WHEN ONLY OIL IS NOT ENOUGH (PART 1)
This time in the Catholic calendar is called lent. Lent has its historical reference as the period when Jesus Christ voluntarily withdrew into the desert to fast for forty days, in preparation for the events that would culminate into his crucifixion on the cross and his eventual resurrection as was predicted before he was born.
Some scholars have opined that the last six months of Jesus daily life was filled with a constant emphasis on the relevance and the necessity of his soon-to-be crucifixion as well as the triumph of his resurrection. I should imagine that the anticipation of both his death and resurrection were some of the most trying moments for both Jesus Christ and his disciples.
Of course while the Catholics may be observing these sacred and obligatory moments, the state of our dear country these past decades calls for sobering reflections. While we are still in this wilderness, the news of the crushing winds of Coronavirus, code named Covid 19, blew across whole countries. The fact is, if this were to be the coming of Christ, Nigeria would be caught unprepared.
While the world may have been caught unawares by this, the developed countries with its superior health care were able to mitigate the impact of an otherwise dangerous strain of corona virus. In Nigeria, the news of the Italian who tested positive has kept us cocooned in fear. Then the number grew to twenty seven (27). We have suddenly adopted varying styles of greetings. No more hugs and handshakes. Such is the power of Covid 19. And this fear of Covid 19 is palpably justified.
Some have resorted to prayers; others have praised the sun god who gave us enough sun to keep Messrs Covid 19 at bay in Nigeria. Suddenly there is a scramble to fix our once forsaken health centres with whatever was left of the imported medical consumables from China, Malaysia and wherever else!
It would seem that we have always surrendered our fate to nature and nature has been most benevolent to Nigeria that she gave us oil. Yet, several decades after, we have literally nothing to show as a nation so rich and yet so burdened by the absence of a clear charted course of development. Crude oil is Nigerias oxygen. It is its only life wire exhausted by thick layers of corruption. We are running out of this life wire. And like some of the sick who depend on oxygen for breathing, it is an expensive venture with the possibility of the both the patient and the care givers running on the probable reality that could be equated to bet9ja. Either way, one is bound to tire out or die. That is the spectre in Nigeria. For the past over forty decades, Nigeria has been run like a brothel where each one does a brief dip and then runs. Like a country perpetually in a gambling mode.
Leadership and the Federating Units
There was a time Nigeria had a robust agro economy. At that time, the groundnuts pyramid, the snow white cotton fields, the lush green foliage of cocoa fields and a paradise of palm trees across our country provoked such an ‘Edenic’ semblance that may have earned us, ‘The Merchants of Natures Produce’ and, perhaps the bride of the world. Then, like a mass of cards, the pyramids and the paradise came tumbling.
Nigerias Federating Units are so endowed with vast natural and human resources that if these resources were utilized for the common good, we would have made visible progress. We would have had a robust economy that would is not wholly dependent on oil. Now that the future of oil is bleak, how would Nigeria survive? I dread the picture before me. To wit, Nigeria has been struggling to get on her feet for over four decades. This is an unbiased fact.
Hard Fact. There would be harder times ahead. While only oil is not enough and would never be, it is important to understand that the economic power welded by the Asian Tigers was built with foresighted leadership and a people who saw that mere pickings from the crumbs of some big men would not equate to a future that would make them collective owners of their common wealth.
Only oil would not support the rising wave of internal terrorism, robberies, kidnapping and countless other vices if the federating units are complacent about harnessing its resources to drive sustainable economic growth and job opportunities within their domain.
Only oil is not enough if our youths are not strategically prepared for the future through a systematic re-jigging of the entire spectrum of our educational curriculum from bottom-up with a strong focus on preparing them for a world that is run on skills acquisition, creativity, innovation and ICT.
For so long, our people have aided and abetted leadership that is skewed towards self-indulgence and adulation. We have abetted and applauded incompetence when it is convenient and hounded those who could make significant contributions to development of our federating units. Today we are on the threshold of economic dilemma; our youths are on the verge of being buried in despair. Of course most have resorted to banditry and whatever else dehumanises humanity.
Yet there was a time we had everything going good for us till we found oil. Then we forsook our farms, shut down our manufacturing firms and las…las Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) kidnapped power. And this power is the soul of development.
Akwa Ibom State like other federating units has to up the ante in both leadership and followership. Lets be honest, there are no freebies anywhere in the world. Great countries are made through strategic leadership with a people that can visualise the future. While it may have become part of our political culture to do ‘gracias’, it has become clear that our leaders may have gone on bazaar with monies that should have been used for our public utilities. We applauded those bazaars since it gave us the platform to soak in their rhetoric.
Today, the fading echoes of those fanciful rhetoric have become rumbling sounds of hunger and anger. Whoever said that he who is down, fears no fall, didnt think about Nigeria. We are down and fear the grave.
Akwa Ibom State is on the threshold of history. The choice to advance or regress is entirely in our hands. It will be our collective wish that we use this opportune time for sobering reflections. It should be a time for introspective interrogation on why Akwa Ibom State with its rich resources should not be a self -sufficient territory. And this is possible if we are willing to push for progress. It will be possible if we look at leadership through the prism of service to all Akwa Ibom people.
This is one moment in the history of our dear state that there seems to be a general concurrence that Udom Uko Inoyo is better suited for this task at a time when only crude oil will no longer guarantee the sustainability of our state and indeed Nigeria. It is in dire times like these when oil prices keep crashing and the impending economic and social crises stare us in the face that tested men are brought to the saddle.
Here is the time!
Emem Nkereuwem is a public affairs analyst.