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If Lee Kuan Yew was a Nigerian

If Lee Kuan Yew was a Nigerian
July 05
18:22 2022

Nigerians like to quote Lee Kuan Yew and the successes of Singapore ad nauseum. No seminar or campaign speech is complete with quotes from the gentleman. Every Nigerian loves to brag about having read his fat book, ‘From Third World to First’. And the more cerebral ones will tell of his references to Nigeria in 1961 as a nation that was unlikely to head anywhere due to the choices we made – especially waste and corruption. Kuan Yew also spoke about Ghana and the fact that many of those who went to Europe from Black Africa in those days studied things like Classics or the History of colonialists.

Mr Yew felt we should have been more spot-on in studying and practising subjects that would hasten our development. And he was not very popular in his time. He was at best a benevolent dictator. He held Singapore in a vice grip until they ‘received sense’ as we say here. He had a vision and rallied – even clobbered his people to sign on or ‘bugger off’. Some of his kinsmen reported him to the Western countries but for some reason, he wasn’t engineered out as some like him were. Yew was on the streets showing examples of how clean he wanted his tiny nation to be. Singapore, the small fishing village that was excised from Malaysia, was derided as a society that could never make it. Eventually, through this focused, unrelenting leadership, one man showed the way, with help from a very small team of patriots.

General Hsieng Park down the road in South Korea, came along a little later through a military couple, but no less a strong vision. I understand that once he seized power, he first hauled many of Korea’s business moguls into jail for a few weeks, just so they know who’s the boss. Upon their release, he commandeered these entrepreneurs to go find what makes the western countries tick and ensure that their companies grew and could compete. He found the odd idea called crony capitalism, by which a few of these same entrepreneurs were supported by the Korean state and even diplomatically pushed abroad. They are called the Chaebols. That is how LG, Daewoo, Hyundai, Samsung, Kia, Ssanyong and others were born.

He would later be overthrown and hauled into jail himself. Many say he was not a good man; he was a control freak. But South Korea should thank their stars that someone like that came along for them; for they would have remained a raw rice exporting nation. Their economy, which was at par with ours in 1960, would have just been like ours today, not 15 times richer ($2,100 per capita income in Nigeria versus $31,000 in S. Korea).

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I have never been to South Korea before, but Singapore, I have. Upfront, I didn’t like their food. It was too watery. So, one day I decided to hustle to some Nigerian restaurant I was told was around the corner. I missed my way and got lost. For some reason, my enemies followed me to Singapore and though I had heard that Lee Kuan Yew, who died in 2010 hated and banned chewing gum, I took some gum to Singapore and decided to pop one to keep my breath fresh after waiting to catch a cab back to my hotel. I noticed that the taxis shied away from picking up black men and when I eventually found one, after a minute he turned to look at me and asked ‘you wearing mint cologne’? I stopped chewing immediately after the question. I know that he was entitled to drive me to a police station for chewing gum. Prime Minister Lee got involved very deeply even in personal issues about how Singaporeans should conduct themselves. He was very clear about how they should look, the professions they should get into majorly that could help their society and economy, how they should dress, speak to their neighbours, treat public property, and spend their time productively. The Singapore Metro which I entered in 2013 was spick and span even though it had been launched decades earlier. No graffiti or scratching in the cabins, like in Euro-American. Like the Dubai Metro, there was no eating or drinking on the metro. Absolutely no stupidity or yobbery or placing your shoes on the chair. No nonsense.

But in Nigeria – a country which was noticed not to be heading anywhere in 1961 and which has rather gone into reverse by 2022 – even those who quote Lee Kuan Yew are not ready for the hard work, focus, sacrifice, perseverance, focus, productivity, cooperation, moderation, vision, self-control, patriotism, nationalism, courage that is required to get the heart of Nigeria to start beating again. Let’s even forget about excelling for now. Nigeria lay prostrate and trampled by all of us and all we want to do is point fingers. Nigeria’s situation is all of our work. Leaders, politicians and civil servants wantonly, recklessly, and carelessly load every contract because they have been inflicted with the insanity that turns the process of public management into a huge joke. People manning our airports and seaports and land borders believe their roles are to extract money from every foreigner and local alike to build their cursed stack with which they build ugly houses.

I recently learnt of a dead ‘perm sec’ whose children found over N1billion caked-up bad money in his room. He just kept stashing what he could never spend. Those who are not in a position to steal – according to a theory by Pini Jason – increase the din of their complaint in proportion to how far away they are from the stealing. Give them an opportunity and absolutely will change. Why? Because psychology is the same. It is the same Nigerians we are talking about – desperate, vain, unpatriotic, tribal, religiously bigoted, short-sighted, of below-average intelligent quotient in the comity of nations, and most likely of zero emotional intelligence. No apologies.

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And so, we line up daily struggling hard to destroy our nation. People from other countries are looking at us in disbelief as we destroy a perfect country. Because we don’t read any history – ours and others – we carry around in our oversized cranium, fantastic stories which are so utopian it is laughable. No matter how many times we are reminded that every… I mean every nation on earth was formed by internal or external conquerors or manipulators, we just don’t wanna hear. We repeat so often that something is wrong with this nation, that it is now obvious to all that it is we that have something wrong with us. Our youths daily do everything to wreck the country through their many actions and what they put out on social media which their peers in other countries read. They don’t know that they put themselves down and lose respect and business in a globalized world. There are many platforms where Nigerians have been banned, where Nigerian IPs (Internet Protocols), have been permanently blocked. In many nations, we have been excluded from visas. It is beyond sad. But what can I do but write and lament about this?

My heart bleeds. I weep inside me at the situation we have found ourselves in. I blame leaders, but I remember that today’s leaders were just followers yesterday. And we don’t have enough patience and intelligence to navigate this problem. Everything points to a time of great conflict coming right up ahead. The economic depression that will soon hit us will throw the whole nation out of kilter. But we must know that only cowards, lazy bums, and unthinking fools choose the path of violence rather than sensibility. Those who will sell ammunition to us are right around the corner.

I should have known. When Buhari clocked 100 days in office, I had cause to take issue with one article written by his media adviser, Garba Shehu, in which he extolled his boss, and very foolishly said his Buhari was better than Lee Kuan Yew and Narendra Modi put together. It was the age of foolishness and unfounded cockiness. I don’t think the Buhari government spent one day without taking very foolish decisions. Look at us today, dear Nigerians?

These issues were on my mind when I ran into a Facebook posting of Femi Otedola’s first daughter, DJ Cuppy, traipsing cheaply in one carnival where she DJ’ed in the UK. I knew she announced several years ago that she was a DJ by profession. I had really never seen her do her DJ thing, but when I saw what it was all about, I was sincerely disgusted. I commented that well, she may continue doing what she liked, but she needs to get another – or perhaps an additional – job. I hate to see waste. I hate to see laziness where there could be great productivity. I am always busy myself, writing articles for four newspapers every week while running my four or five organizations, running about everywhere to get the accounts to balance. I’m not successful in all instances, but by God, I give things a great shot. I saw Cuppy like my own daughter and my comment was a piece of sincere advice.

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Not all of us will do hard work, but a lot more of us Nigerians should be doing serious, visible, productive and hard work where we can find one. And people should consider taking on more than one vocation because we need to move this country forward and grow in double digits just to save ourselves from impending perdition. It will sound hollow on the day that trouble comes, for youths to say well, the older folks killed the country. We all have a chance to save the nation through our daily, hourly contributions. All great nations have evolved in this manner. Many of our folks who travelled abroad are combining two or three jobs because there’s no space for idleness or what some call ‘smart work’ here.

I recently attended a seminar where young Nigerians talk about the age of ‘networking’ where people make billions without producing or anything. I looked in pity as hundreds of hungry-looking Nigerians were regaled with how some small boy in America was richer than Dangote who produced so many things. I swore if I ever get into government, I must find ways of harvesting these millions of minds away from those who are confusing them daily. Here we are, training our upper-class children with hard-to-find dollars only to watch them fart around with their lives. It cannot be sensible, or fair. Many of the children of our top and most intelligent people are pining away in non-productivity in a world where people have gained so much unbelievable capacity.

My advice to Cuppy remains. She should please work harder on herself. Get fitter. Don’t go in a direction from which you’ll find it hard to retrieve yourself one day in the future. The DJ business is also very tricky as you have to be a nightcrawler, and always be around funny characters. Drugs, alcohol and sex are standard fares. I believe she is strong enough but even the strongest do slip and fall. Best to avoid a constant barrage of temptations. Should I apologize ahead to those who may not agree? And by the way, it is not about who makes money. It’s about value-add and genuine impact on their nation.

A nation in need of modern-day philosophers

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People like Kuan Yew, General Park, our own Awolowo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa, including a few all-time greats like Fela Kuti, were philosophers in their time. Philosophers get involved in shaping society based on principles. The world has made all these advances because of the roles of philosophers. Imagine all the things we enjoy today, products of innovation and deep thinking. They exist because philosophers insisted that it was important to dare the odds, to dare nature and push boundaries.

If we think we will continue to enjoy all those things without contributing our quota and getting serious, we will continue to suffer, and our children unborn will suffer too, in fact unto our own destruction and extinction. This is not about God forbid! It is what it is. We are not showing that we understand how the world works at all. We probably believe that we can chance our ways through. We will be punished even more than we have been punished already. And we will continue to be profiled as people who cannot do anything else but run, dance, sing, party and enjoy.

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Are we really here to be entertainers to the world? Musicians? Dancers? Comedians? Entertainers? Event planners? Owambe organizers? The jolly people of the world who do not produce the shirts on their backs or even the food that they eat? When will anybody ever take us serious abroad when all we show prowess in are these naturally-occurring phenomena? Even in the sports that we used to do well, we dropped off the radar due to idiotic corruption and an inability to do anything right for any period of time. And the entertainment that we say we are good at, very little, if anything, of the proceeds come back to our country; they remain abroad. One musician said recently that he doesn’t care if Nigeria is destroyed because he owns two houses in America. He forgets that if he lived in America, he will be looked down upon, he and his assets. Nigeria – our country – is the only place where we can contribute to current affairs and be regarded as something from whichever slum we live in; where our voices are taken seriously. We are kings and queens here but we are trying to wreck our palace.

We have to be worried that we are not producing much in tangible terms. We import our food, our technology and every machine from abroad. We are even unsearchable in terms of serious intellectual contributions. We have loads of PhD holders but most of them cannot be referenced on any subject. What I think we should be doing is work, work, work… for our unborn children. There is a time for hard, back-breaking, unrelenting work. This is the time for us. We need to be planting the trees under which shade our children will bask. We cannot sing and dance and joke our ways to greatness.

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If Lee Kuan Yew was a Nigerian, I’m sure this is what he will teach us. It’s blindingly obvious. And he will break a few heads while at it. We need a national ethos of productivity and a sense of urgency. We are merely drifting as it is. The western world says their own problem is same-sex marriage and transsexualism and we too carry the same issue on our heads like pure water hawkers. Can’t we think for ourselves? How come we cannot define our own priorities? What sort of underdeveloped brains do we parade around? And when it comes to showing off with things we cannot produce, we are upfront there, buying, acquiring, stocking, wasting, showing off, while the world laughs at us.

The very scary thing is that the rest of the world continues to power on in innovation and productivity – in ways we cannot imagine as they don’t show us everything. They almost pulled the rug off our feet and rendered us totally stranded around that COVID-19 era. If that disease had caught on here, they wouldn’t have cared if all of us died in piles upon ourselves. They will just come here and stack us into mass graves and take over the super-fertile land, while our corpses add even more manure.

There is a war going on out there – a war of productivity and economic sustainability. And what we have as our army is weak. Too weak.

I think we should spend a moment to think hard about the choices we face as a society lest we drift into Hades. The last 13 years have been about drift. The last seven have been a great disappointment and let-down. We have no slack again at all. Our leaders should develop some grit and live by example. There is a video of his circulating on social media presently where Lee Kuan Yew said if they didn’t make some decisions that bordered on people’s personal choices, they wouldn’t have achieved anything. We must be bothered with personal choices which aggregate to national choices if we must save ourselves. This is a memo to the next Nigerian government.



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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