The Holy Bible, one of the oldest books ever written, hardly ever goes wrong, if you read and interpret it correctly. The Bible says and I quote, “Seek ye first, the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you” It is a very potent statement laden with so much wisdom. It all goes to emphasize the importance of planning in everything we do as individuals or as a nation. Just like a baby always learns to crawl before walking, it makes sense for a rational Nation to always try and get her priorities right.
I am fully aware one of the options now open to President Obasanjo, after leaving Aso Rock, if his sycophants and praise singers, urging him to stay put would ever let him, is for General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye to make him Honorary Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The G.O. can easily do that by waiving the mandated steps he ought to have passed through like first becoming a worker, and then a Deacon, and then Assistant Pastor. I guess the G.O. can also overlook the President’s complicated marital life and views on Marriage to have him formally ordained. Some less visible Nigerian members of the Church, have accomplished that feat in less than three years, as the Church tries to cling to its reputation as the fastest growing Church under the sun. One of the quickest ways to become a Pastor these days is through the Redeem, and a few other Churches like it. The G.O. could do that because of his basic assumption that President Matthew Obasanjo is a good student of the Bible from which he frequently quotes even while making political speeches around the country. But if the President now says he wants Nigeria to join in the race to capture space in 15 years, that would be serious cause for me to doubt, if the President has truly mastered the import of the famous quotation, as a good student of the Bible like he claims to be.
President Obasanjo as the longest serving leader of our Nation today, has all the right in the world to dream big, because a leader who does not dream, can hardly accomplish much, but my point is that the President has to dream right, and not take the nation on a dog dream. There are lots of bridges our Nation needs to cross. There are lots of things a good leader must see happen, before going after such white elephants projects like going into Space or going nuclear. A nation that cannot competently assemble Peugeot automobile parts is now thinking of building a Nuclear Bomb, and going to space. That is likely to be the mother of all Nuclear Bomb like the mirage one manufactured by the Butcher of Baghdad.
Poverty and Starvation have become a permanent problem in our nation. I can predict that things are going to get worse in our country with our next door neighbor, Niger, now making the headlines, around the world, as a nation ravaged by Drought, Famine and Starvation. I was, once upon a time, the Secretary to the Joint Economic Commission of Nigeria and Niger. I therefore know both countries inside out, having visited Niamey and Maradi in Niger so many times during my tenure as Secretary. I can tell you that Niger could easily have been considered as an extension of Nigeria because the two countries speak literarily the same main language of Hausa and Fulani, and the boundary between our two countries, only exist in the imagination of the colonial masters who partitioned Africa according to their own whim and caprices. The observation was true when late Hamani Diori, a bosom friend of Yakubu Gowon, was President of Niger and it is even more true today. There have been rumors of citizens crossing from Niger, at random, to go vote in Nigerian elections in Nigerian towns like Gwagwalada near Sokoto and other Nigerian hamlets and villages close to Niger. There have also been rumors of few Nigerian political leaders whose roots have been traced back to Niger without any doubt. Sani Abacha was one of them, even though he claimed to have come from Kano. So was Alhaji Shugaba who was actually exiled back to Niger, kicking and screaming, at one point, in his political life, by an NPN Government led by Shagari. It took the legal representation of an Obafemi Awolowo to rescue the man, as some of you will recall. As we speak, Kaduna State in Nigeria, I am told is already feeling the pinch of hunger, as Niger people, in their thousands, cross from Maradi and Niamey in Niger to Adamawa and Bornu States looking for Food, and greener pastures to graze their cattle.
I can assure you, this massive influx from Niger is not only going to compound the pending Population Census exercise that the Nigerian Government is currently planning to do. The influx could not have come at a more auspicious time for the North, as they look for ways and means to prove that the North remains the senior partner in the Nigerian coalition of the North and Southern Nigeria. The influx is sure to undermine the so-called Poverty Alleviation Programs the various State Governments in the Area and the Federal Government have been trying to implement. By the same token, the influx is going to increase the demand for more kilowatts of Electricity and Water, both of which are already in short supply in Nigeria. Basic infrastructures that are already lacking in Nigeria are likely to get worse as more Niger people come into the equation. No drinkable Water, no dependable Electricity, no good roads whether rural or urban, and Food has been in short supply, as Nigerians desert the farms in droves to go play Politics, the only viable occupation where Nigerians know they can easily find enough Government money to steal and squander.
The nation’s educational system is in total ruins, as standards continue to fall from one State to another. It is true that the President Obasanjo and his Administration may have taken some positive steps on the Economy, by increasing Nigeria’s Foreign Reserve, but those achievements and their impact are yet to be felt by the rank and file of the Masses. Amassing Foreign Reserve is not the same thing as using it the Reserve to improve the lot of the common man. Nigerian has always been a rich country. The nation was filthy rich when General Gowon was Head of State, and when Buhari and IBB were Presidents. Did that make our country better and more developmentally secured? Hell, No. The prices of Petrol and Gas have become unaffordable, as cost of transportation have sky-rocketed.
If you don’t believe me, just visit Nigeria or buy yourself one of the last albums of Ayinde Barrister, Mr. Fuji” rightly titled “Questionaire” Don’t just listen to the music and lyrics alone, listen to the words, and you will be amazed that our President is nursing a space ambition for our country while the whole country is wallowing in abject poverty. It makes no sense at all. There are little things our nation must first of all address before going for the biggies.
As long as the basic problems are not addressed, I see no compelling reason for any rational and well-meaning Nigerian leader to be taking our people on a wild goose chase to Space. Quite apart from the basic infrastructure, what of simple things like educating our people and children to appreciate the symbolism of our National Anthem and National Flag?
I am writing this article today because of my experience from a little observation I recently witnessed in New York City where I currently live and work. A cousin of mine who lives with his American wife and their 7 year old daughter in Bloomfield, Connecticut, were recently here in New York to visit me, and to participate in the housewarming ceremony of my new Condo. In anticipation, I had the table set up for them for lunch before the other guests had begun to arrive. I had on the Dining table, for decoration, a small American Flag and a small Nigerian Flag. As soon as my guests had finished their food, I noticed little Timeka pick up the Nigerian Flag to start wiping her hands clean.
I was upset, and could hardly hide my anger. I shouted Timeka, “What are you doing, are you crazy? Why don’t you pick on the napkin right in front of you? The little girl replied to my total amazement, but in genuine innocence, typical of a 6 year old. “No, big Daddy, I am not crazy, I just prefer the colorful handkerchief to wipe my hands” I was stunned, and dumb-founded by that reply. But I quickly got myself together wanting to prolong the dialogue with the American born Nigerian while her parents stood there in amazement watching the drama unfold. I asked Timeka, why don’t you use the other handkerchief of red and blue star spangled banner, why the green white green one?
Timeka had shot back without even thinking, “Are you crazy, big Daddy? That is American Flag, the symbol of our country? I am not supposed to use it for cleaning my hands. I Knew there and then I had to swallow my pride and bewilderment to turn a teacher. I took my time to explain to Timeka that what she thought was an ordinary handkerchief, is the flag of her country, Nigeria, and that she needs to show it as much respect as she has shown the American Flag. She shot back again, big Daddy listen to me, I am an American. I know my Daddy is a Nigerian, but good for him, I am an American and proud of it. I was struck by that reply in a way I cannot even begin to describe.
Little Timeka, probably in first Grade at school, can recognize an American Flag and the great honor and symbolism it represents. I could only shake my head as I reflect on the implications of the little dialogue between me and Timeka. My mind immediately went back to how many Nigerians are able to sing our national Anthem. I immediately attempted to make myself a public example. I started singing it. After a few verses, I got stuck. Yes I got stuck. I had to stop to go look for a Nigerian Government Diary sent to me last year by a friend of mine from the Nigerian Consulate. I know of so many Nigerians who do not know the wordings of our National Anthem or the symbolism of our national flag. As a matter of fact, many Nigerians have not realized, up till now that the first Nigerian anthem composed by a British national at our Independence, was jettisoned long ago, and replaced with a new one composed by a Nigerian.
That must tell you the seriousness of the problems our nation is faced with. America on the contrary, deifies her national Anthem and Flag. Their musicians and song writers add more to the impetus as they compose more songs like “America the Beautiful,” or “God Bless America” and other captivating tunes that you often hear on Radio and Sports events around the nation. “The Star Spangled Banner” has become a veritable symbol of pride and Unity all over the country. The same thing goes for the American Flag which stands out anywhere it is seen because Americans and their leaders make it so. Flag Burning has become such a contentious issue in America today that some Americans would do anything to make sure it is prohibited by Law. The Flag flies on all Government Buildings, National Monuments like The Brooklyn Bridge, the first suspended bridge in New York, and Churches all over the Nation and in their Embassies around the world, and even on the Moon to this day. Right now the American Flag is flying on the Moon and on on Mars, the Red Planet. It is simply amazing.
The Nigerian Flag on the other hand, is so rare to come about, and in the few places where you find them they are either torn or rumpled so bad, on a make-shift poles that you wonder if our leaders in Government and people ever consider such symbols as important at all. All Americans can fly the American Flag on their cars and buses, and you are allowed to display it in your apartment. In Nigeria the police would arrest you or pull you over, if you dare parade the Flag. How can you indoctrinate your people on how to appreciate and value their citizenship and nationality if symbols like that mean nothing to you. And when you don’t value what you have, how do you expect other nationals to value it?
It all boils down to the Nation doing what it needs to do to make its citizen proud to belong. Our Governments, State and Federal, just don’t value such things. Up till tomorrow, none of our leaders, not to talk of family members know how many Nigerian soldiers had died in ECOMOG in Liberia and Sierra Leone. A good number of Nigerians had died in the 9/11 Terrorist attack in New York on September eleven, 2001, up till now the Nigerian Government or Embassy have paid little or no attention to ensure that the rights of those Nigerians and their families are fully respected and protected by the host Government. It is everybody
for Himself and God for us all in our country. A few Nigerians are also known to have died in the recent London Terrorist Attack. It is the same story. How does any Nigerian leader expect Nigerians to think highly of their country with that kind of scenario repeating itself, time and again?
I submit that President Obasanjo needs to reflect on some of these observations, and to let his Government begin to do something about them before embarking on his Space Exploration Project. Let his Government focus attention, like a laser beam, on meeting these basic needs, and giving our people reasons to believe and to be proud of our country. We need that more than we need creating an Atomic Bomb or going to Space to compete with the Russia and the America.
I have never heard of Singapore and her leaders including the best known of them, Lee Kuan Yu, wasting his time talking of going to the Moon when his people could not afford three square meals a day to keep body and soul together. Lee Kuan Yu had never claimed to be a born-again Christian like our own President, but he seemed to understand the biblical injunction of “Seek ye first, the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness” far better than our own born-again President has done in all of his close to 12 years as Head of Government.
I rest my case.