By Muyiwa Adetiba
Simon Kolawole, the former Editor of This Day Newspaper and founder of a fast growing online newspaper, is ‘a beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’ I try to read his column as often as I can, and I am always impressed by his clarity of thought as well as his consistency.
It is not easy to keep a weekly column especially when your bread and butter is no longer coming from there. I must say he has done well in that regard.
He came to work with me in the 90s shortly after he left the university, and I am very pleased that he has lived up to the potential I knew he had. Like any patriarch, I sometimes look at my many ‘children’ scattered in various spheres of life today—some have left the pen profession for politics and the industries—and try to compare what they have become now with what I felt they had. Many have developed their potentials admirably and have made me proud. You could say Lady Luck has smiled on some of them. But then, luck they say, often finds those who work hard.
This article is not on Simon Kolawole, but a reference of sorts to an article he wrote a while ago which has refused to go away because of its continued relevance.
He had suggested in the article that Nigeria should be partitioned and the various parts leased as they are—assets and liabilities—to some foreign countries, particularly European ones. His argument was that many, if not all, would be better off if not transformed at the end of a few decades. His argument is not that far-fetched when you look at what Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Israel and even of recent, the Emirates have done with the few natural resources at their disposal.
Then we look at what Nigeria, which really should be the ‘God’s own country’ in terms of what she has been endowed with by God, has done with whatever she has. Simon’s article will always be food for thought for as long as Nigeria refuses to use her enormous potentials to develop her space and her people. Just as the biblical story of the Talents where the worker who used his Talents well was asked to take over the single Talent of the indolent and saucy worker, Nigeria could very well lose her Talent (economic sovereignty) to a more able country. The signs are there with the loans and with the dependence on China, for those who want to see.
I knew Simon to be a sports person. But I forget now which club he supports. Arsenal supporters had been the butt of jokes in the past three months when the club seemed to have forgotten how to win a match.
Then just last month, a new manager was appointed. In a jiffy, the same under-performing players, playing in the same stadium before the same spectators had been refocused. There was a new steel, a new passion and a new disposition to covering up threatening spaces. I know a few football pundits who believe that the role of coaches is over rated in clubs and are often unfairly used as scape goats when a team loses form.
While this may be true in certain instances, there is evidence to support that a good team with a manager who has lost ‘connection’ with his players can deteriorate to a point of mediocrity as it almost happened to Arsenal while an average team with a good manager can rise above its level as is happening to Leicester. A lot depends on the ability to use the tools you have to the best you can. It is said that a rod in my hand is just a staff while in Moses’ hand, it parted the seas and brought water out of a rock. It depends on whose hand it is in
. A tennis racquet in my hand is just another racquet while in Federer’s hand, it is worth 20 Grand Slams and over a hundred million dollars in prize money alone. It depends on whose hands it is in.Five loaves of bread can barely feed a family in my hands; but Jesus used them to feed five thousand men. It depends on whose hands it is in. In the same way, the chances of Nigeria realising her full potential depends on whose hand she is in.
A video of a long queue of poverty stricken children begging for alms went viral some two weeks ago. The accompanying narrative claimed it was from Kano. I did not see any evidence of that in the video. Or even of Nigeria. But wherever it was from, it portends some ominous signs for that region.
There is however no doubt that there are worrisome signs of extreme poverty coming from the North; especially the North-East. There is no excuse for the poverty in the North given the access of its leaders to Nigeria’s resources. Or even the resources of the North itself. Were the same North-East with its present grim realities to be leased to a European country, or an Arab country or even to the present day Rwanda for just three decades, the narrative would change.
It depends on whose hands she is in. Yet, their own people, their own flesh and blood, are exploiting the poverty in the land. They are encouraging an unbridled population growth so they can prove that they have ‘the numbers.’ They are taking money meant for development to Europe and major capitals. Just last week, 41 private jets were said to have landed in the Boko Haram ravaged zone for a wedding! The town was said to have been clogged with exotic cars and armoured vehicles.
Imagine what this ‘oil and gas big man’ would achieve if he raised money from ‘his powerful friends’ to build and equip a few health centres. But then you can’t give what you don’t have. And compassion for the poor or the genuine desire to lift the poor out of squalor is one thing a lot of our leaders, especially from the North, don’t seem to have. After all, Allah has made them poor!
Nigeria might yet be a great country where her resources in men and materials are harnessed for the greater good; where the vision of her being among the 20 industrialised countries in the world which was initially meant for this year,is still realisable at the end of the decade. It will require vision; it will require competence; it will require hard work; it will require sacrifice from the elites. It depends however, on whose hands Nigeria is in.