To All Nigerian Presidential Candidates, 2015,
GOODLUCK E. JONATHAN, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, TUNDE ANIFOWOSE-KELANI, RAFIU SALAU, GANIYU O. GALADIMA, MANI I. AHMAD, AYENI M. ADEBAYO, SAM EKE, AMBROSE N. A. OWURU, COMFORT O. SONAIYA, MARTIN ONOVO, ALLAGOA K. CHINEDU, GODSON M. O. OKOYE, CHEKWAS OKORIE:
I write you on behalf of millions of terrified Nigerians who are praying and fasting at this very moment for a better economy and peaceful Nigeria AFTER this Presidential election.
Gentlemen, you are quite aware that things are getting much worse in Nigeria. Our country is rife with the currents of animosity, greed, and impending doom – we are living in a City of Destruction. Millions of Nigerian graduates are still jobless, hungry and angry. Yet, Nigerian legislators still earn, with impunity and without conscience, more than any other legislator elsewhere in the whole world (with Senators earning $141,667.00 or N28.33 million/month, and the House of Representatives earning $120,833.00 or N24.17 million/month). Boko Haram is still killing and maiming innocent civilians – proving to the world the dysfunctional state of Nigerian government. Armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom are still rampant – demonstrating how insecure life is in Nigeria. Many Nigerians anticipate serious upheaval after the upcoming Presidential election. As a precautionary measure, many have returned to their villages until the election is concluded. Needless to say, the world is witnessing, before our very eyes, the demise of Nigeria. Therefore, in this solemn hour, it is extremely important that all of you – the Presidential hopefuls – be completely aware of the deplorable state of affairs in Nigeria, what Nigerians are doing to survive, and what they expect from their next President. Thus, in this long letter, I ask for your patient indulgence and deep reflections. Kindly read on.
Gentlemen, I would like to start with Nigerian oil wealth. By doing so, we put ourselves in a much better position to understand Nigeria, especially since the end of the civil war, and plan much better on how to move Nigeria forward.
NIGERIAN OIL WEALTH
It is an indisputable fact that nature blessed Nigeria with crude oil. In the period of late 70s to early 80s, that oil wealth was mostly utilized for the betterment of Nigeria. During that time, Nigerian economy grew rapidly, and Nigeria earned a well-deserved title, “The Giant of Africa”. Most Nigerians of my age have kept alive the memories of the good-old-Nigeria. I, personally, will forever cherish Nigeria of the late 70s to early 80s, and permit me to recall with nostalgia the wonderful memories of yesteryears, especially for Nigerians who have no knowledge of those joyous years:
Still fresh in my memory is the competitive value of Nigerian currency in the world market in late 70s to early 80s. On average, 75 Kobo was equivalent to $1.00. In fact, I was living comfortably on a salary of 94 Naira a month as a Secondary School teacher at Chukwurah High School, Onitsha in 1978. In 1978, one Naira was enough to feed a hungry man for a whole day; a 30-kobo plate of stewed rice was enough meal for a hungry lady. Today that 94 Naira (my monthly salary in 1978) amounts to only 47 cents - far less than $1. Gentlemen, how low can our currency fall? How low? And, how can our leaders continue to allow such free fall? Amazing!
I cannot forget youths’ moonlight play in late 70s to early 80s. As I close my eyes right now, I see youths, including myself, joyfully rushing out at night to play in the moonlight after a rich, delicious supper. Nigerian youths were well fed then, and they often played till midnight without the slightest worry about kidnappers or armed robbers.
I still remember the excellent community involvement and parenting processes of our children in late 70s to early 80s. Parents and our communities taught children never to date or marry people with questionable character or those who made money by illegal, shady means. In fact, the late 70s to early 80s was the time when “men were men,” and “women were married to those who deserved them.”
The fun Nigerian children were having while learning in Elementary School in late 70s to early 80s will forever remain with me. Children enjoyed learning, and learned solid foundations of science, mathematics, reading and writing. They were taught obedience, and they had good reasons to obey laws of the land and authority figures. They were taught truth, and they had good reasons to be honest and truthful. They were taught patriotism, and they had good reasons to love their country, Nigeria.
Still vivid in my memory is the academic rigor in Nigerian schools, especially Secondary Schools and Universities. In the days of the late 70s and early 80s, Secondary School teachers instilled in students the spirit of healthy competition in academic work. By the time one finished Secondary School, one already mastered good writing skill. Nigerian students enjoyed going to school, they were happy learning. Nigerian education was admired worldwide. Because of the high premium placed on education then, Nigerians were known all over the world as brilliant people. Some of us that came to the United States for university degrees in the early 80s quickly discovered that Nigeria’s educational system was second to none. We realized, rather quickly, that some of the courses we mastered in Secondary School in Nigeria were being taught to freshman level students in American universities. American Professors considered Nigerian students academically brilliant, very smart. Indeed, a lot of Nigerian undergraduates got their Bachelor’s degrees in three years, and some Nigerians, including this writer, got all sorts of scholarships in American universities.
Still vivid in my memory are the means of Nigerian public transport during the late 70s and early 80s. Nigeria then was a place where motorcycles, we call “Okada” today, were not a part of the means of public transport. Motorcycles were used for what they were naturally meant for, namely, a leisure ride. Similarly, the three-legged motorbike, “Keke”, was not a part of public transport. As we all know, okada and keke, as means of public transport, are, to say the least, unsafe at any speed.
Without a single doubt, life in Nigeria was quite enjoyable in late 70s and early 80s despite colonialism. Unquestionably, life was quite enjoyable then despite the fact that “tribe and tongue may differ.” Indeed, life was quite enjoyable then despite the unfortunate civil war (1967-1970) that ravaged Nigeria.
Now, why was life far better in Nigeria then than today? The answer is really quite simple: Most Nigerian leaders in late 70s and early 80s invested much of our oil wealth in Nigeria. They invested in their people. They practiced “charity begins at home” and not in foreign banks. Accordingly, Nigeria witnessed sound economic growth with abundant well-paying jobs. Workers were paid well, and no one was owed his/her salaries. Retirees got their pensions when due. Those Nigerians who studied abroad had no reason to delay return to their country after completing their education. Above all, corruption and “lootocracy” (i.e., looting and hiding money abroad by the many misguided Nigerian leaders) were not celebrated as they have been for some time now in Nigeria.
Gentlemen, the point here is that Nigeria and Nigerians were blessed. Unfortunately for Nigerians, lootocrats (i.e., those Nigerian leaders who loot our treasury) have been looting and concealing Nigerian oil revenue in foreign countries. By so doing, they created big economic disaster. As such, things are “no longer at ease” in Nigeria. A substantial number of our men are no longer men; they have been beaten hands-down by the many corrupt lootocrats. Today, a good number of Nigerian women are no longer married to those men who deserve them; some women now marry those they do not love; they marry them in order to survive; they marry them for a meal ticket. Millions of Nigerian children today are hungry and angry – they are unsure of their next meal. Worst of all, Nigerians – young and old - are now worrying about being kidnapped for ransom. Accordingly, youths’ moonlight play, which we enjoyed in the 70s to early 80s, is now a thing of the past. How can children play on empty stomach? How can people live a normal life when they fear being kidnapped or viciously robbed?
The fact of the matter is that millions of Nigerians are appalled at the deplorable state of affairs in Nigeria - a deplorable condition created by misguided leaders with insatiable greed and complete lack of mercy for their fellow citizens. Nigerians are totally sick with the way things are right now; they are lamenting in anguish, trying to understand what brought The Giant of Africa to its knees. They want the winner among you to dry their tears – their tears of anguish and pain, their tears of chronic hunger and starvation, their tears of some worthless university degrees, their tears of rampant armed robberies and vicious kidnappings for ransom, their tears of hazardous roads, their tears of lack of electricity and frequent interruption of power, their tears of poor health, tears of poor medical facilities, tears of burying their loved ones who die daily of starvation, their tears of being robbed cold by merciless lootocratic leaders, who only desire to pile up the loot in some foreign banks. Gentlemen, Nigerians are sick and tired of living in our man-made City of Destruction – where heartless destroyers have pushed so many Nigerians into doing anything and everything just to survive.
HOW NIGERIANS ARE TRYING TO SURVIVE
Gentlemen, have you wondered or paid attention to how millions of Nigerians are fighting their tears? Have you wondered or paid attention to how millions of Nigerians are trying to survive the onslaught unleashed in Nigeria by lootocrats? If you have not, here is how:
Millions of Nigerians have turned to all kinds of religions. Today, Nigeria has become a breeding and a dumping ground for all kinds of religions and religious groups. Houses of worship are everywhere in Nigeria, each one of them, in its own unique way, promising to save members from the present national disaster. Some Nigerians have even converted their houses into miniature places of worship. Some have even switched religions, thinking that their sufferings are a function of their old belief system. Every day, everywhere, people are praying in Nigeria. Some pray through loudspeakers, some pray alone quietly. Some pray every night before going to bed, every morning before starting their daily activities. Those who have no jobs are praying for employment. Those lucky enough to have jobs continue to pray that they get their pay. Those who have not been paid for months continue to pray that arrears be paid them.
Obviously, these prayers amount to one thing: Nigerians are praying to survive the present misery caused by a few wicked, corrupt leaders – the lootocrats. As we all know, these prayers do not stop in houses of worship; they do not stop with the families. There are signs of prayer all over Nigeria. Take a look at the mass transit vehicles in Nigeria today. Look at those public transport services, e.g., the buses, the vans, the lorries, the taxis, “okadas” and “kekes.” What does one see? One notices that most have some sort of religious references or inferences boldly written on them. Such words as “God,” “Jesus,” “Allah,” are striking; they are clearly written in multiple colors to attract attention. Common among such religious inferences are “God is my Dependability”, “God dey”, “God’s case, no appeal”, “God’s time is the best”, “The wages of a Sinner is Death”, “Glory be to God”, “Trust in God”, “Devine intervention is the answer”. Many musicians, who used to play high life music or traditional music, have switched to religious songs or songs of praise. And many Nigerians are buying these albums in record numbers – hoping that the Creator will at least hear them better through song. Some Nigerians have even nicknamed themselves “the son of God.”
Gentlemen, the greatest irony of all these signs of religion is that our own rates of development and civilization lag far behind the rapid growth of different religions in Nigeria. Put differently, sufferings in Nigeria continue to rise higher than the growth rate of different religions. Indeed, the worsening economic, social and political situations in Nigeria, in the light of the astronomical growth of different religions, is enough to make one ask this fundamental question: Given the rising population of different religions and religious groups in Nigeria, why do Nigerians continue to suffer so much? In other words, if God cares, why do Nigerian masses – the children of God - continue to suffer a great deal?
The answer to the above question is quite simple: prayers alone, i.e., prayers without action, are not enough to deliver Nigeria from the present City of Destruction. This is a fact. While nothing is impossible to the Creator, the answers to Nigerian crises today do not lie with prayers alone. Lootocrats are full of deceit; they are full of contradictions. They preach job creation, economic growth and development, but how can our economy grow, and jobs be created when most of our leaders are corrupt to the bone. It makes no sense at all. They preach anti-corruption, but how can corruption cease when the corrupt are not brought to justice? They preach love for fellow Nigerians, but continuous robbing of fellow Nigerians only to conceal the loot abroad totally demonstrates hatred. Today, politics is the most lucrative business in Nigeria. Many Nigerians enter politics today for their own personal, selfish gains. As such, our national legislators budget and pay themselves higher than any legislator in the whole world – and no questions asked! The fact is that only a handful of Nigerians enter politics to serve the people of Nigeria. This is a very sad state of affairs. This is an abomination - Period!
In addition to worshipping all sorts of gods, some Nigerians are utilizing dubious and crude means to put food on their table; they are doing anything and everything to survive. So many Nigerians are living today by “4-1-9” – the crooked, shady way of life. Living a life of crooks – the life of four-one-niners - is the antithesis to good work ethics and the teachings of the Creator. Since this is the case, how can the Creator answer the prayers of those who are making a living by shady ways? How can the Creator answer the prayers of the corrupt and the lootocratic leaders when they keep on looting the treasury of Nigeria only to hide the loot in their own private bank accounts in foreign countries? Clearly, one cannot be building a mansion on a quicksand, and expect it to stand; we must stop living in fools’ paradise, for God is not mocked!
Gentlemen, it is time Nigerians realized that being knighted in a church or having successfully completed the Hajj to Mecca does not automatically guarantee a seat in Heaven. Our Creator does not (and will not) support accumulation of wealth by corrupt and illegal means, hence the indomitable admonishment, “Thou shall not steal.” Our Creator helps those who help themselves. In other words, while God feeds the birds of the air, He does not bring food to the nest. Nigerian leaders must start weaving in order for the Creator to give them thread. Accordingly, you, the Presidential hopefuls, must now start investing Nigerian oil money in Nigeria! Investing Nigerian money will create jobs. Once employed, people will make a living in honest ways, and their prayers will be answered in abundance by the Creator. This is the time for action; this is the time for real change.
CHANGE MUST COME TO NIGERIA – BE THAT CHANGE
NOW is the time for fundamental change in Nigeria. This is the time for big ideas and concrete plans to save Nigerian people from sliding into PERMANENT destruction. Gentlemen, you have to end “business as usual” in Nigeria. You have to address the root causes of Nigerian problems, starting with corruption in high places and lootocracy. TOO MUCH CORRUPTION and LOOTOCRACY – where some corrupt leaders mercilessly loot public treasury with impunity, and cover up the loot in their private bank accounts in some foreign countries – are the roots of the core problems in Nigeria. Looking elsewhere for the core causes of Nigerian man-made problems is meaningless, a clear insult to one’s common sense. Lootocracy is the worst brand of corruption - it kills, and it is killing so many Nigerians today. If truth be told, lootocracy is an act of genocide. Today, many Nigerians are dying like rats due to starvation and malnutrition, and are being buried like rats because our oil money that could have been invested in Nigeria to create jobs for them is resting in the private foreign bank accounts of the many corrupt Nigerian leaders.
Gentlemen, leaders must think; they have to be logical in order to develop their country. Indeed, Plato spoke gospel when he argued in his book, Republic (published 380 BC), that philosopher kings (i.e., wisdom-lovers) are best suited to rule a country successfully. It is clear beyond ALL doubts that lootocrats are not philosopher kings – the wisdom-lovers; they do not think; they are not logical human beings. If they think for one second, common sense will reveal to them that piling up Nigerian fortunes in foreign countries is creating and recreating more and more greener pastures in those foreign countries while their own people of Nigeria are dying daily for lack of pasture. Indeed, a little thinking will make it clear to them that they are clearly going against the law of nature - which makes it clear that people naturally think of themselves FIRST – hence, “my life first,” “my family first,” and “my country first.” To know that some humans do not think like humans is simply too shameful – too bitter a pill to swallow.
BUT WHERE IS THE SHAME? WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?
Gentlemen, notice that animals, living in the forests and jungles, understand this law of nature; hence, a rat does not (and will not) labor for a squirrel; and a lion does not (and will not) labor for a tiger. If animals understand this common law of nature – “my family first,” gentlemen, why is it proving so difficult for human beings (that supposed to reason better than animals) to understand? Or, do these lootocrats want us to believe that animals think and reason FAR better than they? Where is the shame – knowing that animals think MUCH better? Where is the outrage – knowing that ALL the big OPEC nations (which include Nigeria) are FAR better than Nigeria? We need a Mandela of Nigeria – yes, we do!
BE THE MANDELA OF NIGERIA
So, gentlemen, as you hope, pray and wait to be the next President of Nigeria, prepare for what you will do to deliver Nigerians from the present City of Destruction? Prepare to employ able hands to help put Nigeria in the right track. I see on the horizon some concerned, honest, hardworking Nigerians quite capable of turning Nigeria around if given the chance. Please seek out those compatriots and give them a chance, if you win; make them a part of your administration. Nigerians urgently need a President that will have the wisdom, the heart and the courage to stop massive corruption and lootocracy in Nigeria by bringing corruption to an end, and bringing back all the money corrupt leaders have piled up in foreign countries. Investment is the engine of economic growth. It is all common sense. Nigerians need a permanent end to Boko Haram. Be the Mandela of Nigeria. Be a wisdom-lover. Be our philosopher king. Liberate Nigeria from the present bondage. Let it be said of you, at the end of the day, that you were the one that turned Nigeria around. Let it be said of you, at the end of the day, that you did all these things for all these people.
Gentlemen, “charity begins at home” is still the Guiding Principle of great, thinking leaders all over the world. I hope you go out in search of it.
Thank you for reading this long letter. May wisdom and compassion inform all your decisions as the next President of Nigeria.
Your Sincere Compatriot,
Bedford Nwabueze Umez, Ph.D.