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A peep into history (I)

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Keeping a library may be tedious and costly but it is profitable at the same time. Last week as I turned sections of my library upside down, I came across so many materials that I decided to regale my readers with week after week. They are each a piece of history and they tell that the rain beating this country did not start yesterday. And we have not been bereft of “prophets” railing against the wanton troopers – military and civilian – laying this country waste.

Enjoy two of these precious, even collector’s items this week! The first was written by Muyiwa Adetiba and the second by Prof. Kole Omotoso.

Titled, “Those who fed fat on Nigeria should now come forward and help her” in Face to Face with Muyiwa Adetiba, Adetiba’s piece reads: “We are a proud nation: You, me, and the guy next door. We are all proud people. And, together, we make a proud nation. We look at menial jobs with disdain, preferring white collar ones. We look at farmers with their coloured and dirty hands with contempt, thanking God – and oil – that farming was not our lot.

“We welcome the comfort of modern technology but are not prepared to stoop to conquer. Modern technology can be bought, we assure ourselves (the word we use is ‘transfer’) if the price is right. We buy up the best places in Europe; places where only the rich indigenes live, convinced that it is the highest insult to live with commoners. The rich millionaires of the world buy up apartments but we buy up mansions, locking them up for the greater part of a year.  Like all proud people, we love to be flattered. And for as long as the white man could use us to expand their economy, flattery is a small price to pay. So, they flatter us!

“We preen like peacocks when they call us the ‘Giant of Africa’. We literally glow when they call us the richest country in Black Africa, ignoring, like they, too, do, that true wealth is based on population. We dance, with glee, when they sing the praises of our democracy. Oh yes, they flatter us – our white friends. They pump our ego until it stretches taut and massage it and remould it until we cannot even recognise ourselves anymore and we begin to feel we are God’s chosen people.

“We forget history. We forget that not too long ago, Zambia was among the richest countries in the world but, today, where is she: Way down among the poorest! We forget that there was a time when Ghana was the pivot upon which all black nations rotated; but now, where is Ghana? A few years ago, at the height of our power and glory, we were lending the World Bank money, presumably because we did not know what to do with it. And while countries like Brazil and Mexico were borrowing to finance capital projects, pride, disguised as prudence, didn’t let us.

“Like the Zambian copper and the Ghanaian cocoa, our oil is still there but it no longer commands the respect it used to as “black gold”. Pride, they say, goes before a fall. We have not fallen yet but our pride is evaporating fast. But has our pride fallen so low; have we been humbled so much that we have to go begging for a meagre one billion Naira or even two billion? I should hope not! I should hope that the constant talk with Saudi Arabia is not over one billion Naira. I should hope that our move to secure loans from western Europe is not to secure N2 billion!

“Our pride is gone but not all that gone. It is one pride – the little that is left – that can lift our heads up. There are a few Nigerians who could, among themselves, comfortably loan the country two billion Naira in whatever currency. This is the time for them to come forward. These people made money from Nigeria. They milked her, sucked her, bled her – sometimes alone, sometimes with foreign connivance – until she had nothing more to offer. Will those who bled her now stand aside, like innocent bystanders while the nation craves for life blood?

“We know them: Those who made money lifting oil, selling arms, importing chicken and fertilizers! The super ten percenters who link foreign businessmen with our government officials and who bath in champagne abroad! We beg them – the Abuja millionaires, the cement millionaires, the road construction millionaires, and the electronic and telecommunication millionaires – to come forward in the name of patriotism to help their country. Nigeria should not be seen to be licking dirty feet because she wants to borrow N1 billion when, among her sons, are people who own and maintain jets at staggering sums of about a million Naira per year; when some of her sons can still pay cash up to the tune of four zeros for goods purchased.

“Two short years ago, millions were raised at a party convention. Millions were donated to build a mosque. Where are these people in our hour of need? Where are those who buy up London and Paris for their girlfriends? Britain, whose economy they have done so much for, is now on the other side of a price war, using the money of Nigeria’s sons in her banks to fight Nigeria. Will the owners of the money stand by and watch?    If they cannot lend the country money directly, they can help in a thousand and one other ways.

“Our teaching hospitals are crying for help; ditto our universities; ditto our research centres; ditto our young and unemployed graduates. I call today on all patriotic sons of Nigeria who made their money through the country to come and help her. Or does it pay them more to lock the money up in banks, vaults and suitcases than to use it (to generate) gainful employment”?

I don’t have the date this piece was written but I should think my respected senior published the piece in one of the PUNCH titles (Sunday PUNCH?) before I got to the stable. I got there in March 1987. I did not meet Adetiba at the PUNCH but I  met his reputation. Has anything changed from what he wrote decades ago? Except that they have got worse! Have things changed in respect of Nigeria’s leadership deficiency? And has corruption and looting of the treasury abated? What is funny, however, is that sums of money that looked big in those days now appear like peanuts! Nigeria is rugged; the more it is pillaged, the more resources it oozes out! As they say, there is no killing the beetle! Will there ever be an end to all the shenanigans beffudling Nigeria and Nigerians?

The next piece is from one of our respected lecturers at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), Prof. Omotoso. Titled, “May both sides win”, it was published in the Sunday Times of 8th December 1991. It reads: “Because we know that no condition is permanent, we have agreed that there are no lasting qualities. There is no qualitative difference between one thing and another and having a choice is burdensome. Anyway, choosing a choice is not and should not be dependent on the quality of one thing or the lack of quality of the other. If there is ever some merit that one thing has over the other, it is not intrinsic to the thing. All that our history has taught us is that there is no victor and there is no vanquished. This, after we had fought a 30-month civil war!

“This conclusion of ‘no victor, no vanquished’ showed that we were sure there was nothing to choose between breaking up the country and keeping it one; which showed that both sides won on that occasion; which, as far as we are concerned, was a good thing. Recently, each of our former Heads of State has been asserting the spectacular Nigerian truth that their time was good. That is, they ruled very well and to the advantage of our people and everybody was so happy with them that when they were thrown out without handing over notes, the streets thronged with citizens celebrating their ignominious exit. Innumerable commissions of inquiry sat, wrote and submitted reports of the corrupt practices of former governments and recommended what should be done to the people responsible for such terrible acts of betrayal of the people. So those who were driven out and those who drove them out are justified. They are both right. But what happens when a child asks us: if they were so good, why are things so bad for us now? That, of course, is not the question! All that we must always assert is that the two sides must always win.

“Recently, the story came out about the experience of a man who was carrying a couple of cockerels from one part of the country to the other. At the first police checkpoint, he was stopped and questioned as to what he fed the cockerels on as they were so big and good-looking. The owner of the cockerels said they were fed on corn. Whereupon his interrogator accused him roundly for wasting food on cockerels while human beings were not getting enough to eat. He was warned to stop the practice of feeding the cockerels with corn so that human beings would not starve. He thanked them and went on only to be stopped at another road block and be asked the same question. This time, and because the cockerels were praised to high heaven, their owner got lost and said he fed them rice! What did he say that for? They set on him and beat him up for wasting scarce resources on mere birds.

“When he finally got away, he had to rethink the answer he should give not to merit these punishments. Very soon, he was at another road block. He was duly asked what he feeds his cockerels on. He made his face straight and said without blinking: “I don’t feed them. What I do is, I give them money and they go and buy whatever food they like!” Those who had stopped him were in raptures when they heard this information. What wise cockerels! What a fantastically democratic owner of cockerels! How wonderful that such a relationship can exist between cockerels and their owner! And they let him go.

“Once again, both sides had won! Or both sides have lost! Can there be winning or losing where no condition is permanent and there is no difference between winning and losing? And if both sides win – or lose – can the third party please step out? Let bygones be bygones. We have something here to teach the fractious world. Hallelujah”!

That is the crux of our problems! No standards are set for performance. No punishment is meted out for infractions. Is that not why some of our leaders here think Britain is like Nigeria and, therefore, would demand that Senator Ike Ekweremadu and co. be set free? Here, every Head of State, President, governor, legis-looter and councillor has a field day and leaves or are booted out singing their own praises; but they each leave us, nonetheless, worse that they met us. Yet, no questions are asked. No punishment is meted out. The same people walk about free. Worse, they stroll into other offices where they continue with their shenanigans. No victor; no vanquished! A country of “anything goes!!

In a matter of days, President Muhammadu Buhari and his henchmen will leave the scene and it is unlikely anyone will ask them any question. No accountability. If people who should call them to account are themselves too eager and anxious to step in and continue the vicious cycle, then, head we lose; tail we lose!

Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of the Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Bolawole writes the On the Lord’s Day column in the Sunday Tribune and the Treasurers column in the New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television. He can be reached on turnpot@gmail.com +234 807 552 5533* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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