Earlier this morning, I finally read the story of the hundreds of passengers who were made to trek in the night to the train station on Tuesday after the train transporting them from Abuja to Kaduna broke down…
Exposure is important, and that’s why I like to share pieces of information here and there from happenings around the world on my personal Facebook page, so people with access to it understand that some of the things they have become used to are not ‘normal’ relative to other climes. There is a saying in Yoruba that it is a child who has not seen other people’s farms who boasts that his father’s farm is the largest.
I will share a few recent incidents Nigerians have become used to which are not normal for a country looking to make progress.
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ORide IS NOT FEELING OKAY…
This week, the shakedown of Lagos’ bike-hailing industry became formalized. The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), who have harassed and extorted affiliated with mobility companies, finally forced companies such as ORide, Gokada, MAX and EasyMobility to have each of their riders part with N500 daily levies. Shockingly, the government led this negotiations.
Asked why they have chosen to go down this part, NURTW complained that it’s because these companies are foreign owned saying, “Why should a Chinese man be involved in the domestic affairs of my fellow brother?”, never mind that at least 50% of companies in this space are Nigerian-owned.
Yet I have heard some Nigerians supporting this move.
But ask yourself, what is the use of these Unions to an average Nigerian? This is a group known for violence. The Nordic Africa Institute published a research where hundreds of its members admitted to criminal activities. Several times, political events have been marred by violence on account of these groups. Dissolution of entire chapters have been recorded because of violence over leadership. In September 2019, the Lagos Assembly threatened to proscribe one of these unions when it threatened bloodshed in the state.
This is a group which according to Premium Times rakes in billions of naira monthly which are unaccounted for.
What is there to support in this group by the average Nigerian?
This is not normal.
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THE AJAOKUTA STEEL COMPANY SCAM CONTINUES…
On Monday, President Buhari ordered the completion of Ajaokuta steel company. Some Nigerians have praised this move. Some who weren’t pleased with it did so because they felt it should have been done much earlier, preferably in the first term.
This reaction is not normal.
For context, the Nigerian government has so far flushed away $8 billion trying to build this plant since its proposal in the 1970s. The entire Ajaokuta Steel Project is bigger than the city of Lokoja. It has over 4,000 housing units in at least 24 estates.
It even has pensioners for it since it was commissioned in 1979, but wait for it…it has never produced a single steel.
The contractors from the Soviet Union who built this plant had produced a twenty-one-volume feasibility study which was never translated from Russian and probably was never read by any Nigerian decision-makers.
Yet even though the plant has never done what it was built for, the government has allocated the sum of N3.8 billion for personnel costs and utility in the 2020 budget (12).
So tell me…how is the revival of this company by the federal government a good thing seeing that it is still looking to be a part of running the company?
The Sole Administrator the government has put in charge of the company said it would require another $400m to put the company in good shape.
He can afford to be flippant about calling this figure because he is drawing salary whether the plant works or not.
The normal reaction to the news of the revival should be to have the government sell the plant off, not revive what has proven impossible to revive by the Nigerian government.
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THE TRAIN BREAKDOWN…
The news about the train breakdown in the bush is especially saddening seeing that the train service remains the only safe means of transportation for many plying the route.
The Abuja-Kaduna highway is notorious for kidnapping activities hence the surge at the rail service.
If the railway has been recorded to have broken down at least 3 times in the last one year in places susceptible to kidnapping and armed robbery, then it means that the objective of this transportation system is failing.
It also does matter that the railway service has refused to innovate in its ticketing operations, opening it up to deplorable acts of racketeering. They were caught red-handed during the visit of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Officials discovered to have doubled the fare for desperate passengers.
Online ticketing is obviously a good solution to curb issues of overcrowded station and ticket racketeering, but the service has been stalling on its implementation despite support for it. It was reported that all was set at the beginning of September 2019 but nothing has come forth till now.
Yet some have called for calm saying Nigeria is a young democracy and should be allowed to grow into it.
This is not a normal reaction.
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The reason these reactions should be attacked is because they become self-fulfilling; we become used to mediocrity and excuse lack of foresight in public service.
Nigeria is being left behind even by African standards, and if we don't hold ourselves to a higher standard, the only reaction to our national failure will be the mass migration of talents to saner climes.
There will also be those lurking around to take advantage of this mess for personal gains, and that just leads to worse outcomes.
Some of us are definitely not looking to leave the country permanently, at least in the short to medium term, and it is to our benefit that things get better.
And this is why I am as much an advocate of reading as I am of travelling, if not more, because with travelling you only get to see the result of a thought-provoking process. With reading however, you can understand how the results and products came to be, understanding that things can get better if we put our minds and hearts to it.
I am no fan of the hopelessness exhibited by many on the Nigerian project, as learning how other countries we admire broke and are breaking free instill in me the belief that things can get better once the conditions are right hence why I continue to write and implore knowledge-based discussions on national development. Things can improve but citizens first have to know that mediocrity is inexcusable.
I leave with the eternal words of late Professor Pius Adesanmi,
"Every time you accept less than perfect, justify it, impose it on people around you, you are killing Nigeria softly and unpatriotically."