[Published in Nigeria - This Day, July 15, 2009 and The Nation, July 19, 2009]
President Obama’s visit to Africa, and his speech in Ghana, July 11, 2009, are worthy of serious analysis. I would like to start with a direct quote from his speech. Hear the man:
"History shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and infrastructure, when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled workforce, and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs." — President Obama, July 11, Accra Ghana.
Fellow Compatriots, President Obama spoke gospel. It is a fact - nothing more, nothing less. It is a fact some of us know quite well. It is a point some us have been drumming for years now. Specifically, Obama’s point is the central thesis of this book, "Your Excellency: A Letter to Nigerian Leaders" (2005). Here is an excerpt from that book, p. 15:
"Your Excellency, [addressing some Nigerian leaders, collectively called "Your Excellency" in the book], to know that Nigerians have $100 billion (13.7 trillion Naira) of their money in your private bank accounts in foreign countries, and that Nigeria loses about $4.5 billion (nearly N450 billion) annually to your private bank accounts abroad, is very troubling. Your irrational decision to feed those who consider you and your country the "most corrupt in the world" is a big concern; it is very troubling. I am troubled; I am concerned. Should you be troubled? Should you be concerned? I think you should, and this is why:
Estimated Nigerian Money in Foreign Banks compared with Nigeria’s 2005 Annual Budget:
(1) Nigerian Money in Foreign Banks = N13.7 Trillion (2005)*
(2) Nigeria’s 2005 Annual Budget = N1.8 Trillion (N=Naira)*
The Heartbreaking Reality - the MATH:
N13.7 Trillion / N1.8 Trillion = 8" [eight-year budget of Nigeria in foreign countries].
Fellow Nigerians, here is the shock: In 2005, it was determined that Nigeria’s budget for 8 years was in the private bank accounts of some Nigerians in foreign countries, growing greener pastures in those countries when so many Nigerians have no pasture. Of course, some are still opening more accounts in foreign countries to this very day. This is really very sad!
Here are the Critical Leadership questions we MUST ponder ALL the TIME
Who, among leaders in "developed" countries, or countries we call "civilized", will abandon the people they are elected to serve only to serve Nigerian Africans first? In particular, who, among Swiss leaders, American leaders, German leaders, British leaders, Canadian leaders, French leaders, Italian leaders, Japanese leaders will be stealing from his/her own people only to open bank accounts in Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya, Zaire, Ethiopia, Uganda? Or, who, among leaders in "industrialized" countries, will be buying plots of lands and houses in Togo, Sierra Leon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia, Liberia, or Zimbabwe? The answer to the above questions is obvious and simple: NONE. None of them has a bank account in our country or continent, and probably never will. In fact, President Obama, just as his predecessors, will NOT do that because he knows that it is an aberration and self-destruction.
For those Nigerian leaders who are stockpiling Nigerian money abroad, PLEASE stop and think of what your action is doing to our people – your own people. Start today doing what leaders of the "civilized" countries are doing in their own countries, namely, saving their countries’ money in their own banks, not in Nigerian or African banks.
Stop flying to foreign countries for medical checkup and treatment; start building and maintaining good hospitals in Nigeria. Nigeria has the money to build good hospitals and equip them with good doctors, nurses, staff, medical equipment, and potent medicines.
Having a series of National Economic Summits, by President Yar’Adua and Nigerian House of Assembly, to address this mentality of banking abroad and flying abroad for medical checkup/treatment by some of our leaders and elite is only proper. It is a move in the right direction.
The Road to Development and Civilization
To "develop" and be called "civilized", leaders must deposit their country’s money in their own banks. That is what we see in those countries we call "civilized" or "developed". That is leadership. That is patriotism. That is civilization. In fact, that is the law of Nature — a point well understood even in animal kingdom; hence, lions do not kill their prey only to leave them for hyenas. Even though lions fight as they eat their kills, they do not leave their kills to other animals. The same applies to all animals, as rabbits do not labour for squirrels, for instance.
What is Leadership?
Leadership is action, not a position. Leadership is parenthood. As parents take care of their own children first, leaders must take care of their own people first. It is all common sense!!