Ihenacho’s Home Truths

It is no surprise that the Nigerian president appears to have begun to realize that OPEC is not just an economic organization. Many a time it shows the characteristics and traits of a religious cult masquerading as an economic body.
Sunday, July 28, 2002

David Asonye Ihenacho



othing could be stranger in professional writing than beginning a piece of an essay with a disclaimer. It appears every inch like sewing up one's lips before one could utter a word. But I am afraid I am about to head halfway towards this most weird way of doing an analytical article. I will attempt to begin my essay with a disclaimer. However I do not wish by so doing to sew up my lips. I believe I will continue to need my lips for a long time to come.

However, I must begin this essay with some clear disclaimers. This seems the only viable option for me considering my obvious handicap with the subject matter of this essay. The issue of OPEC and crude oil production in Nigeria is a topic that is way outside my professional competence. I am not a professional economics. I do not have any clear idea of what petroleum marketing and engineering are all about. In other words, my foray into the quagmire of Nigeria's membership of the OPEC oil cartel is a little bit like a stroll into a blind alley. But I am determined to avoid being intimidated or deterred by my handicap in this regard. I write as a stakeholder in the whole outcome of the Nigerian economy.

When some three weeks ago (July 08, 2002) ThisDay newspaper published its attention-grabbing scoop that the Nigerian government had come under intense pressures from within and from without to pull the country out of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the news hardly caught steam among the Nigerian populace as well as the mainstream media in Nigeria. Both the public and the press appeared to have treated the incident as not deserving any further comments or reaction. However that piece of a scoop did set my mind thinking about the pros and cons of Nigeria's thirty-one year membership of this peculiar organization dedicated to fair pricing of petroleum products. Moreover the source quoted by the Nigerian newspaper, the position paper of the African Oil Policy Initiative (AOPIG) which the paper describes as a US Think-Tank but Reuters appropriately labels as a US lobby group, did contain a lot of mouth-watering offers that would result from an action to quit the oil cartel by the Nigerian government. I had questioned in my mind which countries in the world would not run to grab such offers if they were true? In fact I had begun to sing in my heart that there was no way the Obasanjo administration that claims to have a good relation with Washington would not rush to embrace the offers of the America government. If anything, such a move would instantly provide the accomplishment-deprived administration something to gloat about and some bragging rights.

According to ThisDay, AOPIG in its position paper had listed the benefits being dangled by the United States government on Nigeria to procure their quitting of OPEC to include:

  • Congressional-driven negotiations for debt relief subject to specific fiscal/economic criteria.
  • US private and institutional capital to move to Nigerian projects in telecommunications, transportation, mining and agro-allied businesses.
  • Increased oil and gas share of the American market.
  • US capital and technology for additional Nigerian refining capacity and
  • North American capital and technology and participation in marginal fields.

According ThisDay report, members of the oil lobby had followed up their position paper with a visit to Nigeria where they were reported to have had a fruitful dialogue with the Nigerian presidency. From all indications the discussions with the Nigerian government had gone so well to the extent that the leader of the lobby group, Dr Paul Michael Wihbey had the audacity to address the press in order to amplify the commitment of the American government to the promises she was committing herself on behalf of Nigeria. According to Dr. Wihbey, the US is hoping to double its oil imports from Nigeria from the current 900,000 barrels per day to around 1.8 million barrels daily in the next five years. When pressured by the press on how Nigeria would realize this status of increased oil exports to the United States, the leader of the AOPIG delegation stated, "This (OPEC quits) is something Nigeria will have to determine for itself. If Nigeria doesn't supply the American market with that surplus, other producers like Canada, Mexico, Russia and Venezuela will supply that amount."

From all possible points of consideration the scoop of ThisDay in this regard is authentic enough. So also is the offer by the United States government. But more importantly, the economic package that is being dangled on Nigeria is very significant to the extent that should it be realized, it will surely revolutionize the economic health of Nigeria. If the US government were to descend on Nigeria with all these packages they are dangling, they will certainly make a very significant impact on the lives of average Nigerians. They will create jobs for the unemployed crowd of the Nigerian youth. These packages will help stabilize our dilapidated societies and political structures. With the help of the US economic stimulus Nigeria will surely begin its much-awaited journey to reconnect with the league of developing nations. With such a positive appraisal of the package, some of us waited for the moment the president would announce to the world that Nigeria was taking a radical decision to realize its economic potential in the world. But as each day passed, it appeared as if the administration would not even acknowledge entertaining such a visit of a Washington-based lobby group. Some of us became apprehensive that the American economic initiative was not being treated with the urgency we thought it deserved.

Then the question became, why has Nigeria not jumped at this offer of the United States? Can our membership of OPEC supply all the benefits that the US is promising to offer our people? Are our leaders still under the tragic illusion that we can ever achieve socio-economic progress by our own efforts alone? When will they realize that we need all the help we can get and must fall for every offer that could help our people overcome their difficult economic situations over and above the gift of a higher price for our oil which is the only promise of OPEC? What on earth is holding Nigeria from quitting the oil cartel of OPEC immediately and beginning the needed cooperation with the US for the overall benefit of all Nigerians? As I said at the beginning of this essay, I am no expert economist. But I know that our thirty-one year old membership of the OPEC has not afforded all these goodies that the US is promising our people. If in the past thirty years OPEC has not delivered for our people, what assurances do we have that in the next one hundred years, our membership of the oil cartel will deliver for our country anything more than the pittance of the price of 900,000 barrels of oil in a day?

Staying put with OPEC is worth far less than leaving and cooperating with America and reaping the economic benefits involved. The Obasanjo administration has consistently exemplified a chronic inability to understand the economic politics of the world.

However despite the incredible significance of this issue and the overall attractiveness of the economic package that is associated with it, the Nigerian public together with its visionless government has continued to feel nonchalant towards it. In fact I have been shocked by developments in the last couple of days. The tide seems to have turned against having even an open discussion about the pros and cons of Nigeria's membership of the OPEC. The whole nonchalance towards this significant development that carries with it the needed economic package for the stagnant nation of Nigeria was compounded recently when President Obasanjo denied that Nigeria was considering quitting the OPEC. While reacting to a British newspaper that claimed that Nigeria would try to quit OPEC as early as during its September meeting, President Obasanjo's press secretary, Tunji Oseni, declared, "This administration is not in any process of reviewing Nigeria's membership of OPEC." Late in the preceding week, the Nigerian information minister, Jerry Gana, was quoted as saying that "there are pressures on Nigeria to leave OPEC but we are not going to leave."

The argument of the administration in this regard is utterly simplistic if not roundly ludicrous. According to it, "if any country leaves OPEC and decides to turn on its own taps, it will produce more but earn less…. Nigeria believes that if you must strengthen oil prices, (she) must work with other countries to regulate supply. We can do this better by remaining in OPEC…. The solution to stable oil prices is not leaving OPEC…. We must not be pushed into believing that the only solutions to our problems are those offered by big-time consumers who from time to time try to pressurize developing countries to leave (OPEC) or to influence the market one way or the other" (Reuters, July 22).

The whole tragedy of the Obasanjo administration's position on the issue of Nigeria's continued membership of OPEC comes out clear when it appears that the US is no longer hiding the fact that it has decided to re-align its oil trade commitments in the world. According to agency reports, the US government has decided to show particular interest in the oil coasts of Africa as its alternative source of crude oil supply. According to such reports what is informing this move is the "ongoing violence in the Middle East … and the possibility of a U.S. attack against Iraq" (Reuters, July 25). In view of these, Washington is therefore pushing to reduce its oil dependency in the turbulent region. According to Kojo Bedu-Addo, senior Africa analyst at the London-based Control Risks Group Consultancy, quoted by Reuters, "it is very clear that the United States has decided to focus on the region as another source of oil."

It was because of the recently discovered strategic importance of the African oil reserves to America that the US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner embarked on a marathon shuttle across some African countries recently. His tour took him to three oil-power countries in Africa, -Angola, Gabon and Nigeria, where he had extensive discussions with the top members of the leadership of the respective governments. In Nigeria in particular he had discussions with the president on restoring peace in the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula that borders Cameroon.

Part of the major revelation of the Kansteiner tour was his admission to the press that "the Gulf of Guinea is of strategic interest to us." This is a major revelation and turn-about on Africa by a Republican administration that is not usually and traditionally favorably disposed to anything in Africa. In fact President George Walker Bush, the 43rd president of the United States had only three years ago been quoted as claiming during his campaign that Africa is not of any known strategic importance to the United States of America. For the assistant secretary of his administration to now turn around and claim that some part of Africa was of strategic interest to the Americans, is both revolutionary in thinking and a great opportunity for any government in Africa particularly in the Gulf of Guinea. It is a great opportunity that must not be squandered.

However, it appears that Nigeria is well on its way towards squandering the opportunity being presented by the present American administration. Her little-informed opposition to the proposal of the Americans with regard to her continued membership of the oil cartel has led to the United States withdrawing her offers and backtracking a bit. President Obasanjo's ill-informed position against acquiescing to the simple and uncomplicated demands of the Americans to quit OPEC led to Kansteiner's vigorous denial a few days ago. On the issue of pressuring Nigeria to quit he stated vigorously, "No, there is no pressure at all for Nigeria to do that. It hasn't come up" (Guardian-online, July 26). "There is no pressure whatsoever. That is not true. And the issue never came up during my meeting with President Obasanjo" (Reuters, July 25).

It seems clear that because of Obasanjo's unwise upfront opposition to the demands of the Americans, Kansteiner failed to discuss concretely on how Nigeria could move fast enough to grab a lion's share of the trade vacuum that may soon result because of America's changing policy in the Middle East. Having disingenuously foreclosed economic discussions Kansteiner was limited to discussing frivolous issues like Nigeria's domestic politics, elections, the so-called border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon (Guardian July 26). But that apparently was not the reason for his marathon tour of Africa. He had come specifically to talk oil. That was why he had gone to Angola and Gabon before arriving in Nigeria. Unless one assumes he had gone to those other countries to discuss how they could help Nigeria resolve its political problems. That would be patently idiotic. Kansteiner had come to Africa to sound off on which country (ies) could step in and to become America's major supply of crude oil. In the league of Gabon and Angola, Nigeria has an enormous advantage. But Nigeria of the present appears not to be gifted with leaders endowed with any iota of wisdom in international economics and politics. Hence it was only in Nigeria that Kansteiner was forced to change the topic of his African visit all together so as to focus on mundane issues of Nigeria's political problems. And that was how Nigeria began the process of losing out in an opportunity that is developing in the world of oil, which is the only viable economic product in Nigeria.

In our view, the way the Nigerian government is handling the great economic opportunity that is knocking at its doors is absolutely dangerous and downright stupid. A great opportunity is being lost for nothing sake. Staying put with OPEC is worth far less than leaving and cooperating with America and reaping the economic benefits involved. The Obasanjo administration has consistently exemplified a chronic inability to understand the economic politics of the world. And here is another chance she is about to fritter away.

First, no premium should be placed on Kansteiner's denial that a lot of pressure is being piled on Nigeria to abandon OPEC. He is just trying to show his skills as a diplomat. It is clear that America is putting pressures on Nigeria. The oil lobby AOPIG did say it and the Nigerian government through its spokespeople have acknowledged it. Jerry Gana admitted quite clearly that the government was under pressure. Even Tunji Oseni said as much as well. Nobody should expect a member of the current administration in America that deals with Africa only out of necessity to come out openly and acknowledge putting pressures on Nigeria. That will never happen. But that does not mean that there is no pressure. It is there for every one to see. Even if there is no government-to-government pressure, which we must doubt, there is a terrible pressure in the economic dividend that is being dangled in front of Nigeria. The economic benefits themselves constitute enormous pressures to a terribly dysfunctional economy like that of Nigeria. So it should be an established issue that the US is putting enormous pressures on Nigeria to abandon the ship of OPEC.

But Nigeria's argument for deciding to stay with OPEC is ridiculous if not utterly absurd. Her argument that "if a country leaves OPEC and decides to turn on its on taps, it will produce more but earn less" is absolutely devoid of any proof. There are about six major oil countries that are not in OPEC: Mexico, Russia, Norway, Canada, Egypt and the United States. Which is of these is selling at a price lower than OPEC? OPEC is just a cartel that withholds or pumps more oil to influence prices. Without Nigeria it will still retain this function. When the price of oil is generally high in the oil market, a non-OPEC Nigeria will benefit like any other OPEC country. But when it is lower both OPEC and non-OPEC countries do suffer the same fate. In fact OPEC countries are like sacrificial lambs working for the benefit of all the oil producing and marketing countries.

In fact the Obasanjo administration misses the point entirely when it claims that the issue of the American proposal is all about "strengthening oil prices" and "stability of oil prices." According to the administration, since these are the issues of contention, they believe that the solutions are better found within OPEC. According to Obasanjo, Nigeria will make more contribution to oil pricing by remaining with the cartel. This may well be true, but it is beside the point. These are not the issues that America is interested in. She is not asking Nigeria to quit OPEC in order to provide stability in the oil market. The Obasanjo administration is arguing beside the point. The issue that America is concerned with apparently springs from her emerging Middle East policy. This is what the Obasanjo group does not seem to take into consideration when formulating their responses to the offers of the American government. American political stance in the Middle East region is affecting her politics. There has to be a change in her economics for the United States to be able to sustain its politics in the region. For this reason an economic opportunity has been created which is beckoning on a well placed country like Nigeria to jump up and grab. But unfortunately the Obasanjo administration has chosen instead to drop the ball. This wonderful opportunity to penetrate the wonderful oil market of America is about to be lost.

The details of the economic opportunities include the fact that Nigeria is currently the fifth exporter of crude oil to the United States supplying to the US nearly 900,000 barrels a day. But there are other countries that rank well ahead of Nigeria in their supplies to the US. Canada delivers 1.8 million barrels per day to the US followed by Saudi Arabia, which supplies 1.4 million. Mexico and Venezuela supply the rest, which is approximately 1.4 million barrels. But in the post September 11, 2001 reality Nigeria with her good quality crude oil has an ample opportunity to up her supplies. In view of the fact that about fifteen of the nineteen hijackers that attacked America on September 11 were all Saudi natives, and because of the resolve of the present administration of the US to remove the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, from power - a move that is bound to incite Arab countries and force them to fight back with their oil, America's dependency on Saudi oil is bound to lessen. And the country to pick up the tab if she has wise leaders is no other than Nigeria. But countries like Russia can do the job as well or even far better than Nigeria. Fortunately for Nigeria America appears not to be looking the way of Russia yet to supply her oil needs should she decide to discontinue her commitments with Saudi Arabia.

Rather than scramble for this great opportunity that is presenting itself, the unbelievably unwise Nigerian government is rejecting the wonderful economic package America is offering to her simply because America is attempting to exert some sacrifices on the part of Nigeria. The sacrifice is as benign as quitting the cartel of OPEC so as not to be hamstrung in attending to the oil needs of America. But Nigerian leaders would prefer to live and die in the OPEC cartel rather than see the light that could move the stagnant economy of Nigeria forward. But why is this the case? Why is the Nigerian government being this disingenuous? What is there in OPEC for the Nigerian public? Are there some other reasons why Nigeria is clinging to OPEC and foregoing this economic windfall from America? Do they really understand what they are being promised? If AOPIG is to be believed, there is no reason why any sensible government in Africa will reject such an economic windfall? It is insane that the Obasanjo administration is foreclosing a vigorous public discussion on the meaning of Nigeria's membership of the OPEC vis-ŕ-vis the current economic stimulus being packaged for Nigeria.

But the reality is, if we go with the offers from America, we shall be like the other non-OPEC countries, which are constantly entering into cooperation with OPEC to cut oil outputs and jack up prices. But we shall be doing all these on our own terms. We will first satisfy the quota we supply to America and then cut from the outputs that are in excess from the daily production quantify we choose by ourselves. What is wrong about this simple commonsensical move? It is a win-win situation for all Nigerians. We will export more. We will gain more no matter what the market oil prices are. We will have great political and economic rapport with the United States, the country that is running the world. But more than that we will reap all the economic reward being packaged by the Americans? Is this offer not mouth-watering enough for any sensible nation? Why is our government being unnecessarily unreasonable? I do not see any reasons why Nigeria should not jump at any offer by America in this regard. If we do not run to grab it, other nations will do so. Angola needs it more than we do. And they may have as much oil reserve as Nigeria. Equatorial Guinea will soon emerge a giant oil exporter from Africa. Gabon is already an oil giant in Africa. Yet among all these countries Nigeria has an enormous advantage because of her sheer size and the depth of her resources and talents. But what we lack at the moment is visionary leadership. The Obasanjo administration may not be gifted enough to lead Nigeria in this golden moment of our history. That is why this once in a lifetime opportunity may slip through our fingers. We are on the throes of being able to export about two million barrels of crude to America on a daily basis at the price that is prescribed by OPEC. But our leaders do not have the brains to perceive such a benefit that has an enormous economic and political capital attached to it. But as I said, Russia, Mexico, Canada and Venezuela are all waiting for Nigeria to completel her rebuff of the American offer.

But the question remains, why this rabid clinging to OPEC in this period of horrible economic situation in Nigeria? Why is Nigeria's government not opportunistic enough with regard to taking advantages of the mood of the world to maximize our economic advantage? In an oil-dependent country like Nigeria that is intent on finding a way to survive in the world's economic state of nature, the situation in the Middle East is certainly a nirvana. It calls for quick thinking and action to capitalize and consolidate one's advantage in the fast realigning world. But Nigeria under Obasanjo is not showing any intelligence at all. Rather it has chosen to be advocating for the cartel instead of fending for herself. For Nigeria to insist on the stability of the oil market as its primary concern is to fight for the cartel and lose her soul. The stability of oil prices should be secondary to Nigeria's wish to become a principal player and supplier to the world's biggest consumer of the oil product. This is economics for dummies. But as it appears Nigeria does not seem to have this economic common sense. Listen to her spokesperson Tunji Oseni, "We must not be pushed into believing that the only solutions to our problems are those offered by big-time consumers who from time to time try to pressurize developing countries to leave (OPEC) or to influence the market one way or the other."

The president's statement in this regard tends to confirm our fear that our economic managers may not have a complete understanding of how to move Nigeria's economy forward. For President Obasanjo the solution to our economic problems does not lie with big-time consumers who push us to accept the solutions they proffer. This is patently false. Nigeria's economy is dependent on oil, which in turn needs a big time consumer like the US to remain viable. A time-honored principle of open market trading holds that the buyer is king. You have to respect his wishes and try to be in his good graces in order to maintain an influx of other customers. In a way you have to succumb to the pressures of your big time customers in order to sell your goods or dispose off the quantity you will need to keep surviving. The solution to Nigeria's problems as a mono-economy is greatly offered by consumers, be they the big time or the small time customers. The fact that the Obasanjo administration is resisting to be pushed into believing in the consumer-based solution to our economic problems may in fact be the real source of our economic nightmare. The present administration in Nigeria finds it very hard to read correctly the economic mood of the world.

The world of economics is a state of nature. Saudi Arabia, in the pre-terrorist era hardly ever advocated for the OPEC cartel. Her interest has always been to secure its privilege of being a major oil supplier to the United States. On many occasions it had had to defy OPEC to over-produce her quota simply because her market partner demanded it. She hardly ever thinks of the OPEC when negotiating her economic gains. But now that Nigeria stands a chance of doing just that she is being misled by her ungifted leaders to think of the cartel first even when every other OPEC country thinks of itself first when negotiating economic deals. This is ridiculous. Nigeria needs sensible leadership in this economic hard time of our country. We can do better than what we have got through OPEC in the past three decades.

However, there seems to be something more to Nigeria's clinging to the OPEC than the need to remain a loyal member of the oil cartel and help stabilize the oil market and its prices. I believe that OPEC is as much an Islamic organization as it is an economic cartel. For any real followers of Nigeria, in the thirty-one years of Nigeria's membership of the cartel there have hardly been many non-Muslims representing Nigeria in OPEC. The oil ministry has almost been the exclusive preserve of the Muslim North. The people who have been appointed to represent Nigeria in the OPEC cartel have largely been Muslims. Hardly is there any sensible Nigerian who does not know or has not heard that the Muslims of Nigeria together with their allies in the cartel insist that only Muslims are suitable to serve as Nigeria's oil ministers or as it is now being called Presidential Adviser on Petroleum. The current OPEC president, the Nigerian Rilwanu Lukman has been recycled many times by both the Nigerian government and the cartel. He is always reappearing in Nigeria's oil ministry through one-way or the other. He does not have the competence in the petroleum industry that others in Nigeria do not have. But with his connection in the OPEC cartel coupled with his Islamic religion he is able to maintain his indispensability in the oil ministry of Nigeria. This is despite the fact that oil ministers in Nigeria never last more than a few months or years when they are non-Muslims. Usually their tenure comes under a terrible scrutiny and threat after they attend their initial OPEC meetings. There is a sense that when they attend such meetings and do not understand the Islamic signs and agenda of the cartel, they lose out.

The fact is that OPEC is a cartel and operates as such. It chooses its membership carefully. It maintains a tremendous level of secrecy. It fronts oil as its main business. But the heart of its business is religion. Some substantially Christian countries like Venezuela and Nigeria are regularly kept in the lurch about the real activities of the cartel. Like a drug cartel there are many other things involved in OPEC activities than meets the eye. In the case of OPEC it is clearly being used to prosecute an Islamic agenda in the world. The relevance of OPEC is more to Islam than to the economic well-being of its member countries like Nigeria. In principle, it might be difficult to distinguish between OPEC and such Islamic bodies like the OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries). They all claim to have an economic agenda. But their souls are in the favored religions of their member nations. The regulation of oil prices is obviously a subterfuge for the OPEC cartel. Its real agenda is to use oil to further the course of the religion of Islam. This is why it will take more than a fight to extricate Nigeria from the jaws of the cartel despite the economic windfall that may result from such a move. The Muslim North may see it as an extension of their Islamic faith. Nobody should be surprised if Nigeria's membership of the cartel is said to be prescribed by the Sharia law.

It is no surprise that the Nigerian president appears to have begun to realize that OPEC is not just an economic organization. Many a time it shows the characteristics and traits of a religious cult masquerading as an economic body. According to a recent report carried by ThisDay President Obasanjo has delivered a query to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources over the candidate Nigeria presented to OPEC to fill the vacant post of head of information unit of the cartel. According to ThisDay, Obasanjo is querying the choice of Mallam Omar Farouk Ibrahim, the managing director of New Nigerian Newspapers. Obasanjo's query sprang from what had appeared as an arbitrary decision of the ministry to drop three other nominees earlier recommended by the Federal Government for screening by the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, Austria late last year. The government's nominees included Kingsley Osadalor, Marie Fatai-Williams and Ernest Anuyuo. To the surprise of the president, those other nominees were dropped with Omar Farouk presented as the sole candidate of Nigeria.

The presentation of Farouk to OPEC as Nigeria's sole candidate gave the impression that all the OPEC jobs zoned to Nigeria are being occupied by people from only one ethnic group, namely the Hausa-Fulani Muslims of the North. According to ThisDay, other top posts of OPEC assigned to Nigeria and occupied by the Northerners to the exclusion of the other sections of Nigeria include chairman OPEC board of governors, Editor in chief of OPEC News Agency and head of the public relations unit as well as OPEC presidency all held by Muslim Northerners. ThisDay reported that the presidency might launch a probe into the circumstances leading to the dropping of her other nominees in favor of the only one from among the Hausa-Fulani of Northern Nigeria.

It might be good for the president and his staff to try to find out what happened in that singular case in which their nominees were denied a fair chance to compete for the job of the so-called international organization. There seems no other way to explain what had happened than that there is no level playing field with regard to getting Nigeria's job slots in the cartel. It seems that religion is a very indispensable item in deciding who comes to work for the cartel. Furthermore, the whole secrecy with which the other nominees were dropped should be instructive to the administration on the make-ups and mode of operation of the oil cartel. It is a secret cult that fronts crude oil as its business. The whole cartel appears permanently skewed to cater mainly for the interests of Muslims and the so-called Muslim nations. It is not an objective economic organization that fights for the interest of its member states. It is more or less an arm of the Islamic religion. The earlier Nigeria gets to know this the better for her. Membership of the cartel should not be paramount in Nigeria's economic goals. Nigeria can and should do better than just professing to be a loyal member of OPEC. If there are some opportunities to excel outside the cartel, Nigeria must run to grab them. Being emotionally attached to the cartel because of the religion of one fraction of Nigeria's population is unreasonable if not totally absurd considering the present economic catastrophe of our country. We need to be pragmatic. And we must be realistic. If the United States is sincere in her promises of a radical economic help to Nigeria, as I believe she is, we would be the most foolish country on earth not to run to grab them. Quitting OPEC for the simple reason of grabbing the bulk of the lucrative crude oil market of America plus the added economic incentives to stimulate our long dead economy is an opportunity of a lifetime. Obasanjo cannot afford to squander this great opportunity. Sacrificing our OPEC membership to achieve it is certainly a blessing we all have been praying for on behalf of our country. Nigeria needs America's market. And here is a great opportunity to grab some part of it. Nigeria has what America desperately needs namely fine crude oil. Knowledge of what this great bargaining chip entails for Nigeria is the beginning of our collective economic wisdom. There is no market for crude oil in the world that is bigger and more rewarding than that of America. Oil countries of the world are falling over their heads to capture a good chunk of this precious market. For Nigerian leaders to attempt to squander this great opportunity that is being created by the political situation of the Middle East is something future generations of our country will curse the present leadership for. President Obasanjo must wake up now. This is a great moment for a great leadership. History will ridicule him if he fails to deliver with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So also, history will accord him a legendary status if he could only make the right choices with the opportunities that have now presented themselves to our beloved country.