The avarice of mankind is insatiable. (Aristotle)
Unemployment diminishes people. Leisure enlarges them (Mason Cooley)
The trouble with unemployment is that the minute you wake up in the morning you're on the job (Slappy White)
Jobs are disappearing from every sector of the economy, from engineering to health care workers, forcing hundreds of thousands of families into unemployment and low-paying jobs (Jerry Costello)
Continued from Part 2
he Germans say that “Arbeit macht frei (work gives freedom)”, and, work is therapy, in that when someone is without a job for a long time, that tends to affect his or her psychological bearing, or, when a person graduates and can’t find a job after searching for a long time, that may lead to him or her becoming psychologically unbalanced. What some countries do to cushion the effects of unemployment is to pay unemployment benefits to those who lost their job, and to give social support or welfare to those who aren’t working. These financial helps go a long well in keeping those not having a job mentally sane or out of crime. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not provide jobs for the majority who need them, and doesn’t give any financial support to those who are not working or the elderly and the sick. How can a young man be sane in such condition, after seeing how the leaders are living in opulence and over-indulgence, without an evil thought creeping into his mind? It takes sheer determination to remain sane and out of crime in such an environment and circumstance. A person who needs a job and can’t get one, after searching for a long time, loses his self confidence and respect, just as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926 –2004) rightly noted that “ People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within”.
Nigerian peoples’ wealth and resources have been misappropriated; they (Nigerians) have been pushed too far to the wall, they have been climbed upon by the ruling class, still, they can’t do anything about it, and this is a source of worry for this writer. Paraphrasing the words of Senator John Kerry (1943), this writer makes bold as to say that “I refuse to stand by while our democracy is trampled by politicians more concerned about amassing power than helping the people who sent them to where they are in the first place”. Unfortunately, Nigerians have allowed their leaders to remain what they are, as they have been brainwashed through religion or tribalism. That was why Steve Biko (1946-1977), who was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, wrote that "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed".
President Jonathan’s Facebook Friends told him on October 1, “not to think about the next election but the next generation, by providing solutions to the problems in education sector and the rate of unemployment as well as the worsening state of insecurity in the country”. Let’s see if the president will surprise us as he did by listening to our clamour for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference, with the setting-up of an "advisory committee whose mandate is to establish the modalities for a national dialogue or conference." That’s the only way forward; and this writer hopes that the committee will get it right and soon too, before Nigeria goes off the cliff.
To compound Nigeria’s problems, the elite have stolen Nigeria dry that the country can’t meet its basic responsibilities for now. Unlike the words of Oscar II of Sweden (1829 – 1907), once King of Sweden and Norway, that “I would rather have my people laugh at my economies than weep for my extravagance”, Nigerian leaders have never been prudent in the management of the country’s resources, they have wasted everything through profligacy and debauchery. Is the end of Nigeria so near? This question becomes imperative because things priorly unheard of are now happening in Nigeria. We know that one problem or the other has been besetting Nigeria all along, but, the magnitude of the problems the country is facing right now was never envisaged despite the challenges facing the country since 1960. So as the Bible notes in Matthew 24:33 that “In the same way, when you see all those things happening, you know that the end is near. It is right at the door”, it might as well be that Nigeria is going off the cliff sooner than later. We know that states and local governments have failed to live up to their financial responsibilities from time to time, and have owed their workers salary arrears for months, but, what’s new here is that the Federal Government of Nigeria is now unable to fulfil its financial commitments and responsibilities, and have failed to release the states’ and local governments’ allocations for months. That was unheard of! The Nigerian ruling class must have committed atrocities by their insatiable lust for wealth, and that sin is haunting Nigeria, as the Bible in Job 20:19-22 says that “For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute; he has seized houses he did not build. Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure. Nothing is left for him to devour; his prosperity will not endure. In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him; the full force of misery will come upon him”. The Nigerian ruling class forgot God while exploiting the people and their God given resources. The Nigerian elite forgot that the reproaches for their looting of the peoples’ wealth would come one day, because, God Hates anybody who hurts the poor and the downtrodden, just as Abraham Lincoln (1809 –1865) said that “common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them”. The Nigerian leaders don’t put God first in everything they do, and that’s why the impending calamity is looming, as Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was right that "Creation comes before distribution or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary".
Now, there’s insinuation that Nigeria has gone bankrupt, but, the president dismissed such as the utterance of people who are playing politics with an important national matter. But this writer wants to ask the president what he expected people to say when the federal government has been unable to pay three months allocations owed the 36 states of the federation? The states received their last monthly allocation in June 2013, so the federal government has been unable to release the allocations for July, August and September to the states. So if Nigeria is not bankrupt, where’s the money and why hasn’t it been released?
Speaking during a presidential media chat ahead of the country’s 53rd Independence anniversary few days ago, the president urged politicians to always place the country’s interest above inter-party politics. In his words: “Sometimes, people just play politics with serious issues. Or how can anyone just wake up from sleep to say Nigeria is bankrupt? Anybody who talks about Nigeria being broke is just playing politics out of ignorance. In July, due to excess vandalism of pipeline, crude oil sales dropped significantly, and it affected the revenues of the country, so states didn’t get their usual allocation. That was the issue".
That’s the problem: our over-dependence on oil. Because Nigeria didn’t sell enough oil within that period, there wasn’t enough money to share, and then the states were short-changed. If Nigeria has diversified its economy, such thing wouldn’t have happened, as the shortfall from oil export would have been generated from other sources. On the other hand, if the states have their own independent sources of income, they wouldn’t have been going to Abuja begging for the release of their allocations, as they would have made up any capital shortfall through what they generated from their other sources. It’s a shame that for almost all their social, economic and constitutional responsibilities, states and local governments go cap in hand begging for allocations or financial support.
The President was somehow right when he urged politicians to always place the country’s interest above inter-party politics (and personal interest), as politicians and the Nigerians in high places have no love for the country. Everybody wants to take all he or she can out of Nigeria, and doesn’t care whether the country survives or not. It’s not an overstatement to say that the politicians, government officials and Nigerians in high places want Nigeria to die because of how they have been exploiting the country for their personal and parochial gains. President Jonathan also talked on the massive oil theft going on in the country, saying that top Nigerians are involved in the criminal activity since poor men cannot export such amount of stolen crude. In his words: “Crude oil theft is not done by poor people. Most refineries abroad do not take crude oil from everybody and anybody. That is why we are pleading with presidents in other countries to reject crude oil from unknown sources. You see small boys, but those that are seriously involved are the big people. Those who export the crude oil are not poor people”.
Nigeria imports almost everything, because, those gaining from the importations have sabotaged every effort to produce those things in Nigeria. Those who import the generating sets have been sabotaging every effort to fix the power sector and then steady electric power. Those importing fish have sabotaged every effort to catch enough fish in Nigeria for local consumption, but, wherever the fish are imported from don’t have more rivers, lakes, seas than Nigeria. On the other hand, Nigeria may have more marine resources than the countries where we import the fish and other marine products from. Those gaining from the importation will never allowed Nigeria to fully utilize its potentials. The minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, in a chat with Journalists in New York, few days ago, concurred, saying that with the plenty of waters, seas, lake and creeks across the country; the country has no reason for importing fish in the country. His words: “Nigeria is blessed. We have the sea, we have rivers, we have lakes, we have creeks and it doesn’t make sense to me that we are importing fish. And that is why we started in the ministry a very aggressive programme called aquatic culture. Right now, we have a total consumption of 2.3 million metric tons of fish but we are producing 700 metric tons just because we abandon our own waters and just import fish. Fish loves water and we have waters. So our plan is to be self sufficient in food production within 4 years and I have already said that those that are just bringing in fish and acting like we don’t have water in this country can just forget about it so we are also helping fish folks to get back to business”. Think about what Nigeria will gain if we organize our fishing business well. The government can give incentives to the fishermen by helping them buy trawlers and other equipment they need to ply their trade (even on hire purchase basis); cold rooms should be erected along our coasts so that the fish would be stored for a long time before they hit the markets, to avoid them perishing. This will create jobs for hundreds, if not for thousands, because of the ancillary services associated with this occupation.
Those importing rice would never allow the production of enough rice in Nigeria. Jeanette Winterson (1960) was right that “Very few people ever manage what nature manages without effort and mostly without fail. We don't know who we are or how to function, much less how to bloom”. Let’s just look at one example here: Ebonyi State is not supposed to be having unemployment problem or paucity of resources, because of what that state can boast of. But, today, Ebonyi is one of the poorest states in Nigeria. Ebonyi State was well known for its Abakaliki rice (grown at Edda) that is very nutritious, but, now, rice production in the state has been relegated to the back burner as imported rice has taken over the markets. The little the state produces now, is being mopped up by the Chinese, who will then process it and sell it back to Nigeria as imported rice at exorbitant price. Ebonyi State is primarily an agricultural producing state. It is a leading producer of rice, yams, potatoes, maize, beans, and cassava. Rice farming and production are labour intensive and can employ thousands, but, the state is no longer thinking that way. Ebonyi State also has several solid mineral resources and untapped oil and gas deposits, but with little large-scale commercial mining, as the state government has no incentives for investors to lure them to invest there and employ many people. Ebonyi is called "the salt of the nation" for its huge salt deposit at the Okposi and Uburu Salt Lakes, but, there’s no operating salt company there now. Nkalagu is a town in the state notable for having a limestone formation, a mineral not common in Nigeria, which provides the raw material for the large cement plant of the Nigerian Cement Company (Nigercem). The Ebonyi State government and Ibeto Group have been embroiled in a running battle over the ownership of the cement manufacturing factory at Nkalagu. Business Day of May 22, 2013 wrote that Federal lawmakers from Ebonyi State have disagreed over the ownership of Nigercem Nkalagu with the state government asking Ibeto Group to hands off for it to find alternative investors. Nigercem Nkalagu was established in 1954 as the premier cement factory in Nigeria and was initially owned by the Federal Government and the five South Eastern states. Following the privatisation of Nigercem Nkalagu by the Federal Government in 2002, the Eastern Bulkcem Limited was selected as the core investor with a view to revitalising the company with Ebonyi State government as a strategic equity holder. Paulinus Nwagu, senator representing Ebonyi Central, told newsmen that several years after the privatisation of the company, it became evident that the core investor was neither interested in nor capable of reactivating the company as it was essentially a cement bagging company. Nwagu asked the people of Ishielu Local Government Area to ignore the antics of Ibeto Group and assured that the state government “will bring time-tested and genuine investors to reactivate and upgrade and modernise Nigercem in the overall economic interest of Ebonyi State”. Peter Edeh, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ishielu constituency where the cement company is located, disagreed with other federal lawmakers from the state, saying the denial of Ibeto Group of ownership of the firm had denied the youths of the local government area employment. He countered that a cartel was behind the war against Ibeto Group from commencing operations at the factory, saying, “Ibeto Group has 65 percent of the entire share and the company has assured that it could commence operations immediately and this would afford youths employment”.
Those countries from where Nigeria imports the rice, are not better than Nigeria, only that they organized themselves well, while in Nigeria, the oligopolies doesn’t want the full utilization of our resources for our own betterment, because of what they gain at the expense of Nigeria and its citizens.
To be continued!
President Jonathan has fumbled for about two years as a president, but, it seems that the Boko Haram menace and other sabotage against his government have waked him up from his deep slumber, and have spurred him into action lately. Let’s continue to watch if he will sustain the momentum he has unleashed these few days by approving the holding of a National Dialogue/Conference. All well meaning Nigerians have endorsed the move, and even the Northern Elders Forum said the North welcomed the announcement on October 1 by President Goodluck Jonathan of a national conference/dialogue and its advisory committee. The spokesman for the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said in Abuja that contrary to the views held in certain quarters, northerners were not opposed to any form of dialogue in whatever form or shape and that the North would not be afraid of the break-up of Nigeria if its citizens voted for it at the end of any conference. In his words, according to The Citizens: “There is no problem with Nigerians sitting down to discuss their problems whether in the form of dialogue, whether in a form of conference, whether in the form of a meeting, even in the form of a Sovereign National Conference. The SNC that people are advocating; people are saying that it is a way for Nigeria to break up. This shouldn’t be a problem. Even in Britain today, Scotland is still agitating to opt out of the United Kingdom; even the Northern Island problem is still there. In Spain, there are separatist groups agitating for independence. Even recently, we had the Soviet Union and it has broken up into 11 different countries. India was created in 1948, in one year there was Pakistan, in another year there was Bangladesh. So why shouldn’t it happen in Nigeria if they (advocates of SNC) believe this is the way to go? We don’t mind any conference no matter the outcome. I don’t think it should worry any Nigerian.”
However, worth noting also was what Ango Abdullahi added, that the earlier Nigerians accepted that Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities could never dissolve into one, the better. He insinuated that Jonathan’s move now is suspicious when the reports of previous ones had not been implemented. Ango Abdullahi said the country had held constitutional conferences in 1976, 1978, 1988, 1994/1995 and 2005, saying the country could still gain from the reports of past constitutional conferences. In his words: “In each of these conferences, there have been voluminous reports on what is the problem with Nigeria. It is not for lack of information on the issues at stake. When you look at it from this point of view, those who believe that Nigeria’s time is being wasted or that these are diversionary tactics have a point.”
This column hopes that President Jonathan is not doing this to hoodwink Nigerians and deflate their attention from that issue for the time being. Hopefully, the report of the committee would not go the way the reports of previous committees have gone to (the dustbin). This writer advises that this national conference or dialogue shouldn’t be for the elite of different regions alone. The advisory committee should make it possible for all classes of Nigerians to be involved; whether rich or poor, strong or weak, man or woman, handicapped or healthy, highly placed or downtrodden, student or teacher, the conference needs input from everybody and everyone should feel a sense of belonging this time around, it should be for every Nigerian, whether up or down, and then, that would make the difference (from previous conferences).
THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 2