Sonala Olumhense: Nigeria – How do we speak with one voice?

by Sonala Olumhense

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Mrs. Oduah?  Her legacy is not of service but of corruption and scandal, including status-forgery, for she was the one who smuggled herself into a Ministerial chair wielding an American degree she never earned. 

Nigeria’s Super Eagles, bless them, start their World Cup finals campaign in Brazil tomorrow with a match against Iran.  Many of them will be thinking about the turmoil at home.

I expect Nigeria to do well at this competition, but until Nigerians begin to speak with one voice, it is difficult to see our team bringing home trophies of this calibre.  That voice must be able to say, “Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria” rather than “Me, Me, Me.”

How do we speak with one voice?

The first concern is that of priorities. What is David Mark, the Senate President, doing in Brazil this week?  An immensely wealthy man, he could have paid for a private visit, but he is there allegedly as head of our “official delegation.”

Translation: he is there to use state power and resources to enjoy Brazil as head of a delegation that ought to have been led by the Minister for Sports.  It is Nigeria speaking with several discordant voices.

Mr. Mark ought to be in Abuja, working with the desperate, discordant and disingenuous government of which he is a part, to resolve Nigeria’s insecurity. I do not see what knowledge of the rules of the Senate has to do with Stephen Keshi’s tactics or Victor Moses’ dribbling.

Instead, he will pick up over $9000 in travel allowances in just one week; $18,200 if he is there for two weeks.

How do we speak with one voice?

As I write this column, President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to congratulate the new Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.  Worse still, the police was reported in the middle of last week to be trying to arrest the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He had embarrassed the government in February by revealing $20 billion in missing official funds.

The government had said it was authorizing a “forensic” investigation of Mr. Sanusi’s allegation, but nothing has come of that effort.  Instead, the investigations at the Senate have reportedly being compromised.

How do we speak with one voice?

Stella Oduah, Nigeria’s Aviation Minister who was fired months ago after she had been indicted on corruption charges, is currently being celebrated by elements of Nigerian society.  First, Ndigbo Lagos gave her an award of excellence, and then last week she was honoured with a chieftaincy title by her people in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra state.  The citation: “outstanding service to Nigeria.”

It is a measure of Nigeria in various voices and a reminder of why Nigeria does not work.  Rather than reject mediocrity and corruption, rather than say, as did our ancestors, “You disgraced us; you have soiled our name,” Nigerians embrace and celebrate the soiled and the sorry who have by their conduct made Nigeria the laughing stock of the world.

Mrs. Oduah?  Her legacy is not of service but of corruption and scandal, including status-forgery, for she was the one who smuggled herself into a Ministerial chair wielding an American degree she never earned.

Also last week, President Goodluck Jonathan nominated for Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Diezani Alison-Madueke, the same Minister of Petroleum Resources who hops from one malfeasance to another.

Mercifully, but to our embarrassment, OPEC turned Alison-Madueke down.

How do we speak with one voice?  Let me turn to the United States Marines Threat Assessment 2015, and outline a few of the remarks made about Nigeria.

“Blessed with fertile soil, an abundance of oil, and a huge, energetic, talented population, Nigeria should be a picture of Africa’s success. Instead it is one of the poorer countries and teeters on the edge of ethnic and religious conflict while the state plunders resources completely unchecked.

“Oil supports and destroys Nigeria…Through economic mismanagement, graft, and theft, this vast fortune has been squandered…

“Nigerians are, on average, poorer today than when oil was discovered. The effects of oil money and poor governance have undermined domestic industries, making Nigeria almost completely (95 percent) dependent on oil…

“Nigerian society is complex with ethnic, religious, and political groups competing for wealth, land, and power. The country is home to at least 250 ethnic groups, many of whom clash regularly. Getting rich however, is a uniting goal…

“Firms wanting to set up in Nigeria must bring their own infrastructure…The country will continue to gradually deteriorate from within. As the state decays, Islamic extremism will gain more of a foothold…”

Pro-Jonathan Nigerians desperate to maintain the fiasco that is his version of government will probably denounce that United States report as having been sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (APC).  These days, anything that unveils the Nigerian rot, such as the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, is attacked as APC-sponsored.

As part of that last week, former World Bank chief Oby Ezekwesili, who found the heart to leave the peace and comfort of her home to join the campaign on the streets of Abuja, was being called such names by the presidency.

Conveniently, it was forgotten that as an invited speaker, Ms. Ezekwesili gave a devastating keynote address at the APC National Summit last March which hit as hard at the APC as it did the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Why?  She had done the unheard-of: a robust speech on the fundamental issues before the country; a speech that was not coloured in flattering APC colours let alone anyone else’s.

Among others, she asked: “Is it not time for all of our political leaders to pay that utmost sacrifice of leadership – lay down their personal gain for the good of the people they wish to lead?  Leadership is not the office, the title, the authority, the mansion one occupies. Leadership is the sacrifice offered that others may thrive.”

APC, like the PDP, was expecting no such candor, having perhaps thought it was doing her a favour by the invitation.  It never even sent a thank-you note to the speaker afterwards.  Lesson: Nigerian politicians resent discussion of principle, character or responsibility.

I barely know Mrs. Ezekwesili, but clearly, her advocacy is symbolic of this moment.  It is a moment in which we each must determine what the value of our existence really is.

Those who place political power over what is right are trying to demonize her and bury her reputation, unwisely forgetting that the more they assault integrity in public, the more they expose their shallowness and ruthlessness.

All Ms. Ezekwesili has said is what I assume any patriotic human being would have said: Find the missing Chibok girls and return them to their families unharmed.

It is not complicated unless you have something to hide.  In that case, Chibok, #BringBackOurGirls, #AmericaWillKnow are now codes for the end game.

Actually, the only reason why the government behaves with such irrationality —-is that most Nigerians in Abuja have chosen to stay at home in the past two months than join the protest, at least once.

But that day will come because the planting and the harvest season are now the same.  There is no way of sowing—let alone reaping—political credibility on a graveyard of 200 girls betrayed by their country.

 

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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