Weep We For Nigeria Our Country!

Yemisi Shyllon

By Yemisi Shyllon

As a concerned Nigerian, I must  publicly lament the lacklustre management of the economy and the misplaced priorities of the government and its leaders. This mismanagement can be found in the widespread squandering of our national resources by the federal government and the majority of our state governments (except a few), in proposing to spend in 2013 over 70 per cent of their projected incomes on recurrent expenditures. Most of these recurrent expenditures are used to fund bloated and poorly performing executive arms of governments and their agencies, idle legislative arms, which are largely acclaimed to be self- serving and corrupt; equally idle and over bloated, but well entrenched systematically corrupt body of civil servants and a de-motivated and poorly equipped military and police. The small percentage left of our 2013 projected national revenue on capital expenditure is habitually expected to be spent in financing the machinery of ruling political parties in grossly inflated contracts that are usually awarded not for the purpose of performance, but for rewarding political jobbers and family members.

For decades as a nation, we have generated hundreds of billions of dollars from exporting crude oil with little to show for it in terms of investing in sustainable development programmes, increasing the living standard of Nigerians, producing well planned and coordinated infrastructural developments and putting economic structures in place to compensate for our ever growing and uncontrolled population. Statistical justification for this assertion can be found in the recently published Mo Ibrahim Governance Index of 2012, which identified the top 10 African countries that showed improvements in governance during the year reviewed. In descending order, they are Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles, South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Tunisia, Lesotho and Tanzania. Tanzania made it to the top 10 for the first time in 2012. Guinea Bissau, the small Portuguese-speaking West African country, and Nigeria were classified as the worst African economic performers. Nigeria was listed in that report among the three worst governed countries, where there are steep declines in safety, the rule of law and a rise in human right abuses.

In Nigeria, we don’t engage in meaningful debates, but are very good at prayers and throwing parties. We are predominantly a nation of consumers, not producers. We export crude oil, unprocessed agricultural products, import refined petroleum and all processed basic food items, including unnecessary, superfluous and luxurious goods. We love the good things of life, but generally forget to plan for the future as a nation. We take planning, setting and monitoring of developmental goals and hard work with levity. With very little godliness in our lives, we hypocritically proclaim and showcase our religiosity for all to observe and then go to sleep expecting miracles to happen. Our elites and leaders are best at simply displaying the rottenness of what has become Nigeria. This is very sad. At this rate, the ship of our economic state as is heading for disaster if we fail to act. We should be worried and sad at the way our leaders display wealth with abandon. Nigeria has exported crude oil for over 50 years and has basically imported refined petroleum virtually all of this time. We feel contented doing so without our leaders taking advantage of our crude oil endowment to develop local industries, refine it to become net exporters of refined petroleum, enhance our productive, technical and scientific development around the about 2,000 chemical derivative products obtainable from crude oil and in the process of all these, generate employment for over 65% of our 160million plus population, who are youths.

The latest published outlook of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, IEA, as per November 2012 world energy prognosis, indicates that America is expected to become self-sufficient in gas production in 2015, to surpass Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in 2020 and to become self -sufficient in energy by the year 2030 as new drilling technologies emerge, alternative fuel energy savings are effected, increased reduction in carbon dioxide emission are achieved and declining consumption ultimately reduce the need for the United States to import crude oil. The referred published 2012 outlook of the IEA report should have set off an alarm bell in Nigeria, where Faith Birol, IEA chief economist, who is not given to a hype, is said to have issued this alarming report. Birol is reported to have stated that the biggest thing in the energy world since World War II is the expected surge in the United States oil and gas production. The impact is expected to be bigger than the development of nuclear energy. This statement was made at the 4th annual Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit of the IEA World Energy Outlook 2012. This prediction has implications for the whole world in general and Nigeria in particular. Since this report was issued in November 2012, Nigerian leaders have been going about the affairs of this country without a thought for the danger it constitutes to our economic well-being. The danger ahead for Nigeria is made worse in our behavior as a nation, by not projecting ahead and establishing structures to cushion us against this worrisome prediction, moreso in the light of the the impact of projections of our population growth to more than 300 million people in some 40 years from now. Worse still, we are failing to plan for the future impact of the increasing discovery of crude oil in places that were never expected to produce it in commercial quantities. These include  Ghana, Niger and, most recently, Togo.

In addition, we are failing to note the very pronounced ongoing strategic research of many nations into non-fossil fuel and other possible sources to avert the perils of global warming. If the search for non-fossil energy and other sources lead to commercial and economic possibilities and if more countries with special emphasis on China and Japan were to discover oil or other energy sources in commercial quantities in the near future,  our economic future as a nation is very bleak.

Many of our leaders and elites are  breathtakingly insensitive to the prevailing economic deprivation of over 70 per cent of the population that is living below subsistence level. A statistical example of this assertion can be found in the November 2012 issue of African Business Magazine, which published of a report on Nigerians’ splurge on private jets. The magazine reported that in the last five years, wealthy Nigerians have spent over $6.5 billion on private jets, thus making Nigeria Africa’s biggest market for private jets. It is reported in that same issue that between March 2010 and March 2011, Nigerians spent over $225 million on private jets. The number of privately-owned aircraft rose by 650% between 2007 and 2012 from 20 to 150 at an average cost of about $50 per jet. Indeed, some Nigerian newspapers put the number of private jets in Nigeria, as at 2012, at 200. The cost of acquiring the jets excludes the high annual overhead cost of running and maintaining them. We need to juxtapose this information with the situation by end 2012 in our domestic aviation industry being made up of two local carriers with only 37 airplanes, majority of which are old; no national airline and another 10 in the presidential fleet. What a country of selfish and greedy leaders!

The misplaced priorities and greed have not left out the leaders of our churches, who squander money in procuring private jets under the pretext of doing God’s work.

In the past, this fad was more common with bank executives with questionable source of wealth, followed by politicians and now by church leaders. This situation obviously calls for the enactment of an act along the line of the 1993 Charities Act of England and Wales, with provisions for churches to be jointly managed by church founders and church boards of trustees with the operations and financial affairs of churches being made subject to an annual audit of the state.  Under this statutory arrangement, any member of church management proven to be in breach of the rules of financial transparency entrenched in the act should be made to face the law.

Related News

The biggest industry in Nigeria today is the church. Our church leaders brazenly display wealth acquired at the expense of their followers, who generally live below poverty level. It also explains why our various governments would, for political expediency, rather sponsor thousands of political jobbers yearly on religious pilgrimages than productively using such funds to award scholarships to our youths, create employment for them and invest in university researches. This is an industry for rewarding political jobbers. Sending jobbers on holy pilgrimages in a country with a constitution that is clearly stated to be secular only results in building the tourist industry in Saudi Arabia and Israel at the expense of the good of our country. The situation is reported to be increasingly worse than this, given the unsubstantiated report that many of our elites are now buying up luxury mansions and apartments in Israel and Saudi Arabia from the pillages of our national wealth.

Our legislators are not left out. It appears that they have jettisoned the making of laws for the more lucrative public display of pretentious forensic audits, by inviting virtually every minister and heads of federal government agencies to self-serving investigations. In the first place, our economy cannot healthily sustain the large number of full-time legislators and their equally large retinue of associated staff we currently have. We may find, if we care to search, as a way of amending our constitution to that effect, some millions of well to do Nigerians who would be prepared to serve this nation as federal legislators, on part-time basis, at minimum expense to our national economy as against the current system that costs the nation about N300 billion, if not more, per annum to make very few laws.

A recent report in a national newspaper said a preponderant number of our legislators do not return to the legislature after serving two terms. What a loss to this nation in terms of continuity, experience and expertise. Nigeria does not need full-time legislators. Nigeria can cut down its recurrent expenditure by structuring itself for part-time legislators made up of those with the wherewithal to sustain themselves while selflessly making laws for this country.

One must not fail to also comment on the widely reported advice of our CBN governor, who recently counselled that Nigeria needs to prune the civil service by as much as 50%. What he got in return was a series of abuses. A visit to our ministries will reveal that a great number of civil servants do very little work for enormous gains–at our common expense. This observation is strengthened by the ongoing “pension funds scam” and the recent report of the lamentation of the President, who is said to have alleged that some directors in our federal civil service own more properties than Aliko Dangote. What Nigeria needs to do is to implement the advice of those clamouring for a drastic reduction in the number of civil servants in our bureaucratic life. But in doing so, we must prepare and provide against the social backlash from that reduction by offering those to be disengaged well planned skill development and entrepreneurship programmes prior to their disengagement and giving them seed money to set up cooperative ventures of small and medium scale enterprises, thereby creating employment and growing our economy from the medium to long term. We can, in this way, reduce drastically our annual recurrent expenditures by disengaging idle hands and overaged public servants declaring false ages with a view to remaining longer in the system for their selfish gains. Such a programme will result in encouraging them to take up the bait of offered seed money and offer of training for skills required to set up their own businesses. This suggestion is even more expedient, given the situation of the high rate of graduate unemployment Nigeria is reported to have. This explains why we are increasingly experiencing the large number of kidnapping, robberies, car snatching and advance fee fraud.

In conclusion, our leaders need to fashion out strategies to promote the sustainable development of our national economy for the good of this country. Our leaders must stop being insensitive to the prevailing reality of continued economic decline and the dangers ahead. We need to do something about growing this economy to stop us from being just exporters of crude oil, but rather make us net exporters of refined petroleum, create the parameters and the structures for attracting investment into our country and reduce our recurrent expenditure levels to below 50% of our annual budgets. By implementing some of the suggestions made here, we will be on our way to building a strong base for small and medium scale industries through the drastic reduction in the bloated bureaucracy in a structured and planned way, while at same time creating employment for our largely unemployed youths. By designing various programmes for the employment of our teeming millions of youths, we will also be solving our nagging social problems that are giving our nation a notoriously bad image in the eyes of tourists and international investors.  We must act to halt the economic degradation of our country. We must also develop the courage to punish the looters of our commonwealth, no matter how highly placed. We must ostracise those with ill- gotten wealth if we want to save this nation from abyss.

Finally, let us put strategies in place to grow our agricultural production, associated processing and storage industries and build derivative petroleum industries for an encouraging future as a nation.

May we not have cause as a people to weep for our nation in some decades to come. The blame would be on us for not raising and finding solutions to these pertinent issues when we should have mustered the courage to do so for the good of our country.

—This article was adapted from a speech given at the launch of a book of photographs by Kunle Ogunfuyi on the mass protests against fuel subsidy removal in January 2012. Shyllon, an engineer, is the Founder / CEO,Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF).

Load more