Professor Bolaji Akinyemi

By Patrick Dele Cole

PROF Bolaji Akinyemi – an international colossus – foresaw early where and what Nigeria’s foreign policy should be. He proposed the Afirican High Command because he understood that without a united Africa, the West, Russia and China would trample all over it, taking the minerals and wealth of the richest continent away for next to nothing.

Prof also advocated that Africa should have the nuclear bomb – what he called the Black Bomb. Without it Africa was doomed to handouts and would be forced, like the proverbial dog, to eat and defecate with the same plate.

Prof received abuse for his views on the black bomb. For our embassies abroad, he saw, long before Black Panther, that we should have adequate and befitting representation overseas: send billions of dollars overseas to our embassies to buy property for both offices and staff. Prof wrote several books on the Constitution of Nigeria, on how the Constitutions were made and what prejudices seeped into the Constitution.

Other books followed which traced the history of Nigeria’s foreign policy and so on. But his behind-the-scene advocacy- speaking truth to power- to the military boys must be his greatest achievement. One day, I hope he will tell you.

Akinyemi understood that intelligence had evolved from the Police when M. D. Yusuf was in charge. He knew that intelligence needed the highest calibre of brains Nigeria could produce.

He looked at the UK(full of first class Oxbridge students), at France, at the US, where the National Security Adviser was nearly always an intellectual: from Dean Acheson, on to Albright, Kessinger, Brezinski, on to Condoleezza Rice, Susan Rice, John Bolton, etc.

He pressed the various Heads-of-State on this, but the intelligence practitioners had an iron grip on the institution and fought him like the plague they thought he was. Yet these same people would be at his place every opportunity to milk his wisdom.

I was in utter awe of him and his intellectual prowess, despite the fact that he went to Oxford and Fletcher School of Diplomacy, where he did his Ph.D and taught.

I went to a better school, Cambridge, and taught in a better ivy league university, University of Pennsylvania and the Brookings Institute( for a short hands on course).

Bolaji Akinyemi is not really my mate. I think he was one of those who did not read primary six, went to secondary school from primary five. His elder brother was my classmate: so I was envious of those who did not pass standard six.

If he stood election, I would ask for his disqualification as not having the first school leaving certificate. He also did the Ph.D, just like Stanley Macebuh, in two years. I dislike all those super bright chaps who make plodders like us look bad, even when we have tried our very best.

He saw quite early where Nigeria ought to be when we were still dancing at Kakadu. He asked for the African High Command, the setting up of our foreign relations on proper foundation poised for growth; embassies and staff houses were purchased, our security was to be revamped   with Africa as the centre-piece.

He asked for the Black Bomb which showed great foresight for the 1970s. Professor has been pressing for Nigerians to go to space for over 30 years. He went to President Goodluck Jonathan to press this issue, but as usual nothing came of it.

I was travelling with Dr. Imo Itsueli back to Nigeria. We were school mates. He was then working at Phillips Petroleum and our conversation drifted to oil pollution marginal fields and several other things. I knew and know nothing about oil.

He explained to me that an oil well, after a while, may produce what the operating company did not want – e.g. too much gas, or water, or the cost of exploitng the oil was no longer profitable. Such wells are capped for future use or disposal.

As he was then about to leave Phillips, he wondered whether he might not acquire such exhausted or marginal field. I had a rather hazy understanding of all this technical hogwash, but I took notes and asked him to look at them and write a memorable note for me.

On return to Nigeria, I broached this with Prof. Akinyemi who took my two paragraph note to the powers that be. I forgot about it, and I am sure, so did he. I only later saw allocation for marginal fields to some people.

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I think while paying tribute to Prof. Akinyemi for his help, the issue of marginal fields has become big business. Every oil-producing state was given and is still receiving marginal fields. Some have developed them, others have converted them to the governor’s private company.

Still others have been shelled out to prominent politicians. No operator cleans the area it operates. All contribute to greater oil pollution. Neither Prof. Akinyemi nor I foresaw this. We were naive enough to believe that the benefits would accrue to the common man. I think marginal oil fields should be reserved for indigenes of the area. What do you think?

We are talking about marginal oil fields, no such opportunities existed for others. Are there marginal tin mines or coal and manganese mines or baroid mines? l know the governments of oil producing states have been shortsighted wastrels but so were other governors.

Oil is what Nigeria depends on at the moment, but the cliche tells us it is a wasting asset, exploiting it waste the indigenes, the environment.

Now it is a curse to the area and people. They cannot fish, farm, hunt. No one can go there without weeping for the poverty of the people. The oil companies have all relocated outside the area, and also relocated the women of the area.

Male youth have no jobs or prospects beyond finding and funding existence by whatever means possible or necessary. We used to advise that all Presidents, members of government and National Assembly go there for a two week retreat.

That will be some condign and eye-opening experience. Do not let us play with calamity. If we do, we are doomed.

I am not one of those who would defend the profligacy of the governors of the South-South who have a debt of explanation to make for the poor, irrelevant and irreverent use of resources. To whom more is given, more is expected.

Nor is the query answered by saying all the governors have little respect for money allocated to them and are equally financially reckless. The Niger Delta is full of towns and villages where there are no toilet facilities, except outhouses built for public use on the shores. That’s exactly how it has been since 80 years ago when I was born.

No running water in the town. The water you draw from the well is covered by a sheen of oil. The governors of South-South have a lot to do, but they have done very little. There are two banks in all the Kalabari areas of Rivers State.

Africa is rich beyond belief, but in a few short years, those who have plundered us will set up an architectural construct that would leave us as the gatemen and we would be unable to enter.

The Zuckerbergs, Bill Gates, Google, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma of the new technological development would make a thousand times more money than now and no African would be anything but cleaners, gatemen, security staff.

Calcitrate is an essential component of all devices, just as copper was an essential mineral to make the industrial revolution possible and to sustain it. Imagine the amount of copper used to carry electricity everywhere. If this copper were in Europe or the US, payment for it would be by usage.

Whenever you switch a light on, the owners of the copper would make some money. We have seven billion people in the world.

Consider since when they started using insulated copper to conduct electricity everywhere – consider further that the people of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo were receiving farthings, cents each time they used electricity. Who do you think would be rich today?

Each time we use our smart phones, thousands of people make money – they prepared the hard or soft ware – no African makes a dime; instead all he has to show for minerals taken from his land are large holes in the ground: and then the African is a second-hand person dealing with a second-hand economy.

His clothes are second-hand sold in bend-down boutiques; even the underwear of our women is second- hand; our cars are second-hand, our generators are second-hand, everything is second-hand.

Our aeroplanes, oil drilling equipment, mining equipment, mechanical diggers, refuse tricks, refrigerators, cookers, airconditioners, motor spare parts, phones, laptops, motorcycles – everything second to the second-hand people.

We do not have millennials, or the Z-Generation or Generation- X. We have second-hand people, second-hand millennials, second- hand Generation-X. Since we copy all these social movements.

All African Heads-of-State now take themselves – at the same time- to China, Japan, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, US in a sickening display of fealty – “we greet you great Massa“.

Our “second-hand” hands are out: bank loans in the West and US are one per cent or no percent. In some places the banks pay to lend to business.

But when we second-hand people get to these same banks, they see us as old, crippled people with existing conditions – obesity, heart problems, diabetes, blood clots – to be treated as second hand people soon to expire. When we go to these same banks in the West they charge us between eight per cent and 12 per cent.

Nigeria has a space agency. I am sure they are busy and perhaps have bought some second-hand satellites. If they do anything, they keep it quiet because no one knows. But during the past 50 years, men and women have gone to space. The Indians, Pakistanis, Saudi and other Arabs.

I would think that a country which has one quarter of Africa’s population should have the hope of sending one man and one woman to space, just as the Arabs, Pakistanis, Japanese, Chinese, etc, have done.

All it takes is to send two or three Nigerians to the space centres of friendly countries and when next a ship is going to the space station there will be a Nigerian there. Watch out. Rwanda may beat you.


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