Pat Utomi: Nigerian Government A Criminal Enterprise

Prof. Pat Utomi

Prof. Pat Utomi

Some government officials are admitting that Nigeria could be broke. What do you think of this? Is Nigeria, indeed, broke?

Nobody has shown me the account. So I would be a false prophet if I predicted based on no information. God hasn’t talked to me yet. If He wants to talk to me, it might be later. But I am not sure the way we have organised ourselves, sadly, that enough people, even in government, have real idea of the true state of Nigeria’s economy. Things have been opaque and translucent for so long that figuring things out is fuzzy. Look at a situation where the House Committee, after investigation, says so much went to NNPC and NNPC says tufiakwa (denied it), saying no money was given to it. Now, who are we supposed to believe? NNPC or the House Committee? It is not a matter of some outlaw opposition people attacking the incumbent. Obviously, something is clearly amiss.
Then, I think it is an accumulation of a string of problems. Government has been run for too long on the whims and caprices of strong men, who have not allowed our institutions to crystalise and work. There are bound to be severe consequences if your institutions don’t work. And this business of not knowing how much was collected by the NNPC, if it collected at all or not, is a function of having institutions that don’t work.

Talking about corruption, that is the mindless stealing of pension money and this subsidy that we just mentioned, people say it has a tendency of making the country experience a collapse of its resources. What is your view about this?

Are you talking about collapse of resources or collapse of the system generally? If it is a collapse of resources, it is a small problem. And what I have talked about for years is a collapse of culture. I don’t know if you have read a gentleman called Gerrard Diamond. He is the author of a book, Collapse: How Societies Have Failed Through Human History. If you read that book, you’d just think you are reading about Nigeria. Nigeria has been in the throes of a crisis of values for many years. And as we know, values shape human progress. It’s not how many miles of roads you’ve tarred that makes for progress. It’s your mindset; it’s how you think or what you consider important. It is the nature of the roadmap that you carry in your head about reality, what is valuable and all of that. Take for instance the telephones. In the 1970s, Nigeria won all kinds of international awards: gold medals for road construction. I remember when I came back after my Ph.D in 1982, I drove from Lagos to Benin – tollgate to tollgate – in two hours 40 minutes. Today, when it rains, it can be two days instead of two hours. Now, everybody wants to fly everywhere because to drive is like punishment. Why should anybody want to fly to Benin? In the United States, Benin from Lagos could be two hours drive and people do it to work on a daily basis. In the morning, they drive to work. But we all go to the airport to queue for three hours to get on a flight for a distance that wouldn’t take more than three hours on the road.
The problem is not infrastructure. The infrastructure we had in the 1970s is not there anymore because of the crisis of values that has challenged us for many years now. The collapse of culture is a big problem. I am just coming from an event at which Professor Yinka Omoregbe–she was the NNPC Company Secretary until a few weeks ago when they removed her because she spoke the truth–said that the biggest problem in Nigeria is hypocrisy. Senior government officials will get up and read speeches and statements knowing that they are lying through their teeth. And those who know they are lying will clap for them, eh, eh! So, how can a country make progress in that kind of a climate.
You see somebody who doesn’t know his right from left bumbling around the place and you say to him: Your Excellency. In fact, nobody can even begin to do this thing like you. The South-South Economic Summit starts tomorrow and the organisers asked some state governments to send information on their states. They sent a book level material on their governors and didn’t put one word about their states! A governor that we know doesn’t know what he is doing, they’ll say that before he came in nothing like this was happening in this state. That is the official document they have to write about their state.
So, there is a level of sycophancy in this country that completely defies logic. And that is preventing us from progress because we need to speak truth to power. If we don’t speak truth to power, power might get confused. Sociologists talk about reification of a myth. When a myth becomes reified, that is why a lie becomes concrete reality in your consciousness. That is what is happening to us here. When you take information selectively, you say that the economy is growing at 7 percent per annum. True, no lie about it. But what does 7 percent per annum growth mean in real terms when there are no jobs? The misery index is one of the worst in the world.

If you take the UNDP human development index, HDI, Nigerians are some of the most miserable people in the world. And then we say things are happening; we are growing at seven per cent. Who cares if you grow at 900 per cent a week if people can’t eat? That is part of the problem. We can’t have a conversation, unfortunately in Nigeria, because there is nothing more dangerous than the alchemy of ignorance and arrogance. The less people know, the more arrogant they tend to be. And if people are ignorant and arrogant the same time, you can’t have a conversation. Anything you say, they say it’s because you are jealous of their position; you are an enemy of the state. So, they don’t learn and we stay there grounded.
Can you imagine my former state governor, James Ibori, stealing £250 million? With this amount, you will eliminate maternal mortality in his hometown, Oghara. You will not hear of it again. But he can put £250 million in just one place. So, until we address this crisis of values, the devaluing of our humanity – a consciousness that glorifies stealing, in a disposition that does not hold public officials accountable – we will get nowhere. A man tars a 5km road, he calls the whole world to cut the tape. What would you do if you build a nuclear power station?

Things were never like that. When and where did we get things wrong?

I think that you can identify a number of different things that brought us into dire straits. One is 1975. Another is 1999. Another is the entire period of military rule. Let me begin with the latter.

Under military rule, I had a fundamental problem. Whatever may be the intention of the original coup plotters, the military found its structure ill-adjusted to a federal government that Nigeria had and was doing okay except for some bad politics of some people and all of that. By their nature, military is military. They force authority. For instance, a colonel is sent out by the general to be a governor. The general was the boss of bosses at the centre. This obviously created a challenge for autonomous decision-making at lower levels of government, followed very quickly by the fact that the military did not have the patience for rigorous decision-making. They say I am a soldier, action, action, get it done. In action, action, they damaged or fractured our institutions. That is why a military governor could stay in his office and award contracts, spending the vote in a particular ministry without the commissioner knowing!
I remember Chris Anyanwu, who is a senator today. When she was Commissioner for Information in Imo State, I drove through Owerri and stopped by to see her. She said: ‘Pat, my brother, this kind of job, I don’t know how I managed to get myself here.’ She told me the story of how the governor spent her budget and she didn’t even know (though she was planning what to do with the expected money). When she wanted to carry out some projects, she was told that the governor had already awarded contracts and cleared the entire budget. So, the indiscipline of a disciplined group like the army did significant damage to culture. And the degeneration of public attitudes and the use of power against institutional checks and balances were significantly exonerated under the military.
Then 1975. The big story of 1975 is that when General Gowon was overthrown, some of the soldiers who overthrew him felt that a group of civil servants were too powerful and that this had led to their inability to band together and go to General Gowon and get their will and all of that. So, in a fit of what we may call jealousy, they instituted a purge of the public service. That purge had a lasting and damaging effect. First of all, a lot of innocent people were unjustly shown the way out of office. Secondly, a lot of people who never imagined a life after service and built everything around the privileges of the service, lived in Ikoyi, had never stolen a dime in their life, but didn’t care. They were going to live in Ikoyi until after retirement and get good pension and go to their villages in Ile-Oluji or Abraka or Kontagora. They suddenly found themselves out of job and chucked out of Ikoyi within hours. They had never lived before in Surulere, let alone understood what Ikeja was like. It was so traumatic for some of them that death quickly followed.
Sir Samuel Manuel (a street close to this place was named after him) was a great gentleman, a man of enormous dignity. He suddenly found himself on the retirement list. After he was thrown out of Ikoyi, his family found him an apartment in Ore Close, Surulere. The man would come out on the balcony and look left, look right and go back into the house. He was not used to the new situation. Two weeks later he was dead.
There is even a more graphic description of this matter in the biography of the first Nigerian Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Chief Marinho. Just go and read Marinho’s book. One particular senior civil servant went mental! He just lost his mind in the middle of all of these problems. And even there is the story of how Marinho survived sudden dismissal from the NNPC, though he was recalled years later and was dismissed again in this madness of military rule. So, there was a collapse of morale in the public service.
Civil servants became aware that their permanent secretary thing was not permanent and that their jobs were threatened by politics at every point in time. They began to try to make hay while the sun shone. That resulted in the extraordinary corruption of the civil service. We accuse politicians and soldiers of all kinds of things, but I can tell you that the super champions of corruption today are civil servants. Because they are the ones who showed the politicians: There is something here oh, here is how money can come out. If the politicians steal one kobo, they have already taken 10 kobo. So, we have a system that has been devalued. The civil service is now afflicted, massively afflicted by the phenomenon of goals replacement. They have replaced public goals with their personal goals.

And what about the high cost of governance?

Yes, it is all part of it. One of the things that also happened under the military was pomp and pageantry. Nigeria is the ultimate country of the big man. One of my big crusades is on motorcades of public officials. I don’t know where else in the world they abuse motorcades like Nigeria. I like to tell you a story about a number of African presidents, how they move around, compared to how the president of Nigeria moves around.
A friend of mine, Otunba Tunji Lawal Solarin, was visiting South Africa and was staying at the Pretoria Sheraton. One day, he was seated in the lobby, and there was a man who was walking briskly across the hall. Solarin said: Yes, that was Thabo Mbeki, who was then the country’s president. He just walked across the hall. There was a car there and he entered it. Nobody opened the door. He opened the door and drove. That was the President of South Africa.
Still on Mbeki. A friend of mine, Dele Olojede, before he came to Nigeria, had been representing some American newspapers in South Africa. According to the story he told myself and Nasir el-Rufai in his apartment in Ikoyi, he said that he had to interview Mbeki who was the President. When he got to the Union Building in Pretoria, Mbeki needed to travel to Johannesburg to do something. Olojede asked Mbeki if the interview could take place in the car? Why not? Mbeki asked. They met in the car. One security man went to the front; one security car went ahead. And they followed. They went from Pretoria to Johannesburg. The President’s motorcade of two cars stopped at every traffic light. I’m sure most of you know when John Kuffuor was the President of Ghana, he lived on the same street as our friend, Dele Momodu. And some Nigerians were going to see Dele and they saw one policeman standing in front of the house and two cars entered. They wondered who owned the house the policeman was standing in its front. Momodu told them it was the president. They said they saw two cars and Momodu said it was the president and he was coming back from work.
In Nigeria, when the wife of the president comes to Lagos, the city shuts down. Nigerians are the ultimate cowards. We allow this nonsense to keep going on. Something is wrong with all of us.

In some other countries, even the price of bread could cause people to go on the street. What actually is the problem with Nigerians?

Because we are in a country of sycophants. There are people who would go to President Goodluck Jonathan and say to him that the most dangerous thing in the world is for him to go out without 10,000 cars because they want to kill him. They’ll say Pat Utomi is against 10,000 cars escorting you. Don’t mind him, he does not see anything good in anything. He doesn’t know that this people are damaging him because the contempt the Nigerian people have for this abuse means that our leaders are worth nothing in our eyes. We see them not as people who serve us. We see them as people who make our lives miserable. Everybody who was in Lagos the day Jonathan’s wife disrupted the soul of this city – because she came on a thank you visit – will forever have curses in their hearts for that woman!
There were people who could not feed their families that day because they hustle everyday to find money to put food on the table. She prevented them from earning money that day. You think they would not get up and swear at her when they are praying? You think that the curses won’t have any effect? Our leaders allow curses to be brought on them and their generations. There are protocol people who will benefit from the mess. But the leaders should be wiser than what the protocol people tell them.
I used to go to Kenya in the 1980s. I used to stay in the New Sterling Hotel. There is a café there called Fun Tree Café. Within one hour of sitting there, half of the ministers in Kenya would come in to have a drink and go. People come in and exchange pleasantries with them. But the Nigerian minister is a joke and he doesn’t know. They call him honourable minister, oh! Who takes being a minister seriously today except those who want things from them? If you are a minister in Nigeria, it is a joke. We need to save our country and our people from themselves.

What is your view on the 2012 Budget in which only 24 per cent is allocated to capital projects? Can this bring about any meaningful development?

But that is the pattern. I can tell you there was a year in the first round of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure as finance minister when she lamented over a particular budget, saying that over 80 per cent was going to recurrent expenditure. She lamented. One of my colleagues at the Lagos Business School at the time, Ayo Teriba, tracked that year’s budget. As it turned out in the final analysis, 96 per cent of the revenues we got that year went to recurrent expenditure. Just about every money we spent on capital projects that year was borrowed money. How does a country manage to function like that? There is a tendency for us to operate in a way that makes us look like people who are not serious in the eyes of serious people.
You need to check what most of the money for recurrent expenditure was used for. It is part of the abuse. We were complaining that British Airways overcharges Nigerians. Many people you see in those planes are government officials. You see them going back and forth on British Airways. You will hardly see them in their offices in Abuja. They are always going somewhere in the world pumping millions of pound sterling into the British economy. That is an area where we incur recurrent expenditure. They call it official travel, training or whatever just to collect estacodes; just to be seen as flying around. The budgets are very painful and frightening. I am sorry to state it this way, but the truth of the matter is that I have not read the Nigerian budget in 10 years. I gave up a long time ago because it is an exercise in futility. Budgets in Nigeria, at a point, became Public Relations documents. Check at the end of the year what was done, not much. They do it because they feel it is nice to have a budget. As you go around, people will say Mr. Governor, that your office is yellow, MTN is paying you eh? MTN? Paint it black. Somebody budgeted to paint it that year, but they will still say paint it black. As he goes about after the painting, some people will say: Governor, they say you are now in darkness, you are using black; paint the building white.

People also miss one important point, an unfortunate tradition in Nigeria. At the state level, it is even more so at the federal level, there is a dearth of human capacity. Many people who are making these decisions and spending these monies, if they work for your business, you will not allow them to spend more than N50,000 as limit. But they are taking decisions on N500 million (in government) on your behalf! What will be their main interest? Frivolous things! But things that are conceptual that will be of long term difference is so much trouble for them. They don’t bother with such things because they can’t think that way. It is hard for them to understand. In Nigeria, we have reduced if a governor is doing well to eh, look at the roads he has tarred. And there is no education. I prefer that you educate the people even if you don’t build roads.
We don’t have people who have capacity to think in this kind of way in those positions.
We are too arrogant to admit that we don’t know. There is nothing wrong in not knowing. The great man is that person who knows that he does not know. And so, we find budgets written, maybe by “experts”, for their pleasure, and in reality, run by the incumbents at their whims. So the system is not working.

You said that sycophancy is a major problem, but many Nigerians are not really close to these people to be sycophantic. So, at the larger level now, the larger society, what will you say is the problem or what are the roles of our psychological make-up in terms of cowardice and then the role of religion itself in all these?

People say that part of the things is that Nigerians are too religious, so they don’t want to fight for their rights. I am not sure that is true. I think part of the challenges that we face as a people is that culture has been so bastardised that many people who are away from the arena are waiting for their own opportunity to go and do the same kind of damage these people are dong. So, they don’t focus on how to stop the damage because they are waiting to take their turn to do the damage. That is one level.

The second level is that we do not have a committed middle class to lead the underclass. And the underclass, when things are very difficult or bad, will resort to violence, a revolution or a descent into anarchy. However, they are very amenable to being led in the right direction. Unfortunately, the middle class that should do that doesn’t make enough of an effort. The middle class is too secure in its comfort zone, running away from trouble. Let me just enjoy my Prado and my house in Gbagada!

But you see, when it goes wrong – it has happened in Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Congo DR, eventually – he will lose his Prado. This is why when I wrote a reaction to Simon Kolawole’s piece on why Nigeria is backward, I ended up by saying, ‘Simon, meet you at the refugee camp.’ If we are not careful, all of us will end up in refugee camps.

Why is it that over the years, only misfits get to power, not people with the right stuff in their heads?

About 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that nothing is more difficult to bring about than a new order of things. This is because those who profit from the old order will do everything to prevent a new order from coming about. And those who could profit from a new order do not do enough to make it happen. Man’s nature is to be unwilling to try new things until he has witnessed or experienced it. So, on the one hand, these people who think they own Nigeria, are very ignorant people. People say they are evil. They are not evil, they are just ignorant people, who are or don’t want a new order to come in. They have broken in and don’t want a change. Man, by nature, does not want to change.

When we were talking earlier, there was a point I didn’t finish. I talked about 1975, I didn’t talk about 1999. The tragedy of Nigeria is that in 1999, the military had been defeated by the civil society. People like myself and other professionals had fought them to a standstill. They started to run. Abdusalami Abubakar was their vehicle for getting away. But as members of the civil society, we were too busy congratulating ourselves that we chased out the military. These included the natural leaders, the followers of Awo, Okpara, Zik and Sardauna, who knew something about service. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo defined politics as a vocation, not a profession. A vocation is like being a priest. You sacrifice in a vocation.

In profession, you go and gain income. People like Awo or those who followed him looked at 1999 and said these soldiers are not serious. They just want to do bojuboju (pretend) and then come back. So they stayed back in their homes.

People who had nothing to lose, confirmed criminals and all sorts of characters, came into the political space. They were also lucky in that the person that system threw the presidency to was Obasanjo, who knew how to checkmate the army (besides international trend) because he was a soldier. It takes a thief to catch a thief. The army was more or less checkmated.

These criminals who seized the political space robbed the Nigerian treasury. And with the loot they got, they erected barriers and made it almost impossible for honest and decent people with heart of service to enter the political space. So, Nigeria was sentenced to mediocrity by 1999. From time to time, they will find one technocrat from Washington or somewhere in Nigeria to give their government a semblance of credibility. But in the end, they rubbish whatever that person may do.

It is the same problem of 1999 that is part of the general reasons for Nigeria’s decline.

I was having dinner yesterday night with two members of the British Parliament and a former minister. One of them, who has a Nigerian father, said it cost her £3,500 to run for parliament.

In 1997 or 98, I was in London, and the former African editor of The Economist, Richard Dowden, asked me to accompany him to the campaign rally of a candidate for the Parliament. So, we went. After a while, one guy who was riding a bicycle pulled over and removed his backpack. And Richard said to me that that was the person running for parliament. I asked if he was running. He answered in the affirmative.

What is the cost of going to the House of Representatives in Nigeria? These guys have prevented honest people from going into politics. The Nigerian state is a criminal enterprise, somebody once said. I rebuked the person, asking how he could say that. He said okay. And when I went to see a senator friend of mine, I told him that I was really upset that somebody said to me that the Nigerian state is a criminal enterprise. I asked how people in the Senate could clear certain people for appointments and said I could name one or two 419ners, who have been cleared for ministerial positions. I have evidence that they are 419ners.

The senator looked at me and laughed, saying 70 per cent of Nigerian government is 419. That is a sitting senator saying that! For decency sake, I won’t disclose what position he holds in the Senate. More than half of the people in the Nigerian government are 419ers!

I was really shaken so much that I was complaining on the flight back to Lagos, saying can you imagine what I heard yesterday night? That more than 70 per cent of the Nigerian government is a criminal enterprise. I think there were two Senior Advocates of Nigeria in the business class that day. They said that is not a lie. Nigerian state is a criminal enterprise. I was very weak.

Why do you think Americans complained that their president was caught with a woman? It’s not because Americans don’t sleep around the place. But they view the political arena as an elevated place. Though they do funny things as human beings in the society, they just think that their politicians should be above such. Here, we are saying our leaders are basically criminals. That is hard for me to swallow, but the guys themselves don’t care. They don’t mind people calling them criminals. It shows something is wrong, severely wrong.

Even the way things are, people are jostling for 2015. What do you think of this?

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I want to survive 2012 first. Who knows if there will be 2013 the way we are going?

You sounded like there is little or no hope.

I am an optimist. But it is a terrible, terrible situation.

This issue of growth, I know you’ve referred to it somewhere, and they tell us we are growing when the man on the street has no food to eat. For the sake of those out there, who are confused about this growth concept, what is the difference between growth and development, using Nigeria as illustration?

Growth is really a nominal change in production output. GDP is the total output of the society. So, if your output was at a very low base and you move by 10 per cent, it will be 10 per cent on one for example, rather than 5 per cent on 10,000.

But the other point you made is that there are lies, damn lies and there are statistics. At times, statistics can be at a high level of lying. You can use it to paint whatever picture you want. Having said that, it is not necessarily incorrect to say we are growing at 7 per cent. But what does that really mean? Economic growth translates to quality of life: people get jobs, earn decent incomes and can buy things that make their lives more comfortable.

But the Nigerian economy has been described as a “jobless growth economy”, one that grows without creating jobs. It is a disaster. The World Bank studied this phenomenon in the last couple of years in Nigeria and actually put out a book titled Putting Nigeria To Work.

If you recall, when the book came out and they were advertising it, it was a full page advert in Nigerian papers. The advert started with a quote from me: “The bottomline is that there is growth that has taken place, driven significantly by the grace of God. It has nothing to do with the way the country is governed.”

One part of the growth comes from abundant rainfall, which no one has control over. Because rains have been generous, farmers can grow twice even in one planting cycle. So, since agriculture constitutes a major part of the GDP, agricultural output is higher, resulting in high economic growth rates.

Secondly, there is a lot of retail trade growth, based on the fact that children in New York or London have remitted $200 to their mother in the village. And their mother is able to buy detergent or toothpaste. So, there is growth in retail trade.

The third major thing that has added to this growth is that oil prices have gone up. Bear in mind that oil contributes very limited, relative to its income generation. Its contribution to the GDP is quite low because Nigeria’s oil sector is disconnected from the Nigerian economy. Its impact in terms of job creation is very low because there is plenty of revenue that goes into government treasuries, which government can use and tends to use significantly in the non-tradable goods sector – Get in Julius Berger to build this or that.

Very, very importantly, there is inequity in the way the government of Nigeria uses resources. If you talk of Boko Haram, it is not rocket science to predict that one of the first areas that will fall out of civilisation in Nigeria is the North-East. Because it is the least affected by government in this country.

When I was campaigning in 2007, I got to Yola. Some good friends of mine in Maiduguri had lent us their cars to use to go to Yola. In Yola, I went to see the governor, Boni Haruna. He was trying to see us off. He came and saw the cars and he started laughing because we were supposed to go to Damaturu, Bauchi and other places.

He said the roads of the North-East are so terrible that if we decided to use those cars, they would go bad. He ordered his people to bring out his jeeps – government jeeps – for us to travel with. The roads of North-East are so bad or unmotorable that one or two towns between Biu and somewhere have died.

When the roads were built many years ago, those towns just came from nowhere and blossomed. They were crossroads for people going to the East from the far North. The roads became so bad that a whole town died. Some people carried out a study of government expenditure on capital projects in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. They discovered that the North-East had the lowest, about 1.2 per cent government spending, in the last seven years. It was followed by the South-East, which had just about 2.1 per cent. But what is remarkable, what is the amazing story of Nigeria and what is wrong with Nigeria is that in the last seven years, 39.7 per cent of Nigeria’s capital expenditure went to a city called Abuja, which produces nothing – just for the comfort of civil servants and politicians.

So, where are you going to get the growth from? Is it from a government revenue that is used to develop one unproductive city?

What about the development aspect of it?

The point of this is that development comes when you create opportunities for education, healthcare infrastructure. These are the things that drive development. Change the minds of the people to education, the values, the culture.

People who are very smart, but are about to die are of no use. They have to be well. The two things the government does must be education and healthcare. For people who are educated and who know the how and why and are well, the sky will be their limit. Of course, infrastructure is very useful. If you deal with these, you will get development. When you spend most of your money on protocol, on motorcades for your governors, our eyes will not see development. When I spoke to a group of journalists in Port Harcourt at a lecture in honour of a professor of journalism, Professor Sylvan Ikwelie, I said part of my problems in this country is journalism.

I expect that when journalists report that when the governor of a state came to Lagos, he came with 20 or 100 cars and they should be able to tell us the average cost of fuelling these cars. The cost could be the equivalent of that required to save 10 women from dying during childbirth. You guys know that I am of this profession.

In those days when we were trained as journalists, we provided information that people would get intelligence from. But today, everyone is writing a column, everyone is writing opinion. You have to show that the money Ibori carried away from Delta State, if it was put in Delta State, would give every child born in Delta education to the highest level. That should be your story.

Really, the challenge in development is that we need an active citizenry that places its needs on the table and holds government accountable in using resources to do that. I was saying that journalists have a critical role to play in this. This is development journalism. This translates the waste in government into the impact on Millennium Development Goals. Let’s translate it into a measure on the human development index, infant mortality. How many infants could have been saved with Ibori’s stolen £250 million? Just calculate what you need to fight maternal death and you’ll see how far it can go. These are the issues of development that we have not dealt with.

In challenging our corrupt leaders, are Nigerians cowards?

Nigerians are clearly, clearly not doing enough. Sadly, I don’t know if the word is cowardice. I would like to think of it as a “lead failure”. I mean people can do something surely. But I think the middle class has not been able to speak truth to power, and this has betrayed the mission of their generation. Just as Frantz Fanon said, “Every generation must be able to identify its mission, either fulfil it or betray it.” And this generation has betrayed its mission in Nigeria! And it betrayed it because of the very erroneous concept that if you speak truth, the system will crush you and you will not be able to enjoy the good things of life.

It is because we have a lazy middle class. Gani Fawehinmi chased truth most of his life, did he die a poor man? Just look at those guys who have spoken the truth, how many of them are really poor? Wole Soyinka is not a poor man, he goes everywhere in the whole world on other people’s money as I say. Haven’t I been on this planet? I mean, I don’t need to have a big bank account. As I am sitting here, they are calling me from Australia, from Brazil, inviting me to come and speak. I get there, speak grammar for one hour, I collect $20,000. I don’t know why people exaggerate the concept of being honest. It is just a shame of the generation.

One major problem that experts have identified in our economy is the overdependence on oil. We want you to speak on diversification.

You just stepped into my region of current economic interest. I am trying to create a centre that is focused primarily on value chain research. Precisely because I am insulted by the fact that in the last 25 years, just every budget in Nigeria has focused on diversifying the base of our economy. And it sounds like a broken record. You will hear it in every budget. Yet, the Nigerian economy is monocultural today if not more so than it was 25 years ago.

So, the new research team that I have just put together is focused on essentially identifying Nigeria’s major factor endowment in the various zones of development. If you go to the North-West, for example, you will find that one of the major endowments there is gum Arabic, which grows well around that region. If you go to the South-South, you will see that rubber is one of the best yields there, starting from somewhere in Ondo State.

If you go to somewhere in the South-South, you will see palm produce. Of course, there is cotton. Sesame seeds grow in the North-Central. And if you think of these produce and look at the value added to Sesame seeds and its final utilisation in the world market, every hamburger you eat has Sesame seed. So growing that kind of produce across that region in Nigeria, you develop people on the production process and how to manage the process. Train people well, build factories to process, export the processed materials by identifying key users like MacDonalds and whoever and sign a contract with her.

You may find that from Sesame seeds alone, you can make billions of dollars in foreign exchange.

.Culled from

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