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Nigeria: Africa’s failed asset for sale

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By Yinka Odunakin

‘Privatisation aims at maximum profit. It then excludes the poor and the vulnerable from accessing healthcare. But we have to look after the poor’

-President Muhammadu Buhari while receiving a delegation led by Prof. Olu Akinkugbe at the Villa on March1, 2016.

SIR Olaniwun Ajayi is turning 92 next April and anytime you sit around him you must learn one or two things. He has a gift of recollection and his memory is so agile for a man of his age. He has so many other qualities that make him glow even in the dark. He is a philosopher per excellence and his sartorial elegance is so inimitable.His traditional Yoruba trouser style is so attractive. I see it fit well on Mr. Fola Adeola another deep man of Yoruba Culture.Papa is so methodical that it is not an accident that he is Methodist.

When he turned 91 last April he invited us to Sagamu where he donated some building to the Methodist Church Training school in the town. He gave a speech at the event which I would not forget in a hurry. As he worried over the moral degeneration in the Nigerian Church,he spoke about a “Reverend gentleman ” who impregnated a chorister in his church years back and decided to take the young lady for abortion. She died in the process but the gentleman is today a Bishop!

Cranial differences

My reason for focussing on Papa this week however has to do with a book he released in 2011titled Nigeria:Africa’s Failed Asset. I have read over and over again his quotation from the 1953 memorandum from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Oliver Lyttelton to the British Cabinet  published in the book as follows:

“Nigeria is inhabited by many races and no doubt the delegates would give the anthropologist some pause. Through their cranial differences he could perhaps trace some of the twelve races of Nigeria. For my purposes, it is enough to point to three main divisions – the Hausa and Fulani of the North, Muslims and warriors, with the dignity, courtly manners, high bearing and conservative outlook which democracy and the Daily Mirror have not yet debased; and the Yoruba West and Ibo East, pagan or Christian, with higher education and lower manners and inferior fighting value, somewhat intoxicated with nationalism, though loyal to the British connection at least so long as it suits them.buhari-sale

The Northern spokeman is Abubukar Balewa, his sobriquet ‘the golden voice of the North, a natural orator with real eloquence, nearly perfect English and all the arts of modulation at his command. The East is represented by Dr. Azikiwe, an American- educated demagogue, who makes few interventions but is able, persuasive, apparently moderate and wholly unreliable; the West by Mr. Awolowo with a flood of words always on the same wave length, a lawyer with considerable legal equipment and outstanding ambition. He is no more reliable than his Eastern colleague. The last two are in an unholy but I believe temporary alliance. I can only claim as chairman to have concealed, I hope completely, the mounting impatience and deepening cynicism with which I have looked out upon this motley assembly tackling the niceties of constitutional balance. The fundamental cleavage is of course between the Muslim North and the pagan and Christian South that is the Eastern and Western regions. It is asking much to expect so widely divergent elements to work an elaborate constitution.”

My thoughts went straight to his description of Nigeria as a failed asset when my good friend Tony Nnadi made a  brilliant argument on the recently announced plan by the Federal Government to sell the country’s assets which Senator Udo Udoma,Budget minister said is the only rabbit the administration can pull from its policy hat to finance the 2016 budget.

This is what Tony wrote of the plan: “It is called “Asset Stripping ” in winding up the affairs of a distressed company. It is a terminal -stage insider trading in which the Directors who know that the Company is heading to its demise, yank off for themselves via their fronts,the key assets of the dying corporation before it falls into receivership.”

My friends have been saying all the right things on this subject and making my task so little.My good brother APC Senator Shehu Sani has also spoken eloquently on this subject.

While describing those angling to buy national assets as economic predators,Sani said: “The call for the sale of our national assets and investments is condemnable. The proponents (of the call) are economic predators and parasites who want to profit from the recession. Nigerians must resist and rise up against this heist and roguery.

“They don’t want to buy the Ajaokuta Steel Company because it is not profitable; they don’t want to invest in solid minerals, agriculture or science and technology, they don’t want to invest in the exploration of oil in the Chad basin or Benue trough. They want to buy NLNG and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Many but not all Nigeria’s captains of industry are fronts for captains of politics.”

I support Sani’s call for Nigerians to resist this heist that is about to be unleashed on the country holding with all legal and legitimate means at their disposal. It is an irony that it is in our years of Change that our collective patrimony would be stripped off us as a people.It is an irony that an administration that has made so much noise about not inheriting anything from its predecessors is about to auction our pride for expediency.

Since Dangote mooted this odious idea all sorts of people in government have lapped it up .Dangote who has just lined the international highway from Benin Republic to Ghana with his cement trailers has  been rumored to be eyeing the lucrative NLNG in this unbridled capitalism that corners assets of the state .

We continue to insist that all the arguments made so far against state enterprise have not convinced against state involvement in many critical sectors that cannot be left in the hands of those seeking to maximize only profit .

In fact, three Chinese SOEs (Sinopec Group, China National Petroleum and State Grid) have consistently made the top ten since 2010 and contributed 16% of total revenues from the 114 SOEs on the list in 2014. This also underscores the growing revenue share of Chinese-owned SOEs among the biggest companies in the world, as well as SOEs from across the rest of Asia

Just as we have crooks running public enterprise so do we have them in private enterprise.The Banking Sector and the activities of its rogues over the years show us clearly that it is our ethical collapse we need to address in a restructured society with a new order.

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Re:Nigeria, this is your life

DEAR Yinka,

Your articles make excellent reading every week as well as the occasional digests of your US friend, Hilary Okonrowkwo.

A quote from your last article titled, Nigeria, this is your life says as follows – “I complained to a friend who just  relocated his family to the U.S few days ago that I find the programme too intensive but he cut me short before I could finish the sentence that I should perish the thought. He said our inefficiency in Nigeria would give a sense of abnormality when we find ourselves in any normal environment where things work the way they should.”

The article instantly reminded me of the following statement circulated recently and you will find that your friend is uncommonly right and absolutely correct. It is being sent to validate his assertion of a normal environment. In light of the NGN51 trillion revenues of the last administration you will find the following article by an Unknown author,  a very happy reading.

“I have been following closely the activities of this government and whenever I have the opportunity, I try to find out the opinions of people as regards the performance of this government.

I just realised that the hardship faced by many Nigerians is simply as a result of the fact that almost everyone of us benefited from the cycle of corruption.

The bricklayer, plumber, labourers, tiler are all complaining because building construction has slowed down massively because the thieves no longer have money to spend on real estate. The car dealers are grumbling because their cars are begging for buyers. Thieves can no longer spend wastefully.

The private school owners are shouting because parents can no longer pay outrageous sums and are withdrawing their wards.

I was shocked when I learnt that in a popular private University in Abuja, parents are writing undertaking at the account section for their children to be allowed to write exams… and it goes on and on.

The fact is, a lot of people are returning to what someone referred to as ”default mode”.

We mostly have been living above our REAL MEANS.

We have been staying in houses that ordinarily our incomes can’t afford.

Our children going to schools we can’t afford. Driving cars we ordinarily can’t maintain.We have been living a FAKE LIFE all along. Now the reality is before us and we don’t want to accept it.

This shows how morally bankrupt we are. You can’t eat your Cake and still have it.

You got billions from bank without collateral using your political influence.

You put half into your business and spent the other half on exotic cars, jewelleries’, etc.

Your business employs 100 people normally. You get illegal waivers and concessions to import raw materials at rock bottom prices, you get over-inflated contract to supply government some goods your company produce….in short your company is kept afloat by corruption.

Now the new Sherriff in town say,  (are we being restored to the normal environment – italics mine)no more ridiculous waivers, no more inflated contracts, no more bank loans without collateral,

In fact, its time you or your company pay off the billions of debt owed. AMCON takes over your company, staff are laid off.

And you go on air and say the new sheriff is killing business and causing unemployment.

The truth is….you and your company were never in business, you were only feeding off the system.

Too many companies and banks are funded by corruption. Remove corruption from the system and they collapse…….and we end up blaming the person that removes corruption for the collapse of the corruptly run fake company.

Its like our system and corruption are so interwoven and inseparable that removing one will kill the other.

Maybe we should tolerate and learn to live with corruption so that Nigeria can survive?

Take note…God help and bless Nigeria.”

Regards,Manney.

Dear Yinka,

I am an avid reader of your thought-provoking column, Candid Notes. I can feel your pain each time you talk about Nigeria. You may find my recent public lecture at UNILAG quite interesting in finding solutions to our situation. Best regards.

Sincerely,

Chris Imoisili.

 

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