Ayobami Oyalowo: The Issue Is Not Yesterday’s Men; The Issue Is Tomorrow’s Children

Published:4 Feb, 2013


A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.

~John Burroughs

Ordinarily we have been led to believe that a democratic government is essentially a participatory one and as such citizens have inalienable rights to ask questions of their representatives while expecting sensible, reasonable and civil answers, backed with facts. It is universally held that people who get “voted” into political offices are answerable to those who voted them in. But it appears we are practicing something else in Nigeria where it has become a crime for freeborn citizens to ask questions of their so called government.

It is a known fact that in most third world countries, the mass media is controlled by government or business men who are mostly stooges and yes men of those in government. Therefore, the government usually controls what streams out from these media channels. Since the media generally shapes debates and discourse, opposition voices are usually muted. But with the advent of social media, online blogging, twitter, Facebook etc, the various governments in third world countries have been running helter skelter; having lost the monopoly of information. Nigeria as a third world nation is no exception. We have been denied information over the years but suddenly, it does appear, the people have found a voice in social media and are judiciously using it to call their government to order.

One thing is clear though: despite the rants and dissenting voices online, the Nigerian government scoffs at the voices of the people so much so that a presidential adviser once branded some citizens as ” collective children of anger”. But there seems to be an exception to this rule. The moment certain personalities use the social media to make their voices heard, a horde of presidential minions are unleashed, from the attack dog, to crawling roaches. Like a cackle of hyenas, they are usually out in full force. They do not have to give any intelligible answer or clear grey areas as raised. Their singular aim is to muddle up the puddle, in their usually rambunctious manner. They raise unsubstantiated allegations and mudslinging is their watchword.

The presidential minions have no restraints nor decorum. They don’t care about the sacredness of facts or the sanctity of proof. NO, that ain’t their turf. All they want is to divert attention and turn the gaze of the masses away from salient issues raised by anyone they perceive as influential. When all that fails, the government, through any of their numerous agencies, may start to pursue spurious court cases against these so called opponents.

Recently, Obiageli Ezekwesili, former World Bank Vice President, was University of Nigeria Nsukka’s 42nd Convocation lecturer. There she observed that the two administrations that succeeded Olusegun Obasanjo’s had squandered $67bn – a combined sum from our foreign reserve and Excess Crude Account. Deeply troubled, she complained that six years after the administration she “served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one, most Nigerians (especially the poor) continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems, as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.”

The government got jolted by that revelation. They were more troubled by the image of the messenger and the damaging impact it will have on their already grossly despised administration.

After such revelation, one expects a sensible government to either explain what happened or contradict such claims. Not this government. In came the rambunctious and loquacious Labaran Maku, the misinformation( sorry, information) minister. He didn’t bother to explain or contradict Mrs, Ezekwesili, but rather in his usually unintelligent fashion, cast aspersions on her person. It was almost a contest of ‘yes, our government is bad, but was yours better?’ Nigerians were treated to more macabre dance steps when a member of the presidential media gang, a supposed intelligentsia and a former chairman of the editorial board of a national newspaper, jumped into the fray.
Reuben Abati took infamy to a new low, going on an expletive laden spree. Not once did he he even pretend to address Ezekwesili’s allegation. No, that wasn’t necessary in Abati’s book. He chose to give her and her supposed co-travelers a serious tongue lash. The only sad part was that Reuben was not man enough to mention their names. All he could do was make allusions that keen watchers of events could piece together to know who particular invectives were meant for .

Let us stop for a moment and examine what the bone of contention has been about. Ezekwesili alleged that the government under which she served, left behind a humongous amount of $45billion in Nigeria’s foreign reserve and $22billion in the excess crude account (ECA) totaling $67 billion as sum left behind by the Obasanjo led government. But the government that succeeded theirs, while the incumbent president was a vice President, had frittered some of that sum. Let us also recall that the same Obasanjo led government paid off the entirety of Nigeria’s foreign debt which was around $30billion at the time.

Today, Nigeria owes about $10billion in foreign debt and $50billion in local debt. Bear in mind that crude oil which forms between 70-80% of our national income has never sold for less than $90 per barrel in the last 6 years. Nigeria’s current OPEC quota is 2million BPD. You can do the maths. Recall also that the British Prime Minister, in Davos, recently asked the Nigerian government to account for the over $100billion which accrued to Nigeria last year. He made the call while belaboring the point that Nigeria does not deserve more foreign aid.

What is lost to most Nigerians in this government orchestrated “roforofo” public mudslinging, is that instead of asking the hard questions, the masses are being treated to a Nigerian brand of the Roman Coliseum. During the zenith of the Roman empire, when the citizens are disillusioned and therefore become restless, especially when the government’s performance is abysmal, the rulers will stage a big gathering to entertain them by throwing a Christian into the arena to battle bare knuckled with either a lion or a tiger. These regular “shows” were usually staged as a form of diversion to turn the attention of the populace from the ineptitude of the government of the day. Today in the Jonathanian era, we have our modern day coliseum. It is an arena that reads like: “yes I am very inept and corrupt but others are corrupt too”. The gullible amongst us lap it up and say “yes those people are not saints”. They (the gullible ones) usually miss it. The question we all ought to be asking is: “when did governance become a contest of the worse among the worst”? Is governance meant to improve our welfare or seek to prove that preceding administrations didn’t fare any better? The joke is on us.

Nigerians have lost sight of the real deal. 0basanjo was not a saint, neither were his subordinates. But what you can’t take away from his government was the fact that he placed Nigeria on the path to meeting the millennium development goals. I will seek to clarify a few points in the paragraphs that follow. I believe that all sensible Nigerians should join Mrs. Ezekwesili in this crusade. Follow me patiently, as I enumerate a couple of issues quickly.

What is the use of having a large reserve? International(foreign) reserves are a country’s “external assets”—including foreign currency deposits and bonds held by central banks and monetary authorities, gold and SDRs. Nigeria under Obasanjo, saved the excess money which was not in the budget, due to sudden increase in global oil price. Note that in reserves, you merely hold the funds as savings but it doesn’t yield any interest. To answer the question of why a country needs its FR, in global trade, countries show up at the negotiation table with what they have in store as a way of gaining an upper hand and tilting the bargain their way. Nigeria as an import based economy needs to maintain a low and stable exchange rate. The healthy state of our external reserve is a means to achieving that lofty goal.

Any business man can bear witness to the catastrophic happenings of December 2008 when the exchange rate crashed from 118 naira to a USD to about 200 naira to a USD. What created such a terrible and unstable situation was the depletion of the external reserves by the federal government of Nigeria led by Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan. Herein lies the crux of the matter. What became of the $67 billion? Having a healthy foreign reserve is a precursor to being able to dictate the play in global finance and foreign trade. It enables a country to play and bargain from a position of strength. A healthy foreign reserve also helps to defend the local currency from unnecessary fluctuations and sharp drop in value.
Let me quickly explain that countries are moving away from just having foreign reserves to creating Sovereign Wealth Fund SWF. What is SWF? A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is a state-owned investment fund composed of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, property, precious metals, or other financial instruments. Sovereign wealth funds are global investments. Most SWFs are funded by foreign exchange assets. Since the SWF is usually funded by foreign exchange assets, we could have easily funded ours from the ECA. Some sovereign wealth funds may be held by a central bank, which accumulates the funds in the course of its management of a nation’s banking system. This type of fund is usually of major economic and fiscal importance. Other sovereign wealth funds are simply the state savings that are invested by various entities for the purposes of investment returns, and that may not have a significant role in fiscal management.

The aftermath of the depletion of our foreign reserves was what led to many Nigerian banks losing their foreign credit lines, thereby emasculating those banks from being able to fund importation requests by Nigerian businesses.

From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the government of Yar’Adua and Jonathan have a lot of questions to answer, but they would rather be clever by half. While Angola, a former war enclave, has launched the SWF in October 2012, our presidential rabble rousers and attack maggots are busy making a fool of themselves. The question of the $67billion is no longer a question of yesterday’s men against today’s men. It is a case of the crimes of this GOVERNMENT against our collective sensibilities. Enough of these roman coliseums. We are no longer interested in who is a saint or the sinner. We need answers to the question posed by Dr. Mrs obiageli Ezekwesili: where is NIGERIA’S 67 billion USD?

Like I earlier averred, Obasanjo or his team were no saints; but he clearly had a team of forward looking technocrats, proven men and women who were forward looking and who made provisions for a better future for Nigeria, unlike the present administration that does nothing but borrow while plunging Nigeria into a deeper hole. Nigeria’s debt; both local and foreign, is almost $60billion (that is over N7 trillion). I weep for the future. Indeed Obasanjo did make a lot of mistakes, but what you cannot accuse him of is not planning for the future.

Rather than Reuben Abati engaging the citizens in a civil manner, like the proverbial elder, he chose to walk into the village square with corn cobs tied to his waste and inadvertently has made himself a playmate of fowls and chickens. Let them continue their macabre dance in the market square. That is their palaver. What we demand is an explanation by their financial managers about what became of the $67billion.

Of the many mistakes Obasanjo made, herein lies his greatest mistake– that he bequeathed to Nigeria two of the worst kinds of successors: an invalid and a nincompoop, because success without a successor is invariably a big failure.

You can also meet me on twitter @Ayourb

One thought on “Ayobami Oyalowo: The Issue Is Not Yesterday’s Men; The Issue Is Tomorrow’s Children”

  1. @mkurfi2 says:

    expecting any developments from the present administration is no difference from a mirage. Trying to defend them is a total stupidity and downtrodden of one’s integrity in which its attack animals are blind to realise. The more they try to defend GEJ the more they lose face!! Thank God they have no control of the social media, it’s a global phenomenon of super highway technological advancement. They’ll not deter our future dreams. Our “Eyes Wide Open” Tomorrow’s Children!!! Children of Anger!! 9ce one bro…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Ondo State | Jimoh Ibrahim and the limits of political charlatanism. – Jude Ndukwe

The Ondo State governorship election is just a few days away. While serious candidates from across all political parties are putting finishing touches to their campaigns and preparations, one Jimoh Ibrahim is desperately busy working hard with collaborators to truncate the whole process in a manner akin to that of a street urchin otherwise known as Area Boy in some southwestern states of Nigeria. Referred to as “Mr Buy and Kill” in some quarters owing to his alleged legendary penchant...

Ighalo Not Bothered By Goal Drought, Meets Rohr Along With Success

Watford striker Odion Ighalo has stated that he remains unfazed by his current goal drought for club and country. Ighalo met with Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr recently, along with Isaac Success, who missed the Eagles’ World Cup qualifier against Zambia due to injury. Nigeria star Ighalo, who last scored for the Hornets in their 4-2 win over West Ham in an English Premier League game at the London Stadium in September, is hoping to finish the season on...

NLC slams Senate for re-introducing toll gates

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday in Abuja berated the Senate over its approval for the re-introduction of toll gates across the country. The NLC General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, while reacting to the development, said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Nigeria’s policy making processes needed to be interrogated. NAN recalls that the Senate had on Tuesday passed a motion seeking to resuscitate the collection of tolls on federal highways across...

Olisa Metuh Funded PDP publicity During Jonathan’s Campaign – Witness

A witness, Richard Ihediwa, told a Federal High Court on Thursday that embattled Olisa Metuh, solely funded publicity activities during Jonathan’s re-election campaign. Metuh, a former National Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party, is being tried for alleged N400m money laundering. Ihediwa, who was Metuh’s Personal Assistant on Media, disclosed this while being led in evidence by the defence counsel, Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN). He said that it came to a point that the ‘situation room’ was not funded by the...

Lecturer who demands for sex from female students risk 5 years jail term – Senate

A Bill for an Act to make provision for the prohibition and punishment of sexual harassment of students by lecturers in tertiary institutions has been passed into law. The Bill which was sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) and 57 other co-sponsors, was read for the first time on Wednesday 4th May, 2016. The objective of the Bill is to prohibit the offence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions and impose stiff penalties on perpetrators. It also creates a strict...

Gowon pays another visit to President Buhari in Aso Rock

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday met behind closed doors with a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The meeting was held inside the President’s office. The meeting of the two leaders was the second one in two months. They had earlier met on August 23 before Gowon travelled out of the country. The former military leader did not speak to reporters after the Thursday meeting.

We Are Happy With World Bank Rating – Presidency

The Presidency says the World Bank’s Doing Business R2017 Report, released on Tuesday is an indication that the government’s reform initiatives are yielding positive results.  Laolu Akande “The Buhari administration is gratified that the various reform initiatives put in place towards instituting a positive business environment is slowly but gradually yielding some dividends. “Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business remains static, halting a falling trend in...

Lassa Fever: Lagos launches Operation kill Rats, make More Money

The Lagos State Government will not relent in its effort at making the state the safest place to live in by providing a safe environment, the Commissioner for The Environment, Dr Babatunde Adejare has said. Adejare made the assertion at the official flag-off of the Lagos State Market Deratisation Programme, aimed at ridding the state of the Lassa Fever vector at Obalende market on Thursday. The government is collaborating with Phosguard Fumigants, an NGO, to promote the programme through “Kill...

Jose Mourinho charged with misconduct over referee comments

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association. Mourinho's charge was confirmed by the FA on Thursday on their official website. Mourinho was ruled to have breached FA rules for commenting on referee Anthony Taylor ahead of his side's goalless draw with Liverpool on October 17. The Portuguese said appointing Taylor for the game at Anfield had put 'pressure' on the Manchester-based official and it would be 'difficult for him to have a very good...

Twitter to Sack 9% of its Workers Worldwide

Twitter Inc. is cutting about 9 per cent of its employees worldwide. The social media site seemingly unable to find a buyer and losing money has struggled amid competition from the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, says it expects to book about $10 million to $20 million in workforce restructuring charges. Twitter shares have tumbled 27 per cent in the past month as possible suitors have wandered away, rose 4 per cent before the opening bell Thursday. The San Francisco...

The consequences of the U.S. war on terrorism in Africa.

On May 5, President Barack Obama hosted his Djiboutian counterpart, Ismail Omar Guelleh, at the White House. The two leaders signed a 20-year lease agreement for the Djibouti-based Camp Lemonnier, the biggest U.S. military base in Africa. Covering 500 acres, the installation is a crucial launching site for U.S. military operations against militant groups in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. The U.S. agreed to pay an annual fee of $70 million for the site,...

Shadow War in the Sahara: A look at US/French Military Activities in Africa.

Africa remains a key territory on the global chessboard of the 21st century. Rich in oil and natural resources, the continent holds a strategic position. Whoever controls Mali, controls West Africa, if not the whole of Africa. Doulaye Konate, Association of African Historians, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies. North Africa counts with vast oil and natural gas deposits, the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore, and resources...

Kashamu asks court to stop FG’s move to abduct him.

The Senator representing Ogun West in the Senate, Buruji Kashamu, yesterday asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop the Federal Government from forcefully abducting and transporting him to the United States of America to face drug related criminal charges. Joined in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA. Kashamu, through his counsel, Charles Ndukwe, told Justice Gabriel Kolawale that since July when the court...

Stop EFCC from transferring my case to Lagos – Kalu tells court

The former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from transferring his case from the Abuja Division of the court to Lagos. Kalu is, therefore, seeking an order of mandamus compelling the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation to try him in the Abuja division of the court. The applicant, in a motion ex parte brought pursuant to order 34...

Cattle dealers threaten nationwide strike.

The Amalgamated Union of National Cattle and Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria has threatened to embark on indefinite strike over alleged extortion by security agents across the country. Hamman-Jalo Hamman-Jam, acting national chairman of the association, told NAN in Mubi, Adamawa state, on Thursday, that the union was tired of the situation. Hamman-Jam said members of the union were made to part with money at various security check points on major federal highways especially from the northern to eastern part of...

Arms scandal: Panel submits final report, indicts top FG officials.

After 14 months of painstaking work, the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces (2007-2015) has submitted its final report to President Muhammadu Buhari. It was gathered from highly placed sources that Buhari received the final report at the presidential villa on Sunday from the Air Vice Marshal J.O.N Ode (rtd)- led panel. It was authoritatively gathered that the report, a copy of which was made available to the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj.-Gen....

Corrupt judges are a disgrace to Africa – NGO

A non-government organisation has described the recent events unfolding around issues of alleged corruption of Nigeria judges as a huge embarrassment to the continent. The Executive Director of African Renaissance Project (ARP), Dr. Kwame Kobina, stated this at Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana on his way to the 4th International Conference on Democracy and the Rule of Law in Africa, scheduled for Banjul, Gambia by the weekend. He decried the rate of decay and the spate of scandals among the judiciary...

NSCDC alerts public of fake recruitment.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Benue has alerted the public of the existence of employment racket within the command. The NSCDC Commandant, Mr Shuaibu Jibrin, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Makurdi on Thursday that the racket had been collecting money from applicants in the guise of offering them employment into the organisation. Jibrin, however, assured that its searchlights had already been beamed on the perpetrators while explaining that all recruitment exercises by the organisation...

Economic recession: We will emerge stronger – Buhari assures

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday assured Nigerians that the country will emerge stronger, better and prosperous from the current economic challenges. The President gave the assurance in a message to the 7th National Prayer Breakfast meeting, titled; “A tree and it’s fruits, is yours a blessing or a curse”. Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, Buhari said leaders in the country must strive to be a light to the people they lead. He said, “As leaders...

Kogi government overhauls revenue system, to begin TSA.

With recommendations for adoption of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the establishment of a legally sound and operationally efficient post-autonomy process for the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), Kogi State is set to rejig its revenue system. The move, which is part of efforts to fight corruption and wastes in public finance management, has already received commendations from the state government as the Adhoc Committee on Fiscal Responsibility submitted its report. In recent times, the need to engage professional accountants...

APGA crisis deepens as party disowns Vice Chairman.

Ifeatu Obiokoye, the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, said the party never held its National Working Committee meeting, as claimed by Vice-Chairman, South East zone, Nwabueze Okafor. Obiokoye, via a statement he issued on Wednesday in Abuja, said no such meeting held anywhere. Okafor said on Monday that APGA’s NWC held a meeting under his chairmanship to ratify the purported suspension of the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Victor Oye. Obiokoye said: “APGA wishes to assure members...