MANDELA: The great Nigerian Snub By Steve Osuji

The mere suggestion by the Presidency that it was not a snub further rubs pepper on the injury. It is to tell us that we don’t even know when we are insulted. It is like someone giving you a backhanded compliment and then turns around to try proving to you that he did not mean to insult you. In order words, you are so thick to decipher a put down. This is where our government and the people in charge of our affairs are. How can we properly analyse the situation, learn the lessons there-from and make sure it never happens again if we do not see the situation for what it is?

I speak of course about the Nelson Mandela memorial service of Tuesday in South Africa in which Nigeria attended as an on-looker while six selected heads of governments across continents rendered eulogies in honour of the great African leader and icon of the modern world, Mandela. President Barack Obama of the United States represented the western world; Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff stood in for South America; India spoke for Asia and Namibia could be said to have taken up the slot of Africa. Other speakers included President Jacob Zuma of South Africa; President Raul Castro of Cuba and the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon.

People have argued that on account of Nigeria’s frontline activism during the apartheid era alone, she deserved a spot at the podium during the memorial rites of Nelson Mandela. That may be true for Nigeria provided streams of funding, was an operational base; imbued the struggle with strategic training and logistical support. Nigeria was also in the vanguard of the Organization of African Unity’s boycotts and economic blockade of the apartheid regime. She boycotted the 1976 Olympics Games on account of the South African situation and British Petroleum (BP) was thrown out of Nigeria and its assets confiscated. These are just samples of actions taken by Nigeria in her drive to free the people of South Africa and help them regain their freedom from white oppression.

But one thinks it would be far-fetched and presumptuous to expect the events of about three decades ago to govern the moment. Nigeria needed not have played roles in ending apartheid to deserve a special place at the memorial of Nelson Mandela. Nigeria was ignored simply because she has not lived up to her stature and eminence in the scheme of things in Africa and the world at large. Nigeria’s sheer size in the continent, her political and economic magnitude if well harnessed, ought to give her an unassailable pre-eminence in Africa.

But because leadership has failed increasingly in the last few years, she has not lived up to her dominant and influential roles on the continent. If we had got our acts right, Nigeria ought to supply the bulk of critical manpower in tertiary institutions, finance, judiciary, defence and security across most of black Africa. And by virtue of our abundant oil and gas resources, we ought to supply the entire continent with fuel energy, bitumen, gas, electricity and other industrial by-products of crude oil. These are natural influencers that go with our sheer size and natural endowment but which lack of vision has deprived us.

Lastly, the extremely poor quality leadership of the last two decades has completely reduced Nigeria in the esteem of the peoples of Africa and the world that we are no longer worthy to be mentioned in the gathering of the best of the world. We must face the harsh fact that Nigeria’s leadership has become so leprous today that the world would conspire to ensure that it does not take the same podium of honor taken by world leaders of note; by our unremitting malfeasance, we have alienated ourselves. Nigeria moves inexorably south when the rest of the world faces north.

Year-on-year, we are rated among the most corrupt people in the world, among the most diseased and the most poor; they note the cash stash of our presidents, ministers, legislators and politically exposed people in all parts of the world with quiet disdain. They see us regress in all human development indices like child mortality, education enrolment, diminishing per capita and the inability to conduct elections. All the fundaments of human civilization are in recession in Nigeria and they know that we are inexorably a dying country. When our matter is raised among the comity of nations, they sigh resignedly fearing that Nigeria is bound to end up as the last big, basket case of the 21st century.

Snubbing Nigeria at the Mandela memorial was neither a mistake nor a chance happening; it was a well reasoned, calculated and pre-meditated action designed to save the face of the world from a Nigerian embarrassment. But true to type, our leaders miss even this point.

Is PIB the be all and end all?

I have never given a damn about the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in all the years of its roundabout trips between that National Assembly and the Petroleum Ministry. First I had the natural inclination to suspect that something must be wrong with a legal document that is a tome of 223 pages. What the heck? Second, I hold the oil ministry and its key subsidiary, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, as currently constituted, in eternal disdain seeing how other national oil firms have grown over the year and lifted the economy of countries. Third, I never thought a legal framework or the lack thereof is the bane of Nigeria’s oil sector – the stunted growth, the rabid corruption and the unrestrained madness in that quarter cannot be as a result of an absence of a particular piece of legislation.

But in the heat of a debate over our blighted oil industry recently, a respected colleague availed me a copy of the PIB insisting that my perspective would change should I endeavor to go through the rather rumbustious tome. If it has such redeeming values, how come the National Assembly has kept it in its underground cellar for over a decade; how will it clean the Augean stable that the NNPC has become? Still skeptical though, I have promised to give it a shot some good day when the weather is sunny and there are glimmers of hope in the horizon.

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