For now, there is no alternative to oil. The discipline required to export agricultural products is not there. We shall continue to rely on oil to generate the much needed foreign exchange. The culture of lowering standard and “managing life” will not allow Nigeria to rise to greatness.
It is easy and perhaps acceptable to lower our standard. But the international standard is so high a standard that we cannot bring it down with our high mediocre standard. Mr Olumuyiwa Aiyebusi, a Nigerian who lives in the UK for the last 30 years and produces agricultural products that are marketed in the UK and the U.S revealed that the ban on Nigerian beans in the European market has been extended from one year to three years because exporters of beans from Nigeria insist on using poisonous chemicals to preserve their beans. “Some beans from Nigeria contain very high milligrams of preservatives. They will not accept that because it will kill their citizens… Some people may say “it does not matter; we have been eating it all the time and we have not died”… They said we have not done the needful in that one year to show them that we are serious.. There are ways we can preserve beans without using too much pesticide. It is being practiced in Kenya and South Africa. It seems we do not borrow knowledge into our system”, he said (Punch March, 12, 2017, p44).
He went further to reveal how Ugandans and Kenyans succeed in exporting vegetables to United Kingdom. And that Nigeria is number 4 (four) in the production of vegetables in the world, but we cannot export the product because of lack of organisation and discipline. Hear him: “They go to the farm around 4pm, harvest around 6pm and by 8pm, produce is at the processing centre where they will process it, wash and package it. And by 11 pm, it is at the airport and you see it landing in London at about 5:30 am. So at 6am, it is in the market and still fresh.” Not in Nigeria where ordinary distribution of newspapers is a nightmare!
Well, if we cannot export agricultural products, at least we can export indiscipline, not for foreign exchange, but at the expensive of our battered image. Recently, for example, some Nigerians were travelling to Niger republic and a security official at the border was shocked to see two people in the boot of their commercial vehicle. Disgusted, he said: ” Niger is not a useless country (Niger ba Kasar banza ba ce) , we take goods, not even animals in the boot of our vehicles”. He ordered the two passengers to get out of the boot and find another vehicle or go back to their country. Narrating his experience, one of the passengers said that though he had no attachment to Nigeria but was offended by the comment.” If Niger is not a useless country, which country is he insinuating to be useless?” he asked. No prize for guessing the correct answer.
It will be of interest to the security official to know that the practice of carrying people in boot, especially women and children, has been entrenched in Northern Nigeria. Also, animals have been promoted above human beings, not out of love for animals, but out of lack of respect for human life. A trailer will be loaded with cows and at the top of the trailer a bed of sticks will be made for people, in a journey from Maiduguri to Lagos.
The culture of lowering standard and promoting mediocrity was introduced and sustained by governments in Nigeria. For instance, traffic offences were handled by the police force, and at a time the force was doing a good job. Then, the standard went down. Instead of the the government of the day to insist that the job must be done at all cost, the standard was lowered for the force. “The police should be relived of this job, let us create an independent organisation to do it, if we want a good job”, the government may have reasoned. Now, we have Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC), busy looking for drivers without belt, while vehicles are passing with children in their boot.
There is a High Way section or department in the federal ministry of works, but for personal interest or the need to lower the standard for the ministry, which is constructing roads, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) was created to maintain federal roads.
The culture has been extended to states where, for example, you have ministry of health but many independent organisations have been created to address health issues like polio, primary health care, AIDS etc because of the assumption that if you allow the ministry to do the jobs, bureaucratic bottlenecks will never allow them to succeed. Instead of somebody insisting that the bureaucracy must function as it should, the standard is lowered for the ministry; that the ministry cannot do it, let us look for alternative.
The culture of lowering the standard is responsible for many agencies and parastatals that are responsible for the bloated civil service. This accounts for the limited budget to capital projects because much money is spent on recurrent expenditure. More importantly, the culture of lowering the standard and “managing life” has been passed to the citizens.
Rather than the citizens insisting that government establishments must to do their work, they lower the standard for the government by making personal arrangements for their services. Abuja is the only capital in the world where there is no efficient public water supply even in elite areas like Maitama and Asokoro. But rather than insisting that the government must do its work, the elite have resorted to personal boreholes, and those who cannot afford borehole have resorted to the other dirty culture (managing), by buying water from water vendors.
Nigerians are now comfortable with the culture of lowering the standard and managing life. If somebody goes to a hotel and he is given a bucket and shown where to fetch water whenever the need arises, and a torchlight in case he wants to “ease himself” in the night, he will collect the bucket and the torchlight, smile and say “no problem”. Nigeria has been destroyed by NO PROBLEM. No wonder it is said that if you pursue citizens of other countries to a wall, they will turn back and fight back. Not Nigerians. They will break the wall and continue running because they have perfected the art of “managing” to run away.
International organisations have keyed into our culture of lowering the standard for government establishments. “Yes, the money is ready, but you have to create an independent department to do the job because the bureaucracy in the ministries will never allow the project to succeed”, they will tell our leaders. Instead of being ashamed of the vote of no confidence, a government official will tell the foreigner: “You are right, no problem. We will do that”
Some years back I attended a conference in an African country. In the previous conference specific responsibilities were assigned to Nigeria and the African country. In their report, the official of the African country convinced everybody that they had accomplish all the responsibilities assigned to them. Not one item by Nigeria. It was a rendezvous of excuses. The leader of the African country summarised their position: “Nigeria is the problem, Nigeria is the solution. There is nothing we can do. When you are ready the sky will be our limit”. He received a thunderous ovation. The Nigerians were just laughing instead of burying their heads in shame.
Also, a Nigerian diplomat told me that while serving in a European country, a lady official of the country called him for information about his country. “We are giving other countries two weeks for the information but knowing your peculiar problems in Nigeria, we want to give you five weeks. Is it ok?” The lady asked.
He was furious and protested what he considered an insult. The lady apologised and went further to say “It will be great, if we can get it in two weeks. Thank you”
Determined to disapprove the lady he called the ministry of foreign affairs but he could not get the information, not in two weeks, at all. After two excuses, he stopped responding to the calls of the lady. Nigeria has become the problem, not the solution.
Unfortunately, rather than improving, we have succeeded in perfecting the indiscipline. Somebody will be driving towards you and against the traffic. If you don’t give him enough space he will turn back, pursue and attack you for not allowing him to “borrow your space” (aron hannu)
. This is the type of tragedy that Kassu Zurmi described as “mai abu na ja, maras abu na ja” (the victim is insisting and the armed robber is insisting). Somebody has to give way. Most likely the victim.