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COVID-19 should shock us to consciousness – Nnia Nwodo

  • I see doom and starvation if we don’t turn to right direction

Amidst the tension and sense of hopelessness in our land due to COVID-19, one of Nigeria’s best voices of reason and the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, spoke to Radio Nigeria. As usual, he told Nigeria and Nigerians the truth, straight from his heart.

Excerpts:  

Do we really need the consciousness to awaken our people and of course the expansion of the mind  

I have taught about this everywhere I mentor and give convocation lectures. As you know, I am two years away to 70 and there is a limit to what I can do now.

Do you think that starving of the universities is also part of the problems because every year we keep lamenting?

There are too many Universities. And as you know, it is not how many Universities that we have, but how many are productive. You see somebody who comes out of a University and he cannot write correct English and you employ him in his area of endowment. Maybe he read Computer Science and he doesn’t know how to generate programmes, just carrying a certificate which has no productive capacity. We should stop building so many universities and concentrate on the educational content of the Universities.

What is our synergy with other countries of the world? When I was in the University, our lecturers went on sabbatical leave to teach in other jurisdictions because they were producing ideas that were attractive in other jurisdictions and there was dissemination of knowledge. There was cross fertilization of ideas. They go there. They learn the ones we are developing and we learn the ones they are developing. Then there is a growth of ideas.

There is no growth of ideas in our country today. You know that the only pass time you have is to find yourself at a point of where you take the local collieries. As a child, I went to watch films. I trekked from what is now New Market to Coal Camp to watch films. Eventually, there was another Cinema Hall in Zik Avenue. We went there and also there was another one in Sports Club.

I went there to watched Macbeth and Julius Caesar as I was reading them in Secondary Schools and I had a pictorial illustrations of the books I was reading and understood them better.

Ideas don’t grow on unfertile minds or on unfertile environment. You have to create an environment for ideas to grow. The children have to be impatient for production or for growth. We have children who are energetic and willing to work and we are not giving them the tools to do so.

And we are recognising people not because of their contributions to the society but because of their aggrandizement of society. So, the emblems of achievements that spur people up to become something is jaundiced, is upside down.

After Coronavirus pandemic, do you think that we will be able to pick some lessons for some changes? Do you see anything at all?

If we recover from the health hazard, the trajectory of attention will then change to the economics. Right now, we are a broke nation because against a budgetary estimate of $57 per barrel, oil has fallen to $20 per barrel, fluctuating every day depending on the war between Russia and South Arabia in terms of flooding the market. And Saudi Arabia doesn’t mind because it’s a very large producer. America produces 12m barrel of shale oil every day and Saudi Arabia produces 9.7m.  

And Saudi Arabia doesn’t mind upping the quantity in the market because to them it doesn’t matter, the situation still have a gargantuan returns. The high seas in the world are warehouse of ships and vessels containing oil that nobody is demanding for. What does that mean? Our earning as a country is down and don’t forget that we have debt profile that is very high.

So whatever savings we have now is going to be deponent to paying our debts now. We are not earning any new money because of production of one barrel of crude oil by NNPC at $17. If we sell at $20, we earn 2 dollars. If we are getting two dollars, what will the federal Government be sitting to allocate revenue for? It’s a waste of time. They will look for restructuring by force.

Every State should go home and husband its resources to the best of its ability, export those you can export. Oil is no longer father Christmas. We are going to go into a serious economic crisis.

Many of the Federal Ministries and Departments will be closed because there is no capacity to meet the recurrent expenditure. You can’t pay salaries and already pensions are not paid as at and when due. With this unprecedented drop on expected revenue, what are we going to face? Broken nation, public services will die? The roads that have been awarded, soon you will not find any contractor on the road because once they finish the money they have there would be no new money.

What are the new areas of production that we are catalysing for export? In the last four years, our non-oil income has remained on the same level of percentage. It has not increased or decreased. There is no new wealth coming from non-oil resources. Which type of country is that? We have been fighting a war on the Boko Haram front which has been taking us billions of dollars and you see no new equipment bought.

These things are going into the pockets of people. General Officer Commanding (GOC) was arrested in Kaduna airport carrying so much money and you don’t see any prosecutions in court. There is one law for some people and another one for others. This country is enmeshed in a lot of problems and it requires drastic leadership. You can’t take me where you do not know. Look at what a legislator earns in Nigeria, what is the quantum of job that it does that requires such emolument to be paid to him.

Something it is fundamentally wrong. I hope COVID-19 shocks us into a realisation that we have been wasting our potentialities and brings out amongst you people who are young correct leadership. This country has enormous resources. We will be greater than China but we have the wrong leadership the wrong orientation.

We have been reminded of our ethnic cleavages. If you go to Yoruba land, you find a lot of Igbo women who are married there and Yourba women who are married here. If you go to the North the same thing. At the end of the war it became a status symbol for every General to marry an Igbo woman. We have been so mixed. The mixture is so much that ethnic divisions that we have now is going to have toll on the products of mixed marriages.

Children whose mothers are Igbo and are married to Fulanis are going to begin to ask themselves, do I really have anything to do with my mother’s home? Or do I hate my father’s home because of the way they have used religion and militancy to attack the rest of Nigeria? We don’t need this.

A Katsina man called Umaru Altine was an elected Mayor of Enugu by adult suffrage. He defeated an Igbo man to become Mayor here. And Zik campaigned for him. Mr Willy Ode was Accountant General of Eastern Nigeria. Margaret Ekpo, a Calabar woman, won election in Aba as a member of Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly. Nobody wanted to know where you come from. I live in Imoke Street. Chief Imoke was Minister of Education. My First School Leaving Certificate was signed by Dr S.E Imoke, from Cross River State. His children are my very close friends till date, they lived in 8 Park Avenue. We lived in No.10.

These things haven’t changed. Why we are building new Ministerial quarters. Some of them have been monetized by politicians who are occupying them today. What obtains has been aggrandizement of public wealth for self-esteem of monstrous characters that destroy the capacity to develop. Unfortunately, the voices of reasons have been silenced. Both the young and the old, we remain in this quagmire for a very long time. It’s very painful that what is happening elsewhere is not shocking our imagination into compliance. It seems to me that some people are waiting for people to die like mosquitoes or flies before realizing that COVID -19 is real.

Sometimes, they tell you that COVID -19 is big man disease that is affecting Governors. If it affected the Chief of Staff to the President, it also affected the staff of his office. The good thing is that people are responding to treatment but we have not even found out those who are recovering from it. Do they have a permanent disability that raises a question mark about their longevity? Will they have a permanent defect in their lungs that will make it difficult for them to have a ripe old age or to undertake strenuous activities that requires intensive breathing? Have we found out these? It appears we are waiting for the worse case scenario to shock our imagination.

An Igbo adage says that a bird that is caught by the eagle must be deaf because there was always enough warning to avert that happening. Our people also have this saying that a farmer going to the farm early in the morning may not find water necessary at the early hours when it does not seem necessary to carry water first thing in the morning, because you don’t have a dry throat first thing in the morning. But at the moment you till the soil and sun comes, you have a dry throat and you remember that you would have not taken water.

So, you see women who are going to weed in the farm, they carry the food they will eat and water they will drink. And the men carried the palm wine they will drink and carried some yam they are going to roast and eat with the palm oil. This is because they know that after some time, energy will have been expended and you will need water and food and you will need replenishment in order to be able to work the distance.

We are lucky. For the first time in the world, the advantage section of the world is the one that is suffering most and we have capacity to know this by the instruments of public education. Mass communication has enabled us to know real life situation, the degree of mortality in those areas. But it is not shocking our imagination. They think it is not our portion.

Our country doesn’t promote the son of a poor man who has talent and something to offer society. The poor remains perpetually poor in Nigeria. And children must be asking their parents, are we cursed? And that is the incentive for crime. That is why mother doesn’t mind when his child goes to Malaysia and is involved in cocaine and comes home with too much money and he is sharing dollars openly.

Tell me, is it not a mad man who gets so much money and comes to a public function on a social event and throwing hundreds of dollars bills and the government sees it and do nothing about it. He is not a suspect or is not an object for investigations. Isn’t that the collapse of governance?

As I am ageing and about to die, I am in great agony that the values I have promoted, that our children will never attain our height if something drastic doesn’t happen. I don’t know if am the John the Baptist in the wilderness. I don’t know if I am the only one seeing what I am seeing. I see doom, starvation coming. The oil money is gone and we have no productive sector ready to take over.

China doesn’t have oil. It uses ours to catalyze its machines in their factories. But it is the world power today. They are the greatest buyer of our oil now. So, all we do is to dig oil from the ground and we don’t even process it and add any value to it. Even the one we can add value to by making our machine to work to produce kerosene, diesel and other things, we can’t produce as our refineries are shut and all those working there are rich men, millionaire with the best buildings in towns and in their local villages and they are models of success for the young people.

The only way to grow in Nigeria is to capsize the State, steal as much as you can and if possible have a second home outside Nigeria. Now, nobody can go for medical treatment. All those who have cases in the court and asking for adjournment for them to go for medical treatment abroad, nobody can go. We have to treat our Coronavirus (COVID-19) here.

This is a tragedy. But sometimes, tragedies happen in history in other to shock you into consciousness and to re-motivate you to turn to the correct direction. The greatest lesson of COVID-19 is if it will bring better leadership, sense of direction and the radical activation of our latest potentiality and the changing of our recognition models. What are you noted for, what can you contributes to the society.

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