For some times what dominated the public discourse amongst Nigerians are issues bordering on the alleged puzzles bedeviling the nation from political face-off, economic logjam, social malaise and security instability, but now a new challenge has taken a frontal stage of public debate which was necessitated by publications in editorials and columns of national newspapers. It was the allegation that the frequent presidential foreign trips are wasteful and are of no importance to the nation and the common man.
President Obasanjo may have travelled out, sometimes against the political and social reality on the ground, but it must be appreciated that at least the Nigerian image has been enhanced and promoted, to some extent, by the trips. It is easy to recall that in no distant past Nigerian officials were rarely allowed into some countries, while the ordinary citizens hardly got visas to travel out, but today in the spirit of democracy, almost on daily basis the citizens are jetting out.
What can one feel, as a Nigerian, when just recently in far away Canada during the World Summit of powerful nations, our own president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo received the honour of being the only African Leader at that occasion, and probably the first in history to have addressed the leaders of advanced countries standing behind him with arms in akimbo. Some of the powerful world leaders who stood behind him during the address by our own president included the Presidents of United States of America, United Kingdoms, Russia, Germany, China, Japan, France amongst others. As an African, especially a Nigerian I remain very proud of that significant event where President Obasanjo voiced out the plight of the people of the developing nations and called for further cooperation and improved assistance to ameliorate the sufferings.
I should think the President want to re-link Nigeria with the outside world by reassuring them of our potentials and natural endowments for the benefits of country. Most developed nations today could not have got to the level they have reach presently if they isolate themselves from the outside world. What can one say about resolution of crises in neighboring countries through ECOMOG, even though Abacha to did the same, the rebirth of the continental unity through African Union, the introduction of New Partnership for African Development NEPAD, the Geeseem revolution, the participation in Common Wealth Games and several other development?
We should take more pride in Nigeria’s participation in global issues and in solidarity with other nations. Even at that we still maintain our dignity and African brotherhood by refusing to be the stooge of the big brothers. It must be noted that even the superpowers believe that a word from Nigeria to Zimbabwe would make a difference and bring succour to the white farmers. But our president maintains impeccable neutrality, knowing that the argument of Mr. Robert Mugabe is to emancipate the downtrodden black farmers whose farm lands have been colonised, even after independent, and are left with no fertile land to eke a living.
Though much cannot be seen in form of physical foreign investments, but from other indices a lot might have been achieved. They said figures don’t lie. During the military era, the highest amount of money generated and distributed from the Federation Account in any given month had never exceeded N27 billion but today more than N120billion is realised and disbursed accordingly to all the tiers of government even with some states receiving no less than a billion Naira in a month. These verifiable figures exclude higher return from Valued Added Tax and other sources of income to the national pool. Though the ways and manners some of the fund managers at the tiers misappropriate the allocations, which compel many to ask where are the dividends of democracy, Obasanjo administration has attracted more funds to the economy.
One may not be more religious than our learned Imams and Reverend Fathers to observe that some foreign investments are morally objectionable like the hosting of World Beauty Pageant which is claimed, in some quarters, would improve tourism fortunes of the country. The beauty pageant as it is known globally comes in different names. There are the Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Intercontinental, Miss Globe and I learnt more are being discovered and run by companies and families unlike other popular pastimes which have standard regulation and officiating. Probably if we succeeded in hosting the forthcoming Miss World we may end up hosting others annually, while the foreign lovers take away our brides which may be in short demand since polygamy is acceptable in the Nigerian culture. It is believed that an investment in exploitation and exposition of womanhood through half-naked parades of young girls in our soil with our korokoro eyes is anti-Africa and total abuse of feminine dignity and nobility. I think if there is any investment so far from the Miss World’s craze is millions of Naira being generated by Nigerian Television Authority from the daily commercial from SilverBird Promotion. That is if the air times are fully paid by the beauty pageant company
It is not easy to be a leader of a big country like Nigeria, where even a breadwinner cannot control a small family, the president may not therefore be blame for most problems within the systems since he has appointed several people to give him honest and truthful advice. He may be very closefisted and stingy in the release of funds to curtail inflation and minimize wasteful public funds, Chief Obasanjo has not been accused of personal aggrandizements and private enrichment from the public funds. We should appreciate some of his achievements and encourage him to do better for our country.
By the way, I am only seriously distressed by the recent American ranking of Nigeria as a high risk country on account of crimes and other violent behaviours allegedly perpetrated by ordinary criminals as well as persons in police and military uniforms. Even if the allegation is true, is it timely?
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Businessday August 26, Nigerian Tribune August 27, Post Express October 5, New Nigerian November 3, Thisday August 25 and Daily Trust Nov27, 2002