“A Date With Destiny” a speech delivered by the Guest Speaker Chief Femi Fani-Kayode at the launching of the book titled ”Highlife-The Amazing Lifestyle Of The Rich and Famous ” written by Mr. Lanre Alfred and launched at the Muson Centre, Lagos on the 24th April 2013
In 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo came to power he met 1.5 billion USD in our foreign reserves. Yet by the time he left office in 2007, eight years later, he built up those reserves from 1.5 billion to 67 billion USD. Out of that 67 billion he deducted 20 billion and used it to pay off a large chunk of our foreign debt. That is how we arrived at the figure of 47 billion USD which was left in our foreign reserves in 2007 when Obasanjo left office and handed over power to the incoming administration. Today, four years later, despite very high crude oil prices and record amounts of oil and gas sales, Nigeria still only has approximately 45 billion USD in her foreign reserves. Some have described this as progress. Yet I do not believe that this can be described as progress in any shape or form. Successor governments are meant to build on the legacy of those that came before them. This is especially so when they belong to the same political party. In the case of the Jonathan administration this has clearly not happened given the fact that today we have just a little less in our foreign reserves than we did four years ago.
Let us look at our foreign debt profile. In 1999 when President Obasanjo came to power he inherited a foreign debt of over 30 billion USD from the Abubakar administration. Yet by the time he left power in 2007 he had paid off that debt fully and for the first time in the history of the world, sub-saharan Africa had a country that was completely debt-free. No other African country has ever achieved this. Yet sadly, four years later and under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, our foreign debt has risen from zero to 9 billion USD. Consequently all the admiration and wonderful accolades that we won as a country from the international commmunity for exercising and indulging in financial prudence and good old-fashioned fiscal discipline when Obasanjo was in power have been squandered and lost.
Now let us look at the Excess Crude Account. In 1999 when President Obasanjo came to power there was zero in the Excess Crude Account simply because there was no such thing at the time. He established it and created it specifically for saving some of our foreign exchange ”for a rainy day”. Consequently from zero in 1999 he saved and built it up to 24 billion USD in eight years. This was unprecedented and it was commended by all the international monetry institutions. No-one believed that an African government was capable of saving money in this way. However the concept of ”saving for a rainy day” did not last for too long after Obasanjo left power. By the end of the second year of President Umaru Yar’adua’s tenure of office the Excess Crude Account was completely drained and left with only a paltry one billion USD. This surely has to be a record when it comes to reckless public spending and the squandering of our resources. In fairness to the Jonathan administration they met next to nothing in the Excess Crude Account when he took over as President two years ago and since then he has been trying to build it up again. Yet despite his efforts, as at the last time I checked, we had only 7 billion USD in that account. This figure represents 17 billion USD less than we left in that same account four years ago when President Obasanjo left office.
These are indeed difficult and unpleasant submissions from which I derive no joy but nevertheless true and accurate ones. Facts and figures do not lie and in this case they tell a very disturbing story. It is incumbent on us all to urge our Government to do far better. Yet the last time some of us tried to do this government referred to us, in a throughly disdainful manner, as being ”hypocrites” and nothing more than ”yesterdays men”. The point was taken. They did not want us to ask any questions, to speak the truth, to assesss their performance, to let the Nigerian people know where they were taking us or to express our deep concerns about the direction in which our country was going. We were even subjected to veiled threats and the most primitive and crude forms of intimidation. Yet it did not work and neither can it ever work because we are talking about the destiny of our country. No-one is intimidated and I for one will never be silent and cannot be silenced as long as there is life and breath in me.
It is to that end that I will take the opportunity of this august gathering to ask the same questions of ”todays men”, in addition to one or two new ones, that I asked just a few weeks ago. And those questions are as follows.
When will our President take President Obasanjo’s advice and finally do something concrete about Boko Haram and our security situation? When will our Government come to terms with the fact that a policy of appeasement and the offering of amnesty to a bunch of murderers, criminals and terrorists that seek to establish an islamic fundamentalist state in northerrn Nigeria and that seek to kill and maim everyone that opposes them in that inglorious endeavour is not only an exercise in futility but that it also sets a dangerous precedent? Does the fact that at least 4,400 Nigerians have been killed by Boko Haram and Ansaru in the last two years under their watch not bother them? Does the fact that according to the BBC and CNN 185 innocent Nigerians were murdered, 2000 buildings burnt to the ground and 10,000 people displaced in Baga town in one day just two days ago give them any cause for concern?
Is this not an eloquent testimony to the fact that the crisis is escalating and that all their calls and offers of amnesty to Boko Haram have fallen on deaf ears and failed? Does the fact that it took our Government two days to even acknowledge that the Baga massacres ever took place and that when they finally did all they said was that they would ”investigate it” not seem rather insensitive? This was after the Sec. Gen. of the U.N. and numerous other world leaders had not only condemned the massacre but had also expressed their condolences to our President, to the Nigerian people and to those that lost their loved ones. Yet to the best of my knowledge not one word of condolence or regret was offered by our President or our Government. Since when have we degenerated to such a point that when our people are killed in such a brazen manner and in such large numbers we don’t even seem to ”give a damn”? Since when have we become a nation of sociopaths that have no feeling and that do not value human life?
4, 400 precious souls cut short and slaughtered like chicken by Boko Haram in the last two years. How can our government sleep well at night with all that innocent blood that has flowed whilst they are at the helm of affairs of our nation? More innocent souls have been killed in the last 2 years by terrorists than at any other time in the history of Nigeria outside the civil war. How does President Jonathan and his ”today’s men” feel about winning such a dubious and dishonorable title? Does he still regard Boko Haram as ”his siblings” who he ”cannot hurt”? Why did the President refuse to visit the good people of the northeast for so long despite the fact that hundreds of people are still being slaughtered there by Boko Haram every day? He did not visit the place until the APC governors took the initiative, did the right thing, went there boldly and paved the way? It was only after that initiative was taken by the opposition that our President woke up from his deep slumber, remembered that he was the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and saw fit to go to the north-east. Why did he take so long before doing so?
Moving to the issue of corruption and the economy, when will our President and his ”today’s men” answer David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’s, question and tell him what they did with the 100 billion USD that they made from oil sales in the last two years? When will they answer Obi Ezekwesili’s question about how they squandered 67 billion USD of our foreign reserves? When will they answer the question that Nasir El Rufai asked sometime back about how they spent over 350 billion naira on security vote in one year alone? When will they answer the many questions that Pat Utomi and many other distinguished and courageous leaders and ”yesterday’s men” have raised about the trillions of naira that have been supposedly spent on oil subsidy payments in the last two years?
When will they implement the findings and recommendations of the Nuhu Ribadu report on the thievery that has gone on in the oil sector? When will they cultivate the guts and find the courage to respond to a call for a public debate to defend their abysmal record? When will these ”today’s men” stop being so reckless with our money? Why would our ”today’s man” FCT Minister budget 5 billion for the ”rehabilitatioin of prostitues in the Abuja”? Why would he budget 7.5 billion naira for a new ”FCT city gate”? Why would he budget 4 billion naira for some kind of building or centre for the First Lady? Why would the Federal Government of ”todays men” budget 1 billion naira for food in the Villa? Are these the priorities of ”today’s men”? And all this when Nigeria is back in foreign debt to the tune of 9 billion USD and is still borrowing, when local debt has hit almost 50 billion USD, when 40 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed, when graduate unemployment has hit 80 per cent, when 40 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to good food and are described by the U.N.D.P as being ”hungry” and when 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line? Is this the vision of ”today’s men”?
If so, may God deliver Nigeria. So much destruction and disaster all wrought in the space of two years and by just one man. That is the legacy of ”todays men”. Yet just as it took one man to take us to these dingy and depressing depths so it will take one man to lift us up again to the heights of glory. It took Adam, who was just one man, to destroy humanity and take away all that God had given unto us so freely. Yet it took just one other man, by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to redeem mankind, to restore us, to reconcile us with God and and to once again grant us our salvation and give us dominion over the earth. One man destroyed and another came down, as God incarnate in the flesh, and restored.
I have come here to tell you today that though one man has virtually destroyed the great legacy that was handed over to him and entrusted to him and his co-pilot 4 years ago in 2007, we should not lose hope because God has already raised and prepared another to take that power back in 2015 in a free and fair democratic election. He has raised another to redeem our fortunes, restore our pride, dignity and self-respect, rebuild our economy, restore law and order and give our beloved homeland and our beautiful people hope for a better tomorrow. No matter how bad things may be today, God has already made a way out and crafted a master plan for restoration, joy, abundance and a good harvest for our future. That is indeed where our hope lies. We leave all to Him and we shall continue to do that which He Himself has asked us to do in His Holy Word by speaking out against injustice, oppression, persecution, corruption and the rampant evil that reigns supreme in our land. We must not remain silent when faced with this evil. We must not remain holed up in our prayer closets and merely continue to hope against hope. We must do more far more than that. We must get involved in the struggle, join hands with all the relevant stakeholders, get involved in politics and work and fight hard within the confines of the constitution and the law to remove those that have visited such evil on our land and sought to blight the future of our nation. And in this struggle fear and indifference has no place because we are eagles, we are kings and we are lions.
I say this because eagles do not hide when they see a storm gathering, lions do not retreat when the enemy threatens and kings do not run when they hear the sound of battle. Rather the eagle flies boldly into the eye of the storm without a trace of fear but with power, majesty, grace and passion. The lion rises and roars with courage and strength as his adversary approaches. The king does not yield one inch of the field to the marauding enemy but rather he gallantly and boldly leads his captains and princes into the most bitter part of the battle.
This surely is our calling and the essence of our lives. The Lord has given us the spirit of the eagle and the lion: the spirit of the warrior and the king. We cannot and will not be intimidated by anything, any circumstance or anyone and least of all by what we see or hear. And why should we be afraid of mere mortals, for what is man? The bible asks,”who art thou o man?” It then answers it’s own question by saying “thou art as the grass that withers, thou art as the flower that fadeth……..a man that is born of woman, that is today and tomorrow is no more.” Indeed that is all we are before God. His word says it is He alone that has the power to “give life and to kill.” If we die tomorrow it is by His will and if we live tomorrow it is by His grace. His word says it is He alone that is worthy of our fear and of our praise.
We must therefore all humble ourselves before God and know that He alone rules in the affairs of men and determines the destiny of nations. So fear God alone and be the man or woman that He has called you to be; a prince of Heaven, a deliverer of his people, a fearless warrior and a worthy king. And one of the characteristics of a true leader and king is the courage and ability to fearlessly rise up to the occassion and speak out when faced with evil, injustice and oppression. One question that is often asked today is why should we speak out ? Why bother? What difference does it make? And yet Edmund Burke provided the answer to the question when he said that when good men remain silent when they see evil in the land, that is when such evil flourishes. He said that the hottest place in hell is reserved for such “good” yet silent men . This is not only true but it is also deeply profound. That is why it saddens me when some people suggest that we should not talk about our challenges and that we should not speak out and protest against the evil and injustice that thrives in our land today. Imagine what it would have been like if people had adopted that attitude all over the world and throughout world history.
The point is that we must speak out strongly and protest against evil whenever and wherever we see it. That is why we were educated in the first place and that is what being a believer is all about. Protesting against, speaking against and fighting against injustice and evil is the greatest duty that we have to humanity and to one another as human beings. It is a sacred trust and obligation before God. The minute we stop talking, we stop protesting and we stop speaking out against that which is unjust and evil, that is when we are truly lost as a people. That is when we cease to be the men and women that God has ordained us to be. That is when we no longer deserve to be called human beings. That is when we must bow our heads in shame forever.
Today our nation stands at a crossroads and it is left for us to decide which path we choose to take. Do we take the path of despair and dishonour and give up on our country? Or do we rise above it all and latch on to the promises of God for our land and for our people? With biting poverty, mounting hopelessness, a bleeding economy, youth restiveness, unprecedented violence, brazen acts of terror and all manner of vices and evil thriving in the land one wonders how things got so bad.
The foundation for our current situation was laid many years ago and since that time we have seen so much suffering and failure at virtually all levels. We were plagued with leaders who lacked vision, who lacked intellect, who lacked sincerity of purpose and who were antagonistic to those that dared to challenge their visionless and purposeless policies. Our country is currently bedevilled with so much negativity that it is easy to look around and just give up. Yet I say that we must never give up because ”hope springs eternal”. The bible says though the night may be dark yet ”joy comes in the morning”. The wise ones say you cannot have a message without a mess. You cannot have a testimony without a test. You cannot get to the top of the mountain without first going to the bottom of the valley. This is true.
And out of Nigeria’s ”mess” shall surely come her ”message”. Out of Nigeria’s ”test” shall surely come her ”testimony”. We have been to the ”bottom of the valley” and therefore we shall get to the ”top of the mountain”. Our dream for a better Nigeria shall never die and neither can our collective prayers be in vain. I refuse to give up because I know that the God that I serve never fails. He alone rules in the affairs of men. He alone forges the destiny of nations. Out of a deep void and formlessness He ordered the creation of the world. He established it by the power of His word and He gave us dominion over it.
In the same way He created Nigeria for His purpose and for His glory and that purpose and glory shall surely be established. It shall come to pass and it will be manifest to the entire world. We shall see it and we shall be established in it as a nation and as a people.
If God can do it for others, He can do it for us too. We can be great and, by the grace of God, we shall be great. This is my dream and this is what I see. And believe me when I tell you that it is prophetic. A Nigeria where every man and woman, regardless of faith, ethnicity, status or political persuasion finds a common cause and relishes in our collective humanity. A Nigeria where the rich have a conscience and the poor have hope. A Nigeria where joy and peace reign supreme and where bombings and killings are a thing of the past. A Nigeria where the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac and the adherents of the two great Abrahamic faiths of Islam and Christianity live together in peace, harmony and mutual respect. A Nigeria where the secularity of the state is respected yet where God is revered and honoured by all.
A Nigeria where the knowledge and fear of the Living God reigns in the hearts and minds of the people. A Nigeria where every man is His brother’s keeper, where leaders show compassion to those that they lead, where justice is done to all and where political persecution has no place. A Nigeria where decency is rewarded, where dissent is tolerated, where non-conformity is encouraged and where equity is enthroned. That is the Nigeria of my dream. A Nigeria where youth unemployment is low and where every individual, no matter how high or low, can aspire to any position and live his or her dream. That is the Nigeria of my dream. A Nigeria where human life and human dignity is sacrosanct and where fairness is the watchword of every soul. That is the Nigeria of my dream.
I have no fears about the future of this great nation because the God that I serve never fails. The bible says the nations are ”as a drop of water before Him”. He sits above the circles of the earth and He counts the earth as His footstool. Yet despite His sheer awesomeness and majesty, with Him lies great compassion and mercy. Once we return to Him, acknowledge Him, honour Him and are led and guided by Him, He will restore us and shower us with His blessings. The Lord awaits us to make the right choice. We either continue to wallow in self-delusion, wickedness, greed, murder, the persecution of perceived enemies, the abuse of power, evil and insensitivity or we desist from our wicked ways and turn to Him. I am persuaded that once we make the right choice our date with destiny, as a people and as a nation, will come far sooner than we can possibly imagine.
In his book titled ”The Wretched of the Earth” Frantz Fanon said the following- ”each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover it’s mission and fulfill it or betray it.” Past generations in Nigeria have not lived up to expectation. This is the bitter truth.
Yet there is still hope as long as we have faith. That hope and faith is our blessed assurance and it lives in our minds and hearts. We know that the Lord will fix it. We know that He is ”more than able”. We know that He is a man of war whom none can resist and we know that He restores, redeems and rebuilds even the most broken and wretched walls. Dr. Martin Luther King jnr., after delivering his celebrated and inspiring ”I have a dream” speech, was felled by an assassin’s bullet on April 4 1968. To those that killed him, his dream died with him. Yet they were wrong. They did not know that great dreams, once birthed, never die.
That is why the Word of God said ”if the princes of this world had known they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory”. If those that murdered Jesus had known that He would honour His word and rise up three days later they would not have crucified him. They persecuted Him, they humiliated Him, they beat Him, they tortured Him, they spat on Him and they killed Him yet they could not kill His dream or abort His mission. His dream lived on and became a reality for all mankind to see. It was the same with Martin Luther King. They killed him but his mission had already been achieved and his vision came to pass 45 years after his sacrificial and selfless death when a black man by the name of Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States of America. This is indeed the stuff of which dreams are made. Great things are birthed in great dreams and if you dare to dream nothing is impossible.
I have a dream for Nigeria. I have a dream that one day Nigerians will see themselves as Nigerians before anything else and they will not regard their country and its people as a collection of strange bed-fellows that do not love or trust one another. Yet this dream can only be fulfilled when those amongst us that call ourselves leaders preach, practice and display discipline, temperance, holiness, morality, restraint, tolerance, mercy and the fear of God in the conduct of our affairs. It can only be made manifest when we stand up and fight against evil, tyranny, injustice, indecency, bad governance, the abuse of power , political persecution and sheer wickedness.
Our dream can only be brought to reality when love is the motivating factor in all that we do. The Lord commands us to love our neighbour as we do ourselves. That is the cornerstone and the foundation of our faith and it is in that faith and that resolve that our hope for a better and greater Nigeria lies. I have a dream that Nigeria will be what God wants her to be, a great and powerful nation that is dedicated to the Living God and that will act as a shining example and a beacon of light for all to see.
I assure you that despite the dashed hopes and unbearable suffering of millions of our people over the last 52 years, our dream still lives and the Lord shall not forsake us. Our land and our people may seem blighted, in despair, depressed, repressed and confused. It may appear as if there is no hope for a better tomorrow and that nothing will ever change. It may seem as if the Lord has forgotten us and it may appear that our story is one of recurrent failure and shattered dreams. Yet this is not so. I have come here today to tell you that, despite all we see and hear, it is not over for us as a people and as a nation. I have come here today to tell you that we as a people have a date with destiny. I have come here today to tell you that Nigeria and the Nigerian dream lives on and that it shall be made manifest for all to see in the fullness of time.
I therefore urge you to be strong, to hold your heads up high, to be proud of who and what you are and to stand firm. The vision is for an appointed time. Though it may tarry it shall not prove false. Just hold on. God bless you and God bless Nigeria.