FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiSaturday, November 28, 2009
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Bonn, Germany

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SWITZERLAND AND NIGERIANS ABROAD

This Nigeria is built on defective foundation, with defective blocks. Whilst we still have the time, let us not be dumb and timid enough, not to pull it down, build a new foundation and raise it with appropriate blocks to avoid the damnation of the coming generations. (Gen. Alani Akinrinade)
It is this system that is responsible for the fact that we have virtually thieves running the affairs of this country. The only thing we can do to change the negative state of the nation for good, is to change the socio-economic system. If you change the socio-economic system from one based on narrow self-interest to one based on public interest and patriotism, you will automatically also change the political leadership from a thieving political leadership to a patriotic and democratic political leadership. (Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa)
For too long we have suffered in this country, “personally, I don’t want our children, our grand children to continue going through what we are going through today. The international communities have be defining us based on the behaviour of a few criminals in our midst, we actually allowed the bad behaviour of these horrible people to criminate our collective innocence, people talk about us almost all the time as very corrupt people, unruly, in-redeemable people, a country were nothing works, and these things have stocked so much, that in all efforts, in all public places, all over the world, once the green passport is sited, you become a marked person. (Prof. Dora Akunyili)


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o paraphrase the Tribune (November 19, 2009), it seems Nigerians are the world’s new unwanted people. They are being deported from many parts of the world. Nigerians have a reputation for criminal cleverness. This is nonsense, of course. All Nigerians have been idiotically tarred with the same brush as the few criminals; some of them are not even Nigerians. Some of the countries may in the future legislate to keep Nigerians out, as the United States did to the Chinese in the late 19th Century. The Chinese on their own part, do not deport Nigerians; they imprison or kill them.

Many Nigerians find their country stifling and try to escape from what they consider its leaden oppressiveness. Truly, a pall of hopelessness appears to hang over the country. Nigeria is a rich country, but most Nigerians are poor. Babies are not yet being eaten, but they’re being sold. Many other babies are abandoned by mothers, usually unmarried mothers who allowed themselves to be deceived by much older men because they needed money for food, who have no means of feeding and clothing them. There is corruption that taunts the people. The people are unable to do anything about the mansions built by those who had no income only a few years ago. Politics has brought them prosperity. Some generals collected their billions during military rule. One general once notoriously said that all Nigerian generals were stinking rich. The country’s oil has made some people extremely wealthy. Oil producers in the Middle East have used revenues from the commodity to transform deserts into cities where everything works. Municipal services are steady. The highways have no holes, unlike in Nigeria where many of the roads have holes with the depth and diameter of a bomb crater. The Benin-Sagamu expressway, one of the country’s busiest highways, has been in a terrible state for more than five years. Some of us who left the country did so because of the overpowering smell of decay: the infrastructural collapse, the foul odour of corruption, insecurity, among other reasons. Many Nigerians that left for abroad, have professional qualifications but find frustration and not fulfilment in working in Nigeria. Money of course, was also an important consideration in their decision to leave the country. Some people may accuse Nigerians that left of being selfish. The situation in the country will not be improved by running away, they will say.

Many Nigerians do perish in the desert. Many more languish in North African dungeons. Some others, in overcrowded, leaky boats, are swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea. Some of those who made it to Europe discovered that the fire abroad is much more intense than the frying pan that they fled from at home. But they are ashamed to return home. Many of them cannot even afford the fare home; they have no employment. They are arrested and then deported. There are many lost tribes of Nigerians on the West African coast. Unable to reach Europe and ashamed to return home, they have made their homes in alien lands and are badly treated by their fellow African hosts.

An enlightenment campaign about the perils and the privations illegal immigrants face may persuade some Nigerians desperate to leave the country to remain at home. But some people without skills and no travel documents will continue to leave the country and Nigeria will continue to face the embarrassment of the regular deportation of its citizens until its rulers allow it to realise its potential of true, not sloganeering, greatness.

Switzerland is clever here, it has a secret banking system, in which, people bank their money without necessarily using their names, but code, for the transactions. It is done in a way to protect looted wealth and the looters. That's why corrupt people, mostly Africans, find Switzerland as their first choice of where to stash their ill-gotten wealth. But the problem is that when these corrupt people die, their families might not be able to have access again to those stolen wealth stashed there, unless if the corrupt person revealed the secret code to his wife before his death and still at that, the process of releasing such wealth is usually tedious and frustrating that the widow might give up along the line. The point is that much of the stolen wealth stashed in Swiss banks end up as unclaimed in the long run and would be ploughed into the Swiss economy. Abacha died, the Swiss managed to return part of the money he stashed there, but, nobody can actually say if what the Swiss government gave back to Nigeria is all he (Abacha) stole and stashed there. This writer thinks that another half of what the Swiss government returned to Nigeria, still remains in the Swiss vaults/economy and would never be accounted for. The Swiss are clever, they know what they're doing.

Recently, the Swiss government decided to mock Nigerians: They came to Nigeria and defeated us in the final of the U-17 world cup in our soil (no ill feelings here, they earned it), but, they would soon deport over 80 Nigerians, may be next week, although in agreement with the Nigerian mission there. This writer is sure the Nigerian mission officials there must have been compromised by the Swiss government, for them to sign that kind of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between them (Nigerian Mission officials) and the Swiss Government under an arrangement tagged the 'Voluntary Repatriation Scheme" which enables the Swiss Government to voluntarily repatriate Nigerians. Under this arrangement, the Swiss Government gives each of these Nigerians who have volunteered themselves for repatriation a token of $6,500 equivalent to enable them re-settle and start up a career once they have agreed to return to Nigeria. There is nothing wrong for some one to go back to his country voluntarily, but, if the Swiss government wants to help, they should given more to the deportees, because the amount they're willing to give, would go nowhere for the returnees, in starting anything meaningful in Nigeria. Although the Swiss government can still deport Nigerians without giving them a cent like many other countries are doing, but, the Swiss have a huge amount of Nigerian stolen wealth that would never be accounted for again, so they can afford to be more "magnanimous". (See the table below)

To prove that Switzerland knows what it’s doing, they just convicted Abacha's son and about 350 million dollars was confiscated from him (Abacha's son), so for them to give only 6,500 dollars to each of the 80 Nigerian returnees would mean virtually nothing to them. The Swiss began investigating the Abacha family in 1999 and has so far handed back about $700m to Nigeria. Abba Sani Abacha (the son of the late dictator) was wanted in connection with the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. He was extradited from Germany, where he was arrested in 2004.The Swiss authorities pursued Abba Abacha for six years before extraditing him. He was charged with aggravated money laundering, participation in a criminal organisation and embezzlement. The examining magistrate sentenced him to a suspended jail term, and ordered the confiscation of his assets of $350m.

Many Nigerians are being killed in Libya, China, Indonesia and in many other Asian and even African countries and nobody gives a damn about them. Nigerians love their country but are forced to leave, because of the condition of things at home. Who wanted to leave Nigeria for another country even for education? In her first public confession over the deteriorating condition of the Nigerian universities as recorded by the Economic Confidential of November, 2009, the country’s ambassador of Rebranding campaign, Professor Dora Akunyili stated that a visit to a typical Nigerian university today would reveal the decadence in the system.

The Minister expressed her sincere opinion while delivering the maiden convocation lecture of the University of Mkar in Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State. According to Professor Akunyili, who is the Minister of Information and Communication: “the (academic) environment (today) is so dirty and most times unfit for humans to live. There’re crowded classrooms, inadequate hostel accommodation, non-existent library services, unfulfilled lecturers, elongation of academic calendars and sessions as a result of consistent strikes, and the woes are endless.

The result, of these maladies, Prof Akunyili noted, is the craze for foreign education. Rich Nigerians today prefer sending their children to schools in Europe, America and even to neighbouring Ghana to acquire quality education. The educational sector seems to be totally in shambles.

The title of her lecture going by her pet-project on rebranding is also titled: “Rebranding Nigerian Education for National Development.” She stated that “It is common knowledge that our University system has degenerated to the extent that it needs re-burbling, resuscitation or re-branding. For Nigeria to regain its lost glory in the area of university education, the country must re-brand the entire educational sector in general and the university system in particular.”

Prof. Akunyili noted with nostalgia how it was to be an undergraduate of a Nigerian university in the 1960’s, 1970 and even the early 1980s- the years which she termed the glorious years of our educational system. Going down memory lane, the Hon. Minister stated that even though there were many scholarships including those of government for studying abroad, many parents and their wards preferred studying at home. She said that it was great fun to be studying in a typical Nigeria university then; one could easily calculate how long he would spend in the university upon entry because strikes were non existent then.

Prof. Akunyili noted with delight how spacious classrooms were then with fewer students in each lecture room, how comfortable the hostel rooms were, with two or at most three people in a room, which is totally different from what, obtains today. There were also a well equipped Library for research and learning with knowledgeable librarians at one’s beck and call and ready to assist at every moment. She added that the foods available to the students then would only be compared to what one could find in top class hotels today. The students were well cultured, took their studies very seriously while looking forward for a glorious future upon graduation. There was uninterrupted power and water supply. Everything was simply in abundance.

Sadly, Prof. Akunyili observed those glorious years are now behind us, in contrast to what obtains today. The era of qualitative university education seem to have been lost forever in the country.

Had the rulers done the right things, most of us hibernating outside the country would have stayed put at home. Yours truly would have given everything to remain in Nigeria, all things being equal or would not blink before relocating back to Nigeria, now that he's outside of it. The problem is that many of us have hibernated so long abroad and would find it hard to go back without concrete assurance that at least, one quarter of the basic amenities we're used to abroad, would be guaranteed at home.

Many of us have children born where there're constant electricity, regular and clean piped water, security of lives and property, so taking them to Nigeria where there're, in most cases, only hopelessness and despair, would be suicidal and relocating without our family would be the most excruciating/agonizing thing to do. Many of us would not last a month without our children.

The ruling class is happy seeing Nigerians leave in droves, while they embezzle/loot our commonwealth and stash same in local/foreign banks. Nigerians work themselves to almost death, walk thin lines, work round the clock to earn money which they remit home and which keeps the economy going. Nigerians in Diasporas remitted $10 billion in 2008, indicating a 10 per cent increase to amount remitted in 2007, says a World Bank report. The $10 billion inflow represents 4.7 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and puts Nigeria at number six among the top ten recipients of migrant remittances in the world. The report shows that despite the global economic meltdown which peaked in 2008, remittance to Nigeria by migrant workers have been increasing steadily in the past six years from $1.2 billion in 2002 to $9.98 in 2008. ThisDay Newspapers in its editorial of November 19, 2009 wrote:

“This should be good information to Nigerians to know how much contribution their loved ones abroad make to the national economy, in addition to the individual support they get. We are aware that this is counted by government as an important source of national revenue. In this case, the World Bank has established a transparency standard to monitor our sources of foreign exchange earnings.

Nonetheless, we need to address the issues that create the brain drain or skills flight that denude the target countries of these remittances of their well trained and educated citizens. They flee in large numbers or refuse to come home after qualification to contribute to the economic development of their countries.

Generally, remittances flow is from North to South in geographic terms, and in economic terms from the rich countries to the poor countries of the world. It is an imbalance which needs to be addressed.

What developing countries need are good infrastructure like roads, airports, highways that facilitate trade and commerce, schools with laboratories and universities with equipment and well-paid teachers that are motivated to impart knowledge and boost local human capital capacity development for economic growth.

They need hospitals to cater for their citizens’ health, electricity and industries that function at optimal capacity to provide jobs; goods and services for consumption at affordable prices. It is the absence of these facilities, and suitable opportunities in developing countries that make their citizens flee from their fatherland as it were to look for greener pastures from whence they send remittances to their lesser-endowed relatives at home. This is partly the reason qualified engineers and doctors stay abroad to work in degrading conditions. Also scary are the obvious squalor, insecurity of life and property that await them if they return home to work with their newly and hard-earned qualifications, skills or degrees. So, while countries like Nigeria celebrate large remittances of their citizens in Diaspora, there is need for them to consider the benefits they would have derived from engaging their good hands at home.

Additionally, as Chile did with its economists overseas, such countries should make it possible for their citizens with rare skills to return home to provide much-needed services. The World Bank should encourage such countries to improve living conditions at home and create an enabling environment for these professionals to practise their skills in contribution to their fatherland."

Without the money from those abroad to their families and friends, Nigeria would have been burning the more and the ruling class would have known what "the native doctor does with the rat's ears". Nigeria would have been "uninhabitable" for the criminals calling themselves the leaders. That's why the ruling class is happy to see as many Nigerians as possible leave, even if it means many of them dying in the desert or turning into food for the sharks and other sea mammals, in their bid to cross the Sahara desert or the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Every soul that must have perished in the desert, in the sea or anywhere else while in search of greener pastures somewhere else, demands justice and the bloods are on the head of those who kept Nigeria in the condition it's now.

But are the Nigerians abroad helping in sustaining the ruling class in power? Is the money we're sending to our families preventing the sacking of the corrupt ruling class or postponing the inevitable? Is it possible that without the remittance from Nigerians abroad, Nigeria would have changed for the better, because, the people would have had no other alternative other than to demand for the best from their leaders? Should we stop remitting money home as to force the hands of the people to demand for the best from the rulers or even get them sacked? What can we do?

While Nigerians are working like modern day slaves abroad remitting money home, the ruling class, their cronies and friends are busy stealing and stashing away our commonwealth in foreign lands and the Nigerian money stolen and stashed outside the country, helps in the growth of the economy of those foreign countries while Nigeria stagnates. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on May 21, 2009 confirmed that over £210 billion (convert it into dollars) has been looted in the country since 1960, with the late General Sani Abacha looting about $4 billion in four years. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), the impact of looting was enormous, as it drained currency reserves, reduced tax base, harmed competition, undermined free trade and increased poverty levels.

Someone wrote this:

"Umunna (My people),

Lately, almost everyone that I have talked to, lament about being homesick. They don't want to live in Obodo Oyibo anymore. They have seen Ulo Elu (upstairs), Ulo Ala (down stairs), Nwanyi Otele Ukwu (fat assed women), Mercedes Benz, and ihe ndi ozo (other things). They have paid their dues, and now feel trapped in Obodo Oyibo. They want to go home, but realized that politicians have ravaged Nigeria so much so, that living there is the same as rolling the dice before moving to Kabul.

They wouldn't mind a Rawlings-type solution to the present Nigeria and they would solidly support lining up all known politicians in Nigeria against the wall and shooting them dead. Even if Nigeria doesn't recover all of their stolen wealth, cleaning out the bastards will put Nigeria in a better stead from that point forward.

Frustration can bring up such sentiments in anybody. But bear in mind that it is these Obodo Oyibo guys that have saved Nigeria by serving in effect as its true government. They give their families the means to use in providing basic necessities, thus obviating that function from the government. The government in turn mistakes the people's docility for foolishness. Without the help from abroad, the people would have been at the politician's throat for a long time now.

The point is that these Obodo Oyibo guys, who came out in their 20s, now want to go home, but they can't, because of the failure of the politicians to use Nigeria's wealth to build up the country. So it looks like these guys would now have to go home, start from scratch and rebuild Nigeria, after going through such difficult process to gain a footing in Ala Bekee (white men's land). It is not fair".

To digress here: Because of what some Nigerians, including this writer, wrote about the killings and raping been perpetrated against some of the NYSC members, the government has decided to act. The government has mandated the Police to provide 24-hr security for corps members serving in various parts of the country. The Minister of Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, disclosed that President Umaru Yar’Adua summoned the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, and that the IGP had agreed that police would give corps members 24- hour protection in their lodge anywhere in the country. (Tribune November 23, 2009). So our criticisms of the government are yielding fruits somehow, no matter what some prejudiced critics write. If we don't shout, the government would do nothing. What we're writing is for the good of all. Don't criticise what you don't understand. Anybody who looses a son or whose daughter or sister is raped/killed, would start singing a different tune.

Finally, to add to the above point: This writer still stands by his points, ideas and opinions and would never budge, so critics of any of his articles are welcomed to write rejoinders. This writer is enjoying it all, because, "as a gold he does not fear furnace", also dirt thrown at a swan does not stain it, rather, it makes it to shine the more and iron does not fear the rain. The only thing this writer has taken here is silence and he hopes everybody knows the meaning of that.

This is for the writers whose passion is to criticise fellow writers: Article should be viewed wholly. There’re many points in every article, so it’s mischievous to lift only a point or few of them out of the whole points in an article and dwell on it/them while relegating others (points) to insignificance. Before anyone starts to criticise, let him re-read the said article and digest it well, because, it seems that many of these critics are having problem comprehending articles written in simple English, they tend to take everything out of context and to blow everything out of proportion. This writer knows that English language is not our mother tongue, but, let's make effort to understand what we have read before criticising the author of it. Nobody is afraid of criticisms, but, they should be unbiased. On the other hand, anybody who wants to criticise, should face the government. That’s what people (like this writer), who want to see a better Nigeria, do. We, the writers, express our opinions and do not kill with that, but the government kills through its actions and inactions, so the people in government are the ones who deserve criticisms and not harmless writers. Do not put out disjointed/jaundiced criticism/rejoinder on any article you did not understand well out of hatred, jealousy (envy) or ethnicity.

To sign off, here's something for the lighter mood of you:

If you want to be angry, watch Obasanjo talk;

If you want to be drowsy, listen to Yar’Adua speeches;

If you want to be bored, watch David Mark in the senate;

If you want to waste a whole day, attend Bankole's house probes;

If you want comedy, tune to Dora Akunyili's rebranding;

If you are allergic to lies, avoid Aondoakaa & Farida's anti-corruption crusade

If you are disgruntled, join El-Rufai & Ribadu's train

If you have kids learning English language, avoid Turai Yar'Adua.

(Courtesy: Balogun Sanyaolu Remi)

Now, this writer awaits the rejoinders to this his article.

THE THANXS IS ALL YOURS!!!

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