I was happy to see Katie Couric the other day, as she was joined by Nicholas Kristof to speak on the crisis in Nigeria, happy also to see the whole world pushing the conversation forward and calling and sustaining attention on the crisis. Thank you world.
Listening to the interview Katie had with the Nigerian Minister of Economic development, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, one could only come out with the impression that the government of Nigeria is living in a gilded city, oblivious of what is actually happening in the rest of the country. They talk of creating jobs with no mention of the education that will teach the skills for these jobs. The Nigerian government allowed the Nigerian Universities to wallow for six months on strike without resolving the problem that started the strike. When Mr. Goodluck Jonathan was elected as president, the university community rejoiced in the hope that the new president, a university don, will end the perennial problem of the universities with the government, but they were wrong, just as they were wrong in thinking that a young, educated and enlightened man like the new president, will pull the country out of the lethargy in which it wallowed since the independence.
It is often hard for someone living in Abuja not to believe that the rest of the country is not like Abuja. Unfortunately, Abuja is not the rest of Nigeria, it is not like the rest of Nigeria, may not even be in Nigeria. I told a friend who just returned to Nigeria after several years abroad, as he was purring over Abuja, the beauty of the place; and so on, that Abuja is actually in Dubai.
Before I left Lagos, recently, I do that often to clear my head or take a break from everything gone wrong in Nigeria, I told my friends, who saw me packed and ready to go, that I am always packed and ready to take the next flight out if I hear an inkling of trouble. The tension in the whole country was so intense at the time that one could actually cut it with a knife. At the time I spoke to my friend, the Boko Haram menace had not reached Abuja. Abuja is now their target.
So when our most highly respected Minister Jumps to the defense of the government, especially on how well the government is doing, I will beg to disagree. The government may believe that they are doing well but do they really know how their effort trickles down? I have seen contractors in Lagos patching roads instead of re-surfacing them, and sometimes using direct labor instead of hiring engineers…The public only sees these things as the way officials syphon money meant for development. Official always find ways of rationalizing and justifying their thievery. The pension funds suffer most from this style of thievery. The officials fix pension money for months even years in the banks, so as to profit from accruing interests. Thievery is thievery no matter by what name.