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Author Name: Omotayo, J. A.
Number of articles: 211
During my time too, there were scholaships, grants and busary awards to students. Some of my friends... (0) Comment


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Retrogression Called Transformation In Nigeria - 1
Author: Omotayo, J. A. | October 29, 2014



Transformation can be described as a change of state. When a mosquitoe egg hatches, it changes into larva. That is a biological transformation. When the larva turns into pupa and from there into a mosquitoe, it is still transformation. When the full grown musquitoe dies off about fourteen (14) days after its emergence, it is still a part of the biological transformation process. In order words, tranformation can mean a growth or a decay process of change. I came to Nigeria briefly in late August 2014 and visited Abuja. Many billboards were displaying such messages as “Nigerian youths”, “Coalision for good governance”, etc wanted Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to continue with his “Transformation Agenda” in 2015. Then I asked myself, what the transformation issue was all about. So I needed to observe whatever changes that have occured while I was away. I like to review below roads, power, etc situation in Nigeria to ascertain the level of transformation or otherwise of the federal government under Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, current president of the federal republic of Nigeria. We start with roads briefly. I was picked up from the Abuja Airport and we passed through Bill Clinton road until we reached the junction with Umaru Musa Yar'Adua road where construction work was in progress. The later road has been under construction since 2010 (almost 6 years running) and still not completed. We were swirling from one side to another as a result of various diversion signs and concrete beams placed on ground. Then I asked myself a question: When will this small length (less than 20km, I guessed) of road be completed? Channel Tunnel (now Euro Tunnel) highway / rail project that covered about 50.5km of tunneling constructed below the sea bed linking Folkestone, Kent, United Kingdom with Coquelles, Calais, France was completed in three years (For further details, see: Channel Tunnel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_Tunnel). Here there was no tunneling! Could the slow progress on this road construction be an example of the transformation in Nigeria? I think otherwise. I stayed in Kado Estate and chose to walk on partly tarred and partly earth roads linking the Estate with the neighbourhood. I had imagined that all roads and streets in Abuja were paved with proper side drainage system. This was not the case. I later travelled by road to Akure and noted the dualisation of Gwagwalada – Okene road embarked upon at the same time as the Yar'Adua road above. It appeared as an extension of the said Yar'Adua road. But just before Okene, we had to divert through one of the Kogi State government rehabilitated roads until we passed through Okene town. Then I asked the driver why the diversion. His response was that the road was no longer motorable. We continued our journey but instead of following the Ipele Junction – Kabba road, we passed through Okeke - Oka – Owo Junction road where parts of the road have started to fail. The deadly deep at Oka was still unchanged as we met an accident there on our way. We followed Owo – Akure (within Ilesha – Benin) road that was wearing out too. After two nights, I left for Lagos through Akure – Ore – Shagamu – Lagos route. As a result of similar road work and unmotorable road, we were held down by traffic just after Kajola, Ondo State and had to pass through old road with single lane old bridge over River Oluwa until we managed to cross over to Ogun State and emerged near J4. At Shagamu junction, we had to pass through Ofada – Mowe route again due to road construction / unmotorable road. All these roads have been awarded and re-awarded to the same or other contractors since the time of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 – 2007). I asked myself again: Could the inability to completely rehabilitate our roads and make them motorable since 2010 be an example of transformation in Nigeria? I think otherwise. I was part of a team that went on technical tour to Belgium and Germany schedule for September 28, 2014 to October 5, 2014. We travelled by road on September 30, 2014 for four hours from Eupen, Belgium to Heidelberg, Germany and noted many road rehabilitation works. From Heidelberg, we proceeded to Darmstadt, Germany. We left Darmstadt on October 2, 2014 through another route and travelled about five (5) hours before coming back to Brussels. There was not a time that we had to pass through a bush path or old road because rehabilitation work was in progress. In Belgium, we passed through many long tunnels (sorry, I did not count) built in concrete at great costs. Belgium has no crude oil, no iron ore, etc! Yet mediocrities shout of transformation in Nigeria. Here in Africa, Kenya is an agricultural society (no minerals until oil was discovered recently, and it is yet to go into production), but she has good roads. The good roads help her to boost activities at the Mombasa Sea Port. How? Landlocked neighbouring countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi transport their imports and exports through Mombasa. In turn, this boosts employment, trade and foreign exchange earning to Kenya. Where is the Nigerian equivalent of what happened in Belgium, Germany or Kenya? Yet the mediocrities open their mouths too wide shouting and signing “Transformation” and “Continuity” on television and radio. Banners upon banners littered all roads in Abuja calling on Mr. Jonathan to continue. Second, we examine power supply. Power was off many times during my five day stay in Abuja that we had to rely on inverter. And each time the power of the inverter was off, we were back to square one – dull day time, and darkness at night because our generator was faulty. At Akure, power supply was not better. In Lagos, we had to buy fuel to power our generators to be able to work during the day and see at night on many occasions. The fuel we consumed within a week in Lagos was almost equal to the fuel I consumed in my Ghana residence for a year and a half (Feb 2013 – Sep 2014) stay. Not only that, the power supply was erratic thus making it difficult to plan. It could be available for just a few minutes and at times continuous for about six hours or more in a day. Worse still, there was no specific time allocated for power rationing. But apart from constant power supply in Belgium, excess power is channeled to power roads at night. Same with all the tunnels. But on the internet, we read about the privatisation of the power sector which had started yeilding dividends in Nigeria. We read that the power production had improved (noboby to varify) too. Where then is the transformation in the power sector when supply to consumers is dwindling? Third, we look at finance. In 1999 up to 2000, we were told that Nigeria owed about $36 billion in external debt to IMF and Paris Club. But by luck under Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, the price of crude oil rose from $12-$18/barrel to $97-$147/barrel. We made gains and substantially reduced our indebtedness to mere $3.5 billion approx when he handed over power in 2007. Between 2007 and 2010 when the late Mr. Umaru Musa Yar'Adua who succeeded him came to power, we ran out of luck. Price of crude tumbled down to as low as $36/barrel. Consequently, our external deby started to mount. By the time he died, we were on $3.9 billion in external debt and about N2.0 trillion in domestic debt. Then come another round of good luck. The price of crude rose graduall and stabilised at about $100/barrel. This time around, our Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been in control. Rather than utilise the gains from the increases in the prices of crude to the advantages of Nigerians by at least paying off the remaining debt, he accumulated another round of debts. Today, we owed about $11.1 billion in external debt and N4.8 trillion in domestic debt. This is apart from draining the Excess Crude Oil account (which was to be a savings for a rainy day) over which the Nigerian Governors Forum has to litigate. What is the lesson? Mr. Jonathan's administration is like that of Mr. Shehu Shagari (President of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1979 – 1983). In 1979, Mr. Shagari met only about $2.5 billion in external debt. But before Mr. Shehu Shagari was pushed out of office in 1983, we were owing about $11 billion in external debt. But when IMF compounded unpaid interests, it went to about $16 billions. That was the burden that the Buhari / Idi-Agbon governemnt (1984 – 1985) and subsequent regimes had to cope with. Due to low oil revenue, we were unable to fully serve our indebtedness. The consiquence was that IMF compounded both the principal as well as the unpaid interest until it became $36 billions with a romour that another interest due was $3 billions in 1999. Rather than have savings from high crude oil price regimes, this government has squandered and looted the treasury. If instead of coming out of debt we are falling back into it, can this be called transformation that Nigerians desire? If we have to re-denominate our GDP format (working from answer to the question) to become the largest economy in Africa without adding new jobs because industries are dying, should it be taken as transformation? Where are the vehicle assembly plants, the manufacturing industries (vegetable, tyre making, textile, etc) of the 1980s – 1990s today? Can the death of industries be the transformation desired by the “Nigerian Youths”? I think otherwise. Let us quickly look at education. Very recently, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) awarded Mr. Jonathan the Grand Commander of the Association. The reason probably was the said “Transformation Agenda”. The students leaders must have acted under inducement, but not common sense. Why? When Mr. Jonathan was made the Acting President, four eminent personalities (Messrs Shehu Shagari, Alex Ekwueme, Abdulsalami Abubarka and Yakubu Gowon (?)) were invited to come and congratulate him in Aso Rock in 2010. But the news from the presidency was that these people came on their own volition. It took some days before Mr. Shagari told newsmen the truth in his Sokoto State home that they were invited by the Acting President. Even Mr. Ayo Fayose opened up that he mobilised people and danced for Mr. Obasanjo's Third Term Agenda because he was under instruction from the president. To show that the students leaders were probably induced, I like us to reflect on our past in education and today. During my time in the university (1979 – 1984), school fee was limited to N20 per term and hostel accomodation was N45 per session. Feeding was N0.50 (i.e. 50k) per meal. Bananas, Oranges, Pipeapples, Sugar, Milk, Tea, Coffee and Bournvita were readily available at every “Refectory” free of charge. The maximum number of students per room was four (4) for undergraduates and (2) for post-graduates – all these at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Transportation by car from Akure to Onitsha was N6.00 and by mini-buses N5.00. Transportation by luxury buses from Lagos to Onitsha was N4.00. - Onitsha – Enugu was N1.50 by car and N1.0 by mini-buses. - Onitsha – Nsukka was N2.00 by car, N1.50 by mini-buses and N1.00 by big Ibagwa lines. - A crate of minerals was N1.80 – N1.90. - Big size toothpaste was N1.00 or less. - Packet of sugar was N0.40 – N0.50. - A pair of already made trousers was N1.50 – N2.00. The same for shoes. - Haircut was N0.10 – N0.20. - The most costly book I purchased was N35.00. The revised edition of the same book today sells for N10,000 in the same bookshop. Lagos – Onitsha now is N3,500 – N5,000 depending on season. Ordinary notebook is more expensive than the most expensive textbook that I used.

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