show greater interest in the political process and match words with action. This is the time to stand together and insist on installing quality leadership at all levels of the political structure. Leadership matters and if the right leader is not chosen, everyone lives to pay the high price. This is not the time to sit on the fence and expect that the right leader will emerge. It was Edmund Burke who observed that all it will take for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. We may not succeed at first attempt, but we should continue. It will require sacrifices and we must be willing to make them. After all, just like Ray Andersen said, “the powers that keep people in bondage do not relinquish control very easily”

  • FrNinja

    We deserve everything we are getting because we are complicit in the crime. No electricity people buy generators. No water, people dig boreholes. No public transport, people ride poorly maintained motorcycles or squeeze into creaking keke or buses. The citizens of expensive houses in Ikoyi and Lekki suffer seasonal flooding which relocates all the water containing faeces and filth from the gutters to the street. They brave it with their SUVs. No peep from the millionaire crowd except suffering and smiling or running their mouths on National TV.

    The Egyptians who faced the military regime of Mubarak got infinitely more from that despot than Nigerians have even today under democratic rule. Mubarak gave them subsidized housing, 24 hour electricity, 99% of houses had running water, subsidized petrol, subsidized food, subsidized education,. Yet it was not enough. The Egyptians youth used social media to organize a demonstration at Tahrir Square against Mubarak over jobs and elections.

    In Nigeria what are the youth doing with social media? Abusing each others tribes – afonja vs flatinos vs abokis. they go on fcebook posting selfies of their fake lives, they are on whtsapp gossiping about which woman Davido and Wizkid impregnated or on instagrm monitoring the internal squabbles of P-Square. In Anambra, Edo, Ondo they stayed at home whtspping and fcebooking their lives away while elections to decide their fates happened in their absence. Less than 30% of voters chose the governors of these states.

    This is Nigeria for you. A nation of citizens impoverished beyond reason by locust leaders and not fighting back. The rich and wealthy collude with the vultures in power to sustain themselves. The middle class flee to foreign nations to sustain themselves. The poor cowardly become almajiri following the politicians and government and big men around with begging bowls to sustain themselves.

    So for Nigeria In the memorable words of Ken Saro Wiwa before his hanging:

    “We all stand on trial, my lord, for by our actions we have denigrated our Country and jeopardized the future of our children. As we subscribe to the sub-normal and accept double standards, as we lie and cheat openly, as we protect injustice and oppression, we empty our classrooms, denigrate our hospitals, fill our stomachs with hunger and elect to make ourselves the slaves of those who ascribe to higher standards, pursue the truth, and honour justice, freedom, and hard work. I predict that the scene here will be played and replayed by generations yet unborn.”

    • William Norris

      The people of Nigeria Occupied Nigeria in Jan 2012.

      They threw out an incumbent government in Mar 2015 and elected Buhari & APC.

      The PEOPLE know what they want. It’s just that they want the wrong thing.

  • FrNinja

    Nigerians deserve everything we are getting because we are complicit in the crime. No electricity people buy generators. No water, people dig boreholes. No public transport, people ride poorly maintained motorcycles or squeeze into creaking keke or buses. The citizens of expensive houses in Ikoyi and Lekki suffer seasonal flooding which relocates all the water containing faeces and filth from the gutters to the street. They brave it with their SUVs. Nigerians complain about Buhari islamizing his inner circle yet in positions of power just watch their own parochialism. They complain of the wickedness of the ruling class yet they treat their houseboys and housegirls like dirt.

    A hell hole may have been created by the 1% but it is sustained by the 99%. Better people would bring down the zoo in the memorable words of the IPOB abscondee Nnamdi Kanu. Nigerians continue erecting more hellish structures in the great disaster that is Nigeria and pray to God for deliverance.

  • Samson Judah

    Can we talk more about the economy, welfare and population explosion of the citizenry than all this blame game? If we fix the economy right everything will fall into place, even though our mindscape is faulty but that is why we all need to fix it from where it hurts.

  • Mystic mallam

    Mr Otti and commenters, face facts. From 1966 till date, an ill-equipped bunch of soldiers usurped power to self-promote and ingratiate, some were simply on an ego trip with no idea whatsoever what the governing of men is all about. To feather their nests and accumulate power in their untutored hands, they progressively seized the power of the formerly semi-autonomous component units thus accumulating for the federal government a whole new universe of duties and responsibilities that it had neither the capacity nor the popular consensus to handle. Oil came into the mix and they found their El-Dorado – a world in which men could just relax and live like Maharajas while IOCs flooded their personal and public treasuries with free petrodollars. They could purchase anything, just about anything they wanted. Semi-literate soldiers or their hand-picked cronies took over the running and ruining of every public utility -railways, airways, seaways, factories, banks, hospitals, universities, name it. Self-appointed Presidents and Heads of State commenced an era of ill-fated and un-consulted social-economic-political experimentation and re-engineering of society. By the time they had gone mid way in the late 1980s, Nigeria, like the mad man’s laboratory, was hardly recognisable, and by the time they were done in 1999, every public service, public utility and public morality that citizens used to take for granted had died on the vine of drunken power, empty arrogance, presumptuous ignorance, nurtured mediocrity, and a childish sense of entitlement. All of this was camouflaged in the ostentatious opulence of wealth, oil wealth, enjoyed by a few. You can see why it elicits laughter, loads of it, whenever I hear hoodwinked denizens blaming Yar’Adua and/or Jonathan for the rot that Nigeria is. The only solution: trace our road back to the structures and systems that were not broken before the messianic bulls broke into the china shop and commenced their schizophrenic experiments. But who’s going to bell the cat – the mendacious APC or the roguish PDP?

    • Iskacountryman

      mister mallam…you have 37 more years of hellish existence to go…it is a historical trajectory…

      • FrNinja

        10 actually. This house has fallen and next time it will not get up. A bankrupt Nigeria is around the corner and next time around no international financier with a sane mind will bail out this criminal enterprise. It is safe to say that Nigeria will be dismembered in London and Washington DC after more than 67 years of “attempting” to function as a country.

        • Iskacountryman

          so you dare to question the oracle…

    • obinnna77


  • American Abroad

    Thank you, Mr Otti, for an exceptional treatise this morning. This was an unexpected Thanksgiving treat. For once, at long last, I am one with you.

    However, we would still have to dig a bit deeper: why are we so godforsaken, so mendacious, so trivial, so heartless, so duplicitous, as a society? Why are we so indifferent to the suffering of others, even amongst our own tribes, which supposedly mean everything to us except in sharing the loot? I have my theories, but those, like Heaven, can surely wait. Suffice it to state here and now, that part of our cultural dissonance is because we are not an aspirational but ambitious society. We do not aim to be “better” but “larger” creatures; we do not seek an imaginary wholeness or ideal, even if it were unrealizable in one lifetime, but creature comforts in the here and now; we savor fear, if not obeisance, from our fellow men.

    A more pressing question is: What can be done?

    Until we kill corruption, nothing is ever likely to change; our patrimony will still be frittered away on shiny toys by adults left in charge of our communal welfare, our many hypocrites (even on these BackPages) will point one finger at the “thieves”, though four fingers lead right back to their own doorsteps, and endless cycles of half-hearted reforms will repeat themselves ad infinitum. It is past time to start treating Corruptiopn the way civilized nations treat Treason: either is antithetical to nationhood; either, particularly Corruption in developing countries, is best treated as a capital offense. America could afford, say, 5% corruption in its transactional affairs; China has demonstrated it will not tolerate (though it can surely well afford) even 10% of fiscal corruption in domestic affairs; why would Nigeria accept nearly 100% corruption in everything, even amongst kin? Execution, not long-term punishment, is the most fitting punishment for what presently throttles this nation and millions of her citizens. When are we going to start being embarrassed by the fact that Nigeria and 2 other war-torn hellholes are the only places on earth still battling with polio in the 3rd millennium, that Nigeria is the only country that still suffers epidemic monkey-pox, that we have already constructed a Hell for ourselves, even within Asokoro? In all societies, what guarantees civilized (or even acceptably sane) conduct has always been a fear of embarrassment or punishment, never the prodding of public morality. We cannot change our tragic trajectory to the abyss without some judicial help, assisted by high-velocity lead poisoning, if necessary.

    May my country of birth finally summon the courage to kill her greatest adversary: Corruption.

    • FrNinja

      Corruption is a symptom of a greater problem in Nigeria – a lack of real democracy. Nigeria today is roughly where your beloved Europe was in its past with blatant and rampant corruption perfected by its ruling class of Kings, Queens and lords. Today would there have been such widespread societal disapproval of corruption if countries like England and France had not forced their democratic experiences?

      Therefore, for Nigeria to function it requires citizens to live up to their responsibilities. A corrupt Briton is kicked out of office pronto because the citizens safeguard their rights. In Nigeria, we have certificate forgers, thieves in government office daring the Nigerian people to do something, anything. The Brits, French, and the rest would not tolerate even 1 hour of power failure or a pot holed road without the government rushing to ensure a solution is found pronto. In Nigeria, just look at the disgrace that is electricity or highways. People that don’t safeguard their rights.

      I will tell you what happens when people defend their rights because I witnessed it in the dying days of Nigerian Airways. In 2003, over 1,000 stranded Nigerian Airways passengers blocked every single airline check-in counter in Murtala Muhammed Airport. Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe showed up in her gold finery and lace with security detail. She was shouting like a mad woman at the top of her voice for the passengers to get out. Of course her concern was KLM and British Airways not the Nigerians abandoned in the airport because her ministry failed to pay the company contracted to fly on behalf of Nigeria Airways. The passengers surrounded this woman and could have killed her. Not one of her security detail even lifted a finger to help her. So she started begging and pleading like a baby promising heaven and earth.

      That is what Nigerians should be doing with Presidents, Ministers, Governors, Senators, useless companies like electricity distribution companies. For no number of bullets can save people demonstrating for real change and not being served an ex-military dictator as change.

      • William Norris

        France, England, Russia, USA, China etc….monoethnic or dominated by one TRIBE……with a common religion.

        It’s not enough to rise up, the people must also get the details right. Whites in the Southern USA and Zimbabwe rose up to defend Black Slavery….Nigerians rose up in Jan 2012 to defend Niger Delta Slavery.

        TRIBE and religion matter. A lot.

  • remm ieet

    The wickedness of Nigerian politicians towards their people is worse than the racism of white towards the blacks. This country has many problems that are almost crippling it, as this article has rightly pointed out, but nobody appears to be taking responsibility. It is disturbing how all these problems don’t perplex the politicians who still luxuriate in plenty in the midst of societal decay and crippling poverty. Both politicians and the Civil Servants are partners in progress heading nowhere.
    Politicians can save billions of Naira from all the unnecessary junketing abroad for vacations, and all the conferences to Harvard and Cambridge and elsewhere except Nigeria. You don’t need teachings from Harvard to build a simple road, or a railway. However you can play politics around your capacity to provide them for your own people. We used to enjoy these facilities with ease, in the past. The most unfortunate aspect is that we are losing experience and expertise in building vital public infrastructure, as politicians and civil servants make excuses for failure. No wonder a few days ago, the railway derailed and killed many innocent Nigerians.
    Frantz Fanon will be wondering why he bothered to condemn racism. He will conclude that it is the Negroid Mind that allowed the colonisation of his own consciousness, not the White Man.

    • gibson george

      Very good statement. Africans need to stop listening to the extreme left in the West. The enemy is within and not in the West.

  • Prince Uzor Nwachukwu

    Right on point Dr. Alex.
    Many times one is forced to imagine that there must be something terribly amiss with the mentality of most political leaders in Africa. Something bizzare and uncanny. Most are visionless, rudderless, and seemingly senseless in their approach to governance and their chosen priorities. Where a political leader, surrounded by hordes of unpaid workers, massively delapidated infrastructure, and a host of hunger ravaged citizenry will, in fiendish joy, spend about $2.5M(USD) to erect statues of two human beings from other lands. Not for their contribution to the development of his territory, but just for being human beings. Sickness of the mind.
    The whole head is sick, thus the body is in gross pain and dying. The citizenry has been so massively traumatised and psychologically raped that most have resorted to only hoping and praying fervently that the expected second coming of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ happens right now. Even if HE has to come to Nigeria first, then visit other lands at a much later date. It’s most unfortunate.
    A discussion on Nigeria is akin to a discussion on sadness. On almost all fronts.
    I believe that the core issue here is that we have not yet made up as minds to be a people of one Country and therefore invest our energies in building a Nation. The mentality seems to be that “this structure is not ours and therefore cannot work.” The day “we the people” decide to take ownership of our collective destinies and rise to the challenge of enemies within and without, that day our Morning will start.
    Despite expectations for unending elections, I still believe that for us to get back to progressive Nationhood either of these two MUST happen: “RESTRUCTURING” (I agree with Pa Olu Falae’s understanding of the concept), or “REVOLUTION” (In the mould of Jerry Rawlings intervention in Ghana).
    Thank you Dr. Otti.

    • FrNinja

      There is nothing wrong with the African. Power is not given it is taken. The French would not have a liberal democracy today if they did not fight to depose the monarchy, execute their king and create a constitution. The English would not have a parliamentary system without a war that ended up in the death of a king and the subsuming of the monarchy under a parliamentary democracy. The Americans would still be treating blacks and women as second-class citizens if there had not been the civil rights movement and womens liberation movement.

      So If Nigeria wants change it has to fight for it.

      • Prince Uzor Nwachukwu

        @FrNinja. I believe we are on the same page. My summation is that as a people we may only achieve realistic eldorado by either of these two scenarios: a People-led and People-oriented mass movement crystalising into a credible Restructuring project; Or, a People-focused critical militant intervention led by altruistic and capable few. These may seem extreme, but having been part of Nigeria’s political system for quite a while, and researched our socio political tantrums, it seems we may not have any other choices left.

  • Jon West

    The litany of woes listed by Alex Otti points to the fact that Nigeria is a failed state, even if the erudite Otti does not seem to be aware of this glaring reality. This country failed from 1966, when those who joined the armed forces ,in order to escape poverty, illiteracy , the law and abject hopelessness, became the de facto and later ,de jure rulers of Nigeria. Since then we have been engaged in a rapid race to the bottom, to the abyss of underdevelopment.

    It is quite interesting that this article is coming on heels of the death of the erudite scholar and Statesman, your namesake, Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, the best President that Nigeria never had. I have just finished reading the eulogy of the convicted thief and former Governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori , for Alex Ekwueme. Ibori accused Nigeria and Nigerians of betraying Alex and are now hypocritically pouring enconiums on him after his demise. This is the story of the failed state of Nigeria.

    Ekwuemes gretaest crime was his education, intellectual sagacity and especially his Igbo roots, a no-go area when discussing national leadership in post-Biafra Nigeria. That this great man, who authored almost all the seminal constitutional works that would have saved the Nigerian dream- six geo-political zones, rotational Presidency and the succession process in the case of the demise of a serving President, could not become the President of this country, even after fighting Abacha and founding the Peoples Democratic Party that thereafter ruled the country for 16 years, says a lot about Nigeria and the Nigerian people, and supports Iboris claims.

    Nigerians hate order, because of an innate hatred for the country and its ability to serve the interests of the people. How do you pay taxes and care for public utilities, when the state is very unfair to certain sections of the citizenry, but expects them to totally support the rest of the favoured sections with their sweat, especially when the favoured are the inferior and indolent?
    All these calls to patriotism and national unity in the glaring reality of injustice, hypocrisy and cant do not and will not pass muster. This country post-1966, was designed to fail and has now reached its end point.

    To change the trajectory of the country requires a paradigm shift, which is almost impossible to effect, what with the very low level of education of both the current citizenry and the leadership. That is why our leaders and the populace do not see the stupidity in a major oil producer importing 90% of its petroleum products even with excess installed local refining capacity, buying real estate in geographically inferior climes with stolen wealth and electing tyrants without basic educational qualifications for the highest offices in the land.

    The people who helped certain factions of the polity to power in 1960 and especially in 1966 ensured this downward slide on the road to perdition , and we have now come to the end of the road. May Ekwuemes soul Rest In Peace.
    To hell with Nigeria!!

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical


      BTW, you cannot say “to hell” with a place we are already in

      • Tony Ezeifedi

        You are funny.

      • Jon West

        You got me there. I forgot that hell had already arrived. Sorry, my brother.

        • Chym


  • Joyce Anetor-Roberts

    John Paul, you hit the nail on the head. From the sideline, its easier said than done. Nigeria is liken to those biblical states where God saw hoplessness and decided to destroy all except the little children who had not been contaminated, one way to go; blame it on Mother Nature. The beautiful ones are not yet born, that’s the case with Nigeria.

    But for now, keeping writing beautiful pieces like this and help to midwife the beautiful ones.

  • John Paul

    Part of the problem is that Nigerians have been acting like “Mama’s boy” for almost 40 years

    According to Wikepedia: “A mother’s boy, also mummy’s boy or mama’s boy, is a man who is excessively attached to his mother at an age when men are expected to be independent… A Mama’s boy is seen to give control of his own life to his mother”

    As Otti pointed out, forty years ago – in 1977 to be precise – our refineries were functioning, our railway system was functioning, our major roads were motorable, most of our major cities, including Aba, had pipe borne water, our streets were clean, power supply was not as erratic as it is today, we had a secure country, our universities had many exchange students, tourists were visiting our country, our politicians did not ride in bullet proof cars and our environment was not as polluted as it is today

    But we all sat back, folded our hands between our legs, and did nothing – like Mama’s boys – waiting for someone else (mama) to bring an end to the decay that we were all experiencing right before our own eyes.

    Another cause of the condition that we find ourselves in today is pervasive corruption. Forty years ago, most of our pubic office holders were not kleptomaniacs. They were satisfied with owning one or two houses, at the most, serving their communities, and making just enough to raise their family.

    Back then a Kleptomaniac public office holder was the exception and not the rule. Unlike the multitude of public office holders, that brought us to this place, who have bee repeatedly described as Kleptomaniacs:
    “I sit down sometimes and wonder what corrupt Nigerians are thinking of. Somebody gets a big position and thinks he needs a big house in the United States and then jets off to buy a mansion. He comes back and then wants a house in Europe. He jets off to the UK to buy one and then thinks of the UAE, he jets off to Dubai and buys one and he is not satisfied”

    “He then jets off to South Africa to buy one. I went to Pretoria and I was taken to a street which was vacated by De Boers, the white farmers who had left South Africa and I was shown houses owned by Nigerians. They looked like cathedrals to me and in fact they looked like haunted houses and when these Nigerians travel to South Africa, they can’t stay there so they lodge in hotels”

    “So, what is the aim. What goes on in their minds. And that is why I said that before the government employs anyone to positions of authority, let them be medically examined. They need psychiatric tests” – Farida Waziri, former EFCC Chairman

    So while wise, resource, rich countries – like Norway and Algeria – were building impressive reserves, $1 trillion and $100 billion, respectively. And building their infrastructure, Nigeria was squandering its oil wealth, by sharing the entire thing among individuals, on a turn-by-turn basis, like Mama’s boy, until the roof caved in on us”

    The bottomline is that it cannot be overemphasized: the change we seek begins with each of us

    • Ibrahim Olawale Uche

      You are spot on John. Nothing to add. You said it all.

    • Grelia O

      Goes back to lack of strong institutions which Otti referenced. Stable and functional democracies owe their success to strong institutions. The 1970s success you referenced could have been better considering the resources and potentials available then. The decline in our fortune was already active then but the effects were not apparent yet.

      Of all the sins committed against the nation and against the people, none revivals the abolition of local autonomy. The litany of woes that Otto listed could be traced to the absence of accountability. When you nationalize virtually every aspect of governance, deemphasize merit, remove the incentive for hard work and prudent management of available resources, the results is a gradual decay, this retrogression.

      Is it not obvious that a line graph of the well-being of Nigerians has trended downward since the unitary structure became operational? Has each succeeding decade not been worse?

      Why are we faking surprise now? The real wonder is the docility of Nigerians, and the lack of collective outrage.

      A lot of our so called sound minds blame our problem on corruption. They overlook the fact that the greatest item of corruption is the very structure we operate, which breeds corruption. We rely on strong individuals rather than on strong institutions. Take Donald Trump, a supposed strong person. On assuming office, he signed some controversial executive orders on immigration. The orders were successfully challenged in court and he could not overrule the court because the strong democratic institutions rather than strong presidents matter more to the survival of American democracy. Bill Clinton was not sparred investigation and eventual impeachment because he was a democrat and controlled the executive branch of the govt.

      The reverse is the case in Nigeria and that is corruption at its gross, and it cuts across several administrations. Our backward slide will continue until get our acts together. There is need to devolve responsibilities to lower units. That will mobilize the grassroots, and make them stakeholders. Leaders will be held more accountable.

      • Iskacountryman

        “Until we kill corruption, nothing is ever likely to change”….”A lot of our so called sound minds blame our problem on corruption”…

        american abroad is of unsound mind….

        • Jon West

          On that for once, I reluctantly agree with a Sahelian rag head countryman of mine. Some people are affecte by visions of grandeur and intellectual hubris. Corruption is a problem, but the major problem is ignorance, zero productivity and too many cooks spoiling the ideas broth. Ideas are capital, the rest is just money. Some our pseudo-intellectuals are fixated on the monetary cost of corruption leaving out the elephant in the room- a dearth of men of ideas.

          • American Abroad

            My dear Jon West, I could let you continue to run around like a cornered snack (paraphrasing Clavell’s Nippon epic, Shogun), but neither this country nor her citizens can afford that luxury. Ideas are good, that fuels the Western world, and indeed, my citizenship of this world is only predicated by what lies between my ears, not my color, not my ethnic origins, not my parentage, not even, strictly speaking, my education. Contrariwise, despite a deluge of ideas, NNPC has never worked, whilst similar organizations in less endowed nations (including Saudi Arabia, Angola, even Cameroon) have provided a nest egg in perpetuity for their citizens. In Nigeria, directors of NNPC, like our good friend Jon West, managed to buy a “mansion” in Asokoro, which his entire life’s salary could never justify or explain. That is what we get in exchange for communal investment. I have seen the enemy, my dear Jon West: those are exactly the same folks like you, whose greed has decapitated the future. We vainly imagine that by stealing communal funds to endow our progeny, all will be well, and may the devil take those left behind. It doesn’t work that way, my dear Jon: the devil comes for us first: mark my words. A mansion at Asokoro can be either a refuge or a prison: if it came from the proceeds of Corruption, I guarantee the second option is a likelier result. mThe fault is not in our pseudo-intellectuals, visions, hubris, epicurean competence or in our stars, to paraphrase Shakespeare, but in our filthy corrupt looting of our common patrimony. Of course, dear Jon, you can still make amends: refund any money you might have unjustly acquired to fund education of those ” Sahelian raghead” almajiri. That, in my view, would be almost-poetic justice.

          • Jon West

            My dear AA, I was tempted to let your ad hominem rant go the way of all rants but we need to put things in proper perspective. Jon West is perhaps one of the few honest Nigerians, and colleagues of decades at NNPC, who know me will attest to that. However, a little intellectual dissection of my postings would have made all these nonsense posts unnecessary.

            The NNPC may come out as a cesspit of corruption, but the corruption is Government-induced and operated, with NNPC personnel as mere expediters. In Malaysia, Indonesia,Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Venezuela (yes!!) and Brazil, the problem is the same , but unlike us, the men of ideas in both the national oil companies and Government , conspire to ensure that in spite of fiscal corruption, the state benefits from the development that the expoitation of petroleum engenders. Hence the Malaysian miracle an Petronas Twin Towers, the beautiful infrastructure of Jakarta, the technological achievements of Petrobras R&D in deepwater drilling technology which has been sold to Nigeria and worldwide , Industria Brasileiras manufacturing environment which produces the Embrarer Business Jet that the Nigerian corrupt elite are enamoured of, Q8 (Kuwait) and PDVSA( Venezuela) petrol stations all over Europe and the USA. Bottom line, the problem is not fiscal corruption but the corruption of incompetence, ignorance and a dearth of ideas men. The man with the idea is the hero, but unfortunately Nigeria abhors heroes both in politics and the economy. After all , you rooted for Buhari as fit and proper to lead Nigeria in the second decade of the third millennium of christendom. Now you are regretting your choice at leisure.

            As for the Asokoro mansion which appears to rile you, please be informed that any NNPC , Shell, ExxonMobil, Total , Chevron etc top brass in Nigeria can build or acquire a mansion in Asokoro, Cape Town, Chelsea, Miami Beach and even Westchester, New York with the proceeds of his/her gratuity(golden handshake) at retirement. No need for corrupt enrichment to achieve this.
            However, it is sad that people who are given such undeserved advantage, are unable to reciprocate by developing the economy , for the advancement and benefit of the general population.

            The trouble is with the political system that is unwilling to put ideas men in high and low places and then let them play, not with the staff of NNPC. The industry is run by the state and the NNPC staff are just expediters. Hope you are finally educated , my Nutty Professor friend.

          • Iskacountryman

            ideas….ideas…ideas men…such men are dangerous…