FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiThursday, November 15, 2007
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Bonn, Germany

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PATRIOTISM RE-DEFINED

And if, to be sure, sometimes you need to conceal a fact with words, do it in such a way that it does not become known, or, if it does become known, that you have a ready and quick defense. (Machiavelli)

For it is not titles that reflect honor on men, but men on their titles. (Machiavelli)

So long as the great majority of men are not deprived of either property or honor, they are satisfied. (Machiavelli)

The avarice of mankind is insatiable. (Aristotle)

He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it. (Plato)

To have striven, to have made an effort, to have been true to certain ideals--this alone is worth the struggle. We are here to add what we can to, not to get what we can from, life – (William Osler)

Before the world finds a place for you, find a place for yourself in the world. (Anonymous)

s there something wrong with Nigerian politicians? Are they all out of their minds? Ex-Speaker Patricia Etteh lost out because of N628 Million renovation contract recently and now, we are hearing that the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions confirmed that the Senate approved the spending of N500 million for the live coverage of ministerial screening in September and October. That was sheer madness to have spent such an amount on only media coverage. I am calling for an immediate investigation and whosoever that is culpable here should be made to face the music. This is unacceptable in a country where nothing works, people hardly make ends meet these days, the roads are impassable, the health, educational sectors respectively are in decadent conditions. The senate found it worthy to spend that whopping sum to show off themselves to the public. It is unimaginable.


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The political leaders, be they civilians or the military boys, always claim to be patriotic more than others. Every nowadays, they invoke patriotic pretenses and do expect all Nigerians to do the same even when Nigeria they are ruling do not care for the masses as them in authority positions and their peers made away with all the resources that Nigeria has that are supposed to be put in use for the services of the nation. The ruling class stoles and stashes away Nigeria’s resources in foreign banks thereby contributing to the economic development of those foreign countries where they hid those stolen wealth while Nigeria takes the fast lane towards decay and the citizens get pauperised more than ever.

ThisDay Newspapers of November 14, 2007 in its article: “UN: Nigeria Now better •Again, Yar´Adua says no sacred cows in anti-graft war”, wrote that the Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drug and Crime UNODC, Dr Antonio Maria Costa reconfirmed the already known fact that the staggering sum of close to $400 billion was estimated to have been stolen and stashed abroad by corrupt Nigerian leaders between 1960 and 1999. According to Costa, “if you were to put $400 billion bills in a row, you could make a path from here to the moon and back not once but 75 times... the opportunity cost of the stolen commonwealth is enormous. Think of how different Nigeria would look today.” He further described corruption as a destructive cankerworm which kills trust in governments, public institutions and companies.

The President Umaru Musa Yar´Adua, in his opening remarks (at the seminar attended by Mr. Costa and where he made the above remarks), restated his determination to lead by example in the fight against corruption, maintaining that there would be no sacred cows in the anti-graft war. YarÁdua is a joker, he should stop deceiving Nigerians, he is upto nothing. He has been accused of slowing down the war on corruption allegedly because some of the politicians who have cases to answer helped him to power. Tell me how YarÁdua can explain this statement from his Attorney General as written by Guardian Newspapers recently. In its article: “No proof yet against Ibori, says Aondoakaa”, that Justice Minister Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) argued that the allegation of corruption against former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, is yet to be conclusively proved in court. Despite the plethora of evidence against Ibori, The Almighty Attorney General had the gut to make such statement. I am afraid of Nigeria.

YarÁdua in that seminar continued by saying that he is running an administration that makes zero tolerance for corruption in all its ramifications the cardinal principle of governance. According to him, it should be clear to all that no one, irrespective of assumed or real status, who is proved to be corrupt, will receive protection from his administration, In YarÁdua´s words “I vow before you this day that, as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will lead by example at all times. The fight against corruption is one which we must all commit to. Our obligation to our collective posterity makes this a mandatory duty. We cannot afford to fail.” YarÁdua was playing to the gallery as he doesn’t want to “rock the boat”. Look America is romancing him now; Mr. Negroponte, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State paid him a visit to request for the stationing of American forces in the Gulf of Guinea to protect American oil interest and to take more part in running Nigeria through more covert means. Remember, this visit by Negroponte took place after YarÁdua presented a budget to the National Assembly in which he pegged N117 to a dollar. This visit is trying to send a false message to the Election Tribunal handling the cases against the election of YarÁdua, the visit is trying to sway opinions of the Judges in YarÁdua´s favour, but, that will not succeed.

Ironically, YarÁdua described this year’s seminar theme, “Creation and Management of National Wealth for Common Good”, as being in tandem with his administration’s goal of delivering what he called “tangible value” to Nigerians through diligent and prudent management of the nation’s national resources. According to him, the crushing poverty level in the country today was as a result lack of planning and doing the right things that would have helped the nation attain its full potential. He regretted that Nigeria was years behind her peers at independence in 1960 in terms of development. YarÁdua is doing only the talking, but, fails to be doing the acting simultaneously. I will return to this topic later in this article.

Patriot re-defined is hinged on the premise that the ruling class stoles and stashes our wealth in foreign banks in foreign lands, but, Nigerians in Diaspora that the thieving ruling class is accusing of be unpatriotic for “running” away from Nigeria (The ruling class caused it also) are the one walking “thin lines” in Diaspora and bringing back wealth to Nigeria. While the ruling elite stoles and stashes our wealth away outside Nigeria, the Nigerians outside work and suffer indignation, earn money and repatriate or remit the money to Nigeria. While the thieving ruling elite causes capital flights out of Nigeria, the Nigerians outside bring wealth back to the country, not withstanding that they are going through unspeakable hardship to earn it. So who is more patriotic, the ruling elite that stoles and stashes away our commonwealth in foreign countries or the Nigerians in Diaspora who labour and remit money back home?

Without the money coming from the Nigerians in Diaspora to their families, Nigeria would have been burning. The money from the Diasporas is helping in postponing the demise of those criminals calling themselves the ruling elite. Think of it, if the Diasporas are not cushioning the effect of the economic hardships on their families in Nigeria, what do you think will happen? Those thieving elite would have had no place to hide. They should thank and respect the Nigerians in Diaspora for giving them the lifeline they have uptill today, but, it will not last for ever.

Guardian (April 11, 2007 ) in its article: “Nigerians abroad remit $7.7 billion in 2006”, wrote that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disclosed that last year remittances by Nigerians in Diaspora back home hit US$7.7 billion. The remittances for 2005 were $6 billion.

Punch (August 23, 2007) in its article: “Nigeria, destination of biggest remittances to Africa” wrote that Nigeria is the destination of most remittances that flow into the African continent, according to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund .The report said, “among the top 25 recipients of remittances, only one (Nigeria) is in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The paper wrote that in June, the Central Bank of Nigeria said a total of $8billion or over N1trillion was sent to the country by Nigerians in the Diaspora in the first six months of this year.

From these, one can see the efforts of Nigerians in Diaspora towards sustaining their families back home as the ruling elite care less about them. The Diasporas are saving the corrupt elite a lot, but, it seems they are not appreciating the efforts of those outside Nigeria and the contributions they are making towards Nigeria’s development humanly and materially. So the Nigerians in Diaspora are the more patriotic ones.

On another issue: Punch (November 11, 2007 ) in its article: “Five ex-governors to return N50bn” wrote that Five former governors may have given the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission undertakings to return more than N50bn looted public funds within the next two weeks. Stating that they risked arraignment before the courts if they reneged on the mutual agreement or failed to honour it within the stipulated period. I must chip in here that these undertakings should not prevent the ex-governors in question from getting punished. They should refund the money and still do time in prison to serve as deterrent to others, otherwise, others will have no fear to embezzle their state’s money as they will only be forced to pay back when their sordid affairs come to light. It will be unacceptable to Nigerians, if those thieves go scout free without doing time in jail. Look at what corrupt can do, The Daily Independent (November 15, 2007 ) in its article: “N5bn Itigidi-Ediba Bridge commissioned by Obasanjo collapses”, wrote that The Itigidi-Ediba Bridge in Abi Local Government area of Cross River State constructed at the cost of about N5.2 billion has collapsed. That the bridge christened "Samuel Imoke Memorial Bridge" by former President Olusegun Obasanjo when it was commissioned in May, constructed by the Italian firm, Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited, had some structural defects that were noticed soon after the commissioning which was done with fanfare, and might be the cause of the collapse. Could you imagine such a waste when there are a lot to do with money and little money to do them? The corrupt persons that had oversight functions over that bridge during construction and before the commissioning must have cut corners with the Italians (Italians are good in that) and other Nigerians involved, that might have led to them putting up a shoddy job. They should be arrested immediately. A new bridge of that nature shouldn’t go down so soon like Titanic on its maiden voyage. No not now. Heads must roll.

Back to YarÁdua claim’s of prudence, I think he is taking Nigerians for a ride. Guardian (October 25, 2007) in its article: “Yar´Adua, Obasanjo, Anyaoku head for Sri Lanka” wrote that President Yar´Adua would lead a powerful Federal Government delegation to Colombo, Sri Lanka shortly after he presents the 2008 Federal Budget to the National Assembly, to lobby support for the Abuja 2014 Committee bidding for the hosting rights of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. That on the president's entourage would be former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, immediate past Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and former Namibian sprints star, Franklin Fredrick. The Paper continued that the Senate President, David Mark, Chairman of the Abuja 2014 Bid Committee and former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Chairman, Habu Gumel; NSC boss, Abdulrahman Gimba Hassan; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Ambassador Baba Kingibe; Director -General of the NSC, Amos Adamu; FCT Minister, Aliyu Modibo Umar; scribe of the Bid Committee, Tijani Yusuf and a host of other government functionaries would be part of the contingent to Sri Lanka. What a waste of public fund with such delegation.

Daily Independent (November 15, 2007) in its article: ”Failed 2014 Commonwealth Games bid gulps N1.1bn” wrote that Nigeria spent N1.1 billion in the attempt to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, a bid it lost to Scotland. Part of the money went into lobbying and hosting the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) members who visited Nigeria on inspection, as well as on publicity, creating and maintaining a website, technical production of the bid document, and its submission in London. Money was equally spent on the final presentation of the bid in Sri Lanka, setting up the committee secretariat, and buying gifts for the evaluation committee members.

Mr. Iloh, who is the Chairman of Nigerian Cycling Board, said that sports development is nothing but a conduit pipe through which resources are squandered by the administrators. He made interesting remarks when he said that “You can only develop Nigerian youths through sports, and not developing sports. Now that they have failed to develop the youths, they should be made to account for their deeds. Nigeria has lost nothing in its quest to host the rest of the world, because that is not what we need now. In a country where there is no electricity, no water, you want to host the world. It is an avenue to make a few people richer, whereas the majority will be made poorer." I concur to that.

This is the YarÁdua talking about prudence. I don’t know for sure whether they went to Colombo or not. The hosting of the games will in no way uplift the image of Nigeria in a positive way and most importantly, it will add nothing tangible to the well-being of citizens. Why wasting all that money in trying to host a game that might bring shame than pride to Nigeria? What will hosting of a commonwealth games bring to the populace that is only existing, but, not living?

Such money that would have been invested in that game can go a long way in impacting positively on the economic well beings of the citizens, majority of whom are subsisting and scavenging for existence. The stadium where the games would have been hosted would have been uplifted to meet international standards. That will be a lot of money that can be utilised to make the lives of the poor people worth living. The logistics of the games would have cost a fortune that can help update some of the infrastructures in the country that will help the citizens on the long run. The games would have lasted, maybe, for only a month, but, would have cost fortune. On the other hand, when such amount is invested in meaningful projects, it will benefit the populace for a long time.

The rulers loot our wealth and the little they left are not well invested in things that are more meaningful or to the pressing needs of the people. The ruling elite always want to create a bogus and false image of Nigeria as a happening country while in reality, Nigeria is a failed state that can´t meet the needs and aspirations of its people. The power, telecommunication, health, educational sectors respectively are all in comatose conditions. The roads are impassable, the airports (save for few) are eyesores, the towns are being over-run by filth with mountains of refuse everywhere. There is no security of lives and properties in the country. What impression will we be creating in the minds the visitors and athletes that would have come to the games, if we were given the hosting right? What would have happen when in the middle of a game, there is power outage? What would have happen when some of the visitors or athletes were robbed or killed by armed robbers? What would have happen when any of the athletes or visitors to the games falls sick, but, can´t receive the necessary medical attention? What would have happen when the visitors and athletes can´t sleep at night because there is no power to get the fans and air-conditioners running?

The money can be well invested in things that are necessary to uplift the living conditions of Nigerians. Just think of it, what if we had gotten the right to host the games and an athlete or visitor to the games is kidnapped by the militants or a religious fanatic decides to set off bomb in the middle of a game? For me, hosting the games is good, but, at this point in time, I see it as a misplaced priority.

Why did we want to invite people to come and laugh at us? Why did we want to expose our shortcomings? In Nigeria, nothing works, why do we want to showcase our inability to get our acts together? Why did we want people to see that we are really a failed state? Why should we show the world that we are a rich but a poor country, more than they already know about us? People might be hearing how ugly things are in Nigeria, but, coming to see them first hand, will give them goose pimples. Hosting of such games is good, but, as of now and in the conditions Nigeria finds itself, it would have been tantamount to bringing the world to laugh at us. Remember Festac 77, we spent all that money in hosting it and that was a waste as it added nothing tangible to Nigeria, we earned no lasting respect or development from it, infact, it was a colossal waste of fund that would have been channelled to other meaningful projects. I hereby thank the Commonwealth Games Selection Committee for rejecting Nigeria and saving us from that ignominy. They did a great service to Nigeria.

Finally, the problems with Nigeria is that the ruling elite embezzles the national resources meant for the development of the nation and what they left over, are also mismanaged through misplacement of priorities. YarÁdua can´t feign to be prudent than others, he is a product of the same rotten system and is behaving like those that put him in that place afterall. On the Patriotism re-defined, Nigerians abroad are more patriotic than the ruling elite because they are bringing back wealth to Nigeria while the ruling elite are taking same out of Nigeria. For that reason, The Diasporas deserve respect and recognition from the ruling elite and the Nigerian embassies and high commissions all over the world should henceforth re-gear themselves to serving the Diasporas well, because, they are the real patriotic Nigerians vis-à-vis the thieving ruling elites.

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