I crave readers indulgence and understanding for even bothering myself to put my views on this on record. Some of you reading this may immediately jump to the conclusion this man is getting old and should therefore have no business writing about an observation many Nigerians are willing to live with.
I spent too much of my free time, these days, thinking about Nigeria and the way forward for that country, more than I ever did when I was younger. I am definitely getting old and arguably wiser and more reflective about what is happening around me beyond my creature comforts and family needs.
But when I remember country music idol, Brad Paisley and his own definition of being old in one of his tracks which began with “I don't know what to call it” I take heart that old age may not necessarily explain my endless frustration and preoccupation in my twilight years with what is going on in Nigeria, a country which, if properly managed, should be flowing with milk and honey, given her limitless natural resources and her man power resources. The plain truth is that the country has been bastardized and run aground by his own leaders and Government. Brad Paisley had humorously argued in that song, “You are old only when your wife tells you, lets run upstairs, honey, and make love, and your answer to that invitation is “I cannot do both” If you go by that definition alone I will be the first to tell you that preoccupation with this subject for me is not due to old age, but informed or driven by my deep concern for Nigeria and what to do to make her a better country for generations of our children yet unborn.
You turn to any television channel, these days, anywhere you live in America, you are bombarded with experts and pundits debating whether or not the first black American President and his Party deserve to win a second term in 2012. Most of them and especially those from the conservative plank are already writing Obama’s political obituary and calling him a one term President even if he succeeds in his foreign policy initiatives abroad but miserably fails in his domestic policies at home on managing the economy, reducing inflation and unemployment and addressing other bread and butter issues affecting the great majority of Americans and their ability to share the American dreams if there is still anything like that now that America seems to be biting a lot more than she is able to chew as global leader and the world’s policeman.
The pundits making the argument like Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Good Morning Joe, Chuck Todd, Pat Buchanan, David Gergen, Mike Shield and David Brooks and former Security Adviser under President Carter, Dr. Brezcinski and so many others, are saying so based on facts and figures and past comparative analysis and data. They keep referring to Bush the First and how he was a very successful in his foreign policy initiative in the Gulf war and his bailing out of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein with almost unanimous consensus from the international community in less than 100 days. Even though American economy and domestic policy would appear to be on the mend by the time Bush the First had to run again, he still lost handily to Bill Clinton because American voters, as a rule, worry more about their own jobs, their own bread and butter issues and wallets in sticking out their neck and voting for any candidate.
Their conclusion is that even if Barack Obama, in spite of his double talk and hypocrisy on Libya, manages to get Moammar Ghadafi out of power and putting the Libyan protesters now turned into rebels into power in a unified or divided Libya, he could still his presidency in 2012 if the American economy remains in the tank like it is now with all the challenges facing America as leader of NATO in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain , Saudi Arabia and even Egypt which is going to continue to rely very heavily on financial support from America, if the emerging regime in Egypt is to have any prospect of success at all.
The argument by the Obama Administration that America is turning over the subjugation of Ghadafi to NATO in deference to public opinion in America and the Congress will only help Obama if the decision works. But Americans and other nationals who know that America always plays a leading role in NATO would understand that the Obama declaration is mere gimmickry. If you discount America from NATO there is little left. If you don’t believe me just listen to this. In the first 5 days of the Libyan bombardment by air, America threw no less than 162 Tomahawk missiles at Libya to only 12 from Britain and 1 or 2 from France at 1.4 million Dollars per missile. America is still going to be as involved as it was when the Libyan invasion started. What America is doing is what a good Basket Ball coach does when he knows his team is winning convincingly. He pulls out his best players and replaces them with players from off the bench to finish the job.
Added to the problems faced by America is the rebuilding of Haiti, the apocalyptic Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor emergencies in Japan, the third economic power house, a strategic ally of America in the Pacific that has to be bailed out by America, come rain or shine. The involvement and preoccupation of America in all of these countries is bound to have disastrous consequences on the American economy in a way that is quite easy to predict. And when you add all of these to what is likely to be the heavy cost of the free medical coverage Obama wants to extend to 50 million Americans if he has his way, the President has to be a magician or an illusionist of the pedigree of Houdini to have any chance of convincing anybody that the American economy is sustainable, after all those needs should have been met.
I have gone into all this background to compare why the current Government and ruling party in Nigeria, after 12 abysmal years in office, and with so many failures at the home front, including foreign policies, is still flexing her muscles and bragging that she is going to win the 2011 elections in a land slide. I just don’t get it. Something has to be profoundly wrong with Nigeria for that to happen is my point If you look at the political violence, the huge unemployment, the brain drain, the fall in education standards, the general decline in the peoples’ standard of living across the board, not to talk of the white and blue color crimes, armed robberies and kidnappings going on in Nigeria, as we speak, you have to really wonder if there is any responsible and rational Government in Nigeria right now.
If you don’t believe me, just go and read Reuben Abati’s latest article titled “Two Matters of State”. Mr. Abati in his usual frank and lucid style has chronicled two out of the major problems that may frustrate the 2011 elections and reduce them to a mere waste of time regardless of all the efforts put into its conduct by Professor Houdini Attahiru Jega. There are important steps President Jonathan Goodluck should have taken to correct the situation Mr. Abati is talking about if he is going to be strikingly different from his predecessors in the PDP. That is one more reason I still continue to believe that the man lacks credibility as far as I am concerned. I have no personal axe to grind against him. I just strongly believe that the man is not up to the job and change is what Nigeria needs for now. The PDP does not represent that change in my opinion, given its track record.
The current Nigerian Government has failed both on the domestic and on the Foreign Policy front. Our current President is now the Chairman of ECOWAS and a very influential leader in the African Union based in Addis Ababa. The current stalemate in Ivory Coast, Egypt and Libya is a sad commentary on the viability of ECOWAS and AU as regional organizations in Africa. If the two organizations are properly and wisely led they should have taken preemptive actions to neutralize the civil wars and crisis in all the countries before they become raging infernos.
The most disturbing observation which nobody is currently addressing in the aftermath of the Nuclear disaster in Japan is the ambition of Nigeria to become a nuclear power and to build a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes alone and possibly for generating electricity in a country where power outages have more or less crippled the industrialization of the country in a way that is better imagined than described. A country that cannot effectively manage Aladja Steel Complex in Warri and the Rolling Mills in Kwara State, the Peugeot and the Volkswagen Automobile Assembly Plant in Nigeria, the Eleme Alesa Oil Refinery near Okrika, talk less of the Shiroro and the Kainji Dams in the North, the Asejire Dam in Ibadan and the Ewekoro Cement Factory on Lagos/Abeokuta Express, to mention a few, now want to go nuclear despite the prohibitive cost and the risks involved as we are now witnessing in Japan.. I am able to talk about all of these projects as a one-time Executive Secretary to the Joint Economic Commissions of Nigeria with the rest of the World at a point in my career in the Federal Ministry of Planning with Ogbuefi Gilbert Chikelu as permanent secretary.
As I watch what is currently going on TV and the images coming out of Japan and as I discuss some of those images and narratives with my son who is currently based in the US Military Base in Okinawa, 3 hours flight from Sendai, the epic center of the Earthquake and the Tsunami Disaster, I come away with a different perspective and interpretation of what Nigeria may be getting herself into by contemplating to build a nuclear reactor for any purpose whatsoever. America, the super power and the richest country in the world is already having second thoughts or a rethinking on what to do about the 104 reactors she currently has, and whether or not to continue to build more in the light of the Japanese experience.
America currently generates only 5% of her electricity using nuclear energy and Japan generates 30% of her electricity using nuclear energy. Since thermal energy has not worked so well for Nigeria and since nobody is talking about Wind turbines, Solar or Coal energy which are more affordable and cleaner for the environment, the presumption can be made that Nigeria plans to generate much of her electricity from Nuclear energy. But in the light of what we are now learning from Japan and other countries with nuclear energy, if we have a proactive Government in Nigeria, much of the debates among our major presidential candidates would be focusing on these kind of observations.
Ronald Reagan once asked Americans in a debate with President Carter in 1975, “If you are better off today than when you were when President Carter took office, feel free to vote for him. That statement among other developments was a game changer in that election year. I am amazed that Nigerians are not borrowing a leaf from Ronald Reagan and asking the same question of the PDP Government as we hold the next elections in Nigeria in less than a month from today? The observation is profoundly stunning to me. I don’t know about you.
I rest my case.