Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nigeria marks 50th independence anniversary.



NIGERIA as an independent country from British colonialism since 1960 turns 50 today on October 1, 2010. To mark the golden jubilee, the federal and state governments have mounted an elaborate programme of festive celebrations.

Our Query: Are We There Yet...?

The Nigerian Guardian (www.ngrguardiannews.com) in its editorial on October 1, 2010, mirrors our thoughts about Nigeria in its adulthood at 50 years. According to the Guardian, for a country that has endured 29 years of military rule, survived a fratricidal civil war, and practised an uninterrupted democracy since 1999, there is indeed a need to celebrate...

However, if anyone looks at Nigeria’s performance since 1960, no one can say that it has been an unqualified success. The high promise held out for Nigeria at independence has not been realised. Countries like Malaysia, India, Brazil, and even Ghana (we add Singapore here) with whom we were in the struggle for economic emancipation have all overtaken us. Today our leadership is infested with a lack of vision and corruption. The country as a whole no longer produces anything and thousands of young Nigerians cannot find employment. The Nigerian economy has become a trader economy where goods from all over the world are being dumped.

There is no infrastructure worthy of the name. Electricity, a basic ingredient of development, is lacking. There is no railway. Cholera has assailed parts of Northern Nigeria because of unclean water. Our roads are almost impassable. A journey from Lagos to Benin – an artery to seven other states – that used to be done in three hours, now takes more than one day. Agriculture, the pristine employer of labour is in decline. The country is fixated on easy money coming from oil production, and oil is a diminishing resource.

Nigeria scores low on almost every index of human development. Education is in crisis with 80 per cent failure rates recorded in public examinations, but the children of Nigeria’s rulers attend fine schools abroad. Health facilities are mostly substandard so that almost without exception our rulers travel abroad at public expense to receive medical attention. Nigeria is notorious for very high maternal and infant mortality rates. Nigerian institutions are weak and are not able to sustain the rigorous standards required in a modern democracy.

Security has become a major problem in Nigeria as law enforcement agents prove incapable of apprehending criminals. They have been unable to solve numerous high profile murders. Kidnapping, a latter-day menace, has overwhelmed the Nigeria police as whole communities and towns cowering in fear are shut down. It is a paradox that the Nigeria police that is praised abroad for discipline and professionalism, fail woefully at home.

Despite these negative developments, Nigeria continues to make substantial progress with its human resources. Nigerians are giving a good account of themselves all over the world. In almost every field of human endeavour there are Nigerians contributing their quota to world development. But the atmosphere in their home country is often disappointing and hostile so that many in the Diaspora remain abroad. But a responsible government ought to create conditions that enable our best and brightest to come back home to help in national development.

Nigeria is a valuable member of the United Nations, taking part in many peace keeping efforts of the world body. Both the Nigerian military and the Nigeria police have been noted for their abilities in bringing peace to war-stricken parts of the world. The Nigeria police have participated in about 20 international peacekeeping engagements since 1960.

Nigeria has been an active player on the African scene and played significant roles in the independence of Angola and Namibia, the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa and the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. Nigeria is the spearhead of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) whose activities have helped to stabilise the sub-region.

The problem of Nigeria is political. The presidential system we have adopted without any checks and balances is proving to be a costly misadventure. It nourishes a bloated bureaucracy, an uncountable number of parasites masquerading as assistants to political office holders and a selfish elite. Although Nigeria claims to be a federation, it operates more or less like a unitary government. Many of the 36 states of the federation cannot survive except with subventions from the federal government.

There is a certain lack of cohesion between the federal government and the states. Now and again plans are announced, visions espoused, but in the end nothing is accomplished. Vision 2010 has come and gone so will Vision 2020, if care is not taken. We have fallen behind in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Every administration overturns the things put in place by previous administrations, so that nothing is sustained. At the heart of these inadequacies is poor leadership and corruption.

Nigeria is in open season where a group of so-called leaders lord it over a silent majority with impunity. For instance our legislators are the highest paid in the world and yet nobody, it seems, can call them to order. Many of our leaders and their wives behave badly, often taking their bad manners abroad. It is almost as if any Nigerian who gets to the top must abuse his office to show his importance. Nobody is effectively fighting corruption. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) although loud on posturing, has shown weak service delivery.

Nigerians must worry about the recruitment process that throws up so much mediocrity in the public space. Nigerians in their individual capacities tend to be more intelligent than their governments whose profligacy in the midst of damning poverty is obscene. In Nigeria, there is no linkage between the rulers and the ruled. Fortunately, democracy offers an opportunity for the people to change what they do not like. The question and the challenge is whether Nigerians can rise to the occasion and elect leaders of their choice in 2011.

Our Verdict:
We are NOT there yet!

Our Request: Take advantage of the opportunities inherent in the comatose economic system in Nigeria.
Our Advise: Come onboard the train taking us there. Now!
Our Contact: inquiry@ibgnigeria.com

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

International Literacy Day and My Community

It is yet another September 8, a date set aside by the United Nations as the International Literacy Day to raise international awareness of and concern for literacy problems within communities. First celebrated in 1996, the day reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally.

Brought home to my community in Ndokwa West Local Government Area, an oil bearing community in Delta State, International Literacy Day means more than being able to read, write and count. Of course there are lots of people that can do all that. What it should mean in my community is empowerment.

Nature’s endowment in oil reserves has attracted oil and gas companies to the area including the location of a thermal gas power station in the nearby town of Okpai. Also, sundry businesses ranging from banking to hospitality have situated in its major towns and especially, the council headquarters, Kwale. Furthermore, while Politicians jostle for positions and leaders of thought prepare to engage the community in the scheme of things in the overall national polity, are the local people equipped enough to tap into the opportunities that would be available in their immediate community, the state and nation at large?

In my candid opinion, literacy centres, libraries and media resource centres should be set up in major towns in the community to provide tools and resources for knowledge empowerment. Literacy benefits both individuals and communities. Literacy is the fountain of knowledge and knowledge is power. Idle youths in the community are easy preys by Politicians. Also they engage in illicit businesses with a growing tendency to engage in robbery, rape, avoidable communal clashes and social malaise etc.

Such centres provide platforms for community regeneration and renewal for growth and prosperity. It returns the youths to normal paths to development and exposes them to literature and information materials that would renew their minds.

Reading makes a Man, it has been said. Learning to read boosts self-esteem and provides important new skills. In many parts of the world, new literates now qualify for desirable jobs which had previously gone to outsiders.

Ample opportunities exist in the local community including agriculture where learning new skills would expose the population to better agricultural techniques; opportunities exist in oil and gas companies in the area begging to be filled but for lack of qualified manpower. Opportunities also exist for ancillary businesses that serve as feeders to the burgeoning oil sector that can be tapped into if there were enough information on what to do and how.

The community has in recent times witnessed the growth in the number of financial institutions locating in the area. Again, securing jobs in the banks would entail getting good education and choosing the right career. Complaints on marginalization in the state and federal civil service is half solved when there are personnel ready to go on day one.

Centres of this nature provide reading materials and information guide on vocations and professions that would benefit the youths and adults in the community such as agriculture, health, safety and environment matters, security issues, maritime, transport, hospitality and leisure studies amongst others. The Centres provide resource materials for students in the educational institutions located in the community and beyond.

It is also commonplace for seminars and workshops to be held in such centres to boost the morale of the local people and to give them a sense of direction as they look up to some of the resource people to provide mentoring services. The centres offer outreach platforms to disseminate information to the youths on drugs use/abuse, militancy, careers, lifestyles and personal development. It serves as an oasis for people in and outside of the community that seek information or to conduct research on local issues.

Literacy is the key tool in reducing poverty. Its effects extend beyond personal benefits and are priceless. It has the ingredients that will give people newfound confidence and improved self-esteem that will spill into all aspects of their lives and the communities to which they belong. Our hope is that our governments, companies operating in the community and well meaning Nigerians would support communities, for example, Ndokwa West Local Government Area with knowledge based resource centres. By so doing, there would not be doubts on whether the UN Millennium Development Goals are achievable in 2015.

The writer, Ndudi Osakwe has proposed a library and media resource centre to be situated in Kwale, Ndokwa West Local Government Area, Delta State and named after Mr. Ossai Osakwe, a pioneer educator of blessed memory. He made sure his people were literate at a time when being literate was not a popular choice in his community.

Send your comments to nosakwe@ibgnigeria.com



Friday, September 3, 2010

INVITATION TO AN AGRICULTURAL STUDY TOUR OF ISRAEL


We are proposing a ten (10) day agricultural trip to Israel for Nigerian government officials and private sector agricultural operatives. The objective of the tour is to stimulate the interest of the participants to agriculture through lectures, interaction with experts and visits to locations of interest in Israel.

The study tour scheduled to hold 2-11 November, 2010 is predicated on Government’s efforts at ensuring food security for the people of Nigeria while in the same token diversifying the revenue base of the country away from oil. Moreover, we are of the opinion that a trip of this nature would have direct and positive impact on the citizenry.

Israel has been chosen for the tour on the strength of its innovative agricultural practices that have earned the country a pride of place in the comity of nations, agriculturally speaking.

Agriculture in Israel is the success story of a long, hard struggle against adverse conditions and of making maximum use of arable land and scarce water. Its success lies in the determination and ingenuity of farmers and scientists who have dedicated themselves to developing a flourishing agriculture.

The close cooperation between R&D and industry led to the development of a market-oriented agri-business that exports agro-technology solutions worldwide. A good lesson to countries, including Nigeria, in dire need of solutions in their war against hunger, diseases, morbidity and mortality!

The proposed study tour would expose the participants to the following:

• Crop cultivation (commercial value and high yielding varieties).
• Aquaculture and dairy farming.
• Post harvest technology.
• Markets and merchandising.
• Meeting with officials from relevant Ministries, Research Institutions etc.
• Joint venture projects on integrated agriculture

The ten days study tour covers lectures, visits to farms, agricultural technology centres, processing plants, chambers of commerce, the export institute and the ministry of agriculture. Optional visit to holy sites would be arranged.

Resource persons are drawn from the academia, state ministry of agriculture, multilateral agencies and entrepreneurs. Certificates of participation would be issued.