by Abraham Ogbodo
I signed off rudely for two weeks without any prior notice. I am sorry. I was protesting the imperviousness of the Nigerian State and its people. The protest was triggered off by a query by one lousy fellow who accused journalists, including me, of not writing adequately about the ills of society. When I asked him to state just one societal ill that had not been adequately reported in the media, he said: “why haven’t the media reported how much that was spent on keeping President Muhammadu Buhari in a London hospital for 50 days?” This was before Alhaji Lai Mohammed declared the issue a no-go area allegedly for security reasons.
“Man, is it the media that is not talking loud enough or it is government and Nigerians that are not listening well enough to understand?” He was a bit unsettled. He wasn’t even an avid consumer of media content and didn’t have the basis for such sanctimonious posturing. He was one of those who just talk to escape culpability. But outside this, the fellow had successfully communicated that the labour of my hand and brain and many others in my shoes, including the man directly below me on this page, Alabi Williams, had been in vain.
While he noted with relish the inability of the media to bring to the fore details of the bills incurred from the extended medical vacation of President Buhari, he forgot to ask why a nation of 175 million people could not settle for a better candidate than a 73-old man as president in 2015. He pretended to have forgotten that the hospital is the place for all sick and most times aged people and medical bills must be incurred anyhow. It is in this country that people bring home ants-infested wood and complain when lizards start visiting. They would cultivate coco-yams at planting season and when they failed to reap yams at harvest, they would look for somebody to heap the blame. What do you call that? Stupidity, to put it mildly, and insanity to put it harshly!
Maybe I should say this. I had encountered this particular brandy at a shop in Abuja with the price tag on it. While I was still trying to make some meaning out of it all, one absent-minded shopper bumped into me and shoved me in the direction of the rack where the bottle was placed. My heart skipped severally as I made the best efforts to resist crashing into the rack. The fellow said “sorry.” I told him that “sorry” would have been grossly insufficient if it had happened. “What would have happened?” he asked foolishly. I pointed at the bottle sitting majestically on the rack. Upon full realization, he instinctively made the sign of The Cross and fled the spot as quickly as possible.
Sorry for the digression. But Louis XXIV is part of the high taste of a people whose local production capacity can deliver is ogogoro at best. I am saying here that we insist, almost like mad people, on rights and privileges without accountability. Does this have to do with our belief in miracles? As you very well know, it is only in Nigeria that people laze about all week from Monday till Saturday and then enter churches on Sunday to “claim my millions in Jesus name” in response to proclamations of impending prosperity by so-called men of God.
It is very frustrating and I had had to sign off in anger. That is, you talk and talk and talk and nobody is listening. A delegation of elder statesmen from all the geo-political zones had intervened last week to assuage my anger and I am resuming today. However, I shall be doing monitoring and evaluation to see if Nigerians have changed from being free to contributory eaters. People make good food and then hope to eat very well. You don’t sit to eat well before making good food.
While on hibernation, I had a revelation from heaven. I am very serious. God revealed to me that corruption is not the problem in Nigeria. It sounded strange and I was almost tempted to open a debate with God, but He did something very quickly. He showed me the video of a man struggling for almost 60 years to build a high-rise on beach sand. Nothing was adding up to a definite structure. “What do you call this?” “Stupidity my God!” “You have answered rightly my child. Now, go ye and say to Nigerians to fight stupidity instead of corruption.”
Key decisions and events in our national life were flashed and I started on my own to underscore the depth of stupidity that has attended nation building in Nigeria since independence. For instance, I could see clearly the stupidity in building thermal stations outside gas-producing zones and pay heavily for a secondary contract to lay pipes to connect gas to the facilities and pay heavily still to ethnic warlords to protect the pipes from being destroyed by vandals. It is stupidity to create a Petroleum Equalization Fund that has failed to equalize petroleum prices, but still funded to operate.
It is stupidity to build a steel complex in coastal Warri and spend even higher amount to build a rail line from the source of iron ore deposits hundreds of kilometers away in Itakpe, Kogi State, to feed the plant in Delta State. Just as it is also stupidity to site a Liquefied Natural Gas plant in some location in Ondo State and then hope to siphon the feeding element from gas fields in Delta State. It is stupidity to make Nigerian ports unattractive to do business and then turn around to empower the Customs Service to fight smuggling. Stupidity to have only one airport in the nation’s capital and even more stupid to watch the facility become completely dilapidated and then shut it down for six weeks to effect repairs.
There are a lot more stupid things that have been done and are still being done. The latest is a proposal to establish a development bank to develop the Niger Delta. This shall be in addition to already existing agencies and channels such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Niger Delta Ministry, Amnesty Programme and 13 per cent derivation tasked with the development of the region. Stupid! Was a development bank created to build Abuja or any part of Nigeria for that matter? It is the height of stupidity to continue advocacy at time of intervention.
God does not lie. He told me that corruption shall die without a gun shot from EFCC if we can rally and kill stupidity.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Abraham Ogbodo/Guardian