By Donu Kogbara
MY friend, Gbite Adeniji, a lawyer and foremost gas expert, has written an article titled Canaries In The Goldmine: Thoughts On Oncoming Upstream Divestments By Nigeria’s Major Partners. The article is about an important and alarming development that everyone, including Vanguard readers, should be aware of. It was too long to squeeze onto one page, so I’ve been serializing it.
Today’s excerpt is the final instalment. Part 1 was published a fortnight ago, Part 2 last week. If you haven’t read them, you can find them in the “columnists” section of the Vanguard website. The relationship between the peoples of Nigeria and the great powers is littered with several epochs and milestones beginning with trade with Europeans, followed by slavery, colonisation, political independence, and neo-colonialism. The impending divestments signal another milestone in the country’s political economic history and a defining point. It marks Nigeria’s exit from Britain’s political sphere of influence. Ditto America’s.
WHEN Nigeria was being cobbled together from Britain’s Northern and Southern Nigerian protectorates in the early part of the last century from several warring tribes or nation states, the question in Europe was whether it was too big to survive. Over a hundred years post the amalgamation, the tribal fissures have become as glaring as they have never been. In the meantime, the USA has become a net exporter of crude oil and natural gas and no longer requires any hydrocarbon from Nigeria. In any event, the western economies and their flagship vehicles in the oil commodity game are on a hurried flight to a net zero world.
In essence, Nigeria is about to be left to its own devices as these two great powers will have no dog in Nigeria’s future fights or misgovernance. Nigeria, therefore, had better learn to manage its politics and its new oilmen lest it finds that the canaries were singing about a ticking timebomb.
With no strategic interest to defend in Nigeria, there will be no referees in our fights going forward.
The policy position of the government for its consent to these impending transactions may well determine the country’s future one way or the other. We have to hope for the sake of our collective future that the correct policy decisions will be taken on these divestments.
You readers have three ways of commenting on the contents of this page: You can contact me via the email address or text-only number that appear at the foot of this page every week. Alternatively, you can share your thoughts about anything and everything in the space reserved for reactions to my columns on the Vanguard website. But most of you don’t seize these opportunities to have your voices heard!
OK, so this country is not a proper democracy and we all know that saying stuff that will annoy the authorities can be risky. But you can use pseudonyms! Even when the topics I’ve discussed are controversial – EndSARS protests or murders that have taken place during vicious electoral battles, for example -the response from you guys is eerily muted. Even when the issue in question – frequent electricity outages, for example – affects a significant percentage of the general population or you in particular, very few of you bother to express opinions.
The above serialisation of Mr. Adeniji’s article should have elicited an outpouring of patriotic concern from educated readers. But only a handful have indicated that Adeniji’s warnings have hit home. It’s as if most Nigerians are engaged in a massive collective shrug. It’s as if most Nigerians aren’t interested in solving problems. Given what I have learned about the national psyche since I moved to Nigeria from the United Kingdom 22 years ago, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the widespread apathy.
This is a place where a corpse can fester in the sun for hours before anyone gets around to removing it. This is a place where hundreds of schoolchildren can be abducted and remain un-rescued for years. This is a place where government officials or their cronies or girlfriends or relatives or spouses can get away with crimes.
When I looked apathy up in a dictionary, it was defined as extreme indifference that can be caused by depression or bereavement or loss of faith in oneself. I would add that loss of faith in one’s leaders and one’s society can also turn one into a chronic shrugger. And it seems to me that many Nigerians have been robbed of their self-confidence and are bereaved in the sense that their hopes have died. And they are resigned to settling for basic survival.
Though many people say that they feel OK, I’ve noticed that if you press them for details about their existences, they will reveal information that makes me conclude that they are suffering and smiling! Let’s just say that the nonsense many Nigerians cheerfully tolerate would drive sane citizens of normal countries crazy.
I think that millions of Nigerians are emotionally exhausted and see no point in giving a damn or airing grievances in public fora…because why invest energy in caring or bellyaching when nothing ever seems to change much, even when individuals or groups kick up a fuss?
Hell, even I am tired of incessant complaining! I complain a lot less than I used to and wearily accept Naija dysfunctions more philosophically than I once did. In a nutshell, my once buoyant spirit has been almost crushed to smithereens by 2 decades of intense disappointment. But you know what?
We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be desensitised! We shouldn’t give up! We shouldn’t stay silent! We should rise like phoenixes from the ashes of our shattered dreams and insist on a better deal. There is strength in numbers and courageous majorities who refuse to be short-changed have the power to compel those who govern them to govern more efficiently and more ethically.
Reacting to articles in newspapers and/or participating in social media discussions can be intellectually stimulating and therapeutic. Getting into the habit of speaking your mind within these contexts is a good starting point from which to become a stronger individual and a more demanding citizen. I think it is fair to say that stronger individuals and more demanding citizens tend to be taken more seriously by their leaders.