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Monday, 9 November 2015

The Nigerian Factor


Nigeria won the under 17 FIFA world cup tournament last night. I saw the match on tv, the only one of the tournament I did, and was not really surprised we won. Nigeria is the competition's most successful team with this fifth title, and was the defending champion having won the last edition 2 years ago.
These titles though have not translated to success in the more senior tournaments, especially the world cup proper. Nigeria won an olympic gold medal at the 1996 olympic games in Atlanta, USA. The olympic football tournament is open to under 23's, with 3 over-aged players allowed.
The reason Nigeria's success at the under 17 level has not translated to success at other FIFA tournaments, I will put down to the 'Nigerian factor'. A christian cleric once said the Nigerian factor is a demon. This Nigerian factor has been blamed for everything from our inability to manage our potentials and vast human and natural resources, up to the cancer of corruption, Nigeria's inability to elect her best to positions of leadership, and just about every failure the country has been saddled with.
I will posit that the Nigerian  factor is not, of course, a demon. It does have roots in our belief in the supernatural, because we have left the running of our country to the divine. I have written about pastors like Enoch Adeboye who have always urged Nigerians to pray, because in their parochial worldview, Nigeria's problems can only be solved by God. But we have been praying for so long, and things continue to get worse. Is it not time to change tactics? Someone once defined insanity as doing the same thing over an over again and expecting the same results; we have been praying for decades for our country, and things only continue to get worse. This should tell us that the prayers are not working. Simple? Not for Nigerians. We are adept at making simple things complex. At least $16 billion was spent by the Obasanjo administration between 1999 and 2007 on power generation and distribution, today, not only are very many rural areas not connected to the national grid, generators still sell like hot cakes, and households count themselves lucky if they get up to 4 hours of electricity supply in one day. And we wonder why the manufacturing sector is dead, and why small businesses cannot function. How long can a small business run on generators? Nigeria is a notorious importer of goods it can produce. We are the sixth largest producers of oil in the world, and  have four refineries, but, believe it or not, we import petroleum products, because the refineries have been deliberately sabotaged, and money meant for turn around maintenance and repairs have been stolen. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corproation, NNPC, was in the news last year for not remitting between $8 billion and $20 billion to the federal government, depending on whom is to be believed, and the central bank governor, who blew the whistle on this monumental fraud, lost his job as a result. Colossal sums such as these are lost annually and nobody has been prosecuted; the painfully few who have been convicted were only asked to pay paltry fines, or given laughable jail sentences, most of which were spent in luxury in a hospital bed "for health reasons," a mere slap on the wrist for such grievous crimes against their country and its citizens.
I will tell you what the Nigerian factor is: it is the collective slothfulness of a nation, just like the famous story of Anybody, Everybody, Nobody and Somebody; only that the Nigerian version ends with "Everybody praying for what Anybody could have done and blaming Somebody because Nobody did it."