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WHEN WILL NIGERIANS ENJOY THEIR COUNTRY?

nerPostTitle">WHEN WILL NIGERIANS ENJOY THEIR COUNTRY? Written by furtune General http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?author=25 http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?cat=356 Feb 27, 2010

When will Nigerians enjoy their country?
By Orji Kalu
Saturday , February 27 , 2010
I marvelled when I visited The Gambia some time in 2009 and saw the transformation that had taken place there. You could hardly see any litter anywhere in the streets, let alone a garbage dump. The same experience starred at me in the face when I attended an international conference on business development in Accra, Ghana, late in 2008.

Ghana has metamorphosed from its sorry state in the early 80s into a big economy in West Africa. There are different stories about what Ghana looks like these days. Some say it is 10 times better than Nigeria, while yet some say it is the new United States of Africa - where everything seems to be working. Whatever people say about Ghana may be correct. But in my opinion Ghana is a lesson for African leaders on how to develop their countries and transform the lives of their people.

Ghana is a place where virtually everything works. Apart from the well-laid roads and the general cleanliness of the environment Ghanaians have imbibed a new culture of discipline and orderliness that is second to none on the African Continent. The amazing thing about Ghana is that it took less than 20 years to elevate it to an economically prosperous and politically stable nation. The coming of Jerry Rawlings and the subtle revolution that swept away some corrupt politicians and serving military brass were all that was needed to rewrite the chequered history of the cocoa-producing nation.

There are several other African countries that have overcome their initial inertia to secure a place of prominence on the global map. They include Seychelles, Mauritius, Burkina Faso, Angola, and South Africa. South Africa, before 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from Prison, was under the throes of apartheid. Arson, brigandage, political persecution, assassination, kidnapping and other anti-social activities were the order of the day. Unexpectedly, things took a turn for the better as soon as Mandela ascended the presidency. Today South Africa has reached the apogee of development as it is recognized globally as a richly industrialized nation. In fact, it is ranked among the first in Africa – displacing Nigeria as the giant of Africa.

It is painful that while South Africa and Angola have almost met their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Nigeria is still struggling to reach 50% of what is required to reach the benchmark. Even Angola has almost displaced Nigeria as the 6th largest producer of oil in the world. It is paradoxical that while Nigerian refineries are comatose, those in Angola are working. It was reported that there was no scarcity of petroleum products while the Under-23 African Soccer Championship lasted. Apart from the isolated attack on the Togolese national team life in Angola is generally believed to be safe.

Seychelles is another country whose economy has witnessed dramatic transformation. Tourists now troop there to savour its rich attractions and buoyant economy.

Indeed, life in most African countries is better than what is obtainable in Nigeria. Nigeria has sadly become a metaphor for suffering and pain. Who can offer an explanation why life in Nigeria is too hellish? I regret to state that nothing seems to be working any more in Nigeria. It is almost 50 years since it secured independence from Britain, yet it looks as if its bondage has just started. I was in Lagos a fortnight ago and saw with my naked eyes how much sufferings Nigerians go through to survive. Imagine what is going on in the other cities of the country. I saw thousands milling around hopelessly with agony written all over their faces. I also saw many anguished by poverty and penury. Even those who used to have good jobs have suddenly begun witnessing recession in their style of life.

I wept as I imagined how those who live in squalor would cope with the burning heat that has enveloped the nation. Experts say the intense heat is caused by the depletion of the ozone layer. I beg to state that what is happening is beyond the ordinary explanation of climate change. I think God is angry with Nigeria and therefore has decided to chastise us through the insensitivity of our leaders. Poverty has become the middle name of most Nigerians. It is as if 80% of our people were born with poverty.

Umuahia, in Abia State of Nigeria, for instance, has stayed now for close to three weeks without light from PHCN. The people are crying to high heavens but no respite in view. Fumes from generators have taken over the skies - threatening the lives of the innocent, hapless citizens. Who can blame them for doing so? We should not forget that only a few can afford the high cost of petrol to power their generators. Those who cannot afford fuel resort to sleeping outside - exposed to the merciless onslaught of mosquitoes.

Almost all the cities in Nigeria are consumed by filth and desolation. The gutters and drainages are filled with refuse dumped into them by the people themselves. Only God knows what impact flooding is going to have on the people when the rains come. How then can we eradicate the scourge of malaria when the environment has been left at the mercy of dirtiness?

I have stated in this column many times that no development can take place without regular power supply. We can speak all the grammar in this world or propound all known theories. They mean nothing without steady electricity. Our economic planners have not been fair to this country. Let them for once tell the people the truth so that they can be free. If they can pay all attention to electricity generation and distribution for now then we will have taken a remarkable step towards recovery. What is life without regular electricity? Absolute rubbish!

How can anybody explain the dilapidation of infrastructure across the country? Almost all the major roads in the country are in one state of disrepair or another. Travelling from Benin to Ore to Shagamu to Lagos; Umuahia to Ikot-Ekpene, Aba to Ikot-Ekpene; Lokoja to Abuja; Owerri to Aba; Onitsha to Enugu; etc will reveal the rot in the system. How can a nation ranked among the first 10 in oil production globally harbour these kinds of roads? Is it not an insult on our collective psyche for our nation to be so abused by those charged to manage its affairs since independence?

Poor roads are not the only stigma on our national image. There is no potable water for three quarters of the 140 million people in Nigeria. If 105 million persons out of 140 million live without good drinking water in this era of heightened global development it then means that there is no hope for a solution any time near. The same sad story is told about bad state of other infrastructure such as transportation, schools, hospitals, etc.

Can anybody believe that the largest means of transportation in a richly blessed country as Nigeria is keke NAPEP and Okada when we can afford the kind of transport system obtainable in Europe and America? The irony of it all is that our leaders travel out regularly, see all the good things of life and come back and do nothing to change the status quo. They prefer to travel to Europe and America and the Caribbean to enjoy life while doing nothing to replicate these things back home.

Our hospitals are nothing but mere prescription centres. I listened to a consultant from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) on a television programme recently bemoaning the scarcity of dialysis machines in our hospitals. According to him, there are only six of such machines in the whole country when in essence we need about two in each specialist hospital. Lack of sufficient dialysis machines accounts for thousands of preventable deaths daily in Nigeria. How much will it cost the government to procure these machines to save precious lives? It is evil for our leaders to seek medical treatment abroad when the less privileged are left to die without adequate medical facilities.

Standard of education has continued to deteriorate and nobody is doing anything concrete to stem the tide. All we hear is the huge amount appropriated for education. How many of the graduates produced by our universities can compete with their counterparts from other countries in Africa, not to talk of Europe or America? Even the minister of education of the federation said that much when he described our graduates as unemployable. I commend his courage to speak out - a rare gesture from leaders in our nation.

A visit to Nigerian universities will shock you. Some of the universities can pass for glorified secondary schools. I am serious. The morale of teachers and students is at its lowest because of lack of motivation and agreeable working conditions. It takes a dedicated workforce to make any meaningful impact on an environment. To redress the situation the government must address the issue of funding in our universities. It must pay adequate attention to library development, information technology and curriculum expansion and modification in line with best global practices. Staff emolument, which has been at the centre of disagreement between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), should also be addressed to reduce the undue tension that retards growth and development in the educational sector.

I must not fail to emphasise that the development of Nigeria hinges on three key indices, namely education, power and security. The present threat to peace and security by the activities of hoodlums and miscreants has reached a stage that something needs to be done to contain it. The restiveness in the Niger Delta, coupled with pockets of ethno-religious crisis across the country, poses a huge threat to the stability of the country. We cannot afford to allow such characters to hold our nation to ransom. This is why the amnesty deal must be pursued to its logical conclusion. It is gratifying that the Federal Government and the militants are making progress in their discussions.

It is important to appeal to the militants to embrace peace and shun violence in order for total peace to reign in the region. It is painful that our nation loses huge resources to the activities of the militants. Blowing up of oil wells and kidnapping of oil workers are antithetical to development. I want them to consider the incalculable sufferings Nigerians go through, because of the destruction of pipelines that supply gas to the turbines that generate electricity for the national grid. They have drawn sufficient international attention to the travails the people of the region face. It now time to work for reconciliation, so that we can move forward.

I cannot fail to comment on the lack of accommodation for many Nigerians that need it. 60 percent of Nigerians live without decent shelter. This is one area the government has failed abysmally. In Lagos alone, there are over 12 million people living in squalor. Many of them can be found under bridges, shanties in ghettos that litter the city's landscape, uncompleted buildings and other demeaning places - good only for an animal. What is life when you cannot live in peace, harmony and comfort?

I know what I mean when I asked the question: When will Nigerians enjoy their country? There is too much suffering here that life to some means nothing any more. Any careful observer will see that the rate of suicide has escalated beyond imagination. Some persons had committed suicide for the simple reason of inability to face the difficulties of life. Those who can afford their needs may not appreciate what the poor go through to survive. Spare a thought for a peasant farmer or a petty trader with a large family to cater to. How can he cope with the rigours of everyday life to provide for his family? Thousands who leave school yearly are without jobs while those with jobs are being retrenched.

I wish to state without any fear of contradiction that Nigeria has the capacity to take care of its people. The present suffering is unwarranted, undeserved, and unmerited. The billions of dollars generated from oil annually are enough to take care of all our needs collectively. There are countries in Africa that earn lesser revenue from oil than Nigeria, yet they are well developed. Why can't we do the same?

Having scrutinised the developmental problems of Nigeria I regret to come to the painful conclusion that poor leadership is at the centre of it all. We need leaders with character, integrity and honour to redirect Nigeria on the path of progress. Nigerians are eager to contribute their quota to the change process, once there is a purposeful and God-fearing leadership for the country. This is why there is an urgent need to conclude the ongoing reform programme in order to bequeath to our nation a credible process of electing leaders. Imposition of leaders has constituted a huge albatross in our effort to democratize. When leaders are imposed they end up serving themselves and not the people. This is why the Nigerian electorate must be a part of the process of voting for only men and women of integrity in the forthcoming general elections. They cannot afford to watch while their votes are being hijacked by a band of criminals who masquerade as the people's messiahs when in essence they are wolves in sheep's clothing.

Something in me tells me that God is about to visit Nigeria with his sword lifted high to smite the wicked who have vowed to torment the weak, the poor and the sick. The judgment hour is coming and only the righteous will escape the righteous anger of God.

But I will never stop asking: When will Nigerians enjoy their country? Is it when we are all dead? God help us.

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