Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Nigeria sees no muscle to flex

Nigeria sees no muscle to flex
September 07
17:44 2019

Emotions have been rising hot since the news of the latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa broke. Social media has been agog with posts about the ugly development and the responses from angry Nigerians some of whom were out on the streets to target South African investments in Nigeria. One of the most emotional posts made by any Nigerian on the imbroglio was by a certain Josh whose twitter handle is @BeardlessJosh.  Reacting to the looting of the Shoprite Mall in Lekki, Lagos State Josh said: “We in Ilorin cannot even nurse the idea of looting the Shoprite here. It’s like a shrine. We worship it like a god. After vandalizing it, where would we be taking pictures?”

The writer of that post succinctly captures the true situation of the dilemma of the Nigerian government and people in responding to the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa. He also used that thirty two words’ tweet to indirectly shed light on the reason Nigerian youths are scattered all over the world in search of opportunities and livable communities which are as scarce in Nigeria as water in the desert.

Ilorin is the capital of Kwara state one of the oldest states in Nigeria. Kwara state was created on the 27th of May 1967 when Yakubu Gowon decided to split the four regions that constituted the then Nigeria into 12 states. The state is 52 years old and as Beardless Josh truthfully revealed, the only beautiful environment that looks like Europe or America in the whole of Kwara State is Shoprite, a South African shopping Mall that a certain Nigerian political billionaire brought to Nigeria about a decade ago. May God bless the soul of that man who brought Shoprite to Nigeria. That singular act of his might turn out as enough to cleanse him of all his sins in the years to come. But for him, many of Nigeria’s over seventy five million youths would never have set their foot on a beautiful compound that looks like civilization in their whole life. Shoprite is the London, New York, Paris, Mecca and Jerusalem of many Nigerians. If our leaders keep our pace of development at this current level, Shoprite will be best memory of many Nigerians till they will die. By the way, if Shoprite is the best thing in the eyes of the ordinary people in 52 years old Kwara State, you might as well guess where youth in states that have no Shoprite go during festive periods to have a glimpse of civilization and to take pictures.

It is not only Beardless Josh and the people of Ilorin that adore Shoprite. I adore them too. Even though I have been privileged to visit the 7 stories underground shopping mall in Moscow and other iconic shopping malls across the world that makes ShopRite looks like child’s play, it was ShopRite that destroyed the shopping exclusivity of the rich in Nigeria and provided a place where the poor masses can troop to and enjoy unforgettable shopping experience that affords them the luxury of rubbing shoulders with Nigeria’s pompous rich and arrogant money miss road millionaires.

I adore Shoprite because it afforded me the opportunity to use its facilities to communicate my message to my campaign team while I was campaigning for the 2019 Senate election in FCT. It was the only accessible place I can readily use to achieve this.  I had informed my campaign team that if we win that Senate election, the first bill I wanted to Sponsor is the Minimum Standard Bill. To explain the necessity of the bill to my campaign team managers, I took all of them to Shoprite in Lugbe. “This is how the poorest part of Europe and America looks like” I told them. “This is a foreign company that a Nigerian brought to our country. The Nigerian owner of the ShopRite franchise was given specifications regarding how every bit of the premises must look like. The franchisee abided by the specifications to the letter. Can you see how everything is built to quality? Can you see how everywhere is neat and well maintained? Can you see how everywhere looks beautiful? Why can’t our government offices look like Shoprite? Why can’t our primary and secondary schools look like Shoprite? Why can’t our roads our roads look like the roads within Shoprite Premises. This is the minimum standard for the FCT and the Nigeria of my dream. This is why I obeyed the leading to run for Senate. I will use the office to inspire and push the Minister and the bureaucracy that seem not to know their left hand from their right in the task of building for Nigeria a truly modern city that will be the pride of all Nigerians.” I told them.  From that day forward, they all understood clearly what development means and how aggressively we must work to move Nigeria forward. That was the motivation that made us to do well in the election even when we have only meager resources to campaign.

Beardless Josh’s tweet confirms the fact that fifty nine years after independence, most Nigerians have never seen or tasted development.  Our cities have no plan, no roads, no water, no light, no progress, and no development. Our country is ugly and stressful. Our lives are brutish and short. Our progress is perpetually on reverse gear. Most of our leaders behave like people with eyes that don’t see, minds that don’t think and heads that can’t envision anything good. We literally live in hell as a people and there is no serious sign that things will improve any time soon. It is the desire to break away from these depressing experiences that pushes most Nigerians in search of greener pastures elsewhere. Unfortunately as they do, the mindset and the culture that made development impossible in Nigeria follow many of them wherever they went and cause them to portray the home they came from in bad light.

There are two categories of Nigerians you will see wherever you go in the world. This of course reflects what we have here at home. The first is the category of our exceptional professionals and students. Many of them shine daily like the northern stars wherever you find them and become the envy of their host communities and pride to our flag.

The second category is the NNCF – Nigeria Negative Citizens forum. These folks have no love for the country and her image. They loaf around, sell drugs, form gangs, do credit card frauds, engage in yahoo yahoo, do crime, participate in ritualistic practices and do many other unthinkable things in pursuit of money. They provoke their hosts and infuriate them with their loud and lavish lifestyle and shady businesses. They portray Nigeria in the bad light the same way our corrupt and selfish leaders make Nigeria a laughing stock. They rubbish the name Nigeria without remorse and joyfully fly our flags every October 1 to show their pride as Nigerians. Since 7 out of every 10 African abroad are Nigerians, our African brothers who see the way of life of these bad eggs of Nigeria thought it good to call themself Nigerians anytime they are arrested for running fowl of the law. That was how Nigeria became the dog everyone calls a bad name to hang it across the world.

The population of Nigerians doing bad things in foreign lands is very minute compared with the population of Nigerians excelling in their career and doing great things in their host communities. Sadly, evil stings more than good.  Just a pint of urine is more than enough to waste the most expensive wine and make no one interested in drinking it. The bad eggs of Nigeria are ruining the great work of the hard working majority at home and around the world every day. This is where we must all rise up and become the change for Nigeria.

On the issue of muscles, the sage Chief Obafemi  Awolowo said “the influence which a nation exerts, the respect which it enjoys, and the prestige accorded to it on the world scene, depend on two important factors: the size of its wealth and the caliber of its leadership.” The size of a nation’s wealth and the caliber of its leadership are like chicken and the egg. The size of Nigeria’s wealth is huge, but the caliber of its leadership has been the weak link in using the huge wealth to build a truly great nation that has strong muscles to flex and immense influence to wield in the committee of nations.

The latest xenophobic attacks suddenly sent Nigerians back to memory lane about all we did to support our brothers in South Africa during the infamous apartheid years. We have suddenly remembered how we spent over 60 billion dollars to pursue freedom and independence for the rainbow nation. What we seem not to have remembered however is the need to ask ourselves the very salient question that while we were doing for South Africa all we did for them, what were our leaders doing when the apartheid government was busy building word class infrastructure and cities in the country. South Africa has more than eight cities that compare with most developed cities in the world. That is why our over 27,000 citizens in South Africa went there in search of greener pastures. Nigeria has South African Airlines, what do we have? We are grateful to the management of Peace Air for volunteering to go and bring our people from South Africa, but which city are we bringing them to that can compare with where we are bringing them from? Which work are they coming here to do when nearly sixteen million graduates at home are unemployed and several millions are under-employed? Which bank in Nigeria will give them loan to start all over again here and at what interest rate will they secure the loan?

Nigeria has no muscle to flex against South Africa because Nigeria is like raw food not cooked, a nation not built and greatness not harnessed.  As a result of this, our options of responding to South African government if they do not act the way we expected are extremely few. Our government’s response so far has shown they know we have no muscles to flex. Whether it will provoke them to see the need to provide truly transformational leadership to recover our lost glory and grounds remain to be seen.

There are two principal ways Nigeria could have registered her displeasure with what happened to our people in South Africa. The first is economically and the second is politically.

1. Economic Response.

Nigeria could have retaliated by shutting down South African businesses in Nigeria. Our government knew that would be a wrong thing to do. South Africa has a huge edge over us here because most services being offered by South Africans in Nigeria have become like fish bone in our neck. Let’s analyse them here.

MTN. MTN is Nigeria’s largest mobile telecom company. Before it listed in the Stock Exchange in Nigeria, Dangote was the only elephant in the room. MTN came to the capital market and is now running neck on neck with Dangote Industries. If we shut down MTN over 1million Nigerian direct and indirect jobs will be lost. Over 30 million Nigerians using MTN lines as their primary contact like me will be affected. More than this, MTN’s listing in the Stock exchange actually means that the ownership of MTN has been diluted and many Nigerians – both corporates and individuals – are now MTN shareholders.

DSTV. DSTV has become a behemoth in Nigeria that we cannot get rid of easily. Can Nigerians boycott DSTV? Your guess is as right as mine. If we close it down, millions of Nigeria jobs and small businesses will be affected adversely. The best competitor DSTV ever had been HITV, a wholly Nigerian outfit. It died within five years because of the Nigerian factor. To say DSTV is not a big deal therefore is to showcase ignorance about the Nigerian investment and business environment.

SHOPRITE. Shoprite has employed thousands of Nigerians. Shoprite is not the owner of any of the malls in which it is hosted. Those trying to burn Shoprite branches don’t know that all the buildings belong to Nigerians. APC Chairman Adams Oshiomole wants Nigeria to react by nationalizing all South African businesses in Nigeria. What happened to the ones we nationalized in 1976? If we are that good in running businesses why did none of our political millionaires establish their own Shoprite before now?

STANBIC BANK. Stanbic merged with IBTC to become the Stanbic Bank we know in Nigeria today, so Stanbic Bank is not totally a South African business again.

Other South African businesses in Nigeria are financial technology companies, telecom service providers and other blue collar companies.

Every Nigerian employed by South Africa companies in Nigeria has someone else they are supporting. Fighting South Africa economically will affect close to 10 million Nigerians directly or indirectly financially.

On the other hand, most of Nigeria businesses in South Africa are not as deep-rooted and tangled with the overall economy of South Africa as South African businesses in Nigeria. Most South African businesses in Nigeria are in the formal sector while most Nigerians’ businesses in South Africa are in the informal sector and not of the same weight and impact as South African Businesses in Nigeria. This includes Nigerian drug merchants that have annoyed and provoked many South Africans badly.

2. Politically. With Nigeria’s inability to punish South Africa economically, the only area Nigeria could flex a little muzzle to save face is in the political are. The best punch Nigeria could pack for South Africa politically is to severe diplomatic relations with South Africa totally but the government has announced it will do none of that. It was a very wise decision. It shows the government of Nigeria understands fully where the balance of power rests in this case and does not want Nigerians to suffer too much. Poor leadership across board over the years has turned Nigeria to a dwarf beside South Africa in the balance of power even when we invested in South Africa’s freedom more than any country in the world.


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