By Tony MOMOH
The body language of our people cannot be fully relayed in words. When they tell you something you ought to have done and you fail or refuse to do it and the come later comes to become, they look you in the face, put both hands on their faces with two fingers ready to produce a message, run the fingers from under the eyes to the chin. Some times they will mouth the invective “iyo” (pronounced i-yaw). No other sound follows, but the message is clear.
It drags living and vivid pictures from the past. You were warned but you knew too much, as they say, and would not listen. In my letters to my countrymen, written between April, 1988 and August, 1990, I sold a dream country to you, our countrymen.
You failed, by and large, to heed my advice that nobody owes us a living and that we should lessen our taste for goods we can but refuse to produce, and foods we can but refuse to grow. I told you that the Uncle Bens rice we foolishly hunger for is a native of the Niger Delta! I told you that there is not one state in the country that cannot grow enough food to feed its population.
I begged you to grow what you eat and eat what you grow, like Ghana was preaching and practising. You ignored me. I told you that Nigerian does not just have a future, but a mission. Many of you laughed and still do.
Now, I am aware of the mission and the timeline of its fulfillment. But I also know that missions can be undermined or aborted. One way is that the one who has that mission is derailed; and another is that he does not get to knowing that there is a mission!
The mission to anchor the next world power through spiritual recognitions is being endangered by economists and politicians.
The economists are misleading us on the debt question, and the politicians are preoccupied with whose turn it is next to sit on the high chair at the centre where chopping takes place. I hope you have been following the exchanges between two old men, Chiroma and Clarke, who seem to have forgotten that their children are watching.
While the question to do with who takes the chair at the centre is one that must be resolved through decongesting the political space whether we like it or not (because experience has always been and will continue to be the best teacher), the economic question is reflected in the current discussion of the debt we are accumulating, the eating of tomorrow today.
On decongesting the political space, I suggest that every political party makes as an election issue, the restructuring plan they have for us when we are 100 years old as integrated space in 1914. We must reflect our diversities in the way we package our lives or face the outcome of intransigence. We must have a true federation to reflect the differences and diversities.
On the economy, I begged you in 2005 when you were packaging good money to be handed over to those who had been watching you pile up the dollars accruing from rising petroleum prices. You gave them $12 billion and even paid commission on that debt! I told you what you could do with that huge sum of money that would have bettered the lot of your people who would produce enough to service the debt if they were empowered.
You refused to empower them, so they could not produce. Now, you are back to borrowing. And when you are being told that you are walking the negative side of good behaviour in the management of our affairs, you say they are telling lies, that they are exaggerating, that you are even under-borrowing.
This is what they told Obasanjo in the 70s and he fell into their trap by taking a jumbo loan! We refuse to take on public officeholders who are looting the treasuries, and the businessmen and women who are casually getting away with murder through dubious plea-bargain arrangements.
But let me remind you. On these pages in July, 2005, I wrote three pieces titled The Debt We Owe (See Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary Vol 2 pages 7 – 16). I tabled four scenarios before you and asked us to choose a way out, that the only way to attend to the debt question was not handing over to those who paid for our oil, the money they were reluctant parting with.
Scenario One, I said, is the Present Loss Scenario; Scenario Two, the Future Gain Scenario; Scenario Three, the Bad Debt Scenario; and Scenario Four, the Reparation Scenario. I am reminding you of this in my Time As Witness Series slot on my website. I chose Scenario One for us. The last two scenarios took the yet to be explained move of man in the direction of what is good, what is noble, what should be done.
It is the increasing consciousness of man that it is better to give than to take; of the haves feeling more than ever before in the shoes of the needy. So, not only in the very near future would the exploiters regret their exploitation and see the denial that devalued man over the ages; they would also like to make reparations for their deeds.
The future loss scenario is what we are experiencing now — that what we would lose by paying the debt would be the opportunity to invest and grow the then present so that the future (today) would experience the fruits of sowing. We lost this future gain and handed over the money, and now we are crying because the reaping that comes with eating the future in the present is hunger awaiting the glutton. We are the gluttons.
By handing over $12 billion in 2005, we voted for the neglect of our crying needs which were right there in the many areas of unfulfilled promises. In 15 years, from 2005, I estimated, we would be without the good which the reserve would have been put into to empower our people.
Taking the senatorial districts as empowerment units, with leaders of thought from there moderating the funds allocated there for provision of basic infrastructures like roads, water, healthcare, education; the establishment of cottage industries, skills development for self employment; also the development of sports, culture and tourism, to mention just a few areas, I believed we would have generated enough funds to meet our commitments to our foreign creditors.
At N135 to the dollar in 2005, we would have had as a special People’s Empowerment Fund the sum of N1.6 trillion . Each of the 109 senatorial districts would have been entitled to about N15 billion which if spread over 15 years, not even making allowance for returns from investment, would have provided N1 billion each year for disbursement.
We gave the money away! Now the debt profile, local and foreign, has risen to the equivalent of $29 billion, and we are saying we have capacity to borrow more! With Britain and France cutting down heavily on public spending, we are fighting to increase allowances of public officers and even sending petitions to the national assembly to create more states instead of collapsing what we have to manageable proportions. We have been eating the future in the present.
The future of yesterday has come to be the present of today. And with what stares us in the face, not learning any lessons, we plod on as if nothing will happen. We shall see.