Let me start this piece by congratulating former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on the marriage of his daughter, Halima, to her beau, Auwal Abdullahi. It goes without saying that the wedding would be the talk of Nigeria for aeons to come because of the kind of crowd it pulled.
In case you missed the news, let me inform you that no fewer than thirty private jets landed at Minna airport last weekend on account of this wedding that locked down Nigeria! Thirty private jets. I do not even know what to exclaim! This is more than wow! Gosh does not even come close to the exclamation I wanted to express when I first read of this private jet convention in Minna! Gobsmacked is the only word that comes close, but even it does not quite capture the reaction I had.
Thank God former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was amongst the wedding guests, does not have a private jet, because that would have been the major topic of the day. The propaganda loving All Progressive Congress would have capitalized on that to rubbish Jonathan. Lai Mohammed would have been hyper ventilating with excitement at the character assassination possibilities if such had been the case.
But the lesson Nigerians may want to take from this is that few, very few of those who arrived Minna in private jets have any sort of productive business venture that generates and sustains jobs in Nigeria. Yes, there were a couple of folks made rich by oil and gas at the Minna private jet convention, but these are not people that did anything constructive, productive or job creating that gave them wealth.
Some were given oil blocks or allocations, others were given allocations to import petroleum products. Even a monkey would prosper if given such oligarchic opportunities. But how does that sort of business create jobs or adds value to Nigerians? Others amongst them are government contractors, supplying sundry items to the various governments at federal, state and local government level. They are basically suppliers. They buy and resell to the government. But how does that sort of business create jobs and adds value to Nigerians? Yet, they have private jets, private jetties, private yachts and even private body guards!
Nigeria has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, tax to GDP ratio in the world. In a country of 190 million people, only 214 individuals in the entire country pay tax of 20 million naira or more. This is according to the very latest official figures from the Federal Inland Revenue Service. Norway has a population of just 5.2 million people yet they have more than 100 times the amount of people paying tax of $65,000 of more (the equivalent of 20 million naira). But the story does not end there. Norway has never had a private party or private wedding or any private celebration that attracted 30 private jets!
The funniest thing is that Norway gives Nigeria financial aid every year! We have a political and economic elite that are so rapacious and parasitic and who only think of what they can suck from Nigeria and could not careless that they are surrounded by some of the poorest people in the world according to official figures from the 2016 United Nations Human Development Index released on the 21st of March, 2017.
Norway is number 1 on that list. Nigeria is 152 out of 188 nations. Libya (102) and Iraq (121) both of which are war torn nations, outrank Nigeria. But most embarrassingly, Syria that has been enmeshed in probably the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in at least 10 years also outranks Nigeria (149)! And almost all our elites are involved in this. President Muhammadu Buhari likes to be seen as the only good person in Nigeria but we have not forgotten so soon how, according to Daily Trust (which also happens to be the President’s favorite paper) his own daughter, Zahra Buhari, received pre wedding gifts worth 47 million Naira from her then suitor and now husband, Ahmed Indimi.
This same Ahmed Indimi likes to fly in private jets, pictures of which dot Nigeria’s social media landscape. I can assure you that Ahmed Indimi is not one of the 214 Nigerians who pay tax of over 20 million Naira. Yet right there in Indimi’s Borno state, right there in Maiduguri where their palatial family house is a sprawling tourist attraction, there are millions of Internally Displaced Persons without food to eat and medicine for their ailments.
Perhaps it is this sort of wickedness that Mohammed Yusuf saw and which made him conclude that Boko (book) must be Haram, if it can make people so oblivious to the suffering around them. It is this same Indimi family that likes to marry and be married to Nigeria’s high and mighty (President Ibrahim Babangida was also once their in-law via the marriage of Mohammed Babangida, his first son, to Rahama Indimi).
Many Nigerians are not aware that if you isolate Borno state from the rest of Nigeria, that state becomes the poorest region on planet earth BAR NONE! Borno has the highest unemployment rate in Nigeria and the second lowest primary school enrollment rate in Nigeria. What has her private jet loving, high and mighty marrying elite done to change that?
I was in Anambra once and the type of community spirit I saw there impressed me. They may not have a lot of private jets in Anambra, but in Anambra, they have community associations that give scholarships and business grants to those who are commercially inclined. There is NO poverty in Nnewi, one of the communities where this community spirit is most prevalent. They build their own primary and secondary schools through community effort. I am dead serious. If you go there you will not believe your eyes! They have well tarred modern roads that were built through their private efforts. All over Anambra, the various towns and villages copy the Nnewi model.
I daresay that there is more evidence of private and community development in Anambra than there is of any type of federal government presence. Anambra does not even have an airport! Borno does. Anambra does not even have a publicly built federal university! The only so called Federal University in Anambra, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, was built by the state government with contributions from private citizens and then compulsorily taken over by the military government of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida via Decree No. 34 of July 15, 1992.
But in Borno, they have a massive federal university WHOLLY built with Federal Government funds. If any state deserves to be poor from lack of Federal Government presence, that state is Anambra. If any state deserves to be rich by reason of the existence of Federal Government presence, that state is Borno. But Borno is poor while Anambra is rich! Why?
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are sponsoring immunization and other medical interventions in Borno state. They are together the richest people on earth. Yet their life styles is nowhere near as lavish as Nigeria’s private jet loving parasitic elite. Both Gates and Buffet are known for their frugality. Both of them have shown more concern for Nigeria’s poor than any of the owners or leasers of the 30 private jets that converged in Minna last week.
In fact, Bill Gates has personally visited with many of the poorest Nigerians and has administered vaccines to their children with his own hands! If those thirty private jet owners or leasers could do in their communities what Nnewi people do in theirs, then most assuredly Nigeria would not be in recession today.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon is worth $67 billion, Mark Zuckerberg is worth $55.5 billion. Both of them are young people who made their money by dint of hardwork, yet none of these two billionaires had a wedding as spectacularly opulent as either Zahra Buhari’s or Halima Babangida’s weddings. Mark Zuckerberg actually got married at a simple ceremony in the backyard of his home in Palo Alto, California in front of 100 guests.
The British charity, Oxfam, recently released a report on inequality in Nigeria. According to Oxfam, the combined wealth of the five richest Nigerians, put at about $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in the country! According to Oxfam, in recent years the number of millionaires in Nigeria has increased by 44% while the number of those living in poverty has increased by 69%! And instead of the shameless Federal Government of Nigeria to appreciate Oxfam, not just for its years of charity work in Nigeria, but for this new report which distills the issues militating against Nigeria’s efforts to increase human development, it turns around to condemn the report and accuse Oxfam of ‘inciting’ Nigerians against her elite!
It is becoming clearer and clearer that Nigeria, as currently designed, can hardly produce young people with the mindset of Bezos or Zuckerberg. You see, if we do not redesign Nigeria and ensure that the wealth of the nation is more equitably redistributed, we will find out soon enough that Nigeria, as it is currently designed, is designed to fail. Nigeria has such a high unemployment rate because the wealth of the nation is trapped in the hands of carpetbaggers, rent seekers and influence paddlers who flaunt their wealth at the masses without even giving them token employment.
And it is not as if Nigerians are not willing to work. We are. Strive Masiyiwa, the Zimbabwean founder of Econet, famously revealed how stunned he was when he found out how willing Nigerians were to work. When he came to Nigeria in 2001 and wanted to hire staff for his new company, Econet Wireless Nigeria, he advertised for jobs seeking people with telecommunications experience who had electronic engineering degrees and a minimum of five years relevant experience. Mr. Masiyiwa, a dollar billionaire with experience working all over the world was stunned at the response.
Let me allow him tell his story because I cannot possibly tell it better than him. “I came into the office to find postal bags, piled to the ceiling! “I only want to see the applications from people who meet our requirements, and not from chancers who aren’t qualified,” I complained. “Sir, these are the ones we have vetted.” “What?! You mean there were more than this?” “Thousands, sir.” Then I came up with an idea: “Why don’t you separate for me, the most qualified academically. Set aside people with MBAs, and even PHDs.” A day later, another postal bag of applications was delivered to my office. I was staggered! There were thousands of people with qualifications in just this one discipline with MBAs and PHDs! Many had qualified in the best universities around the world. There were also GSM-qualified Nigerians working internationally, including in America and Europe, wanting to return home! I was blown away by the qualifications. I thought to myself: “You can start almost any business or industry here. I wish investors would one day discover the wealth of this nation.”
Whenever I hear people talk about the wealth of Nigeria in terms of oil, I shake my head to say: “You have no idea what you’re talking about!” The true wealth of Nigeria is its extraordinary human capital, and passion for education. Unleash that and no one can stop them!” The funniest thing is that Strive Masiyiwa, a dollar billionaire who made his money from a productive industry like the telecommunications sector and who provided enduring jobs for literarily tens of thousands of Nigerians, does not live as large as many Nigerian elite.
No wonder that the exploitative carpetbagging elite of Nigeria chased him out of Nigeria! Strive Masiyiwa is the antithesis of the exploitative Nigerian elite who epitomize at least six of the seven deadly social sins: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Religion without sacrifice. Politics without principle. The only one they do not epitomize is Science without humanity because that involves work and intellectual and creative abilities which many of our elite lack. If it were cleverness and guile, they would supersede even the best!
Ango Abdullahi has no basis for saying that the North would not allow Professor Yemi Osinbajo succeed Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. The North does not decide for Nigeria. Nigerians decide for Nigeria. What Ango Abdullahi seems to have forgotten is that it was Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that God used to make Muhammadu Buhari President in 2015. If the Northern Elders Forum could have made Buhari President, they would have done so in 2003, 2007 and 2011 when Buhari tried unsuccessfully to become President. Nigeria has changed.
Unfortunately, people like Ango Abdullahi and Junaid Mohammed, who add very little value to Nigeria and exist only to make provocative statements should realize that should their words precipitate crisis today or in 2019, both they and those they represent will be the biggest losers because they have more to gain from a united and peaceful Nigeria founded on the rule of law than others. Nigerians will famously remember Ango Abdullahi as the liar who said that money from the North was used to develop the oil industry in the South. His exact words in 2014 were as follows: “It is the North that developed the present day oil industry in this country. It is Northern money; it is the Northern leadership that developed the oil industry.”
Since Ango Abdullahi purports to be a professor and since he is from the North, let me use the words of another Northerner who happens to be a professor to respond to him. On Saturday the 6th of May 2017, Farooq Kperogi wrote thus: That money from the North funded oil exploration in the South. Professor Ango Abdullahi actually repeated this lie recently. He said this, ironically, while exhorting Emir Sanusi II to “go and read history.” The truth is that not a dime of northern Nigeria’s money contributed to oil exploration in the Niger Delta. When oil was discovered in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in 1956, Shell bore the financial burden for the exploration. Other Euro-American oil companies later joined in oil exploration. It wasn’t until 1973 that the Nigerian federal government acquired 30 percent shares in oil companies. By 1973, Northern Nigeria had ceased to exist; it had been divided into states.
In any case, colonial records show that the biggest motivation for amalgamating northern and southern Nigeria was because northern Nigeria wasn’t financially self-sustaining and the British Imperial Government said it would never subsidize colonial administration anywhere in Africa. So Lord Lugard amalgamated the two regions and used the surplus from the south to sustain the north. It’s illogical to say that a region that wasn’t financially self-sustaining financed oil exploration in the Niger Delta. It is a very sad day when a character like Ango Abdullahi is called an elder statesman. I think a better word for his ilk would be an agbaya! Professor (?) Abdullahi can ask Farook Kperogi to tell him the meaning of that word!