by Cheta Nwanze
Truth is this, dialogue, truthfully and honestly, amongst ourselves, is what will solve our country’s problems.
“Quid est veritas?” — Pontious Pilate
For too long a lot of people in the space that constitutes Southern Nigeria have believed that there is a “Northern Agenda for domination”, and a plan to “dip the Holy Koran into the Atlantic”. However, yesterday, Amirul Mumineen Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III did a lot to turn that perception on its head. “Let us sit and talk freely and articulate positions that will bring us out of the quagmire we put ourselves,” the Sultan said, before proceeding to speak a lot of truth, something that has sorely been lacking in the Nigerian public space for a very long time. Truth is this, like the rest of Nigeria, the problems of the northern part of our country are largely self inflicted. Truth is this, no one can make Nigeria into a mono-religious country, so it is time we adopt the secularism our Constitution calls for in spirit and in truth. Truth is this, dialogue, truthfully and honestly, amongst ourselves, is what will solve our country’s problems. Truth is this, if there is a God up there, yesterday He spoke through the Sultan, and like Pontious Pilate said all those millennia ago, “Ego nullam invenio in eo causam.”
Another, not very palatable truth, is that my country, your country, is a poor country. Yes, we are so poor that apparently it would take us 70 years to repay the sum of US$42 billions. A sum that three human beings, Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet would each take out of their back pockets and put on the table without feeling too bad. Our national budget for 2013 is roughly the equivalent of US$32 billions! Want another context? The 50th largest company in the world by revenue, is a company called Cardinal Health which employs 30,000 people and in 2010 had a revenue of US$98 billions. Shame on all 170 millions of us.
But then maybe the reason why Nigeria is as messed up as it is is because we have no sense of shame. Thus it is that despite our national squalor, we have somehow found time to become shoppers extraordinaire, gracing Oxford Street with our presence and giving the Chinese who are actually productive, a run for their money, with money that we don’t have. Yes, the typical Nigerian habit of living for the moment is in full display here, as well as our national taste for all things foreign. This puts in context the fact that the people whom we drove away from our shores exactly 30 years ago next month now have the fourth most desirable place to visit in 2013.
But then, what is all that to Big Brother Nigeria? Despite all of our own home-grown problems which we’ve been unable to sort (Boko Haram, Niger Delta youths, OPC and brigands in the East), we are going to export soldiers to Mali to sort their problems for them. “Our technical team are already in Mali. So definitely the Nigeria troops will be in Mali before next week,” the Prez told some foreign journalists as an assortment of Nigerian troops reached for their English-French dictionaries to check the translation to the phrase, “Anything for the boys”.
“Anything for the boys”, the eternal question is what was asked of the NNPC apparently before they high-tailed it into the debt market to sell some of the future oil produce for a period of time we don’t know yet. You see, the NNPC had made it a habit to owe oil traders, who tend not to be very nice people. One of the creditors, Acardia, is depending on whom you listen to, silently owned by a certain Uncle Vladimir who nowadays gives his address as Kremlin, Moscow. Of course, if I am owing such a person some money, I will gladly be raising the sum, and interest, in any way I can. What remains interesting about this story is this: if the NNPC, with a record of not honouring its debts, is to borrow US$1.5 billions, at an interest rate of 3.75% for x years, with 15,000 barrels of oil a day as collateral, how soon before the new creditors simply waltz in and seize all of the oil?
Bits and bobs
The First Lady has gone off to Germany again for “a routine check up”. We are wondering where the other person who went on vacation will show up. Sullivan, anyi ne che ngi…
It would appear that unlike their brother in Aso Rock, other Bayelsans take the rotation of power very seriously. For failing to honour an agreement to rotate the chairmanship of Korokorosei Community Development Committee, the speaker of the Bayelsa state House of Assembly, Konbowei Benson’s mother has been, err, asked to leave her home. She is 78 years old.
Even with the racket about his gift of Nokia 3310s to 10 million farmers, the Minister of Agric has vowed to press on with the scheme. “I will not be distracted. We will rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria’s agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities for our farmers. For those calling for my crucifixion, let me say that when Jesus was before Pilate, they had accused him falsely,” Dr. Adesina screeched. To which Pilate replied, “Ego nullam invenio in eo causam.”
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