Nigerian Leaders and the Resource Curse

By Chike Orjiako


You know this popular joke about a Nigerian, an American and a Briton in a dialogue with the gods. The American and the Briton accused the gods of partiality especially with the excellent weather and all the natural resources he so wonderfully endowed Nigeria with. The gods looked at them, smiled wryly and then asked if they would want to switch places with Nigeria? They answered “not until you tell us why this apparent partiality”. Then the gods said, “Wait until you see the type of leaders I will give them”. Even though this is a joke, one can’t but wonder if there is a conspiracy by the gods to perpetually keep Nigeria as a potentially great nation. What with the vast cultural diversity, huge population, massive land mass and some of the rarest natural resources on earth, yet the country keeps wobbling like a spoilt child.

A country in a hurry to move to the next level will quickly embrace food security, excellent railroad and energy infrastructure as well as educate their youthful population. Nigeria prides itself as a very important nation in the world yet it can’t feed herself. Nigeria is the most populated black nation on earth yet she has no rail infrastructure to move her people and goods around in a cheaper manner. The money successive governments have squandered to bring back the relics of the out-dated single track railway system left behind by our colonial masters will surely build ten new ones in India and China yet we neither have a working single track nor a modern rail system.

While our leaders are chasing rat, we have in our hands, a human catastrophe of a monumental proportion about to happen. Just imagine for one moment the devastating effect of the uneducated, the half educated and the ill-educated millions of youths we keep churning out year-in year-out? Add that to the army of unemployed, partly employed and under employed youths that make up well over 60% of our adult population and the waste we have turned them into, you begin to appreciate the danger that lurks ahead. The youths’ are demanding and justifiably too; answers from those managing the affairs of the nation at every level, why they’ve chosen to mortgage their lives and future. They ask these questions daily through the social media, unprovoked violence and other deviant behaviours.

Take for instance, this application letter for employment written by some desperate applicant to a particular company: “Dear Sir, I refer to the recent death of the technician at your company and hereby apply for the replacement of the dead man. Each time I apply for employment, I get a reply that there is no vacancy but in this case, I have caught you red handed and you have no excuse because I attended the funeral to be sure that he was truly dead before applying. Attached to my letter is a copy of my CV and his obituary. Thank you”. The leaders instead of creating the environment that will guarantee jobs and reduce this type of social tension; continuously unleash the military on the youths to temporarily quell what is otherwise a legitimate social demand.

They are busy with a different struggle. The struggle of who steals more from the common till for the benefit of their own children who they have foolishly outsourced to foreign lands for basic training and education. However, I’ve got news for them; very unpalatable news at that. I need them to take a look at many of such kids so outsourced. Most ended up acquiring foreign cultures and values and in most instances ended up hating their parents whose burials they don’t even bother to attend any longer except to come see what they left in their wills for them. The properties they spent all their lives and energy accumulating are being auctioned through the internet by some of the kids that use the proceeds to fund their very expensive and damaging drug habits.

The leaders are hard at understanding; “that if democracy is really a game of numbers,” how then could a handful of rich kids sent to ivy-league schools around the world come back and rule millions of those they regard as hardened criminals, rapist, cultists, kidnappers and serial fraudsters being churned out from the local schools they deliberately rendered obsolete. How wrong could they be? Didn’t they hear birds of the same feather flock together? I have since come to the inescapable conclusion that we have in our midst some of the worst backward looking elites in the world. How else could one describe a bunch of fellows that go abroad to treat malaria, an ailment that is purely tropical in nature that needs one to be quarantined the moment it’s diagnosed abroad. It won’t be charitable to mention the names of so many former Ministers that have lost their lives trying to be evacuated abroad for minor road accidents on the roads they refused to build and hospitals they failed to equip.

That brings me to the major focus of this intervention: resource curse! Just a few days ago the revenue sharing formula became a hot item once more when the CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who seems to be combining well as CBN Governor and the authentic official spokesperson for Boko Haram, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu and the Northern Governors, that denounced what they called unfair revenue sharing by the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee {FAAC}. The summary of their statement is that the North has remained under-developed because of this ensuing injustice. They concluded that Boko Haram arose as a result of this imbalance. It is not difficult to fault this position but first, why do we have FAAC? Is there a direct correlation between a malfunctioning Nigerian state and this nebulous FAAC? If Mrs Clinton {a United States Foreign Secretary}for instance were to read this in Washington DC, wouldn’t she infer that the South is rich and the North poor because of this so called sharing formula?

Truth be told, is there any part of Nigeria that qualifies to be termed comfortable not to talk of rich? Palpable poverty borne more out of laziness and total absence of strategic thinking because of oil and corruption have been with us for long. To be sure, some states are obviously poorer than others but comparative poverty analysis to me, is an exercise in futility. A poor Northerner accusing a fellow poor Southerner of being rich is totally absurd. However, don’t be deceived by the ranting of this privileged class from the North. They are smarter than they appear. The truth is that the chickens are finally coming home to roost. The Northern youths are tired of the listless life their leaders condemned them into. They are asking uncomfortable questions in a very unusual style. Armed with Ak.47 in one hand and a bomb in another, they are demanding accounts of what their leaders did with all the powers they invested on themselves all these years. The flip side is the collateral damage inherent therein.

The leaders fearing class suicide are trying to shift attention as usual by erecting the imaginary North and South dichotomy. It’s an old trick. It had worked in the past but no one is sure it would work in this age of twitter and Facebook which the leaders are totally oblivious of. Am still trying to locate the time Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and El-Rufai; both arch conservative capitalist converted to “Talakawa”? I suspect for Sanusi, the conversion period could possibly not stretch beyond the recent fuel crises when some Northern youths went to burn his house in Kano. For El-Rufai, instead of a juicy appointment after a vigorous campaign from abroad to install Jonathan as acting President during Yar’Adua’s Saudi drama got thrown into detention to give account of his stewardship as minister of Abuja. This may have triggered his conversion. Smart guy, in other not to be left out totally in political relevance, took over the intellectual arm of “Talakawaism” and to his credit, has done well in articulating and dishing out warped data that sometimes, only he understands.

Second and most importantly, the shout for resource enhancement by Northern governors is purely a pre-emptive measure to counter the tension of resource control being championed by the Niger-Delta leaders. It is a psychological warfare meant to draw parallels between the Northern poor and a purported unfair southern rich asking for more. For them, it is expedient to drown the call by southern radicals for Sovereign National Conference. They fear that the orchestrated crises of Boko Haram may persist and force the Presidency to succumb for the kind of Obasanjo’s 2005 National Conference; that granted 25% to oil producing states before they ignorantly walked away in protest without alternative plan, thereby enhancing the Northern leaders position that the statuesque of 13% should subsist.

Who on earth doesn’t know that the greatest asset of a nation are her human capital? It is fraudulent to resort to cheap blackmail of oil revenue when confronted with our parlous state of affairs as excuse for our poor showing. It is important to drum it into the heads of these raiders that the best wealth is buried in the skulls of humans and not the bowels of the earth? Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States are some of the oil states. Are they rich? A visit to Abia, an oil producing state that collects 13% oil revenue will convince you that the difference between Theodore Oji and Babangida Aliyu is perhaps their names. While at it, please visit Aba, a promising industrial zone and see what clueless leadership has turned it into?

The North given her massive agrarian land mass and population remains the richest in the country if only their leaders could work hard to translate the massive investment in dams, irrigations and silos into concrete investment vehicles. The respective states need to invest the necessary capital to turn the huge population into human capitals instead human chattels. It is really unfortunate that our greatest asset {youthful population}has turned out our worst burden. My fear for the country is not the often touted disintegration that’s neither here nor there but the danger posed by our own children that we have collectively ignored and eaten their tomorrow’s lunch.

Finally, we should dismantle the all-powerful but ineffective centre and devolve power to the states to enable them grow at their pace and practice their religion and culture as they wish. This will forestall further sectarian crises and guarantee a more robust communal living.


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